Chapter 13: Turning point
IntroBy 1900, taekkyeon had become a game in which two partners squared off and tried to knock each other down using their feet. It was used to exact revenge for a slight or to win an opponent's concubine through betting. Due to its gambling and other unsavory aspects, most Koreans lost interest in their native martial arts, taekkyon included. Taekkyon was forbidden and even youngsters were seen playing it were chased with a switch by the village elders.
Like other Far Eastern countries, Japan had an early history of unarmed fighting styles. Jujitsu was one of the earliest arts and was the basis for judo, which was founded in 1882 by Jigero Kano. Judo, after its decisive victory in a competition held in 1886 at the Tokyo Police department, eventually superseded jujitsu.
After Japan's occupation of Korea, Japanese colonial rule tightened its grip on the Korean economy and the people. Its purpose was to suppress the Korean populace and to erase the Korean identity. Japanese businesses were given preferential treatment and they took advantage of Korea's natural resources. The country was renamed Chosen. The Japanese resident general officially prohibited all Korean cultural activities, folkloric games, and team sports, including Taekkyeon, by native Koreans. Korean national dress was forbidden. The wealthy Korean aristocracy began changing their names to Japanese names. Koreans were forbidden to speak their own language, only the Japanese language could be spoken. The Korean language press was banned and a Japanese educational curriculum was imposed on all Korean schools. This meant that all Korean schoolboys were taught the sportive forms of Japanese judo and kendo, not the Korean martial arts. However, even this training came to an abrupt end in 1909 when the Japanese banned the practice of any fighting arts in Korea for the next 36 years, until near the end of World War II.
Fighting arts ban and taekkyeonEven under the Japanese colonial rule, some famous Korean writers, such as Shin Chae-Ho and Choi Nam-Sun, wrote of Taekkyeon, saying "Present subak prevailing in Seoul came from the sonbae in the Koguryo dynasty," and "Subak is like today's taekkyeon which was originally practiced as martial art but is now played mostly by children as games." During the occupation, 14 types of techniques were used in taekkyeon: 5 kicking patterns, 4 hand techniques, 3 pushing-down-at-the-heel patterns, 1 turning-over kick pattern, and 1 technique of downing-the-whole-body. Also noteworthy was the use of the term "poom" which signified a face-to-face stance in preparation for a fight. Today, a poom is a beginner black belt. Since the masters of taekkyeon were under constant threat of imprisonment, taekkyon eventually faded out as a popular game.
Taekkyeon was kept alive by various masters who practiced it in secret with the local people. Buddhist monasteries and certain local schools trained young people in taekkyeon. These young people later coalesced into resistance armies or "independent armies." Some of the army members were those who came back from other countries where they had been living to join in the attempt to drive the Japanese from their homeland. These armies were active throughout the Japanese occupation. However, because of its underground nature, the resistance was disorganized and Korea could not free herself from Japanese rule without foreign intervention.
Taekkyeon still exists. Its traditions were carried on by Song Tok-Ki (1893-1987), and it was organized as a sport in the 1970's. Taekkyeon is unique to Korea. Other countries had martial arts around this time, however, taekkyeon was not influenced by other countries' martial art styles. T\taekkyon was acknowledged as Korea's traditional martial art on June 1, 1983, and held as the 26th Intangible Cultural Asset. Modern taekkyeon practitioners understand that its meaning is based on mutual prosperity through offense and defense within the boundaries of social ethics and moral codes. These codes include sound character, strong mind, and strong body.
As an expression of respect, Up is used. Up is a half bow, done while training, because there usually was not enough space for a full bow. The other element of respect is chol. This was done at the start and end of training, in the direction of the flag, before the highest leader, and the opponent. Chol is based on the form listed in Karyejip'ram (Anthology of the Etiquettes), written by Kim Chang-Saeng in 1599.
Taekkyeon is an art form that looks like a dance but has much more power and agility. Some techniques are:
- Pumbalbk'ki. The basic stepping motion, where the feet are moved in a triangular motion (from the Chinese character "pum"). This follows rhythm and pattern, but changes according to the situation. The actual movement is done by taking one step forward, shifting weight to the other leg, and continue, back and forth. This can be done on the right or the left side and has many variations.
- Hwalgaejit. This means, waving both arms. There are two intentions for this. First, is to prepare for the attack, and second to enhance the energy of the upper body. There are also many variations, such as othundulgi, cross-wave; kawijil, scissor like motion; matdulgi, simultaneous wave; tupal hundulgi, shaking both arms; and dolligi, spinning.
The Japanese ban on the martial arts was obviously not entirely effective. In fact, Yeon-Hee Park and Bong-Soo Han believe the ban increased their practice. Martial arts training moved to the Buddhist monasteries, a traditional place of refuge for out-of-favor warriors. Taekkyeon continued to be practiced at Tan O Nol (youth festivals) until the art was outlawed in 1920.
Japanese influenceThe ban on martial arts did not include members of the Japanese army stationed in Korea, and several important martial artists began their careers there. About the time of the Russo-Japanese war, British judo pioneer Gunji Koizumi studied kenjutsu and Jujutsu in Korea at a school run by Nobukatsu Yamada. Many years later, Teruo Yamaguchi began learning karate-do while stationed in Korea. The ban also did not include Koreans training in Japan.
At least nine Korean masters trained in Japan: Yong-Shul Choi, Geka Yung, Hyung-Ju Cho, Won-Kuk Lee, Pyong-Chik Ro, Hong-Hi Choi, Yong-i Choi, Ki-Whang Kim, and Pyung-In Yun. Yong-Shul Choi claims to have trained for many years in daito-ryu aikijutsu under Sokaku Takeda, although his claims are not recognized by the followers of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido. Choi later returned to Korea and taught yu-sul (jujutsu), which one of his students, Ji-Han Jae, later called hapkido ("coordinated energy way"). The other eight Koreans trained in karate-do. Geka Yung was the head instructor of the Kanbukan ("Korean martial arts hall") in Japan, which was later renamed the Renbukan ("training martial arts hall") under Norio Nakamura. Hyung-Ju Cho moved to Japan, changed his name to Neichu So, and trained in goju-ryu Karate-do under Chojun Miyagi in high school, becoming a karate-do instructor in 1939. According to Hancock, Won-Kuk Lee learned shotokan karate-do while attending school in Japan.
Yong-Chik Ro studied at a Japanese university during the Second World War, during which time he also studied under Gichin Funakoshi and earned his first dan (black belt rank) in karate-do before returning to Korea in 1944. Hong-Hi Choi and Yong-i Choi both went to Japan in the late 1930s and later became famous martial art masters (see chapter 11). Ki-Whang Kim began judo in 1931 and earned his first dan from the Kodokan five years later. He went on to study karate-do at Nihon University in Tokyo, where he captained the team and was nicknamed "typhoon." He later spent two years "studying Kempo and kung-fu in China," probably as one of the draftees of the Japanese Army. Pyung-In Yun was raised in Manchuria and studied quan-fa there before also attending college at Nihon University. He trained there with one of the faculty members, Kanken Toyama (1888-1966), who also happened to be the founder of shudokan karate-do. Before Yun returned to Korea, Toyama recognized him as a fourth dan in his style.
Ki-Whang Kim (1920-1993) was able to begin Judo in Korea in 1931, despite the Japanese ban. Eventually, the underground nature of the martial arts in Korea changed when the Japanese lifted the ban on martial arts in 1943 so it could fulfill military requirements during World War II. Judo and "juken-jutsu" (bayonet art) began to be taught in 1941, and by 1943, karate and kung-fu were officially introduced to Koreans. For the two years before the surrender of Japan, the martial arts enjoyed a new popularity in Korea. A select few still practiced taekkyeon, subak, kong-soo, and hwa-soo but they did not share their expertise with the public. The actions of Korean martial artists in Korea in those days remains largely unknown. It was not until Korea's liberation in 1945 that its own fighting arts finally took root and began to flourish.
Liberation from JapanNear the end of WW II, Americans invaded Korea to push back the Japanese. Japan finally surrendered unconditionally, and, on August 15, 1945, Korea was finally liberated from Japanese colonial rule.
After liberation from the Japanese, the Korean people vowed never to allow another government to control their country again. Masters who had studied martial arts in other countries returned to Korea and blended these styles with taekkyeon to form new styles as methods to protect not only individual Koreans but also the country itself.
After the war, most martial arts schools in Korea were using the name karate and were using Japanese terminology to describe techniques. They used Japanese patterns and training methods. There were no techniques or terminology that resembled taekkyeon. This was a problem until after the Korean War when nationalistic and political motivations led to an effort to portray the martial arts that had developed in Korean as having ancient Korean origins.
At least four Japanese martial arts remained popular in Korea after liberation, albeit under their Koreanized names. Koreans continued to study yudo (judo), kom-do (kendo), yu-sul (jujutsu), and kong-su-do (karate-do). The Korean Yudo Association was founded in October of 1945 by Mum-Suk Lee and Jin-Hee Han, and the Korean Komdo Association (K.K.A.) was organized in Seoul in 1948. The K.K.A. became affiliated with the Korean Amateur Sports Association on Nov. 20, 1953, and in the same year, the Korean Yudo College was founded with Dr. Je-Hwang Lee as its first president. Both yudo and komdo remained virtually unchanged from their Japanese namesakes. On the other hand, the arts of yu-sul and kong-su-do have changed greatly since Korean liberation. Yu-sul developed into hapkido and all of its derivatives (kuksul, hwarang-do, etc.), while kong-su-do would eventually go through the greatest changes of all, developing into tang-soo-do and taekwondo.
Turning pointIn 1952, at the height of the Korean War, Republic of Korea President Seung Man Rhee, on his birthday, watched a half-hour demonstration by Song Duk-Ki, Tae Hi Nam, and other Korean martial arts masters that was organized by General Choi. Rhee was particularly impressed with Tae Hi Nam's breaking demonstration (he broke 13 roofing tiles with one downward punch). President Rhee pointed to his knuckle and asked General Choi, "Is this the part used to break the tile?" To which Choi replied, "Yes Sir," then the President turned toward the other generals in the audience and said, "This is taekkyeon" I want to see our soldiers train in this art. Rhee watched the demonstration with great interest and did not sit down once during the thirty minutes performance. He was so impressed that he asked for it to continue after the planned program concluded.
Since nothing was planned, Nam Tae Hi and Han Cha Kyo (1934-1996) assembled materials and did a variety of breaks. The demonstration clearly distinguished taekwondo from Japanese karate that had been introduced by the Japanese rulers. The President was so impressed with what he saw that he ordered Korean martial arts to be made a part of regular military training. This single act was to have a far-reaching effect on Korean martial arts.
While it is true that many of the other generals in the Korean Army did not want Choi to teach tang-soo-do to their soldiers, the president's declaration made it easier to introduce tang-soo-do to the rest of the Army. To do this, Choi needed to build an institute to train and produce martial arts instructors.
In June of 1954, the Fist Division left Cheju Island to become a part of the Second Corp, located in He Kang Won Province in the Eastern part of Korea.
When the 29th Division moved its headquarters to Yong Dae Ri, located in He Kang Won Province, west of Sulrak Mountain, in the eastern part of Korea, to become a part of the Second Corps, Choi ordered a gymnasium to be built there. He named it Oh Do Kwan and it was there that Master Nam Tae Hi began to teach tang-soo-doto military instructors. Choi recruited instructors from the different kwans as instructors. The new kwan was based on the principles used by the chung-do-kwan (which Choi commanded in late 1954). This interest in the martial arts caused a tremendous surge in taekkyeon/karate schools and students.
Early attempt at unificationOn May 25, 1953, while the war was still raging, representatives of the five original kwans (Chung-do-kwan, Song-moo-kwan, Yun-moo-kwan/=Ji-do-kwan, YMCA Kwon-bup/Chang-moo-kwan. and Moo-duk-kwan) met in Pusan and formed the Korea Kong-Soo-Do Association. Choi Hong Hi was not a member of this group and thus did not attend the organizational meeting. The association did not elect a president. They elected Young-Joo Cho (a yudo stylist) as vice-president and Pyong-Chik Ro (Sang-mu-kwan founder) as the executive director. The various directors were Kee Hwang (founder of Mu-dok-kwan), Chong-Woo Lee (Chi-do-kwan), Yon-Kue Pyang (Chi-do-kwan), Jong-Myung Hyun (Chong-do-kwan), Nam-Suk Lee (Chang-mu-kwan), and In-Hwa Kim (Yudo). Pyong-Chik Ro was established as "the master instructor" and as "the chair of the rank promotion committee." Eventually, dissension set in, and the association dissolved. Chong-do-kwan continued to describe its art as kong-su-do until about 1962.
There was an "instructor shortage" in Korea in the early 1950s, and "it was hard to find a dojang," probably both because of the youth of the art in Korea and because many instructors were in the military. Various military units trained in Kong-su-do distinguished themselves in the war, including the Korean Twenty-Ninth Infantry Division (formed by Choi in 1953) and the Black Tigers, an elite unit involved in espionage and assassination missions behind enemy lines. Many lives were lost in the conflict. Sang-Sup Chun (founder of the Yun-mu-kwan) and Pyung-In Yun (founder of the Chang-mu-kwan) were both listed as missing in action. Other masters continued to spread Korean martial arts throughout the world. Later in 1952 after the presidential demonstration, Tae Hi Nam was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, for special training in radio communications. During his stay in Georgia, Tae demonstrated his art to both the military and the public, further publicizing Korea's fighting art.
After the war ended, Choi Hong Hi and Tae Hi Nam founded the oh-do-kwan within the military and for military personnel only, although it had strong links with the civilian chung-do-kwan which Choi later founded in 1954. Choi claims to be the developer of the changhon set of patterns used by the International Taekwondo Federation, but some believe they came from Tae Hi Nam, who had much more experience and training in the martial arts than Choi, who was his commanding officer. Special groups of martial arts trained commandos were formed to fight against North Korean communist forces. Some of these groups distinguished themselves, including the 29th Infantry Division, which was formed on Che-ju Island in 1953 under the command of now General Choi Hong Hi. The unit was responsible for all taekkyeon training in the Korean Army (their flag was a martial arts fist). Another distinguished unit was the Black Tigers, an elite commando unit involved in espionage missions behind enemy lines, including assassinations.
In September 1953, Hwang Kee (Moo-duk-kwan) resigned from the Korea Kong-Soo-Do Association and formed the Korea Tang-Soo Association, but it was renamed in 1960 to the more Korean name the Subak-Do Association. Hwang's first manual was published in 1950. The style taught by the Mu-duk-kwan was first called hwasudo (flowering hand way), which was changed to tang-soo-do in the early 1950's to reflect Korea's long cultural brotherhood with China. Hwang discovered a copy of the Muye dobo t'ongji (c. the 1790s) in 1957 and began to study it extensively, using it to link tang-soo-do to the pre-occupation martial arts tradition of Subak.
Unification of kwansFollowing the liberation of Korea on August 15, 1945, taekwondo entered a new phase. Most of the masters thought all the traditional and various martial arts schools should be united during the Japan occupation. The leaders and pioneers wanted to distinguish Korea's own martial arts from other foreign arts and re-establish traditional Korean fighting skills. Unifying and developing taekwondo into a National Sport became the agreed objective for the taekwondo leaders and pioneers; however, unification of the Korean arts was slow. Fragmented by the pre-war secrecy of their teachings and the post-war confusion of reconstruction, it took years before the different arts were able to consolidate into a single martial art. During this period of war, several kwan leaders who were living in the Korean wartime capital of Pusan formed an alliance and vowed to create a governing body.
In 1946, the founders of the five major kwans agreed to associate and organize a unified Association. Representatives Lee Won Kuk (Chung-do-kwan), Chun Sang Sup (Joseon-yu-moo-kwan Kong-soo-do-bu), Yoon Byung In (YMCA Kwon-bup bu) and Ro, Byung Jick (Song-moo-kwan) had several meetings to accomplish their objective. Despite their eagerness and agreement, there were misunderstandings that could not be overcome. After the attempted association failed, each Kwan concentrated on training its younger generation. Unexpectedly, the Korean War broke out and many leaders were separated from their kwans and scattered north and south. This was a period of chaos and disorder.
During the Korean War, the taekwondo men who were refugees in the temporary capital city of Pusan agreed to organize an Association and finally decided to found the Korea Kong Soo Do Association. The organizing members were Ro Byung Jick, Yoon Kwe Byung, Son Duk Sung, Lee Nam Suk, Lee Chong Woo, Hyun Jong Myun, Jo Young Joo, and Kim In Hwa. To build public confidence, the association included non-taekwondo men, but the key players were the taekwondo practitioners.
The first President, Jo Young Joo, was head of the Association of Korean Residents in Japan. Less than a month after the founding of the new association, Moo Duk Kwan President Hwang Kee withdrew from the association because he was not given a position on the Central Testing Committee. A month after Kee's withdrawal, Chung Do Kwan President Son Duk Sung withdrew for the same reason. Therefore, the attempt for the complete unification of all the kwans did not work. After Hwang Kee returned to Seoul, he personally organized the Korea Tang Soo Do Association and was eager to join the Korea Amateur Sports Association.
After Yoon Kwe Byung and Ro Byung Jik realized the seriousness of the situation, they submitted a petition to stop the Korea Tang Soo Do Association from joining the Korea Amateur Sports Association and were successful. The new President of the Korea Kong Soo Do Association was Lee Joong Jae, who was the ROK Minister of Finance, with Min Kwan Sik's recommendation. The Chief Director was Ro Byung Jik and the Secretary-General was Lee Chong Woo. The role of the Korea Kong Soo Do Association was to test and qualify promotions and issue official recognition of dan rank. To unify all the dan ranks, the seniors were promoted to 4th dan.
The first and second promotion tests of official recognition were held in the temporary central dojang of the Chung Do Kwan, which held classes in Si Chun Church (Hope Wedding Hall) in the evenings. The third and fourth promotion tests were held at the Chae Shin Bu Dojang (next to the old Capitol Building), which was run by Lee Nam Suk. Ro Byung Jik and Yoon Kwe Byung took full charge of the testing committee, but Hwang Kee had trouble relating and did not participate. After a few months, the association began to break up.
In 1953, a majority of the kwan masters met and chose tae-soo-do as the name for Korea's developing martial art. The masters agreed to merge their various styles under the new name for the mutual benefit of all the schools. However, two years later, a movement developed to find a new name for this evolving art.
Taekwondo get its nameThe year 1955 signaled the beginning of taekwondo as a formally recognized martial art in Korea. As previously mentioned, in the 1950's, General Choi Hong Hi had developed and was teaching a new style of taekkyeon he called taekwondo to the Korean army, air force, and police. At the time, his taekwondo was a merely Korean version of shotokan karate that he had learned in Japan.
On April 11, 1955, a special board composed of many martial arts grandmasters, archeologists, historians, and prominent leaders met to develop a new name for tae-soo-do. Attending the board were Mr. Yoo Hwa Chung; Mr. Son Duk Sung, director of the Chung Do Gym; General Choi Hong Hi, Commander of the 3rd District and head of the chung-do-kwan; General Lee Hyung Kun, the Joint Chief of Staff; Mr. Cho Kyung Kyu, the Vice Speaker of the National Assembly; Mr. Chung Dae Chun, Senator, Mr. Han Chang Won, President of Political Newspaper; Mr. Chang Kyung Rok; Mr. Hong Soon Ho; Mr. Ko Kwang Rae; and Mr. Hyun Jong Myung.
At this meeting, some members favored the names Tangsoo and Kongsoo, but General Choi proposed that the new art should be called taekwondo. Duk Sung Son says that he passed a piece of paper to Choi suggesting the name and that Choi took credit for it. Since taekwondo translates to "tae" meaning a kick or strike with the foot, "kwon" meaning a punch or strike with the fist, and "do" meaning the way of, it described the art's use of strikes using both hands and feet. The name taekwondo was unanimously adopted by the board, but Mr. Yoo said " I completely agree with the name of taekwondo submitted by General Choi Hong Hi, I think, however, it would be utterly significant that we have the approval from the President Synghman Rhee since giving a name to a martial art is so important". All the members unanimously agreed. The name was sent to President Rhee.
At first, President Rhee rejected the name, preferring to use the traditional name taekkyeon. General Choi approached Mr. Kwak Yong Joo, the President's Chief of Staff, and Mr. Suh Jung Hak, the Director of the President's Protective Forces, and explained to them that this was a new art, much different from the old art of taekkyeon. He asked them to try to persuade the President to accept the new name. Finally, Choi received permission from President Rhee to use the new name taekwondo.
After receiving the President's approval, Choi ordered the old tangsoodo signs in front of his Oh Do Kwan and Chung Do Kwan to be replaced with the new taekwondo signs and he instructed the legendary Master Nam Tae Hee that taekwondo soldiers say "taekwon" when they salute each other. The name of taekwondo gradually spread through the military ranks through Oh Do Kwan and to civilian students through Chung Do Kwan. The Third Military District Command in Tae Jon became one of the main centers of this new art.
Although most of the kwans merged under the common name of taekwondo, there were a few who did not. It has never been clear which of the original eight did merge but Moo-duk-kwan remained a separate art called Tang-soo-do and Hapkido remains as a recognized separate art. The new taekwondo name appealed to the newly nationalistic Koreans since it was a totally Korean expression. It also had a close connection with the old name taekkyeon, in both pronunciation and meaning. It indicated that the art employed both hands and feet, unlike terms such as tang-so (Chinese hand) or karate (empty hand), which imply hand techniques only. Since this eventful meeting, taekwondo has been recognized worldwide as the name for the Korean martial arts.
Korean martial arts emergeThe various kwans ("schools") of kong-su-do retained much of the style of karate-do for many years, including the various kata or forms of karate-do. Many tang-soo-do schools today still retain the forms of karate-do. As late as 1965, Hong-Hi Choi was still teaching shorin-ryu and shorei-ryu forms (including heian 1-5, empi, rohai, bassai, kusanku, jion, tekki 1-3, hangetsu, and jitte) along with his own forms, called the ch'ang Hon set. In 1968, Sihak Henry Cho asserted "taekwondo is identical to Japanese karate." Cho also noted "some of the Korean public still use the "karate" pronunciation in conversation."
Syngman Rhee (1875-1965) was a very nationalistic Korean who went to the United States in 1904 and became the first Korean to obtain a Ph.D. from an American university. After returning to Korea, he found he could not work under the Japanese occupation, so he returned to the United States in 1912. Seven years later, he was elected in China as President of the Korean Provisional Government in exile and he held this position for the next twenty years. During WW II, he remained in the United States where he established his reputation with the Americans.
When the war ended, the United States made him the new President of the Republic of Korea. Rhee used strong-arm tactics to maintain his presidency in elections in 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960. He maintained dictatorial control over all levels of government until his downfall shortly after his obvious rigging of the 1960 election. Student riots, with heavy casualties, resulted in a call from the National Assembly for Rhee's resignation. Rhee resigned on April 27, 1960, and went into exile in Hawaii, where he died five years later. He was replaced by constitutional liberalism in the Second Republic, but instability in the new democracy led to a military coup on May 16, 1961.
General Park Chung Hee, who was a general under Rhee (as was General Choi Hong Hi), dominated the military junta and ended military rule at the end of 1962 to become President of the Third Republic. He was re-elected in 1967 and 1971. In 1972, in the face of growing popular unrest, he dissolved the National Assembly and suspended the constitution. Park expanded the powers of the presidency and, at the end of 1972, he was directly elected President of the Fourth Republic. Despite great unrest in the Korean population, he was re-elected in December 1978. Less than a year later, he was assassinated by the head of his own Central Intelligence Agency. In eighteen years, Park laid the base for Korea's economic success through state planning, capitalist incentives, strict control, and the abrogation of labor rights. His assassination caused another military coup on December 13, 1979, resulting in the May 1980 domestic uprising in Kwangju.
Brutally put down, the Kwangju uprising resulted in Chun Doo Hwan assuming the presidency and beginning the Fifth Republic in October 1980. Chun lifted martial law the following January and was elected president a month later. For the next four years, he ran a repressive regime until he nominated his successor Roh Tae Woo, a former General of the 1979 coup. Pressure from human rights activists, the United States, and the coming 1988 Olympics led to an election in December 1987 that resulted in Roh being elected President again.
From World War II until the early 1960's, taekwondo consisted mostly of Japanese terminology and techniques. This was a problem for those asserting that taekwondo had its roots in Korean history. The next generation of instructors solved this quandary by developing a method of competition that was radically different from Japanese competition. This made taekwondo unique and different than Japanese karate. These changes were opposed by first-generation taekwondo instructors, such as Choi Hong Hi.
During the Korean occupation years, some early martial arts masters who had an influence on the development of taekwondo began to hone their skills.