Taekwondo and Sea

Written by Lee, Changhoo

This essay suggests a personal answer to which of competiton and poomsae is more important and valuable in Taekwondo

Many people learn Taekwondo. But each has his or her own purpose. Even two man or woman who learn Taekwondo from a master have different aims and we can find it easily. And the difference results in different training course or different standpoint about Taekwondo. This reason supports that people who love Taekwondo come to talk about this matter, i.e. the essential purpose at last, especially when they pursue a sort of significant ways in Taekwondo.


Taekwondo Divided into Two Kinds

It seems these days that the current Taekwondo is in its training methodology devided into two kinds : the "Taekwondo Competiton" as a sport on one hand, and the "Traditional Taekwondo" as a martial art. The pursuits of the trainings are also under the influence of this category.

Steven, who is a friend of mine and is a professor in Ewha Woman's University in Korea, belongs to those who favors Taekwondo as a competition in its extremity. In America, the traditional Taekwondo prevails more than in Korea and far less people practice Taekwondo for its competitional purpose, as I knew, thus I felt some difficulty in understanding him. I have to critisize his opinion from the view of the traditional Taekwondo all the way in every discussion with him. However, I came to understand him at last in a discussion about Taekwondo a month ago.

He is an eccentric American man who learned many kinds of oriental martial arts. At first he was attracted by the mysterious character of oriental martial art and he began learning. It was in his childhood. He also visited Japan to learn Japanese traditional Karate and Judo and spent some part of his like as a competitioner of Judo. He also practiced Kendo for a while to be a so good player as blackbelt. Then he finally arrived in Taekwondo, particularly competiton style of Taekwondo. Thus, he used be a professional competitioner of Taekwondo before he came to Korea.

So, he has a good basis and confidence to argue that the competiton style is the most valuable in Taekwondo. Especially for the purpose of self-perfection with the pleasure of self-overcoming and also for self-development. And he took his friends for an example to compare it with Gracie Jujitzu, a very famous martial art. Some of his friends practiced the martial art which is constituted of Judo skills with another kinds of hand and foot skills. He said he had asked them how they practiced and what they felt in the practice of the martial art. They blockade the opponent's punching and kicking to approach and fell him down, ride on them punching down or trying arm- or necklocks. Steven said he could not find any self-perfection nor self-satisfiedness in their answers. They said it was main task for them to endure hard and painful exercises and that was all. Whereas, he argued that the beautiful skills and distinctive victory and defeat of Taekwondo gave us much pleasure with full self-perfection of artlike things.

On the other hand, more people argue that it would be better to practice Taekwondo in martial art style than competiton style. According to their opinion, Taekwondo is basically a self-defence skill that helps us to protect ourselves with contro over the opponent in an imergent and dangerous situation, so its main purpose is to advance our fighting ability, in which we can develope our spiritual power too. One of them is a friend of mine, who is a professor of Yong-In university in Korea. The university is quite famous for its world wide players in Taekwondo and Judo competition. He argues that a martial art will stop being a martial art and it will be nothing more than a dance unless it can save himself or someone from dangerous urgent situation. According to his opinion competition of Taekwondo is mere a method selected by the public system only to motivate practicing Taekwond and it includes many restriction in itself.

Just as Steven, stated above, was a man who had learned various kinds of martial arts, so is my friend also a powerful martial artist who mastered various martial arts. He learned Kendo, Judo, Hapkido, Kickboxing with Taekwondo up to be blackbelt. And he finished his master course in the Taekwondo department of Yong-In university so that he knows almost everything about Taekwondo. Such a man insists that Taekwondo is a good fighting skills and it's essence can realized ultimately only as such a fighting system.

The Harmony of Sports and Martial Arts

Of course, there are many struggles to reconcile both ot them. However, I think it is not easy to find a man who can recognize that each of both, in spite of their different features, is same with the other. Let me take a man called Boby Clayton, who is the best Taekwondo team coach of US army, for an example of the harmonized viewpoint. He is one of them who investigate the essential common aspects in both, regarding none of them as more important than the other, so that he thinks both are different figures of the one. Particularly he conceptualizes his own viewpoint with the categories of poomsae and kyorugi to analyze the poomsae-like elements in kyorugi(competition style training) and the kyorugi-like elements in poomsae training(traditional training).

Besides, each man has his own different aim to learn Taekwondo, sometimes with more another pursuits. And those many people discuss their common subject of Taekwondo with common interests while they will fail at last to agree with one another about the essential purpose of Taekwondo with no answer, no matter how much time may pass, continuing their disputes over and over again. Perhaps no one can avoid that. Because, as far as I know, discussion and agreement are the method by which a good achievment can be attained only by those who pursue same objective. However, I don't think that this disagreement is not the problem for us to solve for sure. For all of them are the processes in which everyone manage their own lives and the manners how they like their own Taekwondo in practices. Once I have given my answer like following to a man who asked me what I think is the ultimate purpose of Taekwondo practice. And this is my private opinion about the purpose of Taekwondo practice.

Taekwondo Like the Sea

I think Taekwondo is such a thing like the sea. The sea contains really many things. It includes many kinds of fishes, abundant resource with wind and wave on its water, on which ships can make their ways. Many people go to sea, yet not along one end. It must be natural. Someone goes to sea for fishing while another for a navigation on a ship which can deliver heavy things with ease. Some people go to sea for swimming while anothers just for investigations on tide and wind. It may be possible to ask them why they go to the sea, whereas it would not be appropriate to tell them it would be best to go to the sea only with a certain purpose because the sea is something particular.

In the same manner, neither would it be appropriate to say the aim of Taekwondo training should be "like so and so". For Taekwondo is nether a small hydrant for thirsty people nor a swimming pool only for swimmers. Taekwondo includes so much values and skills with so much ideas and beauties, fun with sweat, self-perfection with love and the cruelty of death, so many things as the sea has, where they love and hate one another woven in complexity with continuous harmonious breath.