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View Full Version : Who here practices "forms" (kata, hyung, etc.)?


Matt Wallis
June 7, 2002, 09:04 AM
I was just wondering how many people here practice forms as part of their training?

Also, does anyone know if forms training has always historically been a part of Asian MA? I know in the west, during the medieval and renaissance periods, there were two-man pre-set drills. And some solo practice techniques. But there was very little that could be considered a "Kata."

However, I know most Asian MA we practice today are also not really very old (not in their modern incarnation, anyway). Were forms only added relatively recently in their history? Or have they always been a part.

And back to our use of them... If anyone here does train with them, why? What use do you think they accomplish?

I myself do train with them and find them to be quite helpful. But I want to see what other's here think.

Regards,
Matt

Erich
June 7, 2002, 09:30 AM
Ask this over at http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&group=rec.martial-arts if you want to watch a volcano erupt!

Last kata I practiced was El Presidente. :)

Matt Wallis
June 7, 2002, 09:54 AM
Erich,

I know you were being tongue in cheek, which is cool. But I'm not interested in any volcanos! Heh, heh. I just really want to know what the knowledgable people here at TFL think.

BTW, I find it ironic, though pleasant, that the best martial arts discussion I've found on the web is at a gun site!

Regards,
Matt

tdow
June 7, 2002, 05:08 PM
I practice kata. They contain an extremely large amount of self-defense applications.

I don't know if "performing" a kata from start to finish has any substantial benefit, other than for the sake of memorization. The whole kata can basically considered to be a mnemonic device.

I think that to get the most out of them, it is best to take a portion of it and experiment. Work against different attacks, and see what happens. Forget about what the classification of the technique is (block, strike, etc...) and see what else it can do.

The key to get anything out of them is to become skilled at interpreting them. It would be difficult to see a lock or a throw without some knowledge of those things and a bit of experimentation. Once an interpretation is discovered, then it can be worked on with a partner to see if it "works", then practice as a drill.

Most of the application of the techniques found in kata are exceptionally brutal and practical. It probably depends to a large degree on how they have been developed and or modified. A lot of people are more interested in asthetics.

--Todd Dow

boris_01
June 8, 2002, 09:07 PM
Personally, I have never been a advocate of katas. Doing a correographed set of movements will not help you to flow from one technique to another as well as others think. Your body develops muscle memory after so many repetitions of a movement. So if you practice for instance / Overhead block, reverse punch, roundhouse kick. Then your body will expect to do these techniques in this sequence. But if you need to change the techniques to another order or add or take away a technique, your body will not be so fluid. I believe in utilizing a training partner with focus mitts, thai pads or gloves and headgear to train in drills. I let the partner call the combinations and I perform them. The gloves and headgear are used for sparring or for defensive drilling for blocking, parrying, slipping, closing the distance, shooting in for a takedown, etc. So that you don't worry about being knocked senseless and can concentrate on technique. And I have always found it funny how the classes I've seen that teach katas, although they train for proper form and technique in the katas, the form and technique goes out the window when they spar.

tdow
June 9, 2002, 02:21 AM
I do not think that the kata that I have seen are really set up in the same way that one would approach sparring. They seem to be more self defense oriented, and more often than not involve a defense against one attack (per sequence) utilizing an interception/deflection technique, followed by a "softenting" technique (punch, knee, elbow, attack to eyes or genitals, etc...), then a lock or throw, followed by something to finish the opponent. This sequence would basically constitute a complete technique.

From the beginning of the technique, the opponent is usually kept at a somewhat close range, closer than what I would consider an normal sparring range. A string of mid to long range attacking techniques would not be the norm for a style which was based on kata.

Free sparring doesn't really have a much of a place in a kata based style, aside from dealing with spontaneity. Sparring has more to do with a dueling style situation (let's step outside) than self defense. Judo style free sparring would seem to make a lot more sense than karate point sparring for self defense. At least someone is actually trying to choke you ;)

--Todd Dow

shy_man
June 9, 2002, 06:53 AM
When I was younger, I practice my H and T form (katas), and several kind of it. It helps to make myself having an imaginary foe, and how I execute my techiques. it is a form of exercise too which is like shadow boxing. But if we talk higher learning, it is the way we can put our hard and soft strength couple with a breathing control. Or to summarize it, it is just like a meditation also having an imaginary partner to fight or practice with.

A martial artist without knowing any kata or form cannot be considered having one of the best part of martial arts player.

The El Presidente in Gun fight, I do practice well before also, and I believe it helps also.

:)

rennaissancemann
June 9, 2002, 09:39 AM
Greetings Matt,

In answer to your question, I routinely practice forms as part of my training. As to why I do it... the shortest answer is that it's the way things are done in the Dojo where I study, but there's more to it than that which takes me to you second half of that question, i.e. What use do I think they accomplish?

My favorite quote on this subject is that individual techniques are like letters in an alphabet, kata is using those "letters" to form words and phrases. I take that to mean that no one technique exists in isolation, that they are intended to flow one after another. Kata's incorporate all of the individual techniques of a particular style into a set of predetermined drills.

Personally, the hallmark of a successful martial art is that it allows you to execute its techniques without having to devote any conscious thought to the process. This allows you to use the conscious part of your mind to focus on the elements of strategy and tactics in a confrontation be it on the mats in a Dojo or the asphalt of a parking lot.

The need for subconscious execution is what drives the seemingly endless repetition of kata in practice.

Matt, I am sadly ignorant of the history of forms training in the Asian MA. Like you, I would enjoy knowing the answer to that question.

Warmest Regards...

Byron Quick
June 10, 2002, 08:16 PM
Matt,

First, there are fundamental differences between the kata practiced by different martial arts.

Some that use kata, do not use solo kata. If the kata involves moves against one opponent, then one opponent is used, if two then two opponents are used.

The martial arts that I am aware of that use kata in this fashion are traditional Japanese arts that predate 1868.

Karl Friday, in his book "Legacies of the Sword," discusses how kata practice was used traditionally. It was a three step process that spanned years of training ultimately becoming advanced randori.

KaliSIG
June 15, 2002, 12:33 AM
Matt,

Although I study and teach Filipino martial arts, the only kata I practice is the first kata/form of Sam Jin Kung Fu. Properly done, it can be done as an isometric exercise. It teaches proper breathing and muscle control. Slowly "performing" each movement w/ accuracy, power, and controlled breathing enhances one's techniques. Think of it this way, the competitive shooters who practice drawing their guns from their holsters and firing are practicing a form or kata. If I remember correctly, the repetitive action forms a "muscle memory retention". They may be different actions, but they build the same discipline. Hope that makes sense.

Adrian

tdow
June 15, 2002, 01:08 AM
It sounds like Sam Jin is probably a precursor of the Okinawan-style kata Sanchin. It is used to build "internal" strenth. I'm not sure if, or how it works (or doesn't). It does, as you say, work as an isometric exercise, but it can be unhealthy to practice too often, or too hard if one is unaccustomed to doing it. I was instructed to limit practice of this kata to once a day. It can cause hemmoroids (spelling) and high blood pressure. A lot of the Naha style practitioners (styles that practice this as a core kata) die of heart attacks in their fifties. Proceed with caution!

--Todd Dow

KaliSIG
June 15, 2002, 03:28 AM
Todd,

I practice the kata once a day after my training sessions. It's not something I would recommend for everyone because it does take a lot out of you. But it does have it's merits. Thanks for the heads up.

Adrian

Skorzeny
June 16, 2002, 05:15 AM
There is nothing mystical about Kata or Hyung. They are, essentially, drills. Any kind of legitimate unarmed fighting system must have drills. Drills can be solo, as in Tae Kwon Do, Karate and boxing, or they can be partnered, as in Aikido, Judo and Kali for example.

I've stated this before, but IMO, a "martial art" must do three things:

1. Attribute-building: developing strength, speed, balance, power, etc.

2. Technique development: learning, memorizing and muscle-memorizing idiosyncratic techniques, sequences of techniques and "flows" or adaptive drills.

3. Sparring: enabling the ability to perform a subset of techniques against resisting and unpredictable opponent, particularly in as many "ranges of combat" as possible.

Basically, Kata, Hyung, forms or drills allow attribute-building and technique development. Techniques must always be learned in drill format first in order to muscle-memorize correct posture, sequence and leverage before they can used correctly in sparring sessions. In particular, "combative" type techniques which cannot be safely practiced in sparring/Randori can be practiced only in drills.

Sparring/Randori also builds attributes. More importantly, it teaches students how to actually pull off techniques against someone who isn't cooperating. Additionally, it lessens a student's fear of violent, unpredictable physical contact.

A "superior" martial art always strikes a good balance of the three elements. Otherwise, one ends up with highly distorted systems. For example, Aikido can be great in attribute-building and technique development, but because it is rarely, if ever, practiced in free sparring format, it does not teach the students to deal with actual, non-compliant opponents. Many "combatives" type systems also fail for the same reason - any system whose entire range of techniques are "too deadly to be used in sparring sessions" does not train its student to be able to actually perform them against fully resisting, unpredictable opponents.

Then there are many Judo clubs that have gone the other way completely - concentrating on Randori (and the drills or Katas of those techniques that are used only for Randori) for sportive purposes and completely neglecting the combative techniques of Judo that are taught in Kata format only (and admittedly useless for Olympic style competition).

When one factors in the fact that very few systems teach multi-range techniques, one is left with very few choices.

Skorzeny

cbjessee@NH
July 14, 2002, 05:02 PM
I practice Kata regularly - it's a matter of being able to faithfully execute and instruct in the Art. I also practice Self Defense - it's a matter of stopping a physical threat if unavoidable or necessary. Some schools do both, some only one. Simple as that.
BRET

Don Gwinn
July 14, 2002, 05:51 PM
Been doing the lowest of the TKD poomses for about two weeks now. I don't know anything about the history and I can't really say if it will help me fight, but I think that parts of it can be helpful. If nothing else, if you practice Ki-Cho ten times per day, that's another 120 straight punches, 80 downblocks, 30 90-degree turns, etc. etc. etc. Also, I think it helps to be able to practice the simplest and most economical transition from one movement to another. If you just jumped into sparring, it would be hard to develop this. If you just drill each movement 100 times per day, you'd have each movement but not the transitions that tie them together.

And now that I have the steps memorized and am trying to do each as well as possible, I find myself really enjoying the form. It's a chance to let go and think about absolutely nothing except the movement.

kungfool
July 15, 2002, 10:06 AM
poomse (korean forms) have been around for at least one thousand years......kata's were first practiced by monks in order to build the power and energy neccesary for the long periods of meditation and exercises they performed....they also found it helped them retain combative skills when there was no one to combat with.

In korea, forms were devised to practice techniques, both to refine them and for "muscle memory". They were also used so a student could show his master if and how well he knew certain techniques.

When done properly and with the right attitude, forms are highly benificial, the why's and what fors have been covered in previous posts.

In no way is there a direct application of forms to self-defense, that was never their purpose.......but forms are to self-defense is what shadow boxing is to boxing. The biggest misconception in forms is that you would apply those same techniques in the same way in an attack as you do while practicing forms. Think of practicing your forms in the way you would clean, inspect and repair your guns. While cleaning, inspecting and repairing (or for that matter just taking a gun apart to better know the gun) weapons is not a direct part of firing it in self-defense it does give the practitioner a better sense of what they posess.

Toadlicker
July 15, 2002, 11:23 AM
I practice Buddha Hand Wing Chun, Beijing and Wu style Taiji, Fu and Chow style Ba Gua, Hebei Hsing Yi, and Liu Ho Ba Fa, in addition to Sanuces Ryu jiu jitsu and a smattering of kali, escrima, and silat. You bet I do forms!

To me, each form or set of forms is a code containing all the drills, techniques and movement principles of that system. Every complete system will contain every other system, it's just that certain principles or techniques are emphasized more in some than in others.

Skorzeny
July 15, 2002, 01:29 PM
kungfool:
poomse (korean forms) have been around for at least one thousand years......Oh, not this again! Next you will tell me that Hwarang warriors practiced Hwarang-Do and that Tae Kwon Do was developed in Korea for a thousand years!
kata's were first practiced by monks in order to build the power and energy neccesary for the long periods of meditation and exercises they performed....Maybe at Shaolin Temple.
they also found it helped them retain combative skills when there was no one to combat with.I think I explained in a previous post that there must be both static (drills) and dynamic (sparring) training in order to be able to utilize them effectively. Drill training only results in...... dance (or gymnastics)!

Skorzeny

kungfool
July 16, 2002, 04:08 PM
skorzeny.....yes.....there are paintings on ancient ruins with drawings depicting many of the same techniques that are in what has become taekwondo.....the drawings were done in sequence, showing a pattern to the movements, and as I said in an earlier posts, of course taekwondo has it's roots set deeply, (milineums). It's beginings can be traced back to the three kingdoms period in Korea. Of course, then it was not tae kwon do, it may not have even had a name, but to be sure, people in the Korean pennisula were practicing martial arts just as others were throughout Asia. It would be contradictatory to assume that every modern asian art does not have ancient beginings, though they often be inter-mixed with other styles. While I don't buy the whole story about the beginings of TKD, there is no doubt that martial arts were in Korea over 2000 years ago, albeit not as taekwondo. Argue till you are blue in the face if you wish, but asian martial arts ALL have roots that predate anyones present knowledge, so it's entirely speculation.

kata's were first practiced by monks in order to build the power and energy neccesary for the long periods of meditation and exercises they performed....
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Maybe at Shaolin Temple............................YES!


they also found it helped them retain combative skills when there was no one to combat with.

You are saying there is no benifit to katas then? If they practiced their combative techniques on each other (no safety gear in those days) it would not be long before there would be no one left who could walk.............*note*.....I'm not saying that kata's were all they did to train for fighting, but they did find that performing katas greatly increased their other skills as well.

I tell some of my students who don't spar very well to go back to practicing their forms and take them more seriously. By refining their technique doing forms, they develope better techniques. They always do better in sparring after a while of form practice.
Almost without exception, the better fighters I see are also the top competitors in forms.

Skorzeny
July 16, 2002, 04:55 PM
kungfool:
skorzeny.....yes.....there are paintings on ancient ruins with drawings depicting many of the same techniques that are in what has become taekwondo.....Please don't make me laugh. Tae Kwon Do has NOTHING to do with whatever "paintings on ancient ruins" you may have seen anywhere. I really don't think you want to argue about Korean archaeology with me.
It's beginings can be traced back to the three kingdoms period in Korea.No. I will mention this just ONCE more. TKD in 1945 was Shotokan Karate, PERIOD! All this, "well, I learned Shotokan, but I really learned secret Tae Kyon from mountain monks whose names I cannot reveal or whose identities cannot be documented or proven - that's where Tae Kwon Do really comes from" routine is really old.
...there is no doubt that martial arts were in Korea over 2000 years ago, albeit not as taekwondo.2,000 years, eh? Amazing. Koreans were semi-nomadic tribals at best 2,000 years ago. I didn't know they were inventing empty-hand fighting already.

The only verifiably "native" Korean "martial arts" are archery (Kung Sool or Kung Do in modern form) and wrestling (Ssireum). "Ancient" martial arts were ALL weapon arts, mainly archery, spearwork and swordmanship (archery was also tied to horsemanship, spear and sword to shield work). The notion that ancients or medieval warriors anywhere learned empty-hand fighting is extremely laughable. Modern empty-hand martial arts began with the banning of two swords during the Meiji era in Japan.
Argue till you are blue in the face if you wish, but asian martial arts ALL have roots that predate anyones present knowledge, so it's entirely speculation.Indeed, what I engage in is educated, historical speculation based on historical evidence. What you write is post-colonialist Korean nationalist fantasy repeated by poorly informed Korean instructors and their proteges.
You are saying there is no benifit to katas then?No. You clearly did not read my earlier posts about what elements make a good "martial art." Katas, hyungs, forms, drills or whatever you choose to call them are necessary, but not sufficient elements of a good martial art.
Almost without exception, the better fighters I see are also the top competitors in forms.Judo, BJJ, Muay Thai, Kali, Jeet Kune Do (etc.) do not hold form competitions, so perhaps your statement applies to TKD and certain Karate schools, but nothing more.

Sorry to be so blunt. But some people need some cold water on their faces before they wake up from their dreams.

Skorzeny

Matt Wallis
July 17, 2002, 09:20 AM
The notion that ancients or medieval warriors anywhere learned empty-hand fighting is extremely laughable.

Warriors in medieval Europe had empty hand fighting as a part of their training. Mostly grappling and wrestling, although a scant few strikes are also shown.

Regards,
Matt

kungfool
July 17, 2002, 10:49 AM
skorzeny......You are correct....I really can't argue what you say. I am not a scholar of Korean history, and as you pointed out, my knowledge of the history of their art comes from present day Korean instructors who I'm sure put their slant on the background just as anyone else would.

I have read what I could find to back up anything I have been taught, and find that it is difficult to sift fact from fiction. I have read plenty that verifies what I have been taught but then the sources of the material could easily be from those who write history as they wish it to be and not as it actually was.

I have also tried comparing the writings of General Choi to the rantings of Doctor Kim, (though I am *** I have problems with the character of Doctor Un Yung Kim, who is president of the ***) as to the origins of korean martial arts. I find it more confusing than informing.

I think you miss my point about the origins of TKD. I am not stating that TKD has been around for centuries. Only that there IS TKD today and that it did evolve from whatever martial arts it evolved from, though I believe all martial arts are influenced by all other martial arts to a degree. (striking arts or grappling)

I have never been to the ruins I have read about. Even if it is a mistaken assumption that these were not drawings of any sort of patterns or forms, they clearly show warriors in combative positions with NO weapons. These drawings are dated to be at least two thousand years old. (once again I've read this from several sources but admit it could be more folklore than fact)

"Indeed, what I engage in is educated, historical speculation based on historical evidence. What you write is post-colonialist Korean nationalist fantasy repeated by poorly informed Korean instructors and their proteges."

I must admit you are right. As I mentioned, I understand that much of what I was taught to be Korean history is in dispute. I have also mentioned that I find it difficult to pinpoint the accuracy of much of what i have been taught. I wish I could say that Korean martial artists should know about their own history and therefore be the experts at it but clearly they themselves dispute over it.

Can you give me any references that contradict any of what I have been taught? I believe you have your ducks in a row (for the most part) but as I said I am struggling to decipher just how much of what I have been taught is accurate, what is not, and what is not verifiable and therefore open to speculation. I truly would appreciate any help you could give me on locating unbiased sources on Korean history.


(of course my statement about being good in forms only applies to those arts that employ the use of forms, and yes, clearly i missed your posts about forms being useful.....my apoligies)

Danger Dave
July 17, 2002, 11:44 AM
kungfool, Skorzeny has a, um, venemous tongue when it comes to Korean martial arts. Not that he's wrong, but he has a way of sounding like he's picking a fight, even when he's not.

The problem with the histories of Korean martial arts is that there are at least two versions: The almost mythical "ancient TaeKwonDo-ists" and the "TaeKwonDo is Shotokan" version. Now, the first one is based on stretching rather thin evidence and some fanciful history (ala "Chariots of the Gods" or somesuch), and the second is based on some verifiable facts.

The truth, I think, is 99% the latter. There were martial arts in Korea before WWII, but what they were really like is unknown. Shotokan (& other schools of Japanese karate) were introduced before, during, and after WWII, and were the basis of what became TKD. But, there was some sort of Korean tradition of fighting/combative arts prior to WWII, as there were in every culture around the world. I don't doubt that there's some influence left in TKD, but it was certainly not TKD, or anything close to it.

BTW, the initial TKD katas were the same ones Funakoshi taught in Japan. The Chon-ji series, the Palgwe series, and the Tae Guek series came years later, as part of a program to "Koreanify" TKD (as well as both unifying it and dividing it into different organizations like the ITF & KTA/***). That's not a coincidence, and should tell you something about the origins of TKD.

Skorzeny, what influence do you think Confucianism, and it's theory of the "superior man" had on Korean fighting styles? Do you think that could have been a factor in the traditional fighting styles/sports disappearing? I just remember why Chennault wanted American pilots for the Flying Tigers - the Chinese were plenty brave, but it was hard to motivate the nobility (where most of the fighter pilots came from) to train, since a "superior man" didn't need to practice...

Toadlicker
July 17, 2002, 01:22 PM
I'd find it pretty hard to believe that there weren't some basic dirty tricks and HTH moves taught to medieval warriors. Though the majority of training would be with weapons, it just doesn't seem logical to me that they would ignore the possibility that they might be jumped without their being able to draw/get to a weapon in time.

kungfool
July 17, 2002, 04:43 PM
Early Koreans, the Tonkin people, also developed unique martial art forms for unarmed self defence to complement their skills with weapons. The first recorded evidence of what was to become modern Taekwondo is found about two thousand years ago in Korean history. A mural painting from the Koguryu kingdom (37 B.C to 66 A.D.) was found in a tomb believed to have been built sometime during the period 3 to 427 A.D . This mural depicts figures practising martial arts techniques. Historical records from this Koguryu period also mention the practice of martial arts techniques and tournaments. The early forms had different names, such as Kwonbak, Bakhi, Dangsoo, Taesoo and Kongsoo. From about 600 A.D. to about 1400, the main stream dominant form was Soobak, which further evolved into Taekyon beginning in the late 1300s. Taekyon was the dominant Korean martial art form until the Japanese invasion and occupation of Korea in 1909. From 1909 to 1945, the Japanese suppressed Korean culture and martial arts, and introduced Japanese culture and martial arts.

Can anyone point me to a source that provides evidence to the contrary of the above? Everywhere I try to research what I have been taught, I basically find the same information as above. I am struggling to find facts that support either the above or to the contrary.

Danger Dave.....I'm not offended. Skorzeny seems very knowledgeable while I admit there are gaps in my education that need to be filled before I can decide for myself what to believe. That does not mean that I agree with everything he says about korean arts, I just would like for someone to show me some research that dispels the myths surrounding korean MA's. So far, no one has done that.

Skorzeny
July 19, 2002, 04:19 AM
Matt & Toadlicker:
Warriors in medieval Europe had empty hand fighting as a part of their training. Mostly grappling and wrestling, although a scant few strikes are also shown.I'd find it pretty hard to believe that there weren't some basic dirty tricks and HTH moves taught to medieval warriors. Though the majority of training would be with weapons, it just doesn't seem logical to me that they would ignore the possibility that they might be jumped without their being able to draw/get to a weapon in time.Almost (in fact generally all) of a medieval warrior's training was in weapons. Whether Europe or Asia, the professional warrior class of the medieval period also happened to be the landowning class (nobles, knights or Zi-Samurai who were in turn subject to greater lords) whose right to be armed at all times, except maybe in the presence of their liege lords, was inexorably tied to their own landownership and lordship over peasants. As such, they were invariably always armed.

Hence, their training was almost exclusively in the use of weaponry, in particular for war. Furthermore, with the demise of the Roman legions, cavalry ruled in both Europe and Asia until the advent of pikemen and firearm-wielding troops (and restored classical infantry discipline). Nobles and professional warriors fighting on horseback had even fewer reason to learn hand-to-hand fighting. In fact, even during personal contests or duels (an early form of competition, rather than war or "martial" activity), the loss of weapons meant death. No one ever really entertained the notion of an unarmed man overcoming an armed man, either in Europe or Asia (though Asian Kung Fu movies fantasize about it, thus invariably painting the picture of such in our Western minds).

Now, I will acknowledge that hand-to-hand techniques DID exist both in ancient times and medieval times. But they were often folkstyle wrestling or pugilistic endevours meant for personal CONTESTS of "manliness" if you will rather than real combat. Furthermore, such techniques were often (but not necessarily always) the realm of the lower-class men who could not possess weapons. Mongolian wrestling is TODAY considered a martial art, but the Mongols themselves considered it a folk-sport of sorts. True martial techniques for Mongol warriors composed of horseback-riding and archery (and some scimitar and lance work) - again as training for real combat in war.

The modern concept of hand-to-hand "martial art" really began during the Meiji Restoration in Japan. As feudal wars disappeared in Japan, "martial" techniques began to concentrate on personal defense for the Zi-Samurai and lords particularly in urban context (preventing assassinations by preventing draws of weapons or retaining one own swords, for example). And as the wearing of two swords was banned, many such systems evolved to what I call "transitional" systems - still basing many techniques on such weapon-orientation, but replacing the attacking weapons with empty hands.

Then came the big revolution of the hand-to-hand "martial art" with Dr. Kano Jigoro's Kodokan Judo, which introduced such scientific and rational concepts as standardized curriculum, logical training techniques based on efficiency and scientific principles (like, uh, leverage), sparring, ranking systems, rational promotion systems and so forth. The rest as is, as often said, history.

Note: it's not that all modern martial arts came from Japan necessarily (though almost all Korean modern systems did), but that they were some of the first Asians to be exposed to, and heartily accept, Western scientific methods, who therefore had some of the first opportunities to introduce science to their traditional cultural elements (like ways of fighting). Dr. Kano, for example, was greatly influenced by wresting and boxing.

Skorzeny

Skorzeny
July 19, 2002, 04:42 AM
Danger Dave:
kungfool, Skorzeny has a, um, venemous tongue when it comes to Korean martial arts. Not that he's wrong...Thanks for the validation! I'd say I'm more "bitter" than "venomous," but I supposed it can fit.
...but he has a way of sounding like he's picking a fight, even when he's not.What? I never heard that before. :)
Skorzeny, what influence do you think Confucianism, and it's theory of the "superior man" had on Korean fighting styles? Do you think that could have been a factor in the traditional fighting styles/sports disappearing? I just remember why Chennault wanted American pilots for the Flying Tigers - the Chinese were plenty brave, but it was hard to motivate the nobility (where most of the fighter pilots came from) to train, since a "superior man" didn't need to practice...Right on the money. Koreans were at one time actually quite a warlike bunch. They were horse-riding, tribal nomads like the Mongols and the Qin. There was a reason why they and their cousins conquered what are today Manchuria, Korea and Japan. During the Three Kingdom period, the northern kingdom, Kokuryo was actually quite powerful and encompassed what is today northeastern China, including Manchuria, and northern half of Korea. A prominent "Great King" of Kokuryo was said to have conquered dozens of walled cities and hundreds of towns as well as assisting southern Korean kingdoms against the "rapacious Japanese midget pirates" - according to archaeological sites found in Manchuria). At the time, they were also animists or Budhists. They were also warlike, of course, because there were constant internecine conflicts (Kokuryo, for example, repulsed numerous Chinese attempts of invasion and colonization until it became weakend by internal tribal conflicts and those with Shilla) much as the Japanese became so warlike due to constant wars between feudal fiefdoms.

When Korea became unified and Confucianism introduced, most notably during the last dynasty (the Yi Dynasty), book learning and scholarship became supreme. Generals, soldiers and sailors were disdained while scholars who were able to debate the fine points and mindnumbing details of Confucianist writings acquired enormous power. It became so bad that scholars formed factions to argue the Court to utter paralysis while generals were often ignored or suppressed. Another reason of course is that the founder of the Yi Dynasty was himself a general serving the previous dynasty, the Koryo, who rebelled against the legitimate monarch and set himself up as the head of a new one - he knew all to well the consequence of powerful general with big armies. His dynasty encouraged Confucianism because it codified hierarchy strenuously and encouraged blind obedience to the monarch, the superior, the ancestor, the father or the husband as almost a religous duty.

By the time Toyotomi Hideyoshi's battle-hardened Japanese soldiers landed in Korea, the Korean defense was in pathetically weak shape to be generous. Except in naval matters (only thanks to an innovative admiral, Yi Soon-Shin of the iron-clad Turtle Ship fame)) were the Koreans superior to the Japanese (even then the Koreans suffered reverses when jealous courtiers and scholars imprisoned Admiral Yi and burned his ships).

In such a climate, fighting techniques could hardly be spread and prized. They could only be suppressed and discouraged. Even during the early modern period, those who used fighting techniques outside the officialdom were gangsters - yet another reason why fighting techniques assumed bad reputations in Korea (as well as in Japan).

Here is something I heard from a Korean a long time ago that illustrates where this kind of avoidance of physical culture leads to. During the early part of this century, a Western missionary demonstrated the sport of tennis to the then Korean king. The missionary and his assistant set up a court and was soon swinging away, demonstrating this sport and working up a sweat. Afterwards, the missionary asked the King "What does His Majesty think of this?" To which the King replied "A most remarkable game. Very interesting. We wish to know more about it. Might we inquire, however - would it not be more enjoyable to have your slaves play for you instead of doing all that work?"

With this kind of thinking at the top, traditional sports, let alone martial arts could exist! This trends exists still to some extent in Korea. Supposedly the city with the highest Ph.D.'s per capita in the world is Seoul, Korea. A vast majority of Korean high school students are paper-thin kids who study 15-18 hours a day for the national college entrance examination, who look like they've never touched a 2.2 kg dumbell in their lives (these guys get their "manhood" when they can conscripted for their admittedly very tough and abusive military). TKD is often taught to many children - but it's like gymastics, rather than a serious "martial art."

Skorzeny

Skorzeny
July 19, 2002, 05:01 AM
kungfool:
Can anyone point me to a source that provides evidence to the contrary of the above?One of the problems with internet knowledge is the countless replication of myths. It takes a cheap computer and voila (!), one is an expert on the Net.

A better question would be - can you find any documentary evidence that corroborates such fantasy? General history books about Korea are a good start, but if you are serious, rather arcane books on Korean archaeological evidences are available in Korean. Of course this is difficult water to tread. Korean books are often fantastically nationalistic. Chinese and Japanese ones often downplay the Korean role in East Asian history (and Western books often cite references from China and Japn). The truth is often somewhere in between (establishing the boundaries of ancient Korean kingdoms and northern Chinese states of the past and their relations with early Japanese tribes, for example, often results in incredibly acrimonious debate between Chinese, Korean and Japanese scholars, tinged with an unbelievable amount of nationalism and racism).

There is also a new book coming out in Korea, written by a formerly popular sports journalist who wanted to right "the definitive" history of martial arts in Korea for the lay reader. His "revolutionary" (in Korea anyway) theories of how TKD is really Shotokan Karate upset so many readers that he isn't so, er, popular anymore. This, by the way, is a country where Yudo (Korean pronounciation of Japanese Judo) is still largely taught to be a Korean invention (from the "anciet Korean martial art of Yu-Sool," which is a Korean pronounciation of Chinese characters that read Jujutsu or Yawara in Japanese).

Though they are coming out of it slowly, the Koreans are still bitter about the Japanese colonialism and cannot acknowledge the influence of Japanese culture on themselves through the occupation. The idea that some strikingly recognizable elements of modern Korean culture (like Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Chae-Bul corporate system, government and police hierarchy and infrastructure and etc.) came almost exclusively from Japan, particularly during the Japanese occupation, is suppressed.

Of course, Koreans aren't unique in this - Japanese often suppress historical evidences that show Koreans transmitted much of "civilization" to Japan and that many of the distinguished Japanese noble families were originally of Korean origin (the horrors of it all)! A pair of Western scholars who discovered the Korean origin of the Japanese imperial family even were banned from entering Japan. How's that for academic integrity!

Skorzeny

Skorzeny
July 19, 2002, 05:09 AM
All right. Enough East Asian history lessons for the night! :)

Skorzeny

Danger Dave
July 19, 2002, 06:29 AM
Great posts, Skorzeny. I can't believe I misspelled venomous...

So, while it's a stretch (to put it mildly) to claim any sort of lineage between modern Korean martial arts & ancient Korean arts, there was an ancient warrior tradition there. Perhaps it's fanciful thinking, but I can see why the small country of Korea, after the Japanese invasion and the split between north & south would want to think of itself (or at least be perceived) as a country of warriors with an ancient tradition.

And Admiral Yi-Soon Shin got the royal shaft.

Most Asians I've seen from industrialized countries seem to adhere to that "education is everything" philosophy. While we eat too much, they tend to study too much.


There is also a new book coming out in Korea, written by a formerly popular sports journalist who wanted to right "the definitive" history of martial arts in Korea for the lay reader. His "revolutionary" (in Korea anyway) theories of how TKD is really Shotokan Karate upset so many readers that he isn't so, er, popular anymore. This, by the way, is a country where Yudo (Korean pronounciation of Japanese Judo) is still largely taught to be a Korean invention (from the "anciet Korean martial art of Yu-Sool," which is a Korean pronounciation of Chinese characters that read Jujutsu or Yawara in Japanese).

Will there be (or is there) an English version of this book?

Matt Wallis
July 19, 2002, 08:56 AM
Skorz,

Listen, man. When it comes to the idea of HtH/empty hand MA being largely a modern phenomina you're preaching to the choir. I know that most so-called ancient MA were battlefield based and hence weapons based. As has been said here before ancient or medieval armies didn't side kick their way through the opposition.

But I was reacting to your statement that the idea of medieval warriors "on either continent" training in empty hand MA was "laughable." That's clearly not true. And, in fact, I think you're still underplaying it's role. At least in the West, grappling was a key part of medieval fighting (even on the battlefield!). For example, in De Liberi's "Flos Duelatorum" most modern practicioners agree that the empty hand grappling section provides the foundation for everything that follows including dagger and sword (though perhaps excepting the mounted combat stuff). Also in medieval (European) fighting, though empty hand wrestling on the battlefield was certainly a last resort, close in fighting with swords and daggers often involved a lot of wrestling/grappling.

So weapon training was what they used most. It was what worked on the battlefield, obviously. However, empty hand arts still played an important role for the medieval European warrior (and I'd assume for the Asian one too).

Regards,
Matt

Don Gwinn
July 19, 2002, 01:29 PM
I'd be interested in that book as well, if I could find it in English. I'm still trying to sort through the ITF/*** politics, which contain enough pitfalls and mines to induce migraines by themselves.

What I don't understand is, if the Koreans had no ideas of their own about fighting, why did they choose the changes they made to Shotokan? After all, TKD may be based on Karate, but just last night I was corrected for doing something "karate style" and the rationale for the difference explained to me.

Honestly, I'm an American from the midwest. I don't care if it's Korean or Japanese as far as deciding whether to train in it. I'm just curious. If I cared about somebody's nationalism, I'd go to Pat Miletich and learn "Iowa Style." :D

kungfool
July 19, 2002, 03:47 PM
kungfool:

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Can anyone point me to a source that provides evidence to the contrary of the above?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One of the problems with internet knowledge is the countless replication of myths. It takes a cheap computer and voila (!), one is an expert on the Net.

skorzeny.......*L*......ouch!......man you do play rough.......First off, though I did know (although not nearly so detailed) some of the information you presented, it was quite insightful. If I should take your word for all of it then a big thank you. I don't really see any reason why I should not, as you relate facts that I was aware of and interwove them with plenty that I did either did not know or lacked that good an understanding of them......so.....uhm.....Thanks.....*g*...

I would like to point out that though I printed information off a website, the only reason I did so was because it parrots exactly what I have (on my shelf) from three other sources. I'm aware that not everything on the web is true. I also stated that I am not an expert in korean or even martial arts history. I even admitted that there were gaps I need to fill in what I do know. But I am sure there are plenty of "web experts".

I too would be sincerely interested in such a book, written in english of course, and would much appreciate if you would pass on any information you might come upon.

BTW.......my nickname is not intended to make fun of non-korean martial arts....it's just a name I got tagged with and used to log in here............besides....I think "Taekwondog" is overused.......*g*

Don Gwinn
July 19, 2002, 11:07 PM
Hey! Someday, I could be TaeKwonDon!

But uh . . . . . I think I won't. :p

Skorzeny
July 20, 2002, 06:54 AM
Danger Dave:
Will there be (or is there) an English version of this book?I don't know. I certainly hope so. But there isn't too much interest in the US about the historical origin of TKD. I mean, really, who cares? The answer is - no one, except obsessive compulsive types like me who does not like even the tiniest of misrepresenations (I'm a pain on eBay, let me tell you).

Matt Wallis:
Also in medieval (European) fighting, though empty hand wrestling on the battlefield was certainly a last resort, close in fighting with swords and daggers often involved a lot of wrestling/grappling.That may be. Duels, in particular, may have involved some form of standup grappling WITH swords or, more likely, daggers. You can throw in things like wrestling and grappling if you like, but they were WITH weapons rather than WITHOUT ("hand to hand"). Furthermore, duels were ritualized competitions of manhood - something like sports - very dangerous no doubt, quite deadly often, but not quite the same thing as military arts dealing with battlefield combat. Again, the modern sense of "martial art" as an intensely personal safety activity is exactly that a modern sense. The notion that this modern view of "martial arts" and many of its spawns like Tae Kwon Do has anything to do with ancient (2,000 years!) or even medieval fighting systems are indeed laughable.

Don Gwinn:
What I don't understand is, if the Koreans had no ideas of their own about fighting, why did they choose the changes they made to Shotokan?I don't know. I often heard a couple of reasons being bandied about by the Korean instructors themselves, namely:

1. To give TKD more of a "Korean" flavor, which unfortunatley meant more high-flying, high-kicking theatrics. One can see a similar situation with Hapkido in which Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu locking techniques were adapted, but usually performed with way too much theatrics for my taste.

2. More kicking because Koreans are taller than Japanese.

I personally buy the first one.
After all, TKD may be based on Karate, but just last night I was corrected for doing something "karate style" and the rationale for the difference explained to me.Now this is interesting! What exactly was the stated rationale? How did you do a technique the "Karate" way?

kungfool:

I'm normally a very mild-mannered guy (yeah, righ!). I cannot stand B-S, period in any case. I do my homework when I am obsessed with somethings (like MA and guns, though they are marginally related to my profession). Unforutnately, both the martial arts industry and gun industry are PLAGUED, yes PLAGUED, by fraud and ignorance. Sometimes, when I happen to overhear a Dojo (or Dojang) or a gunstore conversation, it's like the blind leading the (gullible) blind. Sometimes it's the fraudulent and/or deluded (Frank Dux, anyone?) leading the blind.

So, I supposed the tone of my posts regarding things like those can be a bit, eh, short-tempered. Nonetheless, I recognize that my body of knowledge is microscopic in a large scheme of things, and I try to accept new information or correction as it becomes apparently to me.

Keep checking around and be skeptical. Caveat Emptor!

Skorzeny

kungfool
July 20, 2002, 03:03 PM
Now I've stepped in it...........That was I who informed Don of "karate" style (palm up) knifehand strike. Before I take it further, I must say (sorry Don) that I was explaining it the way it was explained to me....as a "karate" style chop. Indeed I have seen the same strike performed by Taekwondoist as well......

In other words. I called it "karate" style since that was the way it was explained to me by my original Grandmaster. I am still discovering how much of what he related to me was from his mind and what was learned from the minds of others. My apoligies Don, no matter where I heard it, as I said, a chop is a chop is a chop is a chop.

To explain:.......a wide angle chop (180 degrees) with the palm facing upward , regardless of who it is performed by is not as effective as a more straightlined approach turning the hand over at the last second. It is awkward and can be easily blocked. (I'm talking strictly about horizontal striking and not verticle)

I'm sure someone disagrees with the logic, which I won't apoligize for, but to toss out the word "karate" as I did without qualifying it was indeed, poor instruction. My apoligies.