Sunday, 5 October 2014

Did the originators of KTA forms know their stuff or were they ignorant? (FACTS VS BELIEF!)

Taekwondo never made use
of the Pulling hand because they never
learned practical applications from Karate?
What is this I am seeing?
(Picture from a Tae Kwon Do book)

Ramble alert; You have been warned! (This is not a serious article but a long rant instead)

Lately I was accused of being a revisionist (someone who alter or warps history to his own needs/views) when it comes to Taekwondo and especially so in my view that perhaps the founders and the originators of KTA poomsae knew more than we give them credit for. My study of history is
something I have done to make sense of a system that sometimes simply does not makes sense in a purely kick block punch paradigm and history no matter how you look at it tells us flat out that Taekwondo was never meant to be only kick block punch when looking at its arsenal.

Besides the regular techniques that has remained in mainstream teachings, vital points (where to hit), special striking tools (wrist, forearm, finger strikes, etc), grappling (crude yet effective stand up grappling+ throws and takedowns) and even defenses when you are on the ground or kneeling position + other awkward positions such as sitting on a chair etc was and is still included for those
Gichin Funakoshi demonstrating low block
used as a straight armbar. In the book
he also says that this is an Application
to Tekki Shodan Kata! (Picture on the left)
studying the whole system of Kukki-Taekwondo! My revisionist practical applications to Poomsae can not really be said to be revisionist in this regard. If I were to call my applications from Poomsae "Ho Sin Sul" instead of applications from Poomsae no one would have lifted as much as an eyebrow. Ho Sin Sul can be translated as art of self defense and techniques labelled ho sin sul has always and still is part of many Dojang today. The only thing I am doing which has not been openly done is to link my self defense techniques directly back to the forms I study. That is all. Linking it back to the forms I study means that I get far more out of studying and practising my forms than what I would get if I were to use them as dances, movement education, record of outdated unusable free fighting techniques etc. Viewing Poomsae as "all in fighting" instead of kick block punch against Taekwondo attacks is also in line with what was said by Lee Kyu Hyung in "What is Taekwondo Poomsae". He does not give any applications, but he says that they are for "Learning to fight in the actual field". This also explains why the KTA forms are not as beautifull to watch as certain other forms sets as the need for beauty was not emphasised.

Another point I want to get accross in this post is that while I believe that the originators of KTA forms knew more than we give them credit for today I usually (I mean to do it anyway) start by saying "I believe they knew more than we give them credit for" or some similar statement. I try to avoid stating my beliefs as pure FACTS as the fact is that we do not really know. Those who say this makes me revisionist make statements that forms were not meant to teach self defense or that practical applications do not exist because (insert something something here) state their beliefs as pure facts not to be mistaken as beliefs. When confronted by conflicting data such as their view that all Taekwondo comes from Gichin Funakoshi and he knew no applications and you show them his
If the founders learned this
could this not be recorded
in for example Koryo Poomsae?
writings where he shows applications and where they are to be found in the forms he taught or that taekwondo in fact have sources outside Gichin Funakoshi they change the subject or warp what you said into something else. Cant we just admit that we simply do not know the FACTS? That both sides (those who belive that the founders and originators of KTA forms knew stuff vs those who belive they were ignorant) belive stuff because they both make assumptions?

The ones who say they were ignorant base their clame because you do not see it in the mainstream today. This is pardon my French a pisspoor argument! You do not see finger strikes or knife hand strikes, elbow strikes or knee strikes in mainstream Taekwondo yet they are in ALL the textbooks. This argument is so poor I will not adress it any more.

A better argument that they also lay forth is that the mainstream texts do not show anything else than block kick punch applications when it relates forms to fighting. This is somewhat true but not in all cases and I have showed Kukkiwon Application to a double block that in fact was a joint lock against a hold and not as typically seen a block against two persons at the same time. This argument holds more water but it does not in any way really degrade the fact that maybe just maybe the originators of the forms had more in mind but did not openly share it (which
Grip strength is important when you
start using the pulling hand in a
practical way. This is not a picture
from a Karate book but it is from a
Taekwondo book! Tae Kwon Do
by Choi Hong Hi!
was and still is a common practise in Asian martial culture and that on the other hand is a fact).

Gichin Funakoshi did not know Applications? Yes he did he shows it in his writings and especially those written in the timeperiod the Koreans trained with him. He did not teach them? Well he put it in his textbooks for all to see did he not? The Koreans learned a watered down version of the martial art that the Japanese studdied? No, they studdied under the okinawan founders along with the Japanese students. Shotokan lacks applications so Taekwondo can not have any either? Taekwondo was built upon 3 styles of Karate + chinese martial arts + Korean native fighting techniques, experience and martial arts. I can go on and on and on. Both sides have arguments but one side (those who believe that they knew more than we give them credit for) openly state it is a belief based on the forms themselves, history and culture while those who belive that they knew nothing state their opinions as facts.

I think it is time that both sides took a nice cup of Korean green tea, sit down and just chill a little. The argument should not be that Taekwondo lacks practical applications because the Ho Sin Sul part of Taekwondo has that covered. Neither should anyone argue that the Ho Sin Sul techniques were
Korean Master demonstrating a technique
often labelled block as a strike? Note the
use of the pulling hand!
(Secrets of Korean Karate Tae Kwon DO
by Henry Cho)
openly linked back to the forms because they were not in the mainstream nor have they ever been. But this does not take away the possibility that those who made the forms knew more than what we give them credit for? Nor should it be impossible that the "facts" the majority belive today are not so black and white as they currently belive?

It was believed that Funakoshi knew no applications. Today we have translations of his works which quite frankly proves this "fact" to be wrong! It was believed that Shotokan lacked all the old school training methods, yet today we have photos and even video showing these in use. It was believed that Funakoshi did not know weapons. Yet he was the first weapons teacher of Taira Shinken the perhaps most famoust Kobudo expert in the 1950s onward (Kobudo is okinawan weapon arts). Also we have pictures of Funakoshi practising Sai and Bo. This goes on and on. I am ready to reevaluate my beliefs if new evidence is presented that definitly supports the other side. If the notes of the creation of the Taegeuk forms were discovered, translated and published and these notes said only kick block punch then so be it. It will not stop me from still trying to link my self defense techniques back to my forms for pedagogic reasons but it would stop my belief in that the originators of the forms knew more than we give them credit for. Untill then I will still be a part of the minority who "belive" in the system they practise and their pioneers.

In the end I want to share a thought: If you belive the KTA forms are so worthless and so lacking in application why would you still train, study and teach them? Why not ditch them completly and either import forms that you know include applications, make your own or simply remove forms alltogether?   

(Image Sources: Pictures in this post is from Karate Do Kyohan 1935 by Gichin Funakoshi, Tae Kwon Do the Korean art of self defense by Choi Hong Hi 1965 and Secrets of Korean Karate Tae Kwon Do by Sihak Henry Cho 1968.)

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  1. i forget who said that in any discussion you should ask the other person "is there any proof or explanation that i could give you that would allow you to change your mind?" if the answer is no, then there is no point in having the discussion as that persons mind is closed. the same applies to you. otherwise, why bother?

    anyway, here is my two cents. we know historically that the original Okinawan styles were watered down to make them acceptable to teaching school children. we also know that in order for karate to be accepted and officially recognized in Japan the Dai Nippon Butokukai had a list of (i believe) 6 requirements. two were-the need of a ranking system, and the ability to have competitions. that is make it a sport. this required further substantial changes in the systems. i had mentioned to you before that with Kano paying the rent, Funakoshi would tend to de-emphasize aspects of his art such as throws etc. the question of whether or not all of the old art was shown even to the Japanese is debatable in my mind. the Okinawans were proud of their heritage, but also not highly regarded by the native Japanese, i believe the Koreans fit into this racial animosity as well.
    this declining to teach all aspects of the arts is rife though out asia. indeed is the basis of many apocryphal stories.
    i think that ultimately these styles (Korean and Japanese) were stripped down to basic hard style percussive techniques, and the other aspects (sub arts to some) were less emphasized as they were harder to teach to large groups, even though they were known and practiced by some.

    1. Your opening quote is fitting:-) I am not going to change my mind easily, but I did give an example of what it would take:-) What this post is more about is "facts vs belief" where I admit that what I believe is a "belief" and not "fact".

      Your two cents are Worth so much more than two cents, but just how much was left out of the Karate at the time the Korean trained With Funakoshi? And what about the additional Sources of knowledge through Toyama Kanken and Kenwa Mabuni + Chinese Sources and native Korean arts? While Funakoshi no doubt deemphasised various Things he did not omit them all together. His early writings show a very functional art With a strong okinawan feel, while after WW2 there was a lot of changes to what he taught and Gigo Funakoshi`s influences was solidified.

      Applications to the forms were in his textbooks, the knowledge or revelation that the forms contained Locks and throws were in his textbooks, example of throws were in his textbooks etc. What I am basing my belief in is that the Shotokan Karate the founders learned is like the Shotokan portrayed in the pre WW2 texbooks of Funakoshi as well as that the other Schools (Kwan) had input in the New forms that were developed and thereby increasing the knowledgepool much further than only Shotokan.

      What we ended up With in the mainstream today and what these seniors who made Our KTA forms learned in the old Kwan could be very different.

      The Pictures I have included in this post shows good examples on how techniques were Applied before vs today (I do not have modern Application photos, but photo one would be deemed "not taekwondo" since we do not have elbows in taekwondo, the second who shows one Application to the "low Block" in chulgi chodan would today be labeled and used as a low Block. The Third would be labelled "not taekwondo" as this is a training Method prevalent in CMA and old School Karate but not in Taekwondo (I recently learned that Choi Hong Hi has this and other old School training Methods in his newest editions of the 15 Encyclopedias). The fourth Picture is a great Close range Application of Koryo Poomsae allthough yet again it is Funakoshi doing "non shotokan" Things:-) The last Picture shows Sihak Henry Cho doing a movement that are in many forms but is today labeled a knife hand Block as a strike and using the pulling hand as well.. A lot more sophisticated than the belief that the originators of Poomsae knew absolutly nothing but kick Block punch School children karate in my own subjective opinion:-)

  2. I agree with your article completely. What I want to know now is, " so when are we going to start practicing poomse to reflect the actual intent of the techniques instead of the unrealistic and bio mechanically unsound ways the Kukkiwon asks us to? "

    1. Calling my rant an article is mighty kind of you Steve:-) as for your question I believe the answer is whenever you feel like it;-)

  3. I do, I do. But then when I come in contact with other Kukkiwon Taekwondo artists, they think that I'm the one doing it all wrong. ��

  4. What do they think you are doing wrong, Steve? I am curious.

  5. I use a stance that is much wider and my back foot it pointed straight ahead not at a 30 degree angle. That's one example. :-)

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