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css1971's picture
Questions about old style (pre 20th century) patterns

I have a question about TKD patterns. They seem to come from several different sources and have several different sets of names, as TKD was created during the 1950s; some of them from shotokan karate, but some came from elsewhere. The geneology of TKD patterns makes karate look positively straightforward.

There's 3 different sets as far as I can see, the karate based ones (Pinans and Passai), the ITF based ones and the WTF ones. Then there are the local origin martial arts from which TKD originated;ssireum (sumo), subak and taekkyon and the chinese influence with gwonbeop.

Now the karate influence is pretty clear with the pinan katas and it seems that qwonbeop is basically quan-fa so I'd have thought it likely theres some forms from there. Clearly some of the other patterns are based on pinans but re-arranged almost randomly as far as I can tell.

Frankly it's fairly confusing. Wouldn't there have been some pre-1950s forms which haven't been modified heavily which made up the original martial arts? What's happened to them?

Finlay's picture

Hi there There are a few different ideas about this it think. One if my teachers showed my one if the very early copies if the encyclopedia that he was given as a present. I didn't get long to look at it but there was some forms there that I have never seen before. I have heard that before the name taekwondo was adopted people used the name tang soo do. Meaning that Tang soo do would be an earlier representation of taekwondo. I have no knowledge of the history of TSD but it is interesting that in the above discussion on "jumping in the patterns" the TSD firm presented seems to stay much closer to the karate roots

Marc's picture

Finlay wrote:
I have heard that before the name taekwondo was adopted people used the name tang soo do. Meaning that Tang soo do would be an earlier representation of taekwondo. I have no knowledge of the history of TSD but it is interesting that in the above discussion on "jumping in the patterns" the TSD firm presented seems to stay much closer to the karate roots

Interesting, you learn something new everyday. Never heard of Tang Soo Do before, but as soon as I read it I felt: "Tang" sounds a lot like Tang dynasty, representing china. "Soo" sounds similar to the Japanese word "shu" meaning hand. So together that would read china hand. Sounds familiar?

I looked up Tang Soo Do at wikipedia and there it was:

"Tang Soo Do" (당수도) is the Korean pronunciation of the Hanja 唐手道 (pronounced Táng shǒu dào in Chinese),[2] and translates literally to "The Way of the Chinese Hand"

唐手道 in Japanese is commonly pronounced "kara te do". It seems that TSD has common roots to both Chinese martial arts and Okinawan karate. Both would explain the name.

The German wikipedia page on Tang Soo Do lists some hyeong (aka kata) that mainly taught in TSD. These some well known karate katas.

The English wikipedia page gives some information on the history of TSD and Tae Kwon Do.

DaveB's picture

This thread in fighting arts explains a lot of the history. http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=14...

Th0mas's picture

Thanks for sharing that link Dave, that was very informative.



Kevin73's picture

The early forms of TKD were the same as karate forms.  In it's earliest incarnation, TKD was nothing more than "korean karate" as many have called it.  Later, it took on it's own identity and added things and developed into it's own art away from it's japanese roots. This is important because what TKD is now is very korean in approach and is not "just korean karate".  But, it is intellectually dishonest to recreate where it came from and trying to tie it to a lost art/game (taekyon-spelling?).  

Part of the issue is that most koreans won't admit where TKD came from and say that it is an art 1000's of years old.  The early forms that it got from karate were replaced by another group of forms that kept many of the "pieces" but added their own twist to it.  Later, after the two big associations formed WTF and ITF other "main forms" were created to differentiate themselves.

In regards to Tang So Doo (TSD), again it came from karate.  The founder also dishonest as to where the art came from and claimed that he had learned the forms/katas from a chinese man and that they are chinese in nature.  This is where the stuff about turtles and other animals comes into play in regards to their forms.

Finlay's picture

This is a very interesting topic

most of Korean styles seem to have very strong connections with japan. Does anyone have any knowledge of strictly Korean styles or at least styles that have a stronger influence from korea. The only one I know of is taekyon and to my knowledge that is very hard to find these days

Kevin73's picture

I don't believe that there are strictly Korean styles based on the research I have done.

Even Taekyon has alot of controversy as to whether it is the ancient art that was referenced in some historical documents or a more modern recreation of the ancient art (much like Arvantis did with Pankration using historical documents and other arts to fill in the blanks).

Most agree that Taekyon was a very old martial art.  It moved away from martial applications and became a sporting contest and game for most of the time.  That is where is stayed, as a game/sporting contest, until it pretty much died out.  Then in 1945, one man came forward and said that he alone was taught the unbroken martial art in secret and started teaching it.

This was also around the same time when Gen. Choi started adding the different kicks to his art to add the korean influence.  There was a very strong push to reestablish their own Korean identity after the Japanese occupation and many went with the "Taekyon" banner and rewrote the history of their arts to delete any japanese influence.  Due, to lack of an established school or specific written history (other than sparse references) to trace Taekyon from an ancient art into a modern one, I believe that while it may have ancient roots, it is still more modern in it's existence.

Except maybe the ancient art of "Sinanju"  LOL

Phoenix's picture

Hi this is my first post on the forum. :) My karate school calls itself Korean Karate, which is basically a shotokan-influenced karate - lots of straight line stuff, the usual KKK, a mix of Japanese and Korean terminology and belt-grading kata based on the Palgwe forms. There are a couple of black-belt forms such as new Koryo, also Chal-gee which looks more-or-less to be Shotokan's Tekki Shodan, plus Choong Moo. After that its a mix of Japanese Kata. Now this school looks to have originated from Lee Won Kuk/Choi Hung Chung Do Kwan form of Tang Soo Do (they having learned Karate in Japan from Gichin FUnakoshi) and set up one of the original 5 Kwan (schools) in Korea. Jhoon Ree was a relatively famous student/friend of Bruce Lee with a brief film career and taught a lineage that was still Japanese karate but in transition to its own Identity. Back in Korea of course there seemed to be a very strong politically driven purge of Japanese influence and a historical re-imagininging of TKD's roots. From here students later taught in England - hence where "Korean Korate" persists as weird transition hybrid... The name perhaps doesn't matter - the principles remain the same I increasingly realise.

As noted previously the Korean forms look like chopped up bits of the Pinan/Heian series of kata, the Palgwe forms were allegdely even more similar to Japanese forms hence were abandoned in the shape of Taeguk forms to more Koreanise the art. Another reason for the shift was that not all of the Korean schools were unified at the time of the original creation of Palgwe Poomsae (forms) in the mid 1960's.. it was 1967-1971 when the Kukkiwon was unified that the Taeguk forms were made with representatives from all the schools - allegedly. The history is very hard to research as either nothing is written, or what is written is steeped in propaganada and retrrofitting! An unreferenced, and uncertain source of info is here: http://taekwondo.wikia.com/wiki/Palgwae

I must say I am a complete novice to Kata bunkai, as although sometimes there are snippets of applications here and there - it seems as though the forms were created cut and paste from different Japanese Kata, plus there is a greater emphasis on geometrtic symmetry, and philosphical I-ching derived symbolism. I don't think this stops the moves being what they are... and maybe rooted moves being related to earth and fast moves being related to air makes some kind of sense... perhaps only in appreciating their purpose, but probably is of little relevance to practical application!

Heath White
Heath White's picture

I practice Tang Soo Do and I can reiterate much of what has already been said.  The martial arts practiced post-war in Korea were called "Tang Soo Do" which is just Korean for "karate do", "China Hand Way".  There were five major kwan (schools) at that point and the leaders of four of them trained in various styles of karate in Japan.  The fifth kwan was the Mu Duk Kwan, founder Hwang Kee, and frankly nobody knows where he got his karate training.  He said it was from a Chinese master but since his forms are clearly Shotokan, this story is false.

I will say that very high kicks show up in the earliest TSD manuals, so possibly that was a native Korean influence.

Post-war, there was a big nationalistic push in Korea to distinguish their culture from the Japanese culture.  Part of this was the invention of "native" martial arts.  So Tang Soo Do was relabeled Tae Kwon Do and given a backstory about being a native art thousands of years old.  Hapkido is the Korean pronunciation of "aikido" and is derived from Japanese aikijutsu.  There are other lesser-known sword arts and such relabeled at the same time. 

When Jhoon Rhee first taught,  he called his art "korean karate" then later changed the name to tae kwon do when that became Korean policy.  Hwang Kee did not go along with the  relabeling and the Mu Duk Kwan lineage splintered; you can today find Tang Soo Do, Tang Soo Do Mu Duk Kwan, Tae Kwon Do Mu Duk Kwan, Su Bak Do (a later Hwang Kee label), Su Bak Do Mu Duk Kwan, etc.       

TSD forms originally were just the standard karate forms (Pyong An = Pinan/Heian).  Hwang Kee invented a couple advanced forms too.  As TKD evolved in Korea, they created new forms to differentiate from/disguise the Japanese roots.  I am not familiar with the details here.  

As far as bunkai go, you may want to check out books by Stuart Anslow, _Ch'ang Hon Taekwon-do Hae Sul - Real Applications to the ITF Patterns_ and Simon John O'Neill, _The Taegeuk Cipher._

Phoenix's picture

Thanks Heath! Well the forms I have learned or the Palgwe Il-Jang, Yi-Jang, Sam-Jang, Sar-Jang, Oh-Jang, Yuk-Jang, Chil-Jang,Pal-Jang and new Koryo then Choong-Moo and some Japanese Kata. (ok I know Il - Pal means 1-8). I do wonder how much of the Palgwe forms are just performance Kata to asses belt-grade, I think they were possible mooted as such - but that knowing the set is much like knowning the pinan-heian series in appreciating the vocuabulary of moves which when you see bits here and there are the same. More analysis for me :)

Tau's picture

css1971 wrote:
They seem to come from several different sources and have several different sets of names, as TKD was created during the 1950s; some of them from shotokan karate, but some came from elsewhere.


There's 3 different sets as far as I can see, the karate based ones (Pinans and Passai), the ITF based ones and the WTF ones.

I'm Dan graded in both Karate and TKD (ITF) and have looked into the ITF patterns beyond the textbooks so I believe I can answer this.

The ITF patterns came from Shotokan. Essentially if you take the Shotokan kata, throw them up in the air and let them smash to pieces on the floor, then reassemble them randomly you have the ITF patterns. This is why they make no sense, from a pragmatic perspective. Your view that there's the ITF ones and the ones taken from Karate is flawed for this reason; they're one and the same. 

My understanding is that the WTF ones essentially are (mostly) mildly modified Shotokan. Ditto the Tang Soo Do patterns which is why many of Iain's seminars have TSD practitioners present.

I understand that there have been others added but I describe makes up 90-95% of TKD/TSD patterns.

I recommend Stuart Anslow's books as an excellent reference.

Anf's picture

To even begin to understand the history of the mainstream Korean styles, one must look at the history and politics of Korea.

In 1903, the Japanese occupied Korea. Very shortly after that, they outlawed the practice of martial arts. The goal was to effectively annex Korea and make it Japanese. Lots of effort went into eradicating Korean culture and heritage.

There are some that say martial arts were practiced in secret and all that and there's no doubt some element of truth to that. But a more certain prospect was that some martial artists went to Japan or China to practice, and of course the Japanese had their styles, so inevitably Japanese styles had a massive influence on Korean styles.

In its think 1946, around the end of WW2, a defeated and deflated Japan withdrew from Korea. The Koreans then set about rebuilding their cultural identity.

Korea, a proud nation that now had egg on its face having been owned by another, had to make itself awesome.

Tang soo do met a lot of resistance. The very name was just Korean for karate and the style was unashamedly largely a rip off of karate. Mostly shotokan, but with an extra dollop of Chinese kung fu influence. In fact the Korean government at one point tried to brush Tang soo do under the carpet. One of its key figures, Hwang Kee, had his school taken off him.

The Korean government had an idea. They summoned some of their best martial artists and commissioned them to create a style that would outshine Japanese karate. Tang soo do, although a different one to hwang kee's Tang soo do, briefly became it. Up until a committee agreed on the more Korean sounding name, tae kwon do. Hence taekwondo was born. Basically karate, but with more acrobatics to impress onlookers. If we ignore combat effectiveness for a moment (I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm just leaving it out for now), nobody can deny that taekwondo has the more showy kicks, or certainly places more emphasis on the showy stuff that karate does. This and taekwondo's global popularity as a martial art and a sport suggests that original mandate of creating a style that 'outshines' Japanese karate was in some ways successful.

Meanwhile, back to Tang soo do. Eventually the Korean government let hwang kee run a school again, and allowed him to keep the name Tang soo do. That Tang soo do thrives today, with the WTSDA being a global organisation whose members follow it. And that one is still very much recognisable as karate.

So with all that twisted and convoluted history, it's easy to see how the different influences get mixed up. I'm familiar with the pyung ahn forms and bassai route of Tang soo do. I hear my taekwondo counterparts referencing forms that sound very different to me and look different, even though I can clearly recognise common elements.

Within Tang soo do, which is closer to karate I believe, I know that the forms are modified. And some of the weapons forms are relatively brand new. Without knowing taekwondo, I sometimes wonder if some of its newer forms were a new creation that was just another part of the plan to deny the Japanese influence, and to try to outshine it.

Azato's picture

Two sources that I would suggest very much for this topic are 'A Killing Art: the Untold History of Tae Kwon Do' by Alex Gillis (https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Art-Untold-History-Kwon/dp/1550228250) and 'The Untold History of Tang Soo Do' by Dan Segarra (https://archive.org/details/TangSooDoHISTORYV15b_201808).

The term 'Taekwondo' was invented in the 1950s to unify the various martial arts schools and create a purely Korean martial art. 'Tang Soo Do' was the term most commonly used prior to this and it is nothing but the Korean pronunciation of Kara Te Do. Those that still practice Tang Soo Do today almost all trace their lineage to the Moo Duk Kwan and Hwang Kee. He was one of the Korean schools that did not join the Taekwondo unification movement. What the Moo Duk Kwan practiced was very clearly karate but since the 80s they have moved away from any Japanese influences and attempted to recreate extinct Korean martial arts. Many Tang Soo Do practitioners that left the Moo Duk Kwan (myself included) still consider what they do to be Korean karate. It should be noted though that, from the beginning, the kicking practiced by the Korean schools was very clearly not Japanese or Okinawan. There are many theories as to how exactly the style developed but I personally believe that there was some influence, though maybe not direct influence, from Taekyon.

As to Hwang Kee's credentials they are questionable to say the least. He claims to have studied Chinese martial arts for a year and a half in Manchuria. He also claimed to have learned the karate kata that he taught from books (probably Karate-do Kyohan) but Won Kuk Lee, the founder of the Chung Do Kwan and student of Gigo Funakoshi while in Japan, claimed that Hwang Kee trained with him for a period of time and obtained an intertmediate rank. That is what I consider to be the clear connection between the Moo Duk Kwan and Korean Shotokan.

In short, Tang Soo Do is a composit style of Japanese karate influences with indigenous Korean kicking. This description fits early styles of Taekwondo as well but that art has of course changed quite a bit up to the modern day.