Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Origin of Tae Kwon Do

Koreans developed tae kwon do from karate.

Problems in the Identity and Philosophy of T'aegwondo and Their Historical Causes

It has been postulated that t'aegwondo is Korea's most effective diplomatic tool, achieving what Korea's most skilled diplomats have been unable to accomplish; that is, bring the citizens of advanced western countries to an attitude of respect before the Korean flag.1 It has been further argued that t'aegwondo, as the Korean national sport, and one of the repositories of traditional, indigenous Korean culture. plays a vital role in preserving traditional Korean culture in the face of western cultural imperialism.2

T'aegwondo, a martial sport, has been given these rather weighty responsibilities because t'aegwondo has been popularized as a unique product of Korean culture, continuously extant in Korean history since the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period, some 1300 years ago. The importance placed on (his history of unique development within Korea is understandable as it provides t'aegwondo with a Korean pedigree (chokpo) granting legitimacy as a traditional Korean institution imbued with an ancient and mysterious past which not only holds great appeal to non-Koreans, but also serves as a source of national pride to Koreans themselves who crave an internationally recognizable symbols of their culture.

The overemphasis on establishing and asserting t'aegwondo's indigenous Korean origins and development, however, has actually been an impediment to t'aegwondo's potential growth and development. T'aegwondo seems to have reached it's goals of international recognition upon its inclusion as an official sport in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, testimony to the incredible growth of t'aegwondo as a sport in the last 35 years, that t'aegwondo is now grappling with serious philosophic problems, regarding its identity and future development.

The main cause of these problems is found in the history of t'aegwondo's origins. The fact that t'aegwondo was first brought into Korea from Japan in the form of Japanese karate around the time of the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule, and the way this fact has been dealt with in Korea has left many serious inconsistencies [81] in the way t'aegwondo has been developed within Korea and propagated abroad.

This process of development can be broadly outlined as follows: Japanese karate called kongsudo or tangsudo was introduced to Korea just after liberation from Japan by Koreans who had learned karate in Japan. Upon returning, these Koreans opened karate gymnasiums promoting what they were teaching as karate, much like the process followed by the early Judo instructors. Well after these schools became established, the need to "Koreanize" was felt. The process of Koreanization consisted of three main aspects. The first was the selection of a new, non-Japanese name. The second was the creation of a system of techniques and training which was distinctly different from that of karate, and the third was the attempt to establish t'aegwondo's existence and development within tile historical flow of Korean civilization. The development of a new system of techniques and training was under-taken by moving away from karate's nature as a martial art of self-defense through the development of t'aegwondo as a sport? This has been called the "competitionalization" or sportization of t'aegwondo.

This, however, is where the problems which still plague t'aegwondo had their genesis. First of all, the concept of martial art based on the Chinese philosophical concept of tao was developed in Japan beginning with the transformation of swordmanship from a battlefield necessity to a form of philosophic human movement.4 This philosophical concept, as it was applied to fighting skills by the Japanese, did not exist in Korea. Rather, during the last half of the Choson dynasty, physical activity, especially of a martial nature, became all object of scorn and a sign of low breeding as seen in the royal court attitude of valuing learning and disregarding martial skill. Koreans' first concrete exposure to this concept of martial art was through the martial arts training judo and kendo under the militaristic education policy effected by the Japanese during the colonial period. This concept was reinforced with the entry of karate into Korea. The propagation of the philosophies associated with karate flourished as did many other Japanese policies and methodologies. This was especially true in the sport and physical education realms as can be seen by the fact that the faculty of the physical education department of Seoul National University at that time consisted almost exclusively of Japanese trained educators whose teaching and training methods were exclusively Japanese.6

While attempting to escape the stigma of Japanese karate through the creation of a new system of techniques based on competition, Korean t'aegwondo had already put itself in a quandary by asserting that its origin was rooted in traditional Korean martial arts such as subakhui or t'aekkyon. So while the nature of t'aegwondo was developing towards that of a martial sport of unique Korean creation and away from its Japanese nature of a martial art of self-defense, t'aegwondo leaders were unable or unwilling to acknowledge t'aegwondo Japanese origins. Doing so would have freed them from the burden of maintaining an inconsistent position regarding the nature of t'aegwondo and also would have allowed development of a compatible philosophical basis for the newly emerging phenomenon of sport t'aegwondo.

takeshima dokdo dokto tokdo tokto
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