Tuesday, November 14, 2006

the history of t'aegwondo's origins

By: Steven D. Capener

Steve Capener is former Chief Instructor of Big Sky Taekwondo at the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, and continues to be a technical adviser to that organization. He has resided in Seoul, Korea for the past decade, and is a professor at Ehwa University.
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.STUDENT FORUM from Korea Journal, Winter, 1995.

Courtesy University of Montana Big Sky Taekwondo Association

Shocking Confessions of Tae kwon do’s History by Lee Zong-wu (이종우: I don’t know if I spelled it right)

Section on “권법 1단에서 태권도 9단으로”
1st Level in Kempo Equivalent to 9th Level in Tae Kwon Do

“그곳이 바로 일제시대 유도 도장이었는데, 그때는 조선연무관이라는 간판을 내걸고 유도부와 권법부를 만들었어요. 그때부터 권법부에서 가라테를 배운 거죠. 권법이 바로 일본 가라테거든요. 일본말로 부르면 국민감정도 있고 하니까 권법이라고 부른 겁니다.”
The place (where I learned martial arts after liberation) was originally a judo gym during the Japanese occupation. It was renamed the Chosun marital arts gym, and two sections were made - the judo section and the kempo (拳法) section. That is where I leaned kempo. Kempo was no other than Japanese karate. But calling it that would go against popular sentiment at the time, so we called it kempo.”

“당수(唐手)로 쓰는 사람도 있고 공수(空手)라고 쓰는 사람도 있었죠. 당수나 공수를 일본말로 옮기면 가라테가 되거든. 모두 같은 내용인데 도장별로 특색 있게 보이기 위해 권법이다 당수도다 공수도다 그렇게 불렀어요.”
There were people who referred to the art as Tansu (唐手) and Konsu (空手), but when translated into Japanese, they’re all the same. The contents were the same too, but people tried to make themselves look original by calling themselves by different faction names.

Section: 최홍희와의 인연과 악연
Relations Good and Bad with Che Hongfui (崔泓煕??)

그 뒤 최홍희가 부대에서 여러가지를 조합해 무술을 만들었는데, 그게 모두 일본 거예요. 가라테를 기본으로 만든 거죠. 가라테를 기본으로 하고 명칭만 태권이라고 했으니까, 아예 처음부터 가라테라고 인정한 우리가 더 순수하죠.
After that (the name tae kwon had been chosen by Che), Che combined many forms of marital arts in the army to create tae kwon, but we were all worked together. Tae kwon do was founded upon karate. The association named its creation Tae kwon while the basics were all from karate. That is why I believe we, who insisted on calling it karate were more pure in our motive.

Section: 초창기 태권도는 가라테의 변형
A Derivative of Karate in the Early Stages

초창기에는 태권도를 해외에 보급하는 과정에서 옛날부터 있었던 한국의 전통무술이라고 하면 명분도 서고 잘 먹혀들었어요. 하지만 아무리 유사성이 있더라도 그것은 사실과 다른 겁니다. 역사적 원류로 본다면 중국 것이 일본으로 들어갔고 일본 것이 한국으로 들어왔다고 해야 설득력이 있죠. 일본 사람들이 중국 무술을 많이 개량해서 과학적으로 만들었어요. 한가지 문제가 뭐냐 하면 일본 사람들은 유연성보다 근육성에 바탕을 두고 운동을 만들었단 말이에요. 그러니까 몸의 움직임이 굳을 수밖에 없죠.
In the early days when promoting tae kwon do abroad, saying that it was a traditional Korean martial arts attracted more people. However, even if there seems to be some resemblances, that is simply not true. The history that Chinese martial artswas introduced into Japan and then introduced into Korea is far more convincing. The Japanese made many modifications to the Chinese martial arts, and made it into a scientific one. One problem is that the Japanese gave priority to muscular strength than flexibility, that is why the motions are stiffer in karate.

―그렇다면 우리 전통무예와의 유사성은 없다는 얘기입니까.
“언뜻 보기에는 있는 것 같지만, 기본기가 완전히 달라요. 그래서 사실상 유사성이 없다고 봐야 합니다. 택견도 현대에 와서 많이 변질됐어요. 태권도 하던 사람들이 택견을 배우니까 발차기가 태권도 스타일로 나오는 거죠.”
Interviewer: Does that mean that there are no similarities between our traditional martial arts (and tae kwon do)?
At a glance, there appears to be similarities. However, the basic forms are totally different. That is why I must conclude that there are none. Tae kyon has been transformed in modern times. People who had previously learned Tae kwon do learn Tae Kyon and end up with a tae kwon do-style kick.

My conclusion: Since Tae kwon do developed from karate and the basics of tae kwon do seems to lack semblance to traditional Korean martial arts (tae kyon), I don’t see how the introduction of traditional Korean martial arts into Okinawa (though I have yet to see the source for this claim) could have influenced the development of karate.two cents at occidentalism

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