Chapter 27: Taekwondo today
IntroTaekwondo has grown with unprecedented rapidity as a worldwide sport. It has become the most practiced martial art style in the world. Modern taekwondo has developed into a unique martial art that incorporates both the quick, linear movements that characterize the various Japanese styles and the flowing circular movements of Chinese styles. But what truly distinguishes taekwondo from other martial arts in its varied and uniquely powerful kicking techniques. Taekwondo's diverse nature is where its true strength lies.
Taekwondo has achieved what Korea's most skilled diplomats have been unable to accomplish. It has people around the world showing respect to the Korean flag and learning about traditional, indigenous Korean culture. It plays a vital role in preserving traditional Korean culture in the face of western cultural imperialism.
Taekwondo has advanced far beyond being merely a martial art that people study as a recreational activity. At Yong Ni University in Seoul, Korea, students may earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in the martial arts, including taekwondo. University students go on to become taekwondo instructors, spreading the virtues of taekwondo to people throughout the world.
Taekwondo is a highly complex system composed of many elements, however, it is far more than simply a system of powerful kicks and punches, it is also an art directed toward the moral development of its students. Considering the unparalleled growth of taekwondo and its acceptance as an Olympic sport, there seems little doubt that it will continue in its rapidly expanding popularity around the world.
Words of General ChoiIn his book, Taekwondo, General Choi Hong Hi states:
"All things are governed by the law of Yin and Yang, dark and light... happiness can often stem from catastrophic moments... My life has been a turbulent one, riddled with lonely fights and unfortunate adventure that few would envy... a life of self-exile thousands of miles distant from my beloved country. Even so, it has truly been a worthwhile endeavor. It is one of nature's ironies that delicate plants such as orchids or tulips require extreme care while weeds flourish with no attention at all. Wild panic grass, easily mistaken for wheat or rice, can actually prevent the growth of the genuine article. I cannot help but despair over the tainted image of taekwondo recently created by practitioners of sham taekwondo, who have nothing in common with the origin and art form except for a borrowed name.
I console myself with this thought: Like a counterfeit diamond that cannot cut glass, fraudulent taekwondo is appearance without substance and like a summer shower that quickly dries from the earth or a hurricane that rapidly passes from the sky, phony taekwondo practitioners and imitators cannot endure. It exists solely on the strength of political influence and is totally devoid of fundamental philosophy or technique based on logic. As such, it is destined for an early exit. The issue lies in our ability to differentiate between the true and the false. My dream has at last been realized... the ultimate fantasy of spreading and teaching taekwondo with no regard to considerations of religion, ideology, national boundaries, or race. I can say without hesitation that I am the happiest man alive.
It is my earnest desire that taekwondo should retain its original concept and technique. It is also my sincere hope that taekwondo's emphasis on promoting a healthier body and mind will provide a significant contribution to human progress for many generations to come."
REMEMBER THE PASTTaekwondo must be careful lest it fall to the same fate as judo. As with taekwondo today, judo was once, during the 1950s and 1960s, the most popular martial art in the world. After it became an Olympic sport in the 1960s, judo training became more and more concentrated on sporting competition. Due to the emphasis on sport competition, judo lost its popularity as a martial art, and today it is difficult to find a judo dojo, even in a major city. When victory in a sporting contest becomes the major criterion for excellence in a martial art, then only the young, strong, and gifted will be able to excel in that art, and they will often leave the art when they pass their peak of competitive prowess.
"The Japanese have devoted themselves to the study of Judo for competition. They have gone to extraordinary lengths to develop winning contestants and fine champions. I, on the other hand, have never trained for competition in my life. All I have ever done is trained in judo as a way of life, exactly as Dr. Kano taught. While the Japanese were devising competitive strategies, I was in the dojo practicing basics and kata. I defeated the Japanese because I know judo better than the Japanese. The secret is to train every day in the basics. This will make you unbeatable.” -Anton Gessink, World Judo Champion.Taekwondo has had a long history and, due to its international popularity, it is certain to have an equally long future. So, remember taekwondo's past, practice the basics and spread taekwondo now, and plan for taekwondo's future.