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(2) What is Taekwondo Philosophy?

 

Then, What is Taekwondo philosophy?

There are in Taekwondo, the comprehensive thoughts that have been formed throughout the old history of Korea, which is usually called 'Sinsundo'(), 'Pungnyudo'() or 'Hwarangdo'(), and main parts of this were reformed as Han-philosophy recently. In the Tankun Chosun or Old Chosun period, Koreans, who have regarded respect for others as an important virtue, formed the new ideology of "devotion to the welfare of mankind"() and "descent into the world for enlightment of people"() for the establishment of a country. This, that is to say, means the Sinsundo, the human way to become a Sinsun, the ideoligical form of man, focused on devotion to the far and wide welfare of mankind, Hong-ik-inggan.

This Sinsundo philosophy had very much influence upon the inner spirit of Sun Bae, which was the system of best fighters in Koguryo, and was systemized into Hwarangdo in Silla, recovering the old Sundo. The fundamental frame of this Sinsundo philosophy was transmitted to posterity through a few scriptures, such as Cheon Bu Gyong () and Samilsingo(). The spirit of Hwarangdo is a philosophical system consisting of Yu-bul-sun(), i.e. Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, and includes 3 important virtues of loyality to country, honor for parents and good faith in addition to 5 commandments and 3 characters, which contains humility, frugality and moderation. Thus every Hwarang had to train his proprieties and traits as well as foster patriotism for the nation. The following scripts of Nannangbi's preface by Choi-chiwon confirms Sinsundo philosophy, which is the essence of Taekwondo philosophy;

"There is a very profound and deep recondite Do(, principles) in this country, which is called Pung Ryu(=Pung Ryu Do). We can see its origin through and through in the history of Sin Sun. This Pung Ryu Do includes those 3 principles of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, enlightening all mankind. When those who learn this Do come in, they honor their parents as well as devote themselves to the country when go out, which is the instruction of Con-zi. On one hand they conduct themselves doing nothing intentional and instruct others without words, which is what Lao-zi has taught, and on the other hand they try not to do many kinds of harm and try to do a variety of good at once, which is itself instruction of Buddha."

The influences of this Sin Sun Do reache Ki-monism(), matter-imperishablism and Ju Ki Ron() of Seo Kyung Dok by way of Koryo period, and even the thoughts of Toi Kye and Yul Gok. In addition to that, we can find out the reverence for mankind and the spirit pursuing safety of country and people as well as fairful spirit in both of Dong Hak philosophy() and Chon Do philosophy(), which are the most important streams of philosophy in Cho Sun period. Thus we can know that all of these philosophical tendencies are not out of the main stream from the Sin Sun Do. Therefore, the official spirit and philosophy of Taekwondo that Kuk Ki Won suggests "comes from the same main stream of Hwa Rang Do spirit, which is the sublimated form of the advanced traditional philosophy as the nationa philosophy of Silla that was originated from the prehistoric period."

This essence of Taekwondo philosophy, i.e. Sin Sun Do or Hwa Rang Do is the philosophy of harmony of heaven, earth, and man, and is Han philosophy which synthesize oneness and manyness harmonizing them into one. Thus the Taekwondo poem says, "All that was separated again can meet./Through this everyting is seen/To become one./I can find my real self and so/Toward perfection turn./Mind and body when harmonized make the human being whole./Thought and action when harmonized make Mu Nyom Mu Sang,(the freedom from all ideas and thoughts,)//When all these are harmonized they melted into one./This one then is perfect and is equal to nothingness./When everything finally reaches the extreme/There is no longer a difference between being or not." What all of this means is that truth is the nonorientable whole which conquer the dualism that this is different from that. Han philosophy emphasizes that this is the philosophy of harmony and equality. This means, that is to say, that in order to know the truth we should understand the nondistinguishable origin of things transcending the distinction between this and that, and moreover master and practice the harmony of the whole.

What and what of the harmony does it mean, the harmony contained in Taekwondo philosophy?

It is most important to understand this point in understanding the Taekwondo philosophy. For, understanding this point, one can also understand that the Taekwondo philosophy mentioned above not only has historical relations to Taekwondo, but also is combined into a part or aspect of Taekwondo itself. The Taekwondo poem expresses it best. This poem grasps the harmony as that the harmony of I with myself is the perfect I, the harmony of thought and action the freedom from all ideas and thoughts(Mu Nyom Mu Sang ), the harmony of value and fact the meaning, the harmony of motion and stay the tranqullity, the harmony of eternity and instant the possibility, the harmony of myself and another we(community), the harmony of living and dying the life, and the harmony of military and literary the philosophy. That is, those who used to be broken away into some fragments in daily life are to harmonize themselves to perfect selves through the Taekwondo activity, through which thoughts and actions can be harmonized with each other into Mu Nyom Mu Sang(the freedom from all ideas and thoughts,). This very state of Mu Nyom Mu Sang is equal to Prajna(), which refers to nondistinguishable knowledge, i.e. the pursuit of Zen.

One can reach the Mu Nyom Mu Sang at the state of Taekwondo Kyoruki(sparring) where he is at full strain and concentrates himself upon a thing. He, the Taekwondo man, naturally concentrates on his action and feeling and upon each instant in the Taekwondo situation in which even a little mistake may cause an important failure. Thus he can realize in the state of Mu Nyon Mu Sang that his cognition can not be separated from his action, which itself teaches him that value and fact are not different from each other. At this very moment he is neither moving nor staying. This state indicates that he is fully prepared to react most immediately on his opponents action like the spring fully pressed down preparing to jump up, which is the state that has energy within. This means the possibility. This possibility, however, is unlike that of the gangster who is willing to assault someone showing his anger or that of an engine in a car which is warming up blowing off smoke but like that of deep a river which embraces its profound depth silently, appearing on one hand to flow and on the other hand not to flow. So I call it 'tranquillity'. This calm possibility contains the exorbitant motions in itself but showing nothing yet. The eternity that is equal to too many motions which can be expressed through a very long time exist in the instant that includes nothing requiring duration. Thus we can conclude that the possibility is the harmony of instant and eternity.

We can understand the deep meaning of Taekwondo philosophy not only in the situation of Kyoruki but also in the system of skills and the process of practicing Taekwondo. We can realize the fact that the system of Taekwondo was formed according to the unity of oneness and manyness, i.e. the structure of Sin Sun Do(or Hwa Rang Do), reflecting that although there are various kinds of skills in Taekwondo the differences among them are simple and trivial.

The basic stances are constituted of just 3 positions, i.e. the riding stance(Ju Choom stance), the forward stance(Ap Ku bi stance) and the back stance(Twi Ku bi stance), and the basic kicking also 3 kinds of kicking, i.e. the front kick, side kick and turning kick. But these basic skills are modified little by little and combined in the various kinds of evolved high-level skills. Here should I stress an important point that if those can not optimize the skills of Taekwondo who are attached excessively to only the basic skills and thus not able to adapt themselves to the given situation, which is the common defect of beginners. That is, the system of Taekwondo was constructed on the base of a few simple basic positions and skills, and a fundamental principle which penetrates all of the basics, so when one exercises Taekwondo he should regard the basic skills as significant and concentrate his effort on exercising them, however he must at last return to the abstract principle, Do() that penertrate all of them. So does the name "Taekwondo" contain the letter Do().

One can exercise himself in Taekwondo correctly only with pre-understandings on Taekwondo philosophy during the process of his exercises all the way. At the beginning it is very important for him to master the correct basic positions and skills, which, however, should not continue forever without another trials. If one has learned and understood the basics then one should master their applications and changes so that one can realize the profoundness as well as recognize the limitations of concrete motions. And then he must reach the ultimate principle that penetrate all of the basics and changes. This is the same as the abstract principle, Do, which penetrates the whole life. Therefore one, who pursues the Taekwondo's truth, learns everything from his master, then breaks away from all that he has learned, and pursues his own way for himself, all of which compose the whole process of learning Taekwondo. Taekwondo is not a mere system of fighting skills, but also a way of life at the same time. It is to know through obtainment of basics and application that oneness is never different from manyness, rather same with it, which is to reach the ultimate truth.

This was called 'creativity' by Whitehead, the philosopher of process. Whitehead's creativity is such a concept as can be conceptualized fundamentally just when we grasp the each actual thing in the process flowing from one generation to another. According to the Han philosophy, an interpretation of Sin Sun Do, the creativity of Whitehead is equal to Han() supposing that Han is the process in which Nat() becomes On() and On becomes Nat. The Taekwondo poem explains this contents that I erase all of myself so that my opponent's movements merge into my own, thus control of my movements leads to overcoming my opponent and Lao-zi said about this, "doing nothingness according to Do(, Tao), there is nothing that is not controlled."

As mentioned above, Taekwondo philosophy is deeply pervasive in all of the skills, the whole system, and the process of exercise. Thus, Kukkiwon comments that Hwarangdo spirit is based on the Korean people's basic thought of Seon philosophy as well as Buddhist thoughts of national safeguards, Cnfucian thoughts of loyalty and filial piety and Taoism's thouhgts of tacit performance.

Below we will further to consider the relationships between Taekwondo philosophy and the traditional thoughts of the oriental next.