Friday, 12 December 2014

My Taekwondo is not the same Taekwondo that your kid is practising!

When People learn that I practise Taekwondo I often get comments like: "Ah I practised Taekwondo as a kid. I think I even got a yellow belt", or "My (insert kid relative here) also practise Taekwondo. He/She has (insert colour here) belt". I appreciate that they are only doing small talk and trying to
relate what I do with their own experience(s) but what annoys me a little is the assumption that what this person trained as a child himself/herself or what his/hers young relative practise today is the same as what I practise. The short answer is that there is some foundational overlap between "my Taekwondo" and "their Taekwondo" but it is not very large.

Yes we both do a lot of kicks when practising in the Dojang, we both use Korean terms, we both practise some of the same fundemental movements, and we both practise the same forms. So on the surface I completly understand the assumption that we practise the same activity but there is a huge difference going on on the inside that the outside observer fails to comprehend. I chose to call it "Martial Intent" (in lack of a better term). To me Taekwondo is a way of life. It provides me with guidelines, philosophy, morals, strategy to name a few things. The children gets a few of these as well but not as indepth as an adult practisioner gets. Going back to the "Martial Intent" that I mentioned I will also say that Taekwondo is what I have to defend myself with if I should ever need it. In Norway there are very few guns and there is a strict weapons Control. If you are attacked by an armed foe he or she will most likely be armed with a knife, a broken bottle, a syrringe needle or
something else. A gun is low on the list of most likely weapons. Unarmed is high on the list making Taekwondo a very good choice for self defense. Other countries such as USA, South Africa etc which has a lot of guns would make Taekwondo a less viable method to rely on for your self defense but that is not the case for Norway. I work as a buisiness manager at a gas station/store in Norway and I do work some nights and evening shifts behind the cash register. I encounter drunks, alcoholics, and people on drugs on a fairly often basis, and while most are not looking for trouble sometimes I am not so lucky. 99% of the times there is no fighting but I rely on my Taekwondo that 1% when things go wrong. Therefore instead of focusing on high kicks, sport sparring and other activities my focus lies on fundementals, forms and the practical application of Taekwondo.

This means that when I am doing say a low block and middle section punch the kids that practise Taekwondo would either just see the movements, or see the obvious application (block a front kick and strike their midsection). I see a straight armbar and a finishing punch to the temple. This goes for all the movements and even some of the unrealistic kicks as well. Ap Nareo Chagi (downward kick) is often seen as attacking the face, nose, collar bone on a standing opponent. I kick the base of the neck on an opponent that is bendt over from a previous attack or lock. I am not going to describe everything I try to visualise here but suffice to say what I visualise is anything but a childs martial activity eventhough the movements themselves are similar. Do I do competition sparring? Yes sometimes, but I do not stop there, I drill more practical sparring methods with tactics that are banned with partners all the time. Hard contact and taking a hit I get from the competition format, while using banned techniques to vital points I get from semi contact sparring with little to no rules. Even when children do sport sparring they do not do it Heavy contact for obvious reasons so eventhough the rules are largely the same and the tactics used in sport sparring is pretty much the same the intent is very different between an adult and a childs Taekwondo.

Another area I put a lot of emphasis on in my own Taekwondo is "Dallyon". I try to train my attacking tools to withstand the punishment of being used for attack. This is obviously not done in
childrens taekwondo as their bodies has not fully developed yet.

Self defense or Ho Sin Sul is a large part of my own Taekwondo. Children also practise Ho Sin Sul techniques but they are hardly the same as mine and the strategy which dictates the tactics are different.

Does this mean that I never practise with kids and or that I can not enjoy practising Taekwondo in a joint adult/children class? No it does not. As I said before the fundemental movements are the same I just apply them differently. If we practise to Perfect the fundemental movements, Our forms,  do some releases from grabs and some sport sparring (which we can do together in the same class) I have still the oppertunity to visualise during solo practise (fundementals and forms), get to practise some low level responses to common grabs (I pracise for worst case scenario but sometimes someone you know will grab your wrist, jacket or whatever and you do not want to send your uncle limpering off with a broken bone) and I get to do a fun activity which also hones my kicks, witts and footwork (the sparring).

I did not want to put myself on a pedestal here, I simply want to show that an adult who practises Taekwondo is not practising the same Taekwondo as a child does. If that is the case you should find another instructor or club (seriously). While there are some overlaps there the intent of training
and the emphasis is very different. Do not stop telling me about Your kid relative practising Taekwondo because of this post (I often enjoy hearing about it) but do not make the assumption that I practise a childs martial art. Taekwondo = Childrens martial arts is a very recent Development, one which I have not embraced still practising Taekwondo as a MARTIAL art.

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  1. Excellent post! I couldn't agree more ;)
    Recently dad who was practising 10 years ago (and even got his black tag) came to train in my class with his eleven-years-old daughter which is great. The point is that his techniques are totally different comparing to what I was practising for last 18 years.
    Thanks ! :D

    1. Thanks for the lovely feedback :-) I was unsure of how this would be received when I wrote it.

  2. Great thoughts. I feel the same way. Most Taekwondo gyms actually are teaching everyone at their gym the same Taekwondo. Kids and adults both. This can be any mcdojang or fake-made-up-taekwondo style that is silly and childish, or it could be a very legitimate gym focusing on self defense that has the same curriculum for both kids and adults but just practices it differently.

    It is annoying when people say they do Taekwondo and its just the average coroporate made up fake taekwondo style with crazy uniforms and stupid light touch sparring and demo dance stuff...but that is what we have to deal with in this MMA world we live in. At least some people are seeing the effectiveness of Taekwondo kicks.

    Just teach any kids you know about serious martial arts. Maybe start a change for the new generation.

    1. I do not think that Children should learn the same Taekwondo that grown ups do, but I do not think that they should learn a watered down worthless (in terms of bully prevention, self confidense etc) martial art either. I think that they should learn a simplified system designed for children. There is a huge difference between Learning a simplified system designed for children and a watered down Version if you understan what I mean :-)

      Thanks for Reading and taking Your time commenting :-)

    2. well what I mean is kids learn tae geuk forms, why should people create a child specific smaller form? Just teach them the same form as everyone else. But have different standards for completing it and consider belt ranks for people under 13 as child ranks and do not rank them as fast. But yes dont teach them stuff that is too dangerous as you would an adult.