What Parts of Your Curriculum Form Your Art's Identity?

MadMartigan

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What makes your martial art, that art and not some other? In Tae Kwon-Do for example, is it still tkd if you stop using Korean terminology, or no longer teach step-sparring, or remove all spinning kicks? What if you focus on punches with barely any kicks? Is it still tkd then?

Obviously this question is more broad than just tkd. This could apply to anything. Is it still bjj if you take away chokes and only focus on joint locks for submissions?

I'm using exagerated examples, but am not trying to be inflammatory. I'm curious what people consider core elements of the art vs optional components. (We're in the tkd section cuz that's what I do and am mostly interested in... but any other arts would also be good to hear about).
 

_Simon_

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Excellent, excellent question. The essence of what makes your art that art!

I don't know if I have an answer as yet... but looking forward to others' answers :)
 

Earl Weiss

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What makes your martial art, that art and not some other?
In TK-D (Chang Hon) the Patterns are a key element of the syllabus. The technical parameters of the patterns vis a vis the fundamental movements contained in each are very specific. The founder analogized the fundamental movements to the alphabet. Different languages may have the same or similar alphabets yet the characteristics of the letters will differ by language and when the letters are assembled the words they form can be different or similar to other languages, yet each language is different. Having said all that the system's founder does specify a "Cycle" containing elements other than fundamental movements and patterns but that did not seem t be the point of the question.
 

Flying Crane

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In Tibetan white crane, we have a specific exercise called chay saan which essentially means turning the waist. This exercise is fundamental to how we develop full-body connection when we deliver a technique.
 

J. Pickard

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or remove all spinning kicks? What if you focus on punches with barely any kicks? Is it still tkd then?
From what I've seen and read about TKD is that the only lasting tradition in the art is the tradition of change. TKD has undergone so many changes (some good, some less good) that the art that was coined as Tae Kwon Do back in the 1950's is unrecognizable as TKD next to modern systems. There is, however, one constant in all of the texts I have read dating back from the 1950's all the way up to today in regard to TKD specifically and it is "personal development". If you compare "official" TKD texts across the decades and styles you see a gradual change in the way things are done from a technical and physical standpoint, even the forms change, but no matter what text you are reading or what decade it is from they all talk about developing good character and developing the practitioners mind. So in that regard, regardless of technique, I would say what make a system "real" Taekwondo is that they use their training to help improve themselves as a person and help those around them do the same. Just my two cents.

EDIT: To add to my original paragraph, consider a master instructor is usually referred to as "sabumnim" which literally means a person of good moral character.
 

Hyoho

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With Japanese arts the core is fundamentals. They are practiced hundreds and thousands of times to the extent that many people would get bored. But they are the key to the safe, being the rest of the art. The key to china cabinet full of goodies that you cant access. Take away that core and you no longer have an art.
 

Buka

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With the American Karate that we study, it's up to each individual instructor as to how his or her class/school trains. I think this was a mistake of mine years ago.

What it originally was, and should be to this day in my opinion, was to train harder and more dedicated than anyone else, anywhere, ever. And only train contact Martial Arts, no exceptions of any kind, kids, too.

Nowadays, in some ways, it seems like a kinder, gentler world as far as work ethic is concerned. But if you look at the crazy state of our world today, I think people should be training even harder than they were years ago. God forbid a kid gets a nose bleed today. Oh Nooooooooo, Mister Bill!
 
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MadMartigan

MadMartigan

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From what I've seen and read about TKD is that the only lasting tradition in the art is the tradition of change. TKD has undergone so many changes (some good, some less good) that the art that was coined as Tae Kwon Do back in the 1950's is unrecognizable as TKD next to modern systems.
Your comment here is in no small way a contributing thought to why I asked this question.
The style of TKD that I practice has far more in common with Shotokan than any modern version of TKD (ITF or KKW). We may do the ITF Chang Hon forms, but that's where most similarities end. There have been many times where I've wondered if we'd be better off calling ourselves 'Korean Karate' instead.

This lead to my questioning, why do we call ourselves TKD? If we took the flags off the wall, spoke in only English, and wore street clothes to train, what creates the TKD identity?

I don't think it's the patterns, as many styles of TKD use many different forms.

The fundamental techniques may have a distinctive flair, but there is equal diversity in how various schools do that too.

Perhaps we are only TKD because we say we are. Hmmm....
 

skribs

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What makes your martial art, that art and not some other? In Tae Kwon-Do for example, is it still tkd if you stop using Korean terminology, or no longer teach step-sparring, or remove all spinning kicks? What if you focus on punches with barely any kicks? Is it still tkd then?

Obviously this question is more broad than just tkd. This could apply to anything. Is it still bjj if you take away chokes and only focus on joint locks for submissions?

I'm using exagerated examples, but am not trying to be inflammatory. I'm curious what people consider core elements of the art vs optional components. (We're in the tkd section cuz that's what I do and am mostly interested in... but any other arts would also be good to hear about).
I think it's more the lineage or the style than it is the art as a whole. There are about 400 different styles of Kung Fu, and they range from flashy to boxing to wrestling. There's at least a dozen different Karate styles, some that are closer to Judo or Aikido than to Taekwondo.

For that reason, I could take my experience in wrestling and Hapkido and combine them together into a new grappling art, and call it "Taekwondo". Who's going to stop me? Now, it might not be a good idea to do so, because people will come in expecting kicks and katas. I might also get pushback for appropriation, if I (a not-Korean) is using Korean terms to help sell my art.

However, I do think it is much easier to define the core of a specific organization or style. For me, my experience is in Kukkiwon. The Kukkiwon requires that for your black belt test, you do forms, breaking, and sparring. This would suggest that the absolute core of the art is those things, and the techniques that are used in them. Quite simply:
  1. Any stance, block, kick, punch, or other technique used in the Kukkiwon-required forms
  2. Any kick, technique, footwork, or strategy used in WT sparring
Everything else is either to help train those two aspects, or is in addition to those two aspects.
 

isshinryuronin

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What makes your martial art, that art and not some other?
I think there are two main parts to this. One, what techniques are most stressed. Two, how the techniques are executed.

1. What: kicks vs hands, high kicks vs low, open hand vs fist, circular vs linear, stand-up grappling/joint locks vs ground submission, preferred weapons and targets, etc., and the ratio of all these variables in the particular art or style.

2. How: internal vs external, thrusting vs snapping, vertical punch vs horizontal, part of the limb used to block, straight in vs angled, close in vs longer range, deep stance vs upright, direct vs indirect, etc., and the ratio of these variables in the particular art.

Most styles can be described by their own unique doctrinal mixture of the above, passing it on to the next generation (noting that individuals may have their own personal preferences superimposed on the style's doctrine). Additionally, some styles have their own take on strategy, philosophy and training methods (such as strength training or body conditioning) providing additional points of style individuality separating them from other styles.

How much difference must there be before one can say a style is its own unique style? I don't see any precise answer to this, except that it be noticeably and consistently different from whatever other styles you're comparing it to.

What I do not consider a unique style is when some guy (usually a lower-mid level black belt) breaks from his school and decides to make himself a "master" simply by giving what he teaches a new name and incorporating a few moves from another art, but that's another thread.
 

J. Pickard

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What I do not consider a unique style is when some guy (usually a lower-mid level black belt) breaks from his school and decides to make himself a "master" simply by giving what he teaches a new name and incorporating a few moves from another art,
You're just jealous that I now have a 16th degree supreme great king super duper grand master belt in my superior style of Mitsubishi Kage Hadouken Ryu Jutsu Do.
 

Earl Weiss

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From what I've seen and read about TKD is that the only lasting tradition in the art is the tradition of change. TKD has undergone so many changes (some good, some less good) that the art that was coined as Tae Kwon Do back in the 1950's is unrecognizable as TKD next to modern systems. ...........................

EDIT: To add to my original paragraph, consider a master instructor is usually referred to as "sabumnim" which literally means a person of good moral character.
FWIW, by 1965 with a singular exception the patterns of TK-D which started in 1955 did not change. (The text with 1965 copyright only had 20 of the 24 patterns but the last 4/5 did not make it into that edition) Admittedly there was some clarification, correction, refinement and evolution, particularly as the founder refined his text and Video Tape showed us what was difficult to show or explain in a 2 dimensional medium. (Unrecognizable would not be accurate although you may be using it loosely as a term of art.) Also, in TK-D "Master" instructor equivalent title is "Sa Hyun" at 7th Dan with Sa Bum being Instructor, and the Suffix "Nim" meaning with respect used to refer to others but never ones self.
 

J. Pickard

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FWIW, by 1965 with a singular exception the patterns of TK-D which started in 1955 did not change. (The text with 1965 copyright only had 20 of the 24 patterns but the last 4/5 did not make it into that edition) Admittedly there was some clarification, correction, refinement and evolution, particularly as the founder refined his text and Video Tape showed us what was difficult to show or explain in a 2 dimensional medium. (Unrecognizable would not be accurate although you may be using it loosely as a term of art.) Also, in TK-D "Master" instructor equivalent title is "Sa Hyun" at 7th Dan with Sa Bum being Instructor, and the Suffix "Nim" meaning with respect used to refer to others but never ones self.
I should have specified, KTA/kukki TKD. Choi was only a part of that group until the late 50s I believe and ITF is still pretty similar to early days TKD where as Kukki TKD has become a horse of a different color. In Kukki TKD Sabumnim is used for 4th dan and higher.
 

Earl Weiss

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. In Kukki TKD Sabumnim is used for 4th dan and higher.
Sa Bum is 4-6th Dan In the Chang System 1-3 - Boo Sa Bum = Assistant Instructor . 4-6, Sa Bum = instructor. 7-8 Sa Hyun = Master Instructor, Sa Sung - 9th Dan = Grandmaster. (Note that English terms are not necessarily literal translations)
 

J. Pickard

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Sa Bum is 4-6th Dan In the Chang System 1-3 - Boo Sa Bum = Assistant Instructor . 4-6, Sa Bum = instructor. 7-8 Sa Hyun = Master Instructor, Sa Sung - 9th Dan = Grandmaster. (Note that English terms are not necessarily literal translations)
I learned something new.
 

Dirty Dog

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In Kukki TKD Sabumnim is used for 4th dan and higher.
Technically, the term is Sabum. Which means teacher and can be used for a teacher of any sort, not just TKD. Nim is an honorific that signifies respect. It can be applied to many words. In TKD, you will see it attached to Sabum and Kwanjang regularly. You will also see people in America calling themselves Sabumnim. You will not find Koreans doing that. By the same token, you could refer to someone as Sabum, but it would be rude and disrespectful.
 

J. Pickard

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Technically, the term is Sabum. Which means teacher and can be used for a teacher of any sort, not just TKD. Nim is an honorific that signifies respect. It can be applied to many words. In TKD, you will see it attached to Sabum and Kwanjang regularly. You will also see people in America calling themselves Sabumnim. You will not find Koreans doing that. By the same token, you could refer to someone as Sabum, but it would be rude and disrespectful.
From my understanding, and this is with only 1 semester of Korean language so I may be wrong, Sabumnim is specifically a teacher of good morals or of outstanding character in society. Seonsaengnim is used for a teacher in a general sense as it refers to someone with more experience (school teachers, private tutors, sports coaches). Nim being the honorific to make it formal and polite is almost always added as a suffix. Again just from my very novice understanding of the language so feel free to criticize if I'm wrong, if you refer to someone as just sabum or just seonsaeng it is still grammatically correct but would be like calling a college professor "teach" in a thuggish Brooklyn accent so it's usually not written without the honorific suffix. For those who have frequented Korea, I ask, is sabumnim used as a general term for teacher often? Maybe this should be in another post....
 

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From my understanding, and this is with only 1 semester of Korean language so I may be wrong, Sabumnim is specifically a teacher of good morals or of outstanding character in society. Seonsaengnim is used for a teacher in a general sense as it refers to someone with more experience (school teachers, private tutors, sports coaches). Nim being the honorific to make it formal and polite is almost always added as a suffix. Again just from my very novice understanding of the language so feel free to criticize if I'm wrong, if you refer to someone as just sabum or just seonsaeng it is still grammatically correct but would be like calling a college professor "teach" in a thuggish Brooklyn accent so it's usually not written without the honorific suffix. For those who have frequented Korea, I ask, is sabumnim used as a general term for teacher often? Maybe this should be in another post....
I don't think there's anything to criticize. There are multiple ways to say teacher in Korean, just as there are in English. Teacher, tutor, professor, coach, instructor... A lot of Korean words simply do not translate directly into English. Seonsaeng, for example, does mean teacher. It's also a polite way to address anyone older or more senior to you. And again, it's one of those words to which -nim will be appended.
 

Jaeimseu

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From my understanding, and this is with only 1 semester of Korean language so I may be wrong, Sabumnim is specifically a teacher of good morals or of outstanding character in society. Seonsaengnim is used for a teacher in a general sense as it refers to someone with more experience (school teachers, private tutors, sports coaches). Nim being the honorific to make it formal and polite is almost always added as a suffix. Again just from my very novice understanding of the language so feel free to criticize if I'm wrong, if you refer to someone as just sabum or just seonsaeng it is still grammatically correct but would be like calling a college professor "teach" in a thuggish Brooklyn accent so it's usually not written without the honorific suffix. For those who have frequented Korea, I ask, is sabumnim used as a general term for teacher often? Maybe this should be in another post....
(seonsaengnim) is the only term I heard for school teachers in the 10 years I lived in Korea. This term is often abbreviated to "sam." At the college level, the term 窱 (kyosunim) is probably the most common term I heard. This is based only on one observer's experience (my own) as a high school teacher (4 years) and college associate professor (6 years) in Korean educational institutions.

The only time I heard the term 禺 (sabumnim) was in relation to Taekwondo. Of course, I am a Taekwondo Sabum, so that's not surprising given the circles I ran in.
 

Jaeimseu

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To get back on subject, I think in the case of Taekwondo, it depends on how you're using the term. At the Kukkiwon Master's Course, the term Taekwondo was often used as an umbrella term for Korean martial arts. If you're using the term this way, then there is really no defining characteristic.

If you're breaking it down into specific types of Taekwondo/Tae Kwon Do/Taekwon-Do, then you might argue that certain things define each of those subdivisions.

Generally speaking, I'd say Koreans like kicking, as evidenced by Taekkyun and by the evolution of competitive WTF sparring. But in the US, you could go into 20 different Taekwondo schools and find a ton of variance in the way things are done (though you'd also likely find certain things in common).
 
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