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.
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