Is TKD a Martial Art?

isshinryuronin

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The thread title is a little provocative (especially, no doubt, to TKD practitioners) but have no fear, I'll soon put it in perspective.

Consider this statement: The main TMA's popular today include karate, jiu-jitsu, aikido, kung fu, judo, tai chi, and TKD. Are there any that technically don't belong in this grouping? Is there one that can be grouped simply as a subset of another?

When asked, "What art do you study?" the average answer would be karate, kung fu, jiu-jitsu, tkd. But is tkd as different from karate as it is from kung fu or judo? After all, TKD largely descended from shotokan, a style of karate.

My point is that should TKD be considered a separate ART, or just another STYLE of the art of karate. Isn't it just Korean style karate, just as shotokan is Japanese style karate or shorinryu an Okinawan style of karate? But TKD is often seen and discussed, here and elsewhere, a something apart from karate. Perhaps a pure marketing ploy, as in practice, it seems to be just another karate style to me.

That's is my take on it. What do you think: Is TKD a separate art like kung fu or judo, or simply just another karate style?
 

gyoja

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The thread title is a little provocative (especially, no doubt, to TKD practitioners) but have no fear, I'll soon put it in perspective.

Consider this statement: The main TMA's popular today include karate, jiu-jitsu, aikido, kung fu, judo, tai chi, and TKD. Are there any that technically don't belong in this grouping? Is there one that can be grouped simply as a subset of another?

When asked, "What art do you study?" the average answer would be karate, kung fu, jiu-jitsu, tkd. But is tkd as different from karate as it is from kung fu or judo? After all, TKD largely descended from shotokan, a style of karate.

My point is that should TKD be considered a separate ART, or just another STYLE of the art of karate. Isn't it just Korean style karate, just as shotokan is Japanese style karate or shorinryu an Okinawan style of karate? But TKD is often seen and discussed, here and elsewhere, a something apart from karate. Perhaps a pure marketing ploy, as in practice, it seems to be just another karate style to me.

That's is my take on it. What do you think: Is TKD a separate art like kung fu or judo, or simply just another karate style?
I cant speak to TKD, but having trained and competed with a few Shotokan schools, they definitely do not consider TSD karate. It is also very disrespectful in both Korea and Japan to refer to them as the same, as there are distinct differences in both techniques and philosophy. We dont even consider TSD and TKD as the same style; I have seen a few fights break out over this! While I would agree that they all have similar roots, they have evolved away from each other namely in the points stated earlier.
 

MadMartigan

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I like this question.

As someone who practices and teaches original tkd, I more closely associate with karate than modern tkd (either ITF or KKW). These 2 main branches have obviously moved away from karate in many ways. While calling what I do "korean karate" would not offend me, I believe the original tkd style is different enough to not be considered a karate substyle.

The 24 Chang Hon patterns are sequences of movements very similar to their karate predecessors, but the focus is different. Rather than being bunkai focused, the TKD Hyung are designed more as a means to perfect movement and as an encyclopedia of the art. Power generation in each technique is far more emphasized. (This comes from how one of the original 5 pioneers still teaches the art).

Someone from Korea or Japan would likely have more to say about cultural differences, but on a strickly practical standpoint, I think the patterns are the largest reason to consider them separate arts (rather than a subset of karate).
 

Hot Lunch

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My point is that should TKD be considered a separate ART, or just another STYLE of the art of karate. Isn't it just Korean style karate, just as shotokan is Japanese style karate or shorinryu an Okinawan style of karate? But TKD is often seen and discussed, here and elsewhere, a something apart from karate. Perhaps a pure marketing ploy, as in practice, it seems to be just another karate style to me.

That's is my take on it. What do you think: Is TKD a separate art like kung fu or judo, or simply just another karate style?
This is gonna start something.

No, I don't consider taekwondo to be karate.

I don't even consider tang soo do or soo bakh do to be karate.

Of course, that's just me talking, and I'm only one person. There doesn't even seem to be a consensus on whether or not practitioners of TSD and SBD even consider their arts to be karate. Some do, some don't.

I will say that for those who do, the bigger thing to look at is whether or not they're accepted as fellow karateka by the karate community at large. In my observation, that doesn't seem to be the case. For example, many karate tournaments I've seen specify that only Japanese or Okinawan katas allowed.
 

gyoja

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This is gonna start something.

No, I don't consider taekwondo to be karate.

I don't even consider tang soo do or soo bakh do to be karate.

Of course, that's just me talking, and I'm only one person. There doesn't even seem to be a consensus on whether or not practitioners of TSD and SBD even consider their arts to be karate. Some do, some don't.

I will say that for those who do, the bigger thing to look at is whether or not they're accepted as fellow karateka by the karate community at large. In my observation, that doesn't seem to be the case. For example, many karate tournaments I've seen specify that only Japanese or Okinawan katas allowed.
I noticed when we competed in the open tournaments hosted by the Shotokan schools that the judges were all from their schools, and rightfully so. We were all warned beforehand that we would most likely lose the forms competition because our TSD forms differed enough. In my experience, this was often the case. Interestingly enough, I had a judge on more than one occasion ask me why I placed my hands where I did or why I made a certain movement, and after we spoke they would understand the differences.
 

drop bear

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It is a lot easier for TKD to be it's own art.
 
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isshinryuronin

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I think the patterns are the largest reason to consider them separate arts (rather than a subset of karate).
Shotokan forms are quite different from Uechi-ryu forms, yet both consider themselves karate. In fact, shotokan forms are more like TKD forms than they are to Uechi-ryu forms. So, it seems, there is no great difference in this regard. All karate styles have their own unique flavor. I don't see how TKD is so unique to justify it being called a separate art rather than another karate style when viewed objectively.

Another point. Most karate practitioners can switch from one style to another (including TKD) with relative ease as I have. I could get a black belt in goju or TKD as fast as I could memorize and internalize the forms, certainly less than 2 years. Not so if I changed to a kung fu style or judo as they are clearly separate arts.
 

Hot Lunch

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I don't see how TKD is so unique to justify it being called a separate art rather than another karate style when viewed objectively.
The fact that it's not Japanese or Okinawan.

If TKD is karate, then Uechi-ryu and Goju-ryu are White Crane kung fu. But can you honestly consider something "kung fu" if it's not Chinese?
 

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Tony Dismukes

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This is actually very similar to the discussions in linguistics of what constitutes a dialect vs a distinct language. In reality there is no clear dividing line. Forms of a language can diverge in very gradual steps. Sometimes two "dialects" of the "same" language can be more divergent that two officially "different" languages. Very often the decision of whether to label a variant a dialect or a distinct language comes down to politics rather than structural analysis.
 

drop bear

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This is actually very similar to the discussions in linguistics of what constitutes a dialect vs a distinct language. In reality there is no clear dividing line. Forms of a language can diverge in very gradual steps. Sometimes two "dialects" of the "same" language can be more divergent that two officially "different" languages. Very often the decision of whether to label a variant a dialect or a distinct language comes down to politics rather than structural analysis.

By the way. People are trying to make American jujitsu a thing.
 

MadMartigan

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Shotokan forms are quite different from Uechi-ryu forms, yet both consider themselves karate. In fact, shotokan forms are more like TKD forms than they are to Uechi-ryu forms. So, it seems, there is no great difference in this regard. All karate styles have their own unique flavor. I don't see how TKD is so unique to justify it being called a separate art rather than another karate style when viewed objectively.

Another point. Most karate practitioners can switch from one style to another (including TKD) with relative ease as I have. I could get a black belt in goju or TKD as fast as I could memorize and internalize the forms, certainly less than 2 years. Not so if I changed to a kung fu style or judo as they are clearly separate arts.
I completely agree with the commonality where you would be able to step into TKD matial and be a black belt in short order. As a more seasoned Karate practitioner that I am in TKD, the common movements would make that fairly simple.

My thoughts on the difference was less about the 'what' or 'how' movements are being done, (as these are so similar) but more about the 'why'. It seems to me that the purpose of TKD forms differs significantly from the purpose of Kata. Would you disagree?
 

Kung Fu Wang

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My point is that should TKD be considered a separate ART, or just another STYLE of the art of karate.
It depends on how you may define the term "Karate".

A: What MA style do you train?
B: I train TKD.
A: No! You train Korean Karate.
C: I train Kung Fu.
A: No! You train Chinese Karate.
D: I train MT.
A: No! You train Thailand Karate.
E: I train boxing.
A: No! You train American Karate.
 

Hot Lunch

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By the way. People are trying to make American jujitsu a thing.
As long as it's referred to as "American jujitsu," and not simply "jujitsu," sure.

It look at it like that tubular sliced ham. We call it "Canadian bacon," but never simply "bacon."

I look at TSD and SBD the same way. "Korean karate?" Okay. But simply "karate?" Eh...
 

Dirty Dog

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My thoughts on the difference was less about the 'what' or 'how' movements are being done, (as these are so similar) but more about the 'why'. It seems to me that the purpose of TKD forms differs significantly from the purpose of Kata. Would you disagree?
What do you think the purpose of Karate Kata is?
 

Steve

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By the way. People are trying to make American jujitsu a thing.
i hope we come up with a better name for it. Something like budo-ju-jiutsu do. Equal parts historical reverence, incorrect use of borrowed words, and blatant cultural appropriation, culminating in an abomination of a name that gives martial arts sites at least a decades worth of heated arguments.
 

drop bear

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i hope we come up with a better name for it. Something like budo-ju-jiutsu do. Equal parts historical reverence, incorrect use of borrowed words, and blatant cultural appropriation, culminating in an abomination of a name that gives martial arts sites at least a decades worth of heated arguments.
Freedom Jitsu
 
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isshinryuronin

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My thoughts on the difference was less about the 'what' or 'how' movements are being done, (as these are so similar) but more about the 'why'. It seems to me that the purpose of TKD forms differs significantly from the purpose of Kata. Would you disagree?
Rather than being bunkai focused, the TKD Hyung are designed more as a means to perfect movement and as an encyclopedia of the art.
Is this enough to make it a completely different art? Just the purpose or emphasis of the technique? There are karate schools that do not work on kata bunkai much for whatever reason and emphasize form execution. Does this mean they are not really karate schools, but TKD schools? It still looks to me that TKD is Korean karate.
 
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isshinryuronin

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Very often the decision of whether to label a variant a dialect or a distinct language comes down to politics rather than structural analysis.
Your thoughtful post made a very good comparison. Your quote above is a better way to explain the idea I was trying to express in my quote below.
Perhaps a pure marketing ploy, as in practice, it seems to be just another karate style to me.
I used the word "marketing" rather than "politics", though one drives the other. "Structural analysis" is a more concrete term than "as in practice." Very eloquently put, Tony.

Based on this general thinking we seem to share, even though TKD generally has karate forms, techniques and structure, it's not karate because Korea says it isn't. I guess that's one reality. One can embrace it as they wish. I'll take the alternate reality where, "If it swims like a duck and quacks like a duck..."

Let me say that TKD practitioners are a fine people - I've even had a TKD friend :D . I'm merely making an objective logical case as to where TKD fits in TMA world. I would welcome TKD as a member of the karate family.
 
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