Friday, 17 April 2015

Karate and Taekwondo; A strained love affair

The headline might seem a little strange but an online discussion I read the other day made me think a little about the relationship between Taekwondo and Karate. The discussion was about Chang Hon Ryu forms (or ITF forms) and one commenter commented a new and for me interesting fact on the relationship between Chon Ji Tul and a form practised in Shotokan in the 1930s called Junji No Kata which shared the same floor pattern as Chon Ji. This quickly degraded into a Karate vs Taekwondo argument that luckily got resolved so there could be a productive discussion. But the heated words from both sides made me think about the issue. Why are we really arguing about the Karate vs Taekwondo in the first place?

(I have not researched the history behind Junji No Kata
so take it as I do, interesting but not sure of its historical claims)

We do not live in a world without internet or youtube anymore. In the old days you could live in your own bubble and if anyone told you Taekwondo had roots within Karate you could safely say NO it is a 3 000 years old Korean native martial art and keep this up for years. Those days however are gone with the wind and we will never get them back. The proof of Taekwondo`s karate roots are there for everyone to see. It is so encoded within our MA-DNA that it can easily be seen. It is seen in our customs (Uniform, use of foreign language, belt systems, basic techniques, forms, etc etc) and unbiased well researched articles, books and blogs has clearly pointed out that Taekwondo as we know it can all be traced back to the Kwan (plural) in the Kwan era (1940s-1970s) and that all of them had a strong Karate connection in their very foundation. Look below for a few facts:

  • Chung Do Kwan, founded in 1940s by Lee Won Kuk, practised directly with Funakoshi.
  • Song Moo Kwan, founded in 1940s by Ro Byung Jik, practised directly with Funakoshi.
  • Yoon Moo Kwan founded in 1940s by Chun Sang Sup, practised directly with Funakoshi.
  • Moo Duk Kwan founded in 1940s by Hwang Kee. Practised With other Kwan leaders and CMA in Manchuria.
  • Ji Do Kwan (reopened Yoon Moo Kwan 1950s) founded by Yoon Kwae Byung, practised under Mabuni and Kanken.
  • Chang Moo Kwan founded in 1950s? by Yoon Byung In practised CMA and under Kanken.
  • Oh Do Kwan, founded in 1950s by Choi Hong Hi. Practised Karate in Japan under "Master Kim".
Kukkiwon is the merger of all these Schools together, while ITF and Chang Hon Taekwondo has most of their roots within Oh Do Kwan and Chung Do Kwan. No matter where you trace your Taekwondo lineage to you will end up with a strong Karate root and there is no way to work around that fact. High kicks and more focus on kicking and leg techniques vs hand techniques was allready in Place by the 1950s as evidenced in Hwang Kee`s 1958 book and Choi Hong Hi`s 1959 book but all in all if you look at any Taekwondo book from the 1950s to 1970s you will very very clearly see the Karate link. Even the Karate forms were a part of Choi Hong Hi`s writings as recent as 1965! Son Duk Sung still includes Karate forms in his 1980s Taekwondo Black belt korean karate book. Over time the Korean made form sets replaced the Karate forms but the basics and the way the forms were structured are clearly on the Karate platform. So what makes Taekwondo in a technical sense "Taekwondo" and not "Karate"? For the Kukkiwon students it is Olympic Sparring format, and for Chang Hon Ryu and ITF students it is the Sine Wave body dynamic. For all of Taekwondo it is the large quantity of high kicks, and leg techniques. But that last one is a "add on" as the hand techniques, stances etc are all still there in both Taekwondo and Karate.

Personally I think that Taekwondo`s Karate roots should be a source of pride and a subject of gaining additional insights into the current system. There really should not be any bickering on Karate in the Taekwondo comunity in 2015 onwards ;-) We have gotten so far so why cant we get over the politics (national pride issues) and the "Cold War" between WTF and ITF while we are at it?

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  1. Howard Popkin began his training in Goshin Budo Jujitsu in 1979, under the tutelage of Jeffrey D . Lovering. He continued to train under Lovering until 1992. While training under Lovering, Howard was exposed to many of the nations' top Jujitsu instructors, but it was the Daitoryu Aikijujitsu Kodokai of Roy Goldberg and Kiyama Hayawo that Howard found most interesting.

  2. In my opinion, Karate and Tae Kwon Do has evolved differently. Initially, both were used as forms of self defense. It was likely in the period of origin of both Tae Kwon Do and Karate that in military service or criminal activity, one would need to rely on empty handed combat. As the tools of war have proliferated, the likelihood of hand-to-hand combat for the average person has significantly diminished. Because of this, Karate and Tae Kwon Do has evolved to be more than methods of self defense.

    Recently I have ordered a personal guide as “Hard as Nails” for me on martial arts written by "Phil Milner" from "WKC Martial Arts Supplies" for better improvement for my martial arts skill. Thanks...