What Cannot Be the Philosophy of Taekwondo
<<This article was inserted as a introductory part of Samjae and Kang-Yu>>
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.
Then what specifications should a theory get in order to be a good Taekwondo philosophy or a martial art philosophy? I'd like to suggest the following specifications.
The first is the identity restriction. This item suggests any theory of martial arts should get its proper contents which can identify it as a theory of martial arts, and not as a part of another general theory or its by-product. In order to satisfy this restriction the main part of the theory should focus on the martial arts themselves at first. That is, it should discuss directly the skills and the experience of martial arts, and their structures comprehensively and systematically. Only after understanding of a martial art itself philosophical concepts can be selected and related in appropriate way according to the understanding. For a bad example, we can consider a case that we consider and choose the concept of yin/yang or Taichi or Buddhism and so on, then press down the structure and skill of a certain martial art for this conceptual frame ignoring its reality and actual experience, which should be avoided.
The second is comprehension restriction. Though a good theory of martial arts should focus on martial arts themselves, its content should not be confined within discussions of the techniques, yet rather it should increase our understanding to discuss various subjects related at the same time. For an example, the theory should be able to answer the question whether the ethics of martial artists is same as that of common poeple or not, and what points it is more significant in if it were different, and furthermore, it should be related in proper way to the universal problem of what is the life, from the perspective of martial art.
The third is productivity restriction. The most ideal theory of martial art is not mere understanding of martial art but also should it drive another philosophical or scientific theories to be more increased with more opportunities to find new kinds of solutions. For examples, the problem of mind and body which has been a classic subject in physical education, and further the definition of education from a viewpoint of education philosophy, or what is the essence of life and so on.
It would be very difficult for a theory to satisfy all of these three restriction, but they will be helpful for us to develop philosophical theories over relativistic chaos and to devote ourselves to efficient effort for that development if we establish explicit standards of virtues of martial art philosophy. The third item can be said to be a quite positive one that every theory cannot be expected to satisfy since at the beginning of development of a theory. So we may admit a theory as a comparably good theory when it satisfy the first and second items only from the conservative point of view. And we can also think of one more item, i.e. "rationality restriction" that those three element should be satisfied in rational way in a theory. But this restriction is what every theory is supposed to satisfy necessarily prior to discussions of restrictions of martial art philosophy. So I deleted it as specifications for a good martial art philosophy.(For an example, the essential problem of the second group of theories I've categorized at the beginning is that they don't satisfy the rationality restriction.)
Then, someone may ask if the ideal theories satisfying those
restrictions are possible. I'd like to answer it in two ways. The first answer
is; even though it were very difficult to be impossible we need those standards
for our efficient devotion to theoretical development. which was suggested
already above. The second is; the comprehensive theory suggested in Philosophical
Principles of Taekwondo(PPT) can be a candidate for this kind of theory
with satisfaction of all specifications. The theory of PPT focuses on Taekwondo
itself consistently from beginning to end. So it satisfies the identity restriction.
And it formalizes the ways of Samjae
to enlarge the conceptual scheme and apply it isomorphically to the mind-body
problem, ethics, ontologies and the problem of life. So it also satisfies
comprehension restriction. In addition to them, this theory advances the concept
of "Transcendence to inside of life" and the distinction of distinctive and
non-distinctive knowledge suggested by general oriental philosophy with reasonable
interpretation, seeking new kind of solution for classical problems of philosophy.
Thus, it also satisfies the third, productivity restriction. The content of
PPT is displayed in brief texts compared to its comprehensive implications,
which will be followed by another additional researches and books of detailed
explanations.(They are On Samjae and Kang-Yu,
and Philosophical Foundations of TKD Principles.)Any
way, I wish you get interested in it.