Elwood 5566

First Step – Yet Again

Posted in General, Martial Arts by 노강호 on April 8, 2012

I took my first lesson in the Oh Do Kwan style of taekwon-do on Thursday March 3rd, 1977. I was twenty-one, a soldier in the British Army, stationed in Osnabrück, West Germany. The school was the Song-Do-Kwan and my instructor, Georg Soupidis, then a 3rd degree black belt.

I took my 1st dan exactly 5 years and one month later, on Saturday 3rd of April, 1982. I remained in Osnabrück where I ran my own club in a neighbouring barracks and then, from 1985, became ronin, wandering from club to club never able to settle down because of a spat of short postings, followed by university, teacher training and employment in various schools and towns.

Training for my dan grade with Frank Zippel, left (1981, Osnabrück)

My taekwon-do lineage is close to the roots. Georg Soupidis studied under Rhee Hi-ka in the 1960’s while Rhee Ki-ha was introduced to taekwon-do, by one of, if not the founding father, Choi Hong-hi. Indeed, around 1973, Choi stayed in Georg’s house in Osnabrück.

Georg Soupidis and I in 1982

I actually started martial arts in 1973, in Münster, West Germany, from Peter Dominic’s, ‘Teach Yourself Karate.’

Song Do Kwan, Osnabrück, 1977-85 (1st dan). I trained here under, Georg Soupidies, then a 3rd, and later 4th Dan (now 6th Dan).

ITF taekwondo in London (1980). Under Richard Koo, 2nd Dan.

Wing Chun Kung Fu under Master Simon Lau – London (1980)

Close to a years one to one training with Wai Po Tang – when he was 15 and before his travels to China and Thailand. At the time he’d only just taken up Wing Chun. (1980)

Oh Do Kwan taekwon-do Paderborn, Germany 1986. Under Master Song?

ITF taekwon-do, Aylesbury, Bucks. 1988. (green belt). Under Leroy Soutar, 2nd Dan

Traditional shotokan karate (TASK), Aylesbury, Bucks. 1988 (green belt). Under Master John van Weenen.

Self defence instructor Essex University 1988-1992.

Yoseikan Karate (Essex University) 1988-1992. Under Master Mark Bishop, 4th Dan.

Shotokan Karate (Goldsmiths College, London) 1993-1995. Under Gabriel ? 2nd Dan.

Daegu, Korea, WTF taekwondo, 2000-2001 (purple belt). Under Master Bae 7th Dan.

Daegu, Korea 2011, Oh Do Kwan, taekwon-do, (no school)

Daegu, Korea, Monday, April 16th,  2012, Haidong Gumdo. (white belt), Under Master Kwon Yong-guk, 5th Dan (Haedong Gumdo), 6th Dan (Korean Traditional Weapons), 4th Dan (WTF Taekwondo).

In 2001 I had to stop training because I developed an umbilical hernia and had to travel back to the UK for surgery.

In, 2003, I was back training in Daegu, in the school I trained in in 2000-2001. Once again, right before taking my red belt I did a high axe kick and re-birthed a para-umbilical hernia. I later discovered it was part of the first hernia. Once again I had to go back to the UK for surgery under the same surgeon who again managed to bodge a second operation. The operation failed to close the tear in my abdominal muscle and over the next few years a substantial lump grew on my stomach that I named ‘Billy.’

I now considered my training in martial arts over. Indeed, that’s what I wrote in my diary after leaving the consultant’s surgery. In 2008, the hernia was successfully repaired and I returned to Korea. I had put on a lot of weight and considered myself highly unfit but after three years regular gym workouts, which initially began extremely lightly, I eased myself back into martial arts training and eventually took up haidong gumdo.

My Current Instructor – Danny – 권용국

My heart has always been with Oh Do Kwan style and despite having practiced other styles and compelled to take a break between hernia operations or when I ‘was lost,’ I have always practiced my patterns. Gumdo was a way back into full TKD training but I have quickly grown to like the style and unlike TKD, I’m not competing with past expectations. For now, Haedong Gumdo is my focus.

It’s now my goal to take my first dan in gumdo. TKD is too stressful on the knees at my age and the gumdo ideology much better at adapting to suit your own development.  And in a comforting way, practicing gumdo provides a continuity so that I do not feel I have abandoned my style and all it meant to me.

This blog chronicles my journey.

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©Facing A Single Opponent –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

 

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Every Boy a Black Belt

Posted in Martial Arts, taekwon-do, taekwondo by 노강호 on April 3, 2012

one master to another

Anyone who has lived in Korea will have noticed just how many kids, mostly boys, have black belts in one martial art or another, usually taekwondo, hapkido or komdo. Seeing kids in martial-art uniforms on the street is a daily experience and indeed many of my students come to school in a uniform, because they are either going onto, or coming from a martial-arts lesson, in much the same way as Western kids might wear a track suit. In South Korea, almost every boy and a good many girls are black belts and many are senior dan grades the equivalent of ‘grand master’ (usually 4th and above).

There is a lot of criticism in the west to the promotion of children to dan grades (ie. black belt grades) and it is a topic that, for as long as I can remember, has divided the martial arts community.  The school in which I trained in West Germany, over thirty years ago, and which still teaches today, didn’t promote children to dan grades and there was a strong ethos among the senior grades and instructors that earning a black-belt required both physical and mental maturity.

There is a world of difference between the experience of learning martial-arts in the West and  in Korea. Though there is always variation between schools in any country, I’ve generally found schools in the West to be far stricter in both terms of training and etiquette. Further, general attitudes towards the  ‘black belt’ differs significantly. It is these differences, as well as those concerning the nature of a style or art that shape attitudes towards junior or even infant dan grades.

I’m told by Koreans, that training and etiquette in Korea were much stricter before martial-arts schools became big business and before the development of sport taekwondo as practiced by the dominating style of taekwond0 on the peninsula, namely WTF (World Taekwondo Federation). Indeed, the different ‘spellings’ of taekwondo, namely ‘taekwondo’ and ‘taekwon-do, reflect the division of this art into two factions represented by the WTF and ITF (International Taekwon-do Federation). Currently, most schools in Korea are sport taekwondo schools under the umbrella of the WTF. I’ve yet to meet a Korean martial artist, or instructor, with any knowledge of the historical development of their art and the relationship between traditional taekwon-do (ITF) and sport taekwondo (WTF). And of course, there are other Korean kicking styles including Tangdoo-do and Mooduk-kwan – all closely related to taekwondo historically and aesthetically.

everyone a dan grade

It is difficult to ascertain the extent of change that may have occurred in Korean attitudes and approaches to training partly as we are either dependent on translated articles or first hand-accounts by the few westerners who may have trained here between the 50’s-80’s and who may have glamourised or romanticised their experiences. Discipline and etiquette in the Korean classroom has changed over the last ten years and without doubt changes are mirrored in the taekwondo dojang (training hall). When I trained in a WTF school in Daegu, in 2000-2001, and again in 2003, I remember writing about students being hit on the legs with sticks, and a boy who misbehaved and was put in a headlock until he passed out. However, these were isolated incidents and in general the school was far friendlier and etiquette and training much less regimented than in the  ITF schools back in the UK.

Martial-art schools, and especially WTF taekwondo dojangs, are one of the most common Korean establishments and their presence in terms of buildings, colourful mini-buses which ferry students to their schools and the logos, badges and stripes which personalise WTF uniforms, dominant the landscape. Competition for students is fierce and taekwondo schools are as subject to economic pressures as any other business and like many other businesses, they come and go on a regular basis. My old taekwondo school in Song-so, Daegu, despite being the most popular in the area, closed in 2005. A competitor with a better cartoon character on their fleet of mini-buses, or an additional touch of ‘bling-bling’ by way of a gold embossed lettering on a suit, is enough to cause students to migrate. With the pressures of competition, Korean taekwond0 schools have to be ‘child-friendly.’ ‘Adult friendly’ is rarely a consideration as I’ve never seen Korean adults training or doing anything other than instructing. I know adult classes exist but the predominant market caters for children. Hence, schools personalise the standard WTF dobok (uniform) with an array of piping, badges and designs in a way that is interesting, amusing but at the same time tacky, camp and ‘ballroom’ to the extent that only the sequins are missing. And in cold weather, students often wear long quilted coats, sort of anoraks which carry the schools logo and perhaps a few badges and which are worn not  just to and from the dojang but sometimes worn over the dobok  during training. There is also a custom, not as prevalent today as ten years ago, of wearing a white polar-neck ‘shirt’ under a dobok. Likewise, dojangs are often camped-up with bright colours, manga cartoon characters, stunning logos all of which result in designs more acquainted with kindergartens than gyms.

2nd dan

Like the private academies (hakgwons), taekwondo schools are judged by their results often to the expense of standards. As with English schools, where the ability to pass a test is more important than actually speaking English, the belt is of more importance than the art. Not only must the training be fun and pleasurable, but belts must be passed both with ease and speed. Training in Korea is the quickest way to gain a dan grade and it is easily within the realm of possibility to be wearing a black belt within ten months of putting on a dobok – I’m tempted to say ‘within ten months of first learning how to tie one’s belt’ except that a great number of students, even dan grades, don’t seem to have learnt the correct method. In Germany, where I gained my dan grade in the Chang-hon style of taekwon-do, the journey from white to black took in the region of 4-5 years and above blue belt each belt had to be remained at for 6 months while from red-black to black, the wait was a year.

My school, Song-do Kwan, had originally been owned by a Korean but in the early 1970’s many German dan grades began to break their affiliation with Korean instructors because they were concerned about both the commercialization of the art and the manner in which techniques were often withheld from students in order to maximise potential profits. My school was a two  floor gym, rented by the instructor, Georg Soupidis, and training for five nights a week (and I often trained in two or three sessions an evening),  cost a couple of pounds. It was the cheapest school I ever trained in and as the school had no affiliation and was independent of the ITF, there were neither club nor membership fees. Unlike Korea, most students were adults.

Training for kids in Korea is great with plenty of tumbling, running and jumping and there is no doubt it is energetic and aerobic but from both my training, and classes I’ve observed, there is little explanation of or focus on the intricacies of technique and a total lack of focus on power. And often, towards the end of a class, kids allowed to play ball or tag games.

In most Korean dojangs the instructors aren’t just senior dan grades, they are grand masters, and often senior ones. In my first Korean school, the chief instructor was a seventh dan and his assistants both fifth dans. In the UK, in all but wing-chun kung fu, I’ve only ever trained under 1st-4th dans and most have been 1st or 2nd dans. As a student in a Korean school, and certainly as a foreigner, you can expect your grand-master to give you some personal training. Generally, the relationship between instructors and students is less formal than in the UK and the respect afforded a senior grand-master is really  no different to that afforded a teacher, professor or even an adult in general. This contrasts starkly to my experience of ITF in the UK where senior dan grades, even junior ones, were treated like royalty.

3rd dan

I don’t want to generalise about UK training, because variation always exists but the ITF were particularly strict. Western oriental etiquette seems to over do the significance of bowing to the dojang, instructors and other practitioners maybe because it is not part of our culture and from my experience and observation, you are likely to both bow more reverently and more often in a British taekwondo school than in a Korean one.  The Western dojang seems to be more hallowed a space than it is in Korea perhaps because of the fact it is often a manky church or school hall. The increased deference to the area is meant to elevate its status to the point you forget that the bit of carrot stuck to your trouser leg is a remnant of the pensioners’ lunch meeting held earlier that day. Likewise, the status of ‘black-belt’ is of more significance though I think this has declined since the 1970’s and 80’s. Certainly, in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, dan grades were revered and while you might not have humbled yourself before them, you treated them with respect. As for grand-masters, when I was at grading sessions in the presence of Master Rhee Ki Ha (9th dan), head of the  UKTA, you were not allowed to speak to him or approach him.

(1965)the first TKD book to be published in the English, before the ITF, WTF or black piping

The UKTA tightly controlled the design of uniforms and regimented to the centimeter the location of the obligatory badges. ITF taekwon-do, certainly in the UK, has been both thoroughly commercialised and, like many other styles, turned into a sort of medieval guild which at one and the same time protects its own brand, claims superiority over all others, and promotes the importance of its higher ranks. These developments at times conflict from Choi’s original vision which appeared in the first book to be published on taekewon-do, in English, in 1965. Taekwon-do: The Art of Self-Defence,  not only included the  Chang-hon style patterns which form the backbone of the school, but the five Japanese Heian kata (Pinan-平安). Choi suggested that the skills required for yellow belt could be transmitted by a yellow belt to a white belt and there is the general assumption that once equipped with a black belt, one is able to teach.  As both a business and martial-arts organisation, the ITF has been highly successful but the training and membership have never been cheap.

I trained with three ITF schools in the UK and never really felt comfortable in any of them. One had a training regime that was horribly brutal and the 2nd dan instructor would regularly order an assistant-instructor, who happened to be a member of the British ITF team, to kick students from other styles out the gym’s double doors. The preamble to a training session included 200 front leg rising kicks. The school had 8 students, all male, all under 30. Meanwhile, in the same town I was training in a Shotokan school that had 60 members, the eldest of whom was a woman of 67. In another school in London, under a Korean 2nd dan, students were only taught techniques required for belts with all other techniques being ‘banned.’

a 4th dan

When it comes to junior dan grades, your opinion on their credibility is probably going to be based on the values you associate with your particular style. WTF taekwondo is a sport and though it produces some fantastic martial artists, the day-to-day nuts and bolts of a Korean WTF class is churning out a flurry of successive spinning kicks. In the competition arena power and technique are sacrificed to speed. Apart from in the practice of patterns, I don’t think my classes in WTF ever included hand techniques and indeed the WTF fighting rules have turned the hands and arms into vestigial organs which hang limply at the sides. Even styles which are not renowned for kicking ban head kicks because of their potential danger but the WTF allows head kicks, even the largely uncontrollable spinning and axe kicks, while banning hand to head techniques. For an art where the feet should be superior to the hands, this isn’t a very good advertisement for kicking potential. Further, as it is good strategy to ‘box’ a kicker and kick a ‘boxer,’ the WTF style fails to fully develop or raise awareness of both the importance of a good guard (against hand to head attacks) and effective offensive handwork strategy. Every style has limitations but I feel that if ITF taekwon-do were to die out and WTF dominant, much of the essence of taekwon-do would be lost. Naturally, a style is only as good as the person practising it, and there are excellent martial artists in all styles, but I cannot avoid concluding that the emphasis on sport severely weakens taekwondo as a martial art.

fantastic stretch and technique - 4th dan

With the objects of tournament competition as the orgainising features of WTF taekwondo, there is nothing wrong with junior dan grades. The lithe-light, supple bodies of children are able to unleash a blur of fascinating footwork which is equal to, if not better than that of many adults. Some of the grand masters I teach in school, and I teach several a day, are able to kick with as much stretch and beauty as the likes of Bill Wallace but in terms of power, they are totally lacking.

the famous 'Superfoot' Bill Wallace, an incredibly powerful technician. Dan grade? No idea...

And what age is too young to have a black belt or to be a grand master? The youngest 4th dan I’ve met so far has been 7! Does a child or infant grand master deserve the same respect and admiration as an adult senior grade? Does mental maturity have anything to do with black-belt qualities?

If the values of your art or style believe power to be an important facet, then junior dan grades are as incapacitated in this field, by virtue of their physical and mental development, as are prepubescent ballet dancers in the performance of adult ballet. This is no slur on their ability, it is simply that they do not yet have at their disposal, the tools to be powerful.

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Patriotic Taekwon-do and Sam-Il (삼일 March 1st)

Posted in History, patriotic Taekwon-do, taekwon-do, taekwondo by 노강호 on March 1, 2011

Remembering Sam-Il International Taekwon-do Style

It may be of interest  to know that there exist two ‘spellings’ for Korea’s most famous martial art; namely ‘taekwondo’ and ‘taekwon-do.’ Here in Korea, ‘taekwondo,’ basically sport taekwondo, is the most popular style with most practitioners, however not only does another major style of taekwon-do exists, but there were originally 9 different schools of TKD.

emblems of various kwans and federations

In the 1940’s, 5 major schools (kwans) had survived Japanese colonization where their practice had been banned. A ‘kwan’ was a school or group of martial artists following one particular style or leader. Kwan members were forced to study Korean systems, such as taekkyon, in secret, or learn Chinese or Japanese styles often in Japan, Manchuria or Okinawa. During this period, the future of Korean martial arts were significantly influenced by this exposure and most especially the exposure to Japanese Shotokan karate, the practice of which had been allowed. After WW2, when Japanese colonization ended, five major kwans emerged:

Soeng Moo Kwan (성무관) ‘Pine School.’ Founded by Ro Byung-jik, in 1944. Influenced by shotakan karate. Popular in the army.

Roh Byong-jik

Cheong Do Kwan (청도관) sometimes spelt Chung Do Kwan,  ‘Blue Wave School.’ Founded by Lee Won-kyuk, in 1944. Lee practiced taekkyon (Korean traditional kicking) and Okinawa te. Popular in the police as Lee was a teacher at the Korean Police Academy.

Chung Do Kwan emblem

Moo Duk Kwan (무덕관)  (from which Tang Soo Do is derived). Founded by Hwang Kee, in 1946. Hwang practiced taekkyon, tai chi and kung fu.

Hwang Kee, Martinov, Jae Joon Kim and Norris

Moo Duk Kwan

Kwon Bop Kwan – later became Chang Moo Kwan. Founded by Yoon Byeong-in, in 1946. Yoon studied kung-fu and karate andof all the kwan styles, early Chang Moo was the most heavily influenced by Chinese kung-fu.

Yoon Byeong-in

Yun Moo Kwan / Jidokwan – Founded by Chun Sang-sup, in 1946.

Jidokwan (Yun Moo Kwan)

By the end of the Korean War, four other schools were established but these emerged from the original 5 kwans. The ‘new’ styles were:

Han Moo Kwan – Founded August 1954 by Lee Hyo-yoon. This kwan derived from Yun Moo Kwan / Jidokwan.

Oh Do Kwan Founded by Choi Hong-hi (죄홍희) and NamTae-hi (남태희) in 1955 who were originally Chung Do Kwan (Cheong) exponents.

Jung Do Kwan – founded by Lee Yong-woo, in 1956 and also emerging from the Chung Do Kwan.

Kang Duk Kwan – founded in 1956 by Park Chul-hee and Hong Jong-pyo, emerging from Kwon Bop Kwan.

In the early 1950’s, President Syngman Rhee instructed Choi (Oh Do Kwan) to introduce martial arts to the Korean army where he was a senior officer.  On April 11th 1955, either Choi (Oh Do Kwan) or Song Duk-son (Chung Do Kwan) proposed the name ‘taekwon-do’ as the term to identify the styles practiced by the kwans. Though not all adopted this name and continued using terms such as tang soo do, it was broadly used. In the mid 50’s,  Syngman Rhee then instructed Choi to unify the nine kwans which led to the establishment of the Korean Taekwon-do Association (KTA) in 1959-60.

ITF's Choi Hong-hi

In the early 1960’s, The KTA and Korean Government dispatched a team of 12 taekwon-do ‘diplomats,’  known as The Original Masters of Taekwon-do, on a world tour to promote taekwondo and Korea. The twelve were: Choi Chang Keun, Choi Kwang Jo, Han Cha Kyo, Kim Jong Chan, Kim Kwang Il, Kong Young Il, Park Jong Soo, Park Jung Tae, Park Sun Jae, Rhee Chong Chul, Rhee Chong Hyup, and Rhee Ki Ha. The group was led by Choi Hong-hi and Nam Tae-hee of the Oh Do Kwan. Members of this group became instrumental in introducing and establishing taekwondo in countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, Germany the UK and Ireland.

Rhee Ki-ha, UKTA

In 1966, Choi (Oh Do Kwan), and other senior members  founded the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). In the early 1970’s, other members founded the official governing body, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). Their headquarters became the Kukkiwon. The WTF is supervised by the Sports Division of the Ministry of Culture.

Kukkiwon, headquarters of the WTF, Seoul

On January 8, 1977, the nine  kwans unified, recognizing the Kukkiwon as the black belt promotional body for Taekwondo. The WTF replaced kwan names and gave them a numerical designation: (1) Song-Moo-Kwan, (2) Han-Moo-Kwan, (3) Chang-Moo-Kwan, (4) Moo-Duk-Kwan, (5) O-Do-Kwan, (6) Kang-Du-Kwan, (7) Jung-Do-kwan, (8) Ji-Do-Kwan, and (9) Chung-Do-Kwan.

Korean demonstration team

WTF taekwondo emerged largely because of political machinations between the various kwans and its subsequent popularity, especially in Korea, was enhanced by the introduction of taekwondo into  the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. In 2010, taekwondo became a sport in the Commonwealth games. ITF taekwon-do has suffered division since Choi’s death in 2002 and now has three competing organizations, two in Austria and one in Canada all claiming direct decent from Choi and the ITF. The ITF, structured on Oh Do Kwan practices and most especially retaining the 24 patterns originally practiced by the Cheong Do Kwan, also came to dominate North Korean taekwon-do. Pyongyang is the unofficial headquarters of ITF taekwondo training.

When Taekwondo Strikes (1973) broached the subject of the Japanese occupation

Although I have trained in both WTF and ITF styles, I have a preference for ITF which is perhaps not unusual as I took my black belt in this style and taught it for a number of years. The reason for my preference is that for many ITF practitioners, practicing at a time when Korea was isolated and mysterious, learnt about Korea came from the Choeng Do school (Blue Wave School) of patterns which were taught throughout the  Korean army and in universities. All the patterns imparted some aspect of Korean history. Though my knowledge was superficial, I at least knew who founded Korea, who the Hwa Rang-Do were and who Ahn Joong-gun was at a time when you’d have found it difficult to locate  any relevant information whatsoever.  A few years ago I quite impressed a Korean teacher when they asked me if I knew who, in tradition, was reputed to have  founded Korea. I instantly replied, somewhat like a robot, ‘the holy Dan Gun’ legendary founder of Korea, 2333 BC.’ When taking my junior grading in Germany, you were required to know the relevance of each pattern.

Today is Sam-Il, which the anniversary of the birth of the Korean Independence Movement which was initiated when 33 nationalists signed a Declaration of  Independence, telephoned the local Japanese police to tell them what they had done, and were subsequently arrested. The event not only led  to some softening of harsh Japanese rule, but led to further displays of nationalism both in Korea and further afield.

We herewith proclaim the independence of Korea and the liberty of the Korean people. We tell it to the world in witness of the equality of all nations and we pass it on to our posterity as their inherent right.

We make this proclamation, having 5,000 years of history, and 20,000,000 united loyal people. We take this step to insure to our children for all time to come, personal liberty in accord with the awakening consciousness of this new era. This is the clear leading of God, the moving principle of the present age, the whole human race’s just claim. It is something that cannot be stamped out, stifled, gagged, or suppressed by any means.

Japanese troops at West Gate, Seoul, 1904

Sam Il, (which means 3,1, ie March 1st), is the 16th pattern of the International Taekwon-do Federation and the pattern used to test black belts for their 3rd dan. It comprises 33 movements, as a reminder of the 33 activists who had the courage to sign their name to a document that they knew would lead to imprisonment, and possibly their torture and death.

I no longer train in TKD but I feel its spirit and I miss it. My own teacher, Georg Soupidis, trained under one of the Original Masters of Taekwondo, namely Rhee Ki-ha and gained his black belt under him. Rhee is still the leading figure in the British International Taekwon-do Federation and I once spoke to him at a grading in the UK. And General Choi Hong-hi once stayed at Georg’s house when he was visiting Germany. Further, if you should find a copy of Choi’s ‘bible’ of taekwon-do, on one of the back pages, Georg can be seen among the ITF black belts representing West Germany.

There are twenty four patterns in ITF taekwon-do, all descended from the original Cheong Do Kwan (Blue Wave School). ‘One pattern for each hour of the day.’ All have a significance in terms of Korean history and it’s struggles against oppression and diversity and I have certainly found no other form of martial more patriotic or more insistent on developing decent citizens, via a code of conduct, than taekwondo and none more so than taekwon-do. If you want a potted history lesson, read through the meanings of the 24 patterns, below…

Name Meaning Level
CHON-JI means literally “the Heaven the Earth”. It is, in the Orient, interpreted as the creation of the world or the beginning of human history, therefore, it is the initial pattern played by the beginner. This pattern consists of two similar parts; one to represent the Heaven and the other the Earth.It is said that the pattern was named after Lake Chon-Ji, a beautiful lake in North Korea with water so clear and calm that you can literally see the Heaven meeting the Earth. 9th Gup
DAN-GUN is named after the holy Dan-Gun, the legendary founder of Korea in the year of 2333 B.C. 8th Gup
DO-SAN is the pseudonym of the patriot Ahn Chang-Ho (1876-1938). The 24 movements represent his entire life which he devoted to furthering the education of Korea and its independence movement. 7th Gup
WON-HYO was the noted monk who introduced Buddhism to the Silla Dynasty in the year of 686 A.D. 6th Gup
YUL-GOK is the pseudonym of a great philosopher and scholar Yi I (1536-1584) nicknamed the “Confucius of Korea”. The 38 movements of this pattern refer to his birthplace on 38o latitude and the diagram represents “scholar”. 5th Gup
JOONG-GUN is named after the patriot Ahn Joong-Gun who assassinated Hiro-Bumi Ito, the first Japanese governor-general of Korea, known as the man who played the leading part in the Korea- Japan merger. There are 32 movements in this pattern to represent Mr. Ahn’s age when he was executed at Lui-Shung prison (1910). 4th Gup
TOI-GYE is the pen name of the noted scholar Yi Hwang (16th century), an authority on neo-Confucianism. The 37 movements of the pattern refer to his birthplace on 37o latitude, the diagram represents “scholar”. 3rd Gup
HWA-RANG is named after the Hwa-Rang youth group which originated in the Silla Dynasty in the early 7th century. The 29 movements refer to the 29th Infantry Division, where Taekwon-Do developed into maturity.The meaning of this pattern sometimes causes confusion as it refers to two time periods, the Hwa-Rang youth group of the 7th century and the Korean 29th Infantry Division formed by General Choi in 1953. 2nd Gup
CHOONG-MOO was the name given to the great Admiral Yi Soon-Sin of the Lee Dynasty. He was reputed to have invented the first armoured battleship (Kobukson) in 1592, which is said to be the precursor of the present day submarine. The reason why this pattern ends with a left hand attack is to symbolize his regrettable death, having no chance to show his unrestrained potentiality checked by the forced reservation of his loyalty to the king. 1st Gup
KWANG-GAE Is named after the famous Kwang-Gae-Toh-Wang, the 19th King of the Koguryo Dynasty, who regained all the lost territories including the greater part of Manchuria. The diagram (+) represents the expansion and recovery of lost territory. The 39 movements refer to the first two figures of 391 A.D., the year he came to the throne. 1st Dan
PO-EUN is the pseudonym of a loyal subject Chong Mong-Chu (1400) who was a famous poet and whose poem “I would not serve a second master though I might be crucified a hundred times” is known to every Korean. He was also a pioneer in the field of physics. The diagram ( – ) represents his unerring loyalty to the king and country towards the end of the Koryo Dynasty. 1st Dan
GE-BAEK is named after Ge-Baek, a great general in the Baek Je Dynasty (660 A.D.). The diagram ( | ) represents his severe and strict military discipline. 1st Dan
EUI-AM is the pseudonym of Son Byong Hi, leader of the Korean independence movement on March 1, 1919. The 45 movements refer to his age when he changed the name of Dong Hak (Oriental Culture) to Chondo Kyo (Heavenly Way Religion) in 1905. The diagram ( | ) represents his indomitable spirit, displayed while dedicating himself to the prosperity of his nation. 2nd Dan
CHOONG-JANG is the pseudonym given to General Kim Duk Ryang who lived during the Lee Dynasty, 14th century. This pattern ends with a left-hand attack to symbolize the tragedy of his death at 27 in prison before he was able to reach full maturity. 2nd Dan
JUCHE is a philosophical idea that man is the master of everything and decides everything, in other words, the idea that man is the master of the world and his own destiny. It is said that this idea was rooted in Baekdu Mountain which symbolizes the spirit of the Korean people. The diagram ( | ) represents Baekdu Mountain. 2nd Dan
KO-DANG is the pseudonym of the patriot Cho Man Sik who dedicated his life to the independence movement and education of Korea. The 39 movements of the pattern show the number of times of his imprisonment as well as the location of his birthplace on 39 degrees latitude.Ko-Dang was replaced by Juche in the early 1980s, either in the year 1982 or 1983. 2nd Dan
SAM-IL denotes the historical date of the independence movement of Korea which began throughout the country on March 1, 1919. The 33 movements in the pattern stand for the 33 patriots who planned the movement. 3rd Dan
YOO-SIN is named after General Kim Yoo Sin, a commanding general during the Silla Dynasty. The 68 movements refer to the last two figures of 668 A. D., the year Korea was united. The ready posture signifies a sword drawn on the right rather than left side, symbolizing Yoo Sin’s mistake of following his king’s orders to fight with foreign forces against his own nation. 3rd Dan
CHOI-YONG is named after General Choi Yong, Premier and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces during the 14th century Koryo Dynasty. Choi Yong was greatly respected for his loyalty, patriotism, and humility. He was executed by his subordinate commanders headed by General Yi Sung Gae, who later become the first king of the Lee Dynasty. 3rd Dan
YON-GAE is named after a famous general during the Koguryo Dynasty, Yon Gae Somoon. The 49 movements refer to the last two figures of 649 A. D., the Year he forced the Tang Dynasty to quit Korea after destroying nearly 300,000 of their troops at Ansi Sung. 4th Dan
UL-JI is named after general Ul-Ji Moon Dok who successfully defended Korea against a Tang’s invasion force of nearly one million soldiers led by Yang Je in 612 A.D., Ul-Ji employing hit and run guerilla tactics, was able to decimate a large percentage of the force. The diagram ( L) represents his surname. The 42 movements represents the author’s age when he designed the pattern 4th Dan
MOON-MOO honors the 30th king of the Silla Dynasty. His body was buried near Dae Wang Am (Great King’s Rock). According to his will, the body was placed in the sea “Where my soul shall forever defend my land against the Japanese.” It is said that the Sok Gul Am (Stone Cave) was built to guard his tomb. The Sok Gul Am is a fine example of the culture of the Silla Dynasty. The 61 movements in this pattern symbolize the last two figures of 661 A.D. when Moon Moo came to the throne. 4th Dan
SO-SAN is the pseudonym of the great monk Choi Hyong Ung (1520-1604) during the Lee Dynasty. The 72 movements refer to his age when he organized a corps of monk soldiers with the assistance of his pupil Sa Myung Dang. The monk soldiers helped repulse the Japanese pirates who overran most of the Korean peninsula in 1592. 5th Dan
SE-JONG is named after the greatest Korean king, Se-Jong, who invented the Korean alphabet in 1443, and was also a noted meteorologist. The diagram (Z) represents the king, while the 24 movements refer to the 24 letters of the Korean alphabet. 5th Dan
TONG-IL denotes the resolution of the unification of Korea which has been divided since 1945. The diagram ( | ) symbolizes the homogenous race.

VARIOUS PERFORMANCES OF SAM-IL HYOENG (삼일형) ‘BLUE WAVE SCHOOL.’

Some  Interesting links

jidokwan link

songmookwan link

Link to ITF taekwon=do patterns taken from here

World Taekwondo Federation link

International Taekwon-do Federation link (1)

International Taekwon-do Federation (2)

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

In the Days When Google was Gobble-dee-gook

You naively expected this

Podcast 72

I often mention that ten only a few years ago there was little information available on most aspects of Korean culture. Looking back just a few years the changes that have taken place are truly incredible. For those of us who are older, it is easy to forget that access to a whole range of information, all at your fingertips, is a luxury that at one time did not exist and that ‘one time’ was only a couple of years ago; for those who are younger, it is worth pondering the Korean experience before the incredible growth in access to, and compilation of, information – a process still in development.

and found this

When I decided to come to Korea in 2000, it certainly wasn’t for a job and the only factor influencing my decision to step on the plane was to discover a country which at the time ranked with exotic and mysterious destinations such as Mongolia and Tibet.  Just ten years ago anyone coming to Korea, perhaps more so from Europe than the USA, which has had both a closer relationship with Korea and attracted a substantial number of Korean immigrants, did so blind. Other than the information supplied by your recruiter and the odd book in libraries, access to information or first hand accounts was scant. Those who decide to come to Korea today are able to furnish themselves from the abundance of information available in a range of formats and I suspect many are now lured here not because of  the mysterious, but in search of employment. I in no way mean to demean or underplay the reasons people currently come to Korea and it certainly provides a culture shock. But I envy  those who arrived here in the early 1990’s or 1980’s at a time when Korea was not the place it was in 2000.

when your PC looked like this (Macintosh PC circa 1999)

I kept a diary from my first day and reading through its pages it is clear how the internet has become a fundamental resource in both deliberating whether to undertake the experience and in influencing and developing your understanding of Korea. It may even influence the experiences you engage in while on the peninsula. Change has been so rapid, and the resources we now access  have become so integral, it is easy not just to take fore-granted its impact,  but to even doubt that it was really that difficult to access information in the first place.

and your mobile phone, if you had one, looked like this (2000)

Writing in hangul was a major obstacle and you simply couldn’t go into your PC, make a few tweaks and then be able to write in Korean or hanja and besides, in 2000, few teachers had air-conditioning let alone a personal computer with an internet connection. Before laptops and net-books, most of the waygukin you met were in PC bangs where you spent a substantial part of your week. And If you bought a PC  you were privileged but still required Microsoft Proofing Tools to enable you to write in Korean or hanja and which cost c£70 a package.

Korean dictionaries, certainly in the UK, were small and difficult to buy. On the eve of my first trip, I went to London’s largest bookshop, Foyles, and discovered the entire range of books on the Korean language amounted to two introductory books, a useless dictionary and the small copy of the NTC Compact Korean English Dictionary. I bought all four depleting them of their entire Korean language collection. The dictionaries used transliterated Korean rather than hangul script. Meanwhile, books devoted to Japanese occupied an entire book case.

and this was what you needed to write Hangul (and it was expensive)

I’ve known a number of westerners who arrived in Korea in the late 80’s  and whose Korean, many years later, is still rudimentary. It’s easy to criticise such apparent laziness until you remember there was no internet to support your learning or provide lessons, few decent language courses or dictionaries and unless you were in Seoul or one of the big cities, few language classes. After a few years enduring such conditions it becomes a case of, ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ As for hanja, I’ve met westerners proficient in Korean who didn’t even know what hanja was. While access to information on the internet existed, certainly around 2000, there was very little compiled on Korea or Korean culture and the ability to write in hanja characters was difficult, costly and dependent on Korean based language packages. Today, though limited for the non Korean speaker, information on hanja is available and if you aren’t interested in trying to learning it, you can very easily research what it comprises.

a time when you really did have to 'teach yourself'

Once again, in the UK, other than on the Korean war, there were few books on Korean history and finding information on topics such as the Hwa-Rang-Do or one of the Korean dynasties, was difficult. And when you did find such books, usually in academic libraries rather than public ones, they were specialist and somewhat boring for the reader who wanted general information. It has only been in very recent years, by which I mean the last 6 or 7  that such information has appeared and I can remember trawling Google in 2002 or 2003 and finding very little other than specialist academic references to major, Korean historical periods. Exactly the same conditions applied to Korean culture, prominent figures, cooking or geography.  Back in the UK I have a small collection of books on Korean culture, history, cooking, hanja and language etc, but all of them were printed and bought in Korea, and ferried back to the UK. So, on returning to Britain in 2002 and 2004, I felt I had to take a part of Korea home with me because there was no way to access ‘Korea’ in the UK. In 1997, when TOPIK, the Korean language proficiency test was introduced for non-Korean speakers, it attracted 2274 people; in 2009, 180.000 people took the exam and test centers now exist globally.

TOPIK exam hall

Korean related information on the internet was in its infancy; Google, for example, became a registered domain name in 1997  and certainly before 2000 most lay-people researched information from software such as Encarta. In 2000, I was originally going to teach in Illsan, I can remember using the internet to find information on this location and found very little. I have just this moment keyed ‘Illsan’ into Google search and in 14 seconds have access to 1.800.000 written resources and 1200 images. Learning Korean and hanja meant you compiled your own dictionary because the words or characters your learnt weren’t in dictionaries and there were no translation tools such as Babblefish or Google to provide support. Even with hangul, I still keep my own dictionary because western ones, even on the internet, don’t explain words uniquely Korean. As for idioms? Try searching Korea idioms on the internet or the availability of electronic dictionaries which are designed for the English native speaker learning Korean. All resources still being developed.

Resources in their infancy 10 years ago, blogging, vlogging, podcast, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter etc, have since become a fundamental means of sharing experiences and providing first hand information not just about all aspects of Korean culture, but on more specific topics such as life for the foreigner and whether you are vegetarian, teacher or gay, information is readily available. Blogging now provides an immense wealth of information but it is worth remembering that the term ‘blog’ was only coined by Peter Merholz, in 1999. Major blogging software which has helped give rise to the blogging phenomena are recent developments: Blogger emerged in 1999 and WordPress in only in 2003.

Song So, Daegu, November 2000

Even today, unless you live in London, obtaining Korean foodstuff is still almost an impossibility and online order of Korean foodstuffs is undeveloped. None of this is very surprising given there were very few Korean living in the UK until recently. Between 1998-1992, at a university with one of the most diverse students populations in the UK, there was a total absence of Koreans and Russians. Indeed, I was to meet Mongolian students before I met any from Korea. And, I can recall the very first five Korean I met; the first, a taekwondo instructor in London, in 1979, the second, a taekwondo instructor in Paderborn, Germany, in 1986, the third, a student in a school near New Maldon,  London, in 1998, and finally, two Koreans in a hotel in the Philippines, in 1998. I had a fleeting ‘meeting’ with Rhee Ki-ha (now  9th Degree Black Belt, taekwon-do), in 1988 but as a grading taekwon-do student, I was forbidden to talk to him.

Daegu 2001. When westerners were still a little unique

Korean Culture – the Korean Wave, Korean football players playing for British football teams, LG, Nong Shim, I-River etc, all arrived on British shores in the years following my first visit and indeed, this Christmas, I was treated to the first Korean cookery program I have see on British television. However, I suspect its genuineness as the recipes included beetroot and English pear (you can easily buy Asian pear in the UK). And neither chopsticks or kimchi featured!

and before the advent of the Korean wave

Up until a few years ago, if you arrived in Korea from Britain, you probably knew nothing about Korean society and possibly expected ‘second world’ conditions. Much of what you learnt about Korea occurred through accidentally stumbling across something and you certainly couldn’t learn from a computer screen. Indeed, access to a computer was probably detrimental to your Korean experience, removing you from, rather than immersing you in, Korean culture. Today, a computer can certainly enhance your experience and if you need to know how to: use your Korean washing machine, plan a trip, find a doctor during a holiday or translate a sentence from Korean into Blackfoot, it’s at your fingertips. Day to day life in Korea has been ‘made simple’ by the tomes of information we can now access  and only last week I used the internet to help me adjust my ondol heating control. With hundreds of accounts on topics such as soju, the Boryeonng Mud Festival  and kimchi, done to death, a blogger is forced to use a range of media formats (vlogging, photographs, podcasts, even cartoons), and  driven to be more creative and original in their perspective  especially if posting on what are now common, if not mundane subjects.

Link to TOPIK Guide.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Korean Language – Project in the Process

Posted in Korean language by 노강호 on October 13, 2010

 

you might find it... then again you might not

I am no authority on the Korean language, in fact, despite my study, when I generally speak Korean, Koreans look at me in dumbstruck confusion. I’m sure the experience is common.

Back in 2000, when I first experienced living in Korea, there was little on the internet either in terms of Korean language, history (other than the Korean War) and culture. Indeed, if you wanted to write Korean on a computer outside Korea, you had to buy Microsoft Proofing Tools. Korean language courses and dictionaries, certainly in the UK, were few and far between. It’s not really surprising, despite my having traveled fairly extensively,  I can put dates to the first four Koreans I met before coming to Korea: Richard Koo, 4th degree Taekwon-do, instructor, Twickenham, London, 1979, Rhee Ki Ha, 8th degree, August 1988,  a student in a British school in 1994 and a student in the Philippines in 1996. My university, which boasted 14% overseas students (in 1989), had no Korean students between 1988-1992 and it was a similar situation in  a subsequent university in London, where I was a ‘live-in,’ hall of residence counselor,  between 1992 and 1996. My house in the UK, only a fifteen minute walk from my original university of study, now boasts a small Korean community and you can even buy kimchi in the campus supermarket.

An early scarcity of anything Korean taught me to record even basic words and I continued this practice up until about 5 years ago. Now, I record only words which are obscure and absent from dictionaries because you can guarantee if you don’t, that when you need them, they’ll have been forgotten. I do exactly the same with hanja. Information in relation to Korea is so new, that dictionaries often contain mistakes, misinformation or simply do not list a word you might be searching. As an example, ‘persimmon,’ ‘peach’ and ‘chili’  appear in most dictionaries but there are there are several different types of each. Persimmon can be bought very sort, soft, hard, and dried and all have different names which are not so easily tracked down.  The problem regularly occurs and though you can ask people to clarify, experience has taught me they too, often make mistakes or simply don’t know the answers.

So, I have decided to place a small dictionary ‘page,’ accessed through my side-bar, to list words that are obscure and/or interesting. Of course, they are a personal list and like anyone else learning Korean, each of us has a batch of words pertinent to our own interests and experiences. However, it can be shared and added to and corrected by anyone who is interested and is prepared to send a comment. Most words I will generally look up in my mediocre dictionary, and will always check in an online dictionary such as Babblefish. However, often words I want translating, are simply not there. I do not intend  this resource to be for anything other than obscure words and words often missing from dictionaries because their is no  direct English equivalent. You can access Interesting and Obscure Korean here.

 

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