Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, December 23, 2013

Traditional Martial Arts Forms

Colin Wee made a post on the practice of forms at his Joong Do Kwan Dojang. Below is an excerpt. The original post may be read here.

Not so Hyung but Not so Old

A reader of the blog stopped at JDK's FB Page and asked:

"what still gets you going about Taekwondo (sparks your interest, keeps you motivated), do you have a favorite few forms and why, consider taking some of the oldest forms (like bassai-dai or kanku-dai) and breaking them down in terms of applications, is it important to you to maintain a balance between sportive and self-defense in TKD, why, and if so, how? Just some thoughts...thank you for listening!"

When I was in the US, I practiced a system called 'American Karate.' I only learned later that what we did was Taekwondo as brought to the US by GM Jhoon Rhee, practiced in proximity to its Karate cousins, and isolated from the machinations of the ITF and WTF organisations. When I eventually left the US, I took a page out of that playbook and called what I did 'Traditional Taekwondo.'

While I use the term 'Traditional,' I'm quite a progressive instructor. I want to benefit from the source material that links Taekwondo to Japanese Karate and then further back to Okinawa. I want to embrace improvements in sport sciences within our training. And I certainly want to benefit from the self defence or situational training methodology which combative instructors promote.

In the journeys I've taken to understand the system, I have tried my best to pay tribute to the original spirit of the forms as was taught to me by my teacher. In subsequent encounters with other schools and other instructors, I have received a wide range of feedback some which I'd like to share:

  • Comment 1: Your form is a stone's throw from Karate.
  • Comment 2: ITF doesn't do it that way now, but that was how I was taught.
  • Comment 3: Your forms don't show the evolution which you've undergone.

In response - the forms are not mine. I simply use them as a syllabus. Just like in regular schools, if an inexperienced teacher sticks too closely with a syllabus, their students will get a lackluster education. The experienced teacher however, uses the syllabus as a guide and a launchpad. Likewise, I am merely the 'lens' ... the forms are just a framework for me to introduce skills and share experience.

I have made no secret that my system does continue to practice the vestiges of Chung Do Kwan kata from GM Jhoon Rhee; this has given me a link into the rich tapestry formed by Okinawan and Japanese stylists. But while I highly respect where the source code of hyungs come from, I am at the same time gratified that I don't have to put up with an institutionalised way of interpreting or stylistically claustrophobic view of such kata.


Nicola said...

Happy Christmas and very best wishes in 2014 thanks for the inspiration in 2013 !

Rick Matz said...

Thank you! A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours as well.