Taekwondo>History>Chapter 17: Competitionalization

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Chapter 17: Competitionalization


In the early 1960s, to "Koreanize" taekwondo and remove its Japanese karate connections, some masters began to "competitionalize" taekwondo by developing a system of interrelated kicking techniques, intricate footwork, and attacks/counterattacks that were different from karate. Emphasis was shifted from form/pattern practice to that of contact sparring. Some of the changes were:
  • No hand attacks to the face.
  • No attacks below the waist.
  • No grabbing.
  • No foot sweeps.
  • Use of body protection making full-contact possible.
  • A scoring system which awarded points only for accurate contact blows of substantial power.
  • Continuous fighting without interference from the referee.

These major differences allowed sport taekwondo to develop its unique kicking system, using such things as instep kicks, which distinguished it from karate. First generation masters thought that taekwondo was a lethal martial art that should continue its use of non-contact karate style sparring that did not use a body protector, did not allow hard contact, and allowed punching to the face. Although some these early masters, such as General Choi, vehemently opposed the changes, the changes were implemented in 1963 with taekwondo's inclusion in the Korean National Sports Festival.

Differences between traditional and sport taekwondo

Another radical difference between sport taekwondo and traditional karate based taekwondo was the change from the traditional attack-block-counterattack method of sparring to that of the attack-counterattack method. The concept of blocking before counterattacking is inherent in traditional taekwondo and is emphasized in its patterns. As sport taekwondo evolved through constant experimentation during competition, the block disappeared due to its ineffectiveness in the new system of sparring. Competitors found that, by synchronizing attacks and using intricate footwork, it was possible to kick at the same time as the attacker and counter the attack almost simultaneously without blocking.

Other differences between traditional and sport taekwondo are:
  • The goals of traditional taekwondo are self-development and spiritual improvement, while the goals of sport taekwondo are demonstrating one's superiority over an opponent—winning.
  • Traditional taekwondo reflects eastern values, while sport taekwondo reflects western values.
  • Traditional taekwondo is process-oriented, while sport taekwondo is result oriented. Traditional taekwondo is formalized, while sport taekwondo is not.

Sport taekwondo stresses that the purpose of performing a technique properly is so you may score more points than your opponent in competition, and thus win. Therefore, it is possible to achieve this purpose during sparring.

Sport taekwondo gives value to the factors of power, accuracy, and strategy, and gives higher value to the use of more difficult techniques. It stresses that to execute a proper technique; you must have a resisting opponent. Because of the rules of sport sparring, it is possible to predict the actions of your opponent and to technically and psychologically manipulate and dominate your opponent.

Traditional taekwondo stresses that the purpose of performing a technique properly is so that it may be used to strike with enough force to disable or possibly kill an opponent—the philosophy of "one strike, one kill." Therefore, traditionalists say they cannot use their techniques in contact competition, thus they cannot achieve this purpose during sparring. Instead, breaking is used to test the "lethality" of techniques.

Disagreements about what taekwondo should become led to a split between traditional taekwondo (the martial art) and the new competitive taekwondo (sport). Traditional taekwondo is based almost entirely on Japanese principles, concepts, and techniques. Its four core training methods, patterns (poomse or hyung), breaking (kyukpa), sparring (kyorugi), and self-defense techniques (hoshinsul, are Japanese in origin. Sport taekwondo did not develop the philosophies and concepts needed to supplant those that traditional taekwondo adopted from karate, so it is still perceived as a subset of the original taekwondo.

Taekwondo began to spread around the world.
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