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Taekwondo Bible, Vol.2  
1. Preface

About This Book

 

1-3. Three Kinds of Philosophical Theories on Martial Art

Before our main discussion let us consider what are the desirable philosophical theories of Taekwondo for preliminary course.

We can find various theories which are suggested as theories of martial art or of Taekwondo here and there. They also have variety of theoretical charateristics and discussed realms. We might be able to accept all of them from relative standpoint regarding each of them to represents another aspect of some martial arts. However, we also need to discuss which is better and which is worse among them sometimes. I think it is not only for evaluation on those theories and their development but also for the developments of the martial arts.

It seems we can categorize those various kinds of theories, particularly the philosophical theories into three groups. The first group is one that can be called the ethics of martial artists. They are discussing and confined within the subjects of "why we should learn or need to learn martial arts?" or "how ought martial artists live?" or "what are the virtues of martial artists?". For an example, almost japanese martial art philosophy are focused on the philosophy of Lee Hwang(or Lee, Toi-Gye), a great philosopher of Korea of Choseon period, and almost their contents treat matters of the social and ethical responsibility and activity patterns of martial artists. When I met some Japanese professors of martial arts in a international seminar held in Yienbien of China I pointed out these problems. I think it is certain that these theories belong to an important part of the general philosophy of martial ar, but they are neither its essence nor its whole. Particularly, the most significant problem of these kinds of theories is that we cannot find their identity which can be distinguished from the general philosophical ethics and moral rules. I can formalize this problem in a simple way: should martial artists have different moral rules from common people's? If so, can it be a desirable morality? Conversely, if the ethics of martial artists were same as common people's moral the philosophy of martial art would be nothing more than a part of general ethics. Then it would be unnecessary to talk of the name of "the philosophy of martial art" yet it would be enough to regard it as a branch of general discussion in ethics. However, it doesn't seem we think it plausible to confine the philosophy of martial art, particularly the desirable philosophy of martial art within this narrow field.

The second group of theories can said to be philosophical decorations on martial art. They decorate a martial art with various philosophical concepts(for examples, <Do>, Taichi, yin/yang, fortitude and so on), yet fails to suggest reasonable relations between those concepts and martial arts in spite of their mixed contents. Here we need to take a notice on the point that they fail to suggest reasonable relations of concepts of oriental philosophy to martial arts or a martial art, for it is not problematic to relate those concepts to a martial art or martial arts but to connect them each other without reasonable understanding. It seems they appeal to people's vague expectation from oriental martial art and philosophy. The latter, however, as far as it is a philosophy as mankind's spiritual achievement, cannot but be understandable reasonably and explainable rationally at last although it can be understood in distinct way from that for western philosophy and it should in some part. Those theories which lack the minimum explicability of a theory can be said to be a deception. These kinds of theories are produced by a political intention of a scholar in most cases.

The third group is mere philosophical description of a martial art's technique. I think these theories are better than the others on the point that they have their own identity in appropriate way. That is, they cling themselves directly to the unique problems of martial arts. The theory of Tai-chi Chuan can be a good example. This explains basic system of Tai-chi Chuan's techniques and its development with some philosophical concepts like yin/yang and Taichi, which are understandable. I mean we can find specific relationships between the structure of thoughts inside concepts and that of motions inside Tai-chi Chuan's technique. And we can declare it is not a philosophical decoration in this way. But its problem is that it cannot suggest comprehensible explanation on martial artist's mentality or ethical attitude. If any, they are mere some words or sentences, and that's all. For examples, Taichi Chuan or Hapkido says of only soft mind or obeying mind, which is its essence and that's all. Some pieces of explanations like them can be nothing more than a sort of doctrine. They cannot be a good theory.

 

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