More to Taekwondo than meets the eye?

lifespantkd

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For those of you who experience Taekwondo as a full art rather than just a system of physical techniques for sport or defense, how and at what point in your training did you come to that understanding? What were your most helpful resources or experiences for developing that broader understanding?

For those of you who experience Taekwondo only as a system of physical techniques for sport or defense, have you ever thought about exploring the art further? What inspires that consideration and/or what gets in the way of further exploration?

Thank you in advance for your input!

Cynthia
 

StudentCarl

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Please clarify what you mean by "full art" vs. physical technique. It will help me answer more clearly.
Thanks,
Carl
 

Cyriacus

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Please, someone make sure this doesnt become a debate about a Martial Art needing to be all Spiritual and Self Fulfilling in order to be Complete.
That may not be the intention at all, but just...
Yeah.
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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Please clarify what you mean by "full art" vs. physical technique. It will help me answer more clearly.
Thanks,
Carl

To me, in brief, and at this point in my development, the "full art" encompasses the physical techniques (e.g., hand techniques, foot techniques, stances, poomsae, pre-arranged and free sparring....anything at all that is done with the body) as well as the underlying philosophy of Taekwondo (e.g., the influence of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism philosophies; symbolic meanings of poomsae; moral creeds by which to live; the concept of "no mind"....anything at all with a metaphysical nature or component). This definition could be greatly expanded. And, each practitioner who sees Taekwondo as a "full art" will define that expression differently. So, feel free to use your own definition to answer this question--and please share that definition, too!

Thank you!

Cynthia
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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Please, someone make sure this doesnt become a debate about a Martial Art needing to be all Spiritual and Self Fulfilling in order to be Complete.
That may not be the intention at all, but just...
Yeah.

No "shoulds" intended at all! :)

I'm just wanting a conversation about how and why different practitioners come to approach Taekwondo in different ways and how that approach may (or may not) change over time. Clearly and understandably, there's a huge amount of variation in people's experiences and viewpoints just on this board.

Cynthia
 

Cyriacus

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Well, Im Learning a System based on being as Effective as possible, by means of Basic, Simple, and Straightforward Methodologies and Applications.
There isnt any time spent on Metaphysical Idealogies, and honestly, this pleases Me greatly.
Because I, personally, am in it to learn a Martial Art with Self Defense in mind, whilst conveniently gaining Fitness.
If I wanted Metaphysics and Spirituality, Id do a System that had that as one of its core appendages.
I can see the appeal in that kind of stuff to some People, but I feel that it is unnecessary, and that if it takes up a good portion of the Class, that if the Learner has no interest in that kind of thing, that it is at their expense that others gain from it.
Where I used to Train under the ITF, it gradually slid from Martial Art into Sport with Meditation and Chi. There is a reason I do not Train there anymore, and thats just the generalized, numbed down reason.
Whats most important is that the choice is available, and that one way or the other is not forced onto the Student.
I mean, I like Learning the stuff I am, but we incidentally have distinctively seperate Childrens and Adults Classes. And theres a reason I have yet to see a Child fully participate in the Adults Classes, and with good reason.
Much in the same way, some People want more Metaphysics, or Sport, or just want to get Fit.
Those are all swell reasons. Theyre just not Mine.

Does that answer Your Question?

EDIT: On an off note, all of these things kind of accomplish the End I Aim at. But its a question of Focus. And Emphasis.
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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Whats most important is that the choice is available, and that one way or the other is not forced onto the Student.

....

Does that answer Your Question?

I certainly agree that forcing a philosophy on someone would completely defeat its purpose--given my understanding of philosophy as an opportunity for and means of personal growth.

And, yes, that answers my question! Thank you very much!

Cynthia
 

sopraisso

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Hello, Cynthia.
I haven't been actively participating here lately and I'm glad I took the time to do it now on your thread.

When I began studying martial arts, I seemed to know it wasn't only for self defense (I wasn't even sure if it was for that) or get fit or whatever. I knew there was a package and I liked the idea of taking many benefits at once. The point is although I didn't know exactly what was the art in taekwondo, my intent was to take the practice fully, so yes, I wanted and still want the "full art".

Today I'm still not sure about where this art is, but I seem to have some hints.
As I progressed between coloured belts, I began serving as an example (technically mainly) to the newer students. My GM always enphasised that in classes, so I couldn't overlook that. I haven't heard much more than taekwondo tenets or little stuff about budhist and taoist influences over the practice in the spiritual issue, but I felt I had to represent adequately the ideal of our art, even outside the dojang, so this gave me new energy to change things in myself, like stopping biting my nails (I'm definitely too old to do it, but I had never stopped before). I try to feed myself better, too. As for moral practices, I believe not much has changed because most of the "moral teachings" (regardless of specific religious aspects) of taekwondo are already present in every culture, and I was fortunate to have been teached about them before.

The taoist part also seems to fit taekwondo very well, really. The ideal of balance and relation between opposites. It feels right for me to try to keep balanced when practicing, although sometimes it's okay at times to become more loose or stay more rooted, as both should be present in a "tao" context. The idea of having muscles relaxed in most of time (except in the final momment of striking) seems excellent in this. So I take it as a direction in practicing, but maybe not heavily seriously. Why not? Because I believe some learnings do come with time, naturally, and being told about them is not the same as experiencing them. Anyway, the tenets are indeed a good incentive to strengthen our moral beliefs.

I think the physical exercise is already something that has a major influence in most of our lives (even intelectually), so this alone maybe is enough to be considered some kind of art, if the physical part is practiced fully (for example, poomsae is part of the physical). Maybe the other understandings come as time goes by. Anyway, I'm sure taekwondo is not a way to enlightenment, because I'm sure there are highly skilled practicioners that haven't been enlightened at all. But one can use taekwondo, certainly, to build their own way. Well, actually, I only heard about humans practicing taekwondo, so maybe there's nobody enlightened, simply.

Finally, I believe what's more important is to remain humble to be able not to completely ignore some aspect or the martial art, otherwise the person maybe missing just where the goldmine could be. I think it's okay we have prefferences, and dedicate more on them, but anyone should first try to learn about everything, instead of discarding some aspect before getting to understand it.
 

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Cynthia, nice question, though I understand the concerns expressed above. Beyond the endlessly rich physical side of Taekwondo, I think training in a good dojang offers character development. I would frame this in terms of the five tenets. To explain, here's an excerpt from my black belt essay:An experienced martial artist can have skills that seem dangerous to the untrained, but that is not his/her only strength. Training over a long period of time can transform a person in terms of the five tenets of Taekwondo. The student may learn:

Courtesy
  • Practice safely with partners of different skill levels, which teaches care and respect for others.
  • Share the journey of learning with juniors and seniors in rank and age, which reinforces that we are all students trying to improve.
  • Preserve dignity by dealing with situations and information privately or publicly, as appropriate.
  • Represent the school as an athlete and coach, both learning and teaching.
  • Take care of facilities and equipment, showing appreciation for the privilege of using them.
  • Give 100% effort as a training partner.
Integrity
  • Admit mistakes, which is necessary for improvement.
  • Choose words carefully to emphasize praise and progress without sacrificing truth when teaching lower level students.
  • Do the right thing the right way without cutting corners.
Perseverance
  • Push past limits with hard work.
  • Try to do better each day and adapt when injuries happen.
  • Take calculated risks, learn from mistakes, and never give up.
Self-Control
  • Do the right thing at the right time, using awareness, timing and position to beat speed and power.
  • Balance drive and patience, effort and recovery.
  • Relax without losing focus, in order to save energy.
  • Control thinking to keep emotions in check.
Indomitable Spirit
  • Do what you can, no matter how small, to improve the situation.
  • Have a vision and make it real.
  • Work for the common good and you will always have allies.
  • View injuries and pain as tests of spirit.
Dedicated training results in personal growth. Greater mastery of the five tenets helps a person prevent, avoid, or prevail in conflict.
  • Being courteous reduces needless emotion and friction between people.
  • Living with integrity roots your position in truth, reducing challenges and making defense easier.
  • Training with perseverance builds skill and resilience.
  • Mastering self-control helps you keep your head when others lose theirs.
  • Having indomitable spirit drives you onward when others give in to fear and doubt.
A mature martial artist has deep roots in the five tenets and, like the strongest trees, has character to withstand the storms of conflict.
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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Finally, I believe what's more important is to remain humble to be able not to completely ignore some aspect or the martial art, otherwise the person maybe missing just where the goldmine could be. I think it's okay we have prefferences, and dedicate more on them, but anyone should first try to learn about everything, instead of discarding some aspect before getting to understand it.

I agree that keeping an open mind is wise--as it is in other areas of life.

How much of your learning of the philosophical aspects of Taekwondo happened through learning from someone else (your teacher, publications, ....)? Any favorite resources? Is philosophy talked about much in class? In one-on-one interactions with your teacher? Are many other students in your school interested in the philosophy, too, or are you unique there?

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts!

Cynthia
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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An experienced martial artist can have skills that seem dangerous to the untrained, but that is not his/her only strength.

....

A mature martial artist has deep roots in the five tenets and, like the strongest trees, has character to withstand the storms of conflict.

Thank you for sharing that excerpt from your black belt essay! I can see you've thought a great deal about the meaning of your student creed.

I notice your caveats: "experienced" and "mature." These adjectives may seem insulting to beginners or even intermediate students--especially when those students are adults who have hard-earned experience and maturity in other areas of life. Yet, unless the physical skills being learned through Taekwondo are accompanied by increasing self-control, compassion, respect, integrity, and so on, then the risk of their mis-use also increases, posing danger to others. This is just one reason I find learning about the philosophy underlying Taekwondo of value to both the practitioner and to the society in which he/she lives.

Cynthia
 

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I notice your caveats: "experienced" and "mature." These adjectives may seem insulting to beginners or even intermediate students--especially when those students are adults who have hard-earned experience and maturity in other areas of life. Yet, unless the physical skills being learned through Taekwondo are accompanied by increasing self-control, compassion, respect, integrity, and so on, then the risk of their mis-use also increases, posing danger to others. This is just one reason I find learning about the philosophy underlying Taekwondo of value to both the practitioner and to the society in which he/she lives.

Cynthia

When I wrote that essay, I tried to identify what I had learned as a person. As the list grew, at some point I noticed that it fit with the five tenets. My caveats "experienced" and "mature" appear because not everyone grows in the same way at the same time--much the same as we see differences in technical development. I do expect students to grow in this way, but it will look different with different people and at different ages. The most recent reminder of this development I found was in reading Master Funakoshi's autobiography. He wrote much more about using restraint than violence. I believe Sun Tzu was right, that the ultimate way is to 'win' without fighting. If that is right, then fitness through training and building character are entirely worthy goals for someone who does not face violence regularly. I think this growth is so important that I would run from any school where this growth was not evident in higher students. Technical skill without judgment and maturity is dangerous and irresponsible.
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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My caveats "experienced" and "mature" appear because not everyone grows in the same way at the same time--much the same as we see differences in technical development. I do expect students to grow in this way, but it will look different with different people and at different ages. The most recent reminder of this development I found was in reading Master Funakoshi's autobiography. He wrote much more about using restraint than violence. I believe Sun Tzu was right, that the ultimate way is to 'win' without fighting. If that is right, then fitness through training and building character are entirely worthy goals for someone who does not face violence regularly. I think this growth is so important that I would run from any school where this growth was not evident in higher students. Technical skill without judgment and maturity is dangerous and irresponsible.

I don't know how to talk about this growth without using words like "experienced" and "mature" either, regardless of how they might be perceived. (The fact that they may be perceived negatively by some was merely an observation.) I agree that they are critical caveats.

I have read the Art of War and Funakoshi's autobiography, too. Master Funakoshi certainly made crystal clear how important he viewed personal growth to be in his art. As I'm sure you know, on p. 101, he wrote, "Karate-do is not only the acquisition of certain defensive skills but also the mastering of the art of being a good and honest member of society." How can a practitioner of Taekwondo do that without exploring its underlying philosophy and/or exploring other philosophies outside of Taekwondo that serve a similar purpose? I think it's a very personal path. The choice is ours whether and how to embark upon it.

Funakoshi, G. Karate-Do: My Way of Life. Tokyo: Kodansha International 1981.

Thank you for sharing more of your thoughts!

Cynthia
 

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Well, Im Learning a System based on being as Effective as possible, by means of Basic, Simple, and Straightforward Methodologies and Applications.
There isnt any time spent on Metaphysical Idealogies, and honestly, this pleases Me greatly.
Because I, personally, am in it to learn a Martial Art with Self Defense in mind, whilst conveniently gaining Fitness.


.

Sadly, there is great debat over what is or what is not a "MartiaL Art" Before it expanded & became mass marketed, back in the late 1970's I asked a former Isrelai soldier if he had learned the martial art of Krav Maga in basic training. His reply was quite telling. He said "What Art? There is nothing artistic about kneeing someone in the nuts." Similarly, one of the first "Reality Based" proponents, Peyton Quinn often states that what he teaches is not a Martial Art.
I submit that if your goals are self defense and fitness, 1. You don't need a "Martial Art" ; and 2. If you are learning a Martial Art for these purposes your time and energy will be used inefficiently.
 

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Sadly, there is great debat over what is or what is not a "MartiaL Art" Before it expanded & became mass marketed, back in the late 1970's I asked a former Isrelai soldier if he had learned the martial art of Krav Maga in basic training. His reply was quite telling. He said "What Art? There is nothing artistic about kneeing someone in the nuts." Similarly, one of the first "Reality Based" proponents, Peyton Quinn often states that what he teaches is not a Martial Art.
I submit that if your goals are self defense and fitness, 1. You don't need a "Martial Art" ; and 2. If you are learning a Martial Art for these purposes your time and energy will be used inefficiently.


So Mr. Weiss, what you are saying is that there is a difference between a Martial Art and a Fighting or Defence System? I am inclined to agree, the Art teaching not just technical skill but also, for want of a better word, 'Life Skills', and the System teaching a way of attacking and defending regardless of how the practitioner uses it. My instructor is always telling the kids 'I'm not teaching you how to fight, I'm teaching you how not to fight.' I believe when teaching children especially, that you have to tell them about restraint, if they are really young (4-8) then they may be inclined to use it or test it on other school kids, perhaps their friends when play fighting or wrestling, my nephew (6 years old, been training for 2 years) has on occasion tried to sidekick me as hard as he can, or punch, knifehand, whatever while play fighting, so i sit him down and tell him why we don't use it for fun. I understand that it might be different for adults, though i can't see why learning to at least focus the mind would be anything but beneficial to anyone.
 

SahBumNimRush

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To quote my Kwan Jang Nim:

"This is our school of physical fitness that teaches us the scientific art of Tae Kwon Do. In this age
of turmoil, it is important that one maintain a strength within ones self (mental strength as well as physical strength) so that one can cope with obstacles and difficulties in life more successfully.

We sincerely hope that this school will serve you as an important institution where you can learn the various virtues of the martial arts that include self-discipline, respect, concentration and competition. Finally, the instruction at Kang's Tae Kwon Do School is constantly directed toward that attainment of inner peace and tranquility within ones self, which we hope will help us to develop harmony and peace with our fellow man."

Grand Master Sok Ho Kang
President
Grand Master Kang's Tae Kwon Do Academy
 

Earl Weiss

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For those of you who experience Taekwondo as a full art rather than just a system of physical techniques for sport or defense, how and at what point in your training did you come to that understanding? What were your most helpful resources or experiences for developing that broader understanding?

Cynthia

Well, I haven't experienced much Taekwondo, instead it's been Taekwon-Do. As far as when I developed a broader understanding, that would be hard to say. It was long ago when Dinosaurs roamed and the Earth was cooling. The philosophical and Moral aspects of TKD are a huge part of what the ITF teaches and the USTF as well. For each rank there is a section on required knowledge which governs not only parameters of physical techniques but the items ranging from the Tenets and philosophical items contained in General Choi's texts which I first obtained whenever the 1972 edition became available.

I will also submit that learning the philosophy and moral precepts contained in those or any text does not mean that you have to accept those principles without question.
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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I submit that if your goals are self defense and fitness, 1. You don't need a "Martial Art" ; and 2. If you are learning a Martial Art for these purposes your time and energy will be used inefficiently.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

I agree that goals and motivation are critical in this discussion. Certainly there is more than one way to learn self-defense skills and not all Taekwondo schools are the best place to do this. At the same time, I would not have wanted to meet, say, Master Funakoshi, in a dark alley. If he had not be studying a full martial art, he would have been nothing more than a very dangerous, highly skilled street thug. Somethingwhether it is the philosophy inherent in an art or notmust guide the use of self-defense skills or they may be used not just for self-defense.

What motivates people to want to develop that "something"? And, why are some people drawn to develop it through the philosophy inherent in a full martial art while others are not?

Cynthia
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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To quote my Kwan Jang Nim:

"This is our school of physical fitness that teaches us the scientific art of Tae Kwon Do. In this age
of turmoil, it is important that one maintain a strength within ones self (mental strength as well as physical strength) so that one can cope with obstacles and difficulties in life more successfully.

We sincerely hope that this school will serve you as an important institution where you can learn the various virtues of the martial arts that include self-discipline, respect, concentration and competition. Finally, the instruction at Kang's Tae Kwon Do School is constantly directed toward that attainment of inner peace and tranquility within ones self, which we hope will help us to develop harmony and peace with our fellow man."

Grand Master Sok Ho Kang
President
Grand Master Kang's Tae Kwon Do Academy

Thank you for sharing those words. A very comprehensive approach! Can you give some examples of how the philosophy is taught in your school?

Cynthia
 
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