What exactly is the difference between "modern" and "old-school" Taekwondo?

andyjeffries

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***Correction***
I did not realize I placed the salutation backwards. Thank you for pointing it out.
I apologize to Hwang Hyun-Chul, Kwan Jang Nim for the error.

I don't think any Koreans would take offence at it, they're very forgiving of errors in Korean by those that aren't fluent in Korean and happy that people are trying. I just thought I'd let you know in case you didn't know :) (and may be useful for others too).

Weirdly, after a while it becomes second-nature. If I'm speaking English to a Korean master/grandmaster I'll put their title before their name, but if I'm speaking Korean to the same named person, I'll naturally put the title afterwards.
 

Earl Weiss

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The name Taekwondo didn't exist prior to General Choi naming it, but it was united by the Kwan leaders, not Choi. In fact, at the time, Choi only had "honorary 4th dan rank" not full regular dan rank, and that was (controversially) revoked by GM Son, Duk-sung in the Seoul newspaper on June 15th 1959 after Choi asked for higher honorary dan rank, so whether he was a legit master is even really in question.

Choi did a lot for popularizing and promoting Taekwondo, and for that I'm grateful, but let's not take credit from a bunch of honourable grandmasters who unified Taekwondo and give it to one guy, who in reality is the cause of the major split in Taekwondo. 9 Kwans (we'll ignore the 10th administration only Kwan) came together to unify to form Taekwondo, KTA, and then Kukkiwon. General Choi was the only one to split away - even his original Kwan Ohdokwan still exists in Korea and fully supports Kukkiwon.
Let's examine history a little.
First GM Son was no longer CDK president when he placed an ad in a newspaper expelling General Choi and revoking his rank. The same ad also expelled GM Uhm and GM Nam. So, questions should be asked if someone who was no longer president of an organization or even a member had the right to expel people and revoke their rank. We know GM Uhm was president after GM Son was gone and remained so for many decades. GM Nam remained a member as well. So, what does that tell you about GM Sons advertisement and efficacy of the purported actions contained therein.
Next let us look at what General Choi did. As head of the 29th infantry division, (using the name Oh Do Kwan being art of the genius) recruited, and trained top MA talent in a new system he developed so it could be taught on a wide schedule. Took trained people on world tours to demonstrate, dispatched instructors throughout the world to teach, recruited Korean instructors in other parts of the world (Jhoon Rhee a notable example) to start teaching the system . Lobbied endlessly against resistance to use the name.
There is no doubt he was successful do to his position and ability to access government resources.
I asked GM Nam, knowing how people were typically loyal to their instructors / Kwans how it was that General Choi was so successful (again the Name Oh Do Kwan comes to mind) that General Choi was so successful attracting people. His answer was because General Choi had access to resources no one else had. If they wanted to do a demo somewhere they would get on a military transport and go.
So there is no doubt the motivation was to spread a system on a wide basis taking a page from Funakoshi, Kano etc. with the advantage of modern travel and communications (along with the spread a public relations feat for SK)
Also no doubt the General Choi's success was due to political influence and resources.
Now, fast forward 18 years or so, the SK government uses it's resources to come up with TKD v2, and uses it's influence and resources develop a system, recruit, and train instructors, and dispatch instructors across the globe with the now even greater advantage of better communication and travel.
What other honorable GM came even close to duplicating General Choi's efforts / results notwithstanding his access to resources?
 

andyjeffries

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Let's examine history a little.
First GM Son was no longer CDK president when he placed an ad in a newspaper expelling General Choi and revoking his rank.

I completely agree, that's why I always write "(controversially)" when I describe the event.

The same ad also expelled GM Uhm and GM Nam. So, questions should be asked if someone who was no longer president of an organization or even a member had the right to expel people and revoke their rank. We know GM Uhm was president after GM Son was gone and remained so for many decades. GM Nam remained a member as well. So, what does that tell you about GM Sons advertisement and efficacy of the purported actions contained therein.

I would say that the two are different things. If someone signs my rank certificate and believes that I did something wrong, serious enough that I no longer deserves that rank (even if they are no longer in that position) then I would accept my rank had been revoked as it was their name on it. I maybe would re-apply to the current head to ask for a new rank certificate with their signature, if they felt it appropriate.

However, if that person no longer held authority in the association, I don't think they can determine who is and is not a member.

So the two are different in my eyes, but that is my personal opinion.

Next let us look at what General Choi did. As head of the 29th infantry division, (using the name Oh Do Kwan being art of the genius) recruited, and trained top MA talent in a new system he developed so it could be taught on a wide schedule. Took trained people on world tours to demonstrate, dispatched instructors throughout the world to teach, recruited Korean instructors in other parts of the world (Jhoon Rhee a notable example) to start teaching the system . Lobbied endlessly against resistance to use the name.
There is no doubt he was successful do to his position and ability to access government resources.

I agree, he definitely had a more forward thinking view on how to take this Korean art and make it global. The KKW side of the fence was slower on making that jump.

I asked GM Nam, knowing how people were typically loyal to their instructors / Kwans how it was that General Choi was so successful (again the Name Oh Do Kwan comes to mind) that General Choi was so successful attracting people. His answer was because General Choi had access to resources no one else had. If they wanted to do a demo somewhere they would get on a military transport and go.
So there is no doubt the motivation was to spread a system on a wide basis taking a page from Funakoshi, Kano etc. with the advantage of modern travel and communications (along with the spread a public relations feat for SK)
Also no doubt the General Choi's success was due to political influence and resources.
Now, fast forward 18 years or so, the SK government uses it's resources to come up with TKD v2, and uses it's influence and resources develop a system, recruit, and train instructors, and dispatch instructors across the globe with the now even greater advantage of better communication and travel.

I don't know if I'd agree with v2 given that I don't feel General Choi defined all of Taekwondo, but determined what his style was, the unified Kwans on the other side did the same thing as a joint effort. Inside of Korea, there are other Kwans that pre-date Ohdokwan.

What other honorable GM came even close to duplicating General Choi's efforts / results notwithstanding his access to resources?

As a group they came close (or some would say surpassed given the Olympics success and much greater size) but that's the difference in thinking for me. I always feel that General Choi was very egotistical. He was "The Founder", he was the one with all the power, the kwan was named "School of my way" (and I know he later apparently clarified that it meant "my as in each member's way", but that feels like political wordplay to me). So comparing him on one side to a group of people on the other side that felt it was a group effort is fair and I would say proven equal over time (even though he did it first).

That's why I'd predicted the multiple ITF split that would happen after General Choi passed away. He led an organisation where he maintained the power and prestige, so there were always going to be a bunch of people that felt they were at the top table, ready to also hold that same power and prestige.
 

granfire

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I always feel that General Choi was very egotistical. He was "The Founder", he was the one with all the power, the kwan was named "School of my way" (and I know he later apparently clarified that it meant "my as in each member's way", but that feels like political wordplay to me).
"the biggest ego in a room full of egos"
I suppose it sounds better to you when you say it. :)
 

dvcochran

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"the biggest ego in a room full of egos"
I suppose it sounds better to you when you say it. :)
If you have ever been in a meeting with a group of Korean GM's you know what he is saying. It seems to be a cultural thing to have the biggest ego.
 

Pepsiman90

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I think everyone else nailed it on the head, but to the best of my understanding, the ITF-style is more traditional and focuses on self-defense, whereas WTF/WT-style focuses more on the sport/competitive side of things. Both styles are 100% valid in my opinion as they instill physical and mental discipline (My brother-in-law and his kids currently train under WTF/WT, for context's sake.), but which one someone prefers is based on what exactly they're looking to get out of it.
 

granfire

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If you have ever been in a meeting with a group of Korean GM's you know what he is saying. It seems to be a cultural thing to have the biggest ego.
I have met men from many parts of the world. :)
Goes with the equipment

Alas, it was what I was saying all along.
Might be an ego thing?
Dunno.
 

andyjeffries

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I think everyone else nailed it on the head, but to the best of my understanding, the ITF-style is more traditional and focuses on self-defense, whereas WTF/WT-style focuses more on the sport/competitive side of things. Both styles are 100% valid in my opinion as they instill physical and mental discipline (My brother-in-law and his kids currently train under WTF/WT, for context's sake.), but which one someone prefers is based on what exactly they're looking to get out of it.

One tip I would say is to listen out for if the school describes themselves as WTF/WT or Kukkiwon/KKW.

If they use WTF/WT then (IMHO) they're more likely to be sport focused). If they use Kukkiwon/KKW (which is actually correct, WT is just a sports competition body) then they're more likely to do the whole curriculum which either includes traditional ITF-like self defence or more modern self-defence as per the current Kukkiwon curriculum.
 

dvcochran

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I have met men from many parts of the world. :)
Goes with the equipment

Alas, it was what I was saying all along.
Might be an ego thing?
Dunno.
Fully agree it is an ego thing from an American perspective. It seems to me 'A' type Koreans take it to a whole different level.
 

granfire

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Fully agree it is an ego thing from an American perspective. It seems to me 'A' type Koreans take it to a whole different level.

I think we just don't notice it from Americans or Europeans. Plenty of tail wagging in those cultures as well.
Most just don't have the national platform and the relative vacuum to thrive in.
 

Bruce7

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I have watched a lot of Taekwondo sparring on YouTube, and every time I scroll down the comment section I see comments such as - "Ooh old school Taekwondo was better". I tried to look into this and I found this video:
From what I saw, and what the narrator was saying, there was something different but I can't quite place it. From what I see:
  • They kept their hands higher up in their guard. Now personally I keep my right hand raised to my chin, and my left down low and relaxed as it feels it helps me to have faster and more fluid movement.
  • They people in the video seem to be considerably more aggressive than their "modern" competitive counterparts. You can hear constant "kiai", though I don't know the terms for it in Korean.
  • The narrator mentioned how the practitioners "flicked their hips forward more". From what I understood, this made their kicks have a larger range as their body would have more momentum, and this also resulted in more power.
But I can't tell if I am missing anything? I feel as if there's another obvious difference that I am not quite getting. Can you guys spot anything?

IMO when I think of old school MA, I think of people like Bill Wallace (karate) who's side kick is as good as any TKD side kick. A man that enjoys teaching as much as he enjoys doing.
 

Jaeimseu

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Fully agree it is an ego thing from an American perspective. It seems to me 'A' type Koreans take it to a whole different level.

While their are undoubtedly some egos amongst some Korean GMs, the most annoyingly egotistical martial artists Ive come across have been American masters.


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Earl Weiss

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I I always feel that General Choi was very egotistical. He was "The Founder", he was the one with all the power, the kwan was named "School of my way" (and I know he later apparently clarified that it meant "my as in each member's way", but that feels like political wordplay to me).
Egotistical is one way to put it. Another is to understand he was a General and when the General says do something he expects it to get done. Now, of course this is problematic when the people he tells are not under his command.
As to the second point - To my knowledge - General Choi never issued any such explanation or wordplay. I never heard this or saw it in print until I asked Nam Tae Hi how General Choi was able to attract followers who are typically loyal to their instructor or Kwan. He explained that this was part of choosing the name Oh Do Kwan or "Gym Of My Way" or "Gym for all of Us" So it could be a place for everyone as opposed to using an existing name which might be viewed as joining an existing competing Kwan. If you haven't read the article which contains the first known published print reference I am aware of I can provide it.
 

Earl Weiss

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While their are undoubtedly some egos amongst some Korean GMs, the most annoyingly egotistical martial artists Ive come across have been American masters.


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Sometimes the Instructor conveys lessons to the student thru their actions.
 

dvcochran

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While their are undoubtedly some egos amongst some Korean GMs, the most annoyingly egotistical martial artists Ive come across have been American masters.


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Agree. In many cases though, who do you think they learned from?:)
 

andyjeffries

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Egotistical is one way to put it. Another is to understand he was a General and when the General says do something he expects it to get done. Now, of course this is problematic when the people he tells are not under his command.
As to the second point - To my knowledge - General Choi never issued any such explanation or wordplay. I never heard this or saw it in print until I asked Nam Tae Hi how General Choi was able to attract followers who are typically loyal to their instructor or Kwan. He explained that this was part of choosing the name Oh Do Kwan or "Gym Of My Way" or "Gym for all of Us" So it could be a place for everyone as opposed to using an existing name which might be viewed as joining an existing competing Kwan. If you haven't read the article which contains the first known published print reference I am aware of I can provide it.

So up until GM Nam's explanation, it could have literally been a pure ego thing "this is MY school" from General Choi's point of view?
 

dvcochran

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True, but as adults, we are responsible for our own actions. I dont care why youre a jerk (not you, sir). I care THAT youre a jerk.


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Well said. At least in my Korean environment ego is mellowing out a bit. The A type personality is going to rear it's head in every environment at some point. It is just that it is more conducive in some environments than others. You would be amazed how prevalent steroids were in 80's college football and regional/national level TKD competition. Made for some real axxholes. And no, I did not need steroids to be an axx.;)
 

Earl Weiss

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So up until GM Nam's explanation, it could have literally been a pure ego thing "this is MY school" from General Choi's point of view?
Not at all. Up until GM Nams explanation Non Korean Language speakers misunderstood the meaning. This fit nicely into their pre conceived notions and was then misapplied to bolster the egotistical critique. It was gym of "My Way" . (not "My School") as each person speaking in the first person at the Gm would use the name. He also said it could be translated as "The Gym for all of us." Here is the interview. https://1c47d0f0-a-62cb3a1a-s-sites...K1jgOfmRgf9e8TrX4LOc41Z-yKxks=&attredirects=0
 

Mitlov

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just one opinion, but I think the difference between 1990s taekwondo and modern taekwondo can really be tied to the electronic hogu. And I can relate it to something I've seen in fencing. In saber, where you need a judge to recognize that you got the touch in most situations, saberists are very aggressive and theatrical to get the judge to feel that they're being dominant. Complete with loud yelling whenever they think they scored, to try and convince the judge that they did in fact score. In epee, were electronic scoring is completely determinative, people tend to be more relaxed and hit no harder than they need to hit to set off the sensors. Relaxed is fast, and hitting harder than you need to hit doesn't help with speed, so epee looks much less intense to a spectator than saber does.

I think that the electronic hogu may have changed WT TKD from a saber dynamic to an epee dynamic. No less intense from a competitor standpoint, but perhaps less action-packed from the standpoint of a spectator.
 
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