You may or may not know, but Taekwon-Do is a relatively modern martial art, having been developed and formalised only in the middle of last century. It has its basis in Karate which General Choi learned in Japan, but also in the ancient Korean martial art/game of Taek Kyon.
(If you don’t want to read the rest of this post, but just want to see Taek Kyon in action… scroll down for the video!)
When General Choi was young he was expelled from school for standing up against the Japanese who were in control of Korea. He was sent away to a teacher to learn calligraphy, but the calligraphy master also was a master of Taek Kyon. He proceeded to teach the young Choi the movements of this ancient art.
This heavily influenced the General’s thinking when he began to develop a Korean art. As mentioned he had learned Karate in Japan, but after the war and occupation were over he really wanted to get away from the Japanese Karate and introduce something truly Korean.
Drawing on his knowledge of Taek Kyon and Karate he began to establish what has become known as Taekwon-Do.
So… what is Taek Kyon? Here’s a description from Wikipedia…
Taekkyon contains many kinds of techniques, including hand and leg techniques as well as joint locks, and head butts. Today, however, different styles sometimes do not emphasize all techniques. In all styles, just like in past centuries, kicks are most dominant. Taekkyon teaches a great variety of kicks, especially low kicks such as (ddanjuk) and jumps.
The movements of Taekkyon are fluid and dance-like with the practitioners constantly moving. It is unique because of constant bending and streching of knees which is called o-kum jil. The motions of Taekkyon may be similar to the motions of Taekwondo, but the techniques and principles differ a lot from those of other Korean martial arts. For example, Taekkyon does not make use of abrupt knee motions. The principles and methods used to extend the kick put more emphasis on grace rather than strength.
Taekkyon uses many sweeps with straight forward low kicks using the ball of the foot and the heel and flowing crescent-like high kicks. There are many kicks that move the leg outward from the middle, which is called gyot cha gi, and inward from the outside using the side of the heels and the side of the feet. The art also uses tricks like inward trips, wall-jumping, fake-outs, tempo, and slide-stepping. The art is also like a dance in which the fighter constantly changes stance from left to right by stepping forward and backwards with arms up and ready to guard.
But even better than that… watch it here in action. It’s quite unique. The experienced Taekwon-Doin will certainly recognise some techniques.
Note that this is a documentary with subtitles. YouTube might pop up some ads, which completely cover the subtitles, so make sure to close the ads down.
What I found interesting in this is the amazingly dynamic kicks, and that the high twisting kick (one of my favourites) features strongly.
I was also interested in the fact that in competition you are definitely not supposed to hurt your opponent. It’s interesting to see how this has flowed through into our competition today. (Although sometimes I do wonder!)
Anyway, enough waffling from me… here’s the video.