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Finlay's picture
Pick n mix

Hello It is pretty much accepted by a lot of people, including me, that the taekwondo patterns are fragments of karate kata put in a different arrangement with some slightly different movement dynamics laid over them However, it also seems there was a move to have as many variations to techniques as seems possible. By this I means we have San magki or mountain block with both knife hand and forearm presenations We also have some instances if different stance for the same technique. Knife hand strikes for example Are these differences valid or was it just an attempt to make the art 'bigger'?

Anf's picture

Taekwondo was formed by committee. It helps to understand the politics leading up to the time of its creation.

Korea was occupied by the Japanese from the early 1900s til just after WW2. In that time the Japanese made a very good attempt to eradicate korean culture and heritage. Korean martial arts were outlawed and practically eradicated. Some korean martial artists went to Japan, where they were able to learn karate.

When Korea once again gained independence from their Japanese occupiers, the government wanted to rebuild Korean identity. Part of that (and I know I'm oversimplifying) involved creating a new ancient Korean martial art. Again cutting a long story short because there were many styles with many names, but the name taekwondo was ultimately chosen, and a select few Korean masters were chosen to make up the new ancient style. This ancient style of course dates back thousands of years, or at least as far back as the hwarang, despite not actually being formed until the 1950s.

So with this in mind, it's easy to see how it can have become a bit of a mix.

None of this diminishes it as a martial art though. Korea is not unique in fabricating it's heritage. The very karate that taekwondo takes from is only as ancient as the 1930s. And it is not 'a uniquely okinawan martial art' as Gichin Funakoshi writes, but is actually itself a pick n mix from many styles from the whole region including China. The Chinese of course also taking from other styles from the wider region, and claiming their uniquely Chinese ancient martial arts.

I'm terms of the sheer variety of techniques, I think this is only partly political, as part of the drive to make a style that outshines that of their Japanese former oppressors. I think in part it is generally because the committee that formed taekwondo had learned a variety of styles largely of karate but also some Chinese kung fu. I personally think it pays to have this wide variety. It trains your brain to move in more ways and almost certainly does no harm. Consider the open handed block versus it's closed handed counterpart. Advocates of some styles will argue with compelling arguments that closed handed is better. There's more tension in the arm and wrist etc etc. Open hand fans will have equally compelling arguments for keeping the fingers extended. It's faster and easier to turn into a grab etc. If both have their merits, why train only one?