Originally Taekwondo was an effective military art used by the Korean army to protect Korea from invading forces. In modern times, some people practice a sport form of this art that shares its name as an Olympic sport. This blog is dedicated to the military art form of Taekwondo and the practice of that effective self defense form. We will also post information on ways to learn Taekwondo in Korea through our exchange program and residency program.
Here is an educational article about Traditional Taekwondo. Forgive any errors in translation. We will be making edits as we find them.
The Facts About Traditional Taekwondo by Grand Master I. M. Kim
The traditional military arts of the Korean people and nation go back many centuries. During the brutal Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, 1905-1945, the Japanese attempted to destroy Korean culture, history, arts, and even the Korean language. Practice of the traditional Korean military arts was strictly prohibited and, if caught, the punishment was potentially fatal.
When the Japanese Empire was finally crushed in 1945, a new Korea began to emerge from the ashes. Modern Taekwondo was brought to Korea by Koreans who had been outside the peninsula during the occupation, primarily during the years of World War II. Taekwondo began in post-war Korea with Karate-do, an art that had originated in China and Korea, before making its way to Okinawa and Japan from Korea. Karate-do was often taught in Okinawa and Japan by Koreans living under a Japanese name. Few Japanese, and even fewer Americans, know that the two top personalities in “Japanese Karate-do” in Japan were both ethnic Koreans.
In Seoul, Republic of Korea the primary place of training in the military arts, immediately following the occupation, was the Seoul YMCA. Here, all the fighting arts were taught collectively. Before long, a group of ambitious young men decided to break away from this collective training and to specialize in empty hand and foot fighting. This came to be known as “Taekwondo”.
In recent years, it has become popular to claim thousands of years in history and tradition for Taekwondo, based upon some illustrations in a cave in an area of China once inhabited by the Korean people. Those illustrations can be given other interpretations just as easily, however, and there is nothing to factually connect Taekwondo to those illustrations.
Indeed, Taekwondo came from the “ryu” of Japanese and Okinawan Karate-do, as one would expect, given the history and events of the time. Like the traditional Japanese military arts prior to WWII, the traditional Korean military arts are taught within a “kwan”, meaning a school of thought or a system or a philosophy of an art.
All of the traditional arts of Taekwondo are taught within a “kwan”. Indeed, a traditional military art cannot be taught unless it be within the “kwan” system.
The Japanese “ryu” were banned after 1945, first under occupation rule and then by Japanese law, and the Japanese martial arts effectively came to an end, as living arts. The “kwan” system remained in effect in Korea however in 1945, as it does today. Thus, while the Japanese “ryu” system went into the dark and expired, the kwan system remains the lawful system for the traditional military arts in the Republic of Korea. All traditional Korean military arts are taught under a kwan licensed to an art. That point cannot be emphasized enough.
The details differ, according to the teller, but let it suffice to say the a dozen or so young men, cited above, got together and formed the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), each appointing himself the founding grandmaster of a kwan of his own. Some of those kwans did not survive that Korean War, the founder having been killed in the war, and other kwans were added. The number of kwans eventually stabilized, and no new kwans have been added to the KTA for several decades.
As has been noted, most of the original kwans came directly from a ryu of Karate-do. Thus, former practitioners of these Japanese arts could be brought directly into the appropriate KTA kwan. That is why many foreigners prefer “Korean Karate” even today, since the Korean kwan often preserves the Japanese art in its original form, while the Japanese forms have tended to deteriorate over time.
Eventually, the federal government in Seoul undertook to regulate the military arts, including Taekwondo. A governing body was formed to set the standards for, and to govern, the traditional military arts. Under this governing body, only one organization represents each art. The Korea Taekwondo Association represents Taekwondo.
Many foreigners worldwide falsely believe that they have attained rank in the military art of Taekwondo when they receive a rank certificate from KukKiWon. That is entirely false. KukKiWon is the headquarters for KukKi Taekwondo, the national sport of Korea, at the Korean Amateur Sports Association headquarters in Seoul. The rank that they issue is sport rank, even though some unscrupulous expatriate Koreans may misrepresent that fact to gullible foreigners. In fact, a number of officials and employees of KukKiWon have gone to jail for being involved in the selling, and other misuse, of sport rank from KukKiWon.
The governing body for military arts in Korea actually opened it’s doors for foreigners to receive legitimate military art rank in Taekwondo, and other traditional Korean military arts. That is the Korean Military Arts Federation (KMAF).
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