The Tao of Taekwondo

Notes and reflections from a deeper practice of traditional taekwondo

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The sport side

Taekwondo has come in for some well-deserved criticism after the Olympic tournament featured a nmber of judging farces and furious competitors who lodged protests and in the now infamous case of Angel Matos, kicked a referee in the head.

The problem with taekwondo as a sport is that there is no way to measure objectively and safely the winner of a bout. It all relies on judging, and judging is subject to numerous flaws ranging from poor scoring to outright bribery. Furthermore, the results of a taekwondo fight tell you nothing about the quality of the fighter, and in many cases, they don;t even give an accurate comparison of the two figters in a match.

But since 1988, taekwondo has been in the spotlight at the Olympics and this has driven many in the WTF to place a high emphasis on the competitive sport aspect of the art. There are many WTF schools that focus almost exclusively on sparring now, to the detriment of the other factors of the art. This has had tragic consequences for taekwondo as a traditional martial art.

I hope sincerely that taekwondo is dropped from the Olympic games. It has become a highly political sport now. Perhaps if the popularity if Kukki style taekwondo were reduced, instructors and masters would ficus more on training well-rounded individuals, versed in self-defense and self-discipline and less focused on trophies and national pride.

Friday, August 8, 2008


In Kumgang, the diamond block is executed in a one legged crane stance. In this stance, you experience presence or you fall.

Balance is simply having all of your thoughts and every atom of your body aligned in this present moment. If you are anticipating with your mind, or leaning with your body, you will topple over.

Often in the dojang I see people going through patterns without thinking. When Master Kook is calling out the moves we often fall into a rhythm and fail to respond to his calls for the next move. If you are unconscious in practice you will sometimes fall forward or move to the next move without waiting for the call.

A good practice is to simply practice being still in your form. When you have completed the move, rest completely, quietly and ready for what happens next. Don't assume the rhythm will continue.

This is good training for keeping balance and keeping one's wits. Practice consciously.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Remaining still

Taekwondo is self-defense first, attack second.

To train in this aspect of the art, try to practice keeping still. Observe your opponent with curiosity and clarity, not with a story. For example, if in sparring practice, your opponent comes at you, see what the latest is that you can move. Notice, leg is moving, leg is rising, leg is forming kick, hips are turning, leg is approaching, my body is moving out of the way.

If you can regard you opponent with that clarity, you will not be drawn into the story of "I am being attacked" and you will be more resourceful in your defense.