12 November 2019

2019 International Academic Conference for the Promotion of Traditional Martial Arts

On Friday, November 1st, 2019, I presented a paper at the 2019 International Academic Conference for the Promotion of Traditional Martial Arts, hosted on Jeju Island, Korea, by the Korean Alliance of Martial Arts #대한무도학회. The theme of the conference was the "Popularization and Globalization of Traditional Martial Arts" with the additional aim of promoting the academic development martial arts.

The title of my presentation was "Preserving Korean Body Culture in Traditional Korean Martial Arts."

I started the presentation about Korean body culture with some audience participation, teaching them a basic movement sequence from traditional Korean dance. It worked well, but I must admit I was a bit nervous as I wasn't sure if the audience would go along with it, as they are all serious academics including some martial art grandmasters and even a judo Olympian. I'm glad they were all good sports though, as during my presentation I often referred back to this movement and I am sure that their participation made the abstract concepts I discussed much more tangible.

If you are curious about the particular movement I taught them, it was this one than can roughly be translated as "waist wrapping" [허리감기사위].

My presentation had two parts. First, I explained my ethnography of traditional Korean body culture as manifested in traditional movement disciplines, in particular traditional Korean dance and Korean martial arts. This involved movement analysis, whereby areas of overlap in the movements of Korean dance and martial arts were identified and described as kinetic characteristics. The study required ethnographic descriptive research, cross-referenced with written work. I identified eight kinetic characteristics that seem to be present in traditional Korean movement disciplines. While not all these elements are always present in all traditional Korean movement disciplines or in every technique, many or even most of them are usually perceivable and it is the combination of several of these elements that gives traditional Korean movement disciplines their particularly Korean identity.

In the second part of my presentation I showed how modern taekwondo (i.e. Kukki/WT taekwondo) is evolving away from these traditional Korean kinetic characteristics. Because of changes to modern sparring rules and the inclusion of popular music and dance in modern taekwondo, taekwondo may be losing its traditional Korean identity.

I concluded my presentation by referring to the English idiom “adapt or die” that suggests that it is necessary for survival to evolve with the times. However, if attempts at promoting traditional martial arts lead to adaptation of those very “traditional” kinetic characteristics that exemplify a traditional Korean martial art, then adapting is as good as dying.

I'm really thankful that my presentation was very well received and based on the questions during the final discussions section, I can surmise that my presentation was one of the favourites for the day. I also received some requests by other scholars to work together on related research projects. I'm glad that my research in this field is slowly gaining traction and recognition.

Since I'm currently still developing my paper for submission with an academic journal, I can't post it in full on my blog just yet. However, some of the ideas I address regarding Korean body culture have been touched upon on this blog through the years. The research paper it is just much more elaborated and much better substantiated with references to other research and academic publications.

11 November 2019

UNESCO ICM: 2019 International Martial Arts Academic Seminar


On October 30th, 2019, I attended the 2019 International Martial Arts Academic Seminar as a discussion panelist for one of the three sessions. The annual academic seminar is hosted by UNESCO ICM, that is, UNESCO's International Center for Martial Arts for Youth Development and Engagement. The theme for this year's seminar was "Advancing Sustainable Development Goals through Martial Arts". When I first heard the theme, I was rather confused -- what has martial arts to do with sustainable development. However, it was eventually explained to me. UNESCO has identified 17 sustainable development goals as part of its Agenda 2030. Among these goals are gender equality and (youth) education, which are part of the focus of UNESCO ICM. The more specific focus of this seminar was youth development and women empowerment through martial arts.

The keynote speech was given by Susan Vize, who is one of UNESCO's regional advisor for Social and Human Sciences. She focuses on the program initiatives currently in use and being developed by UNESCO for youth development through martial arts. I found it a very useful presentation, and look forward to the resources that are being made available by UNESCO for this purpose.

Session 1 focussed on Martial Arts for Youth and included Professor Emeritus Colin Higgs and Prof Jungheon Kim as presenters, with Prof John Frankl as panelist.

Session 2 looked at Women Empowerment through Martial Arts and included Christopher Matthews and Lina Khalifeh (founder of SheFighter) as presenters and Ana Maria Stratu from the Women in Sport Commission as panelist.

Session 3 aimed at Ways to Promotoe Martial Arts Education and Good Practices, and had Professor John Johnson and Chungju Taekkyun Operation Manager Jounkun Shin as speakers, and myself (Dr. Sanko Lewis) as panelist.

I always find the UNESCO ICM seminars very interesting, but must say that I found this year's seminar particularly practically useful. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to summarize all the great presentations and discussions here. However, a PDF of the seminar booklet that contains prints of the presenter's Powerpoint slides can be downloaded here.

I think I was the only one of the academic participants who
posed for a kick photo! (-;

06 November 2019

1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference Youngsan University

1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference
Youngsan University

On October 4th, 2019, Youngsan University hosted their 1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference at their Yangsan Campus (Ulsan, South Korea). I was invited to present a paper for this conference.

Dr Sanko Lewis presenting at the
1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference,
Youngsan University

I titled my presentation "From Individual Heroes to National Performers: The Shift in Taekwondo's Peace Promotion Duty". Following is the abstract:

The writings of several of the early taekwondo pioneers connect taekwondo practice with peace promotion. These pioneers charged taekwondo practitioners with a duty to contribute to justice, defend the weak, and build a more peaceful world. National and international taekwondo organizations such as the Kukkiwon, World Taekwondo, and the International Taekwon-Do Federation have taken up the charge of peace promotion through taekwondo by means of transnational events, such as goodwill tours and joined taekwondo demonstrations by adversarial states (e.g. North and South Korea). These activities may be described as soft diplomacy initiatives and have seen some level of success. While these soft diplomacy activities are in line with the goal of peace promotion that the early pioneers advocated, they are qualitatively different from what the pioneers advocated. Originally, the responsibility of peace promotion was on the individual taekwondo practitioner, who ought to cultivate moral character, courage, and martial art skill in order to standup for justice and defend the weak. With the current use of taekwondo for soft diplomacy, the responsibility of peace promotion has shifted from the individual practitioner to the corporate, i.e. the governing and national bodies. Instead of focusing on issues surrounding justice and the protection of the weak, these corporate bodies focus on geopolitical cooperation, mediated through cultural exchange activities in the form of taekwondo demonstrations, involving activities such as poomsae performances and board-breaking that require little actual courage or serious personal risk to the individual practitioners. The charge to safeguard justice and physically defend the weak, which are acts of true courage that may have serious personal risk, as was envisioned by the taekwondo pioneers, is mostly ignored.

The article still needs some work before I can submit it with an academic journal for publication.

The conference included two other well established taekwondo researchers, Dr. John Johnson who spoke on "Mudo within North Korean Taekwondo Pedagogy" and Dr. Steven Capener, who addressed "How Korea Created and then Destroyed the Martial Sport of Taekwondo". Dr. John Frankl and Dr Udo Moenig took part in the discussion session. Drs. Johnson, Capener, Moenig, and myself (Lewis), are the four non-Korean academics living in Korea, working at universities here, and doing research in Taekwondo. Dr Frankl's martial art focus is Brazilian Jiujitsu.

16 September 2019

Potch TKD at SATI National Champs

Three members of the Soo Shim Kwan Potchefstroom Taekwon-Do Club entered the recent South Africa Taekwon-Do Institute (SATI) National Championships and all came back with medals.

Instructor Philip de Vos earned gold medals for patterns and power breaking in the Black Belt Patterns Male Power Breaking categories.

Tondorai Chavi earned a gold for sparring in the Senior Male Novice Middle & Heavy Weight category. Tondari also got a gold in the Adult Male Novice Special Breaking category.

Edrich Louw earned a gold medal in the Senior Male Novice Patterns category, and came second against team mate Tondari in the Senior Male Middle & Heavy Weight Sparring category, earning him a silver medal.

We are very proud of Instructor Philip and his students Tondarai and Edrich for the great achievements.

11 August 2019

The Long Fist Punch (aka Leopard Fist)

The Long Fist Punch (긴주먹)

The long fist (gin-jumeok 긴주먹) is one of ITF Taekwon-Do’s less known “fist” postures. It is not a particularly common striking method although I think it could prove devastating if used appropriately.

The long fist is formed by curling the front and middle knuckles of the fingers and pulling the thumb back, similar to the knife-hand posture. The result is a flattened hand position, with the middle knuckles protruded as the attacking surface. The name “long fist” is due to the slightly longer reach than the regular front forefist punch.

The main targets to attack with the long fist are the Adam’s apple and temple. Secondary targets may include other soft target areas such as the nerves on the side of the neck and Jugular veins, the trachea, the spaces between the ribs, the armpit, philtrum, bridge of the nose and even the eyes. The hand position need not be horizontal; it can be turned vertically, for instance, or diagonally, depending on the target. The long first also works well in a raking motion: raking the knuckles up and down the sternum creates quite a nasty sensation that causes people to retreat, or quickly raking the knuckles over the back of someone’s hand that is holding onto you often causes them to release their grip.

The long fist should not be used to punch hard targets like the skull as one is likely to injure one’s own hand.

The long fist works well for narrow targets such as the philtrum.

For people with long nails that can’t roll the hand into a full fist, the long fist may be a compromised alternative, although it doesn’t have the same range of targets as a front forefist punch does. Nevertheless, the same long fist hand posture may also work like a knife-hand strike with hardly any disadvantages. Also, with only minor adjustments the long fist hand posture can become a bear hand, under-fist, and back-hand strike. Alternatively, with the wrist pulled back it becomes an open fist. It is therefore a very useful default hand posture because it can so comfortably morph into other hand-weapons.

The long fist was most likely inherited from Karate where it is known as hiraken tsuki. It is very likely that Karate got the technique from Chinese martial arts, where it is often known as the leopard fist, which is a primary hand technique of Leopard Kung Fu, one of the Five Animal Styles. One can also find it in Choi Li Fut, and in more modern combat systems like Krav Maga where it is referred to as a half fist punch. 

18 June 2019

The Fingertip Hand Technique

Walking stance straight fingertip thrust (걷는서 선손끝 뚤기)

The photo above shows a straight fingertip thrust in walking stance 걷는서 선손끝 뚤기 (geodneunseo seon-son-ggeut ddulgi). The finger tip 손끝 (son-ggeut) hand position in ITF Taekwon-Do requires the tips of the forefinger, middle finger, and ring finger to be aligned. Notice how my three fingers are aligned in the photo. Because the length of fingers differ greatly from person to person, the degree to which one has to bend particular fingers to align with the shortest of the three fingers will be very specific to each individual. Of course, for most people the middle finger is the longest, hence it will be bent the most. The tips of the three fingers should be aligned at the front, but also pressed tightly against each other; in other words, the index finger and ring finger should put pressure against the middle finger. It is important to ensure that all three fingertips point forward. The middle finger which will be bent the most might have a tendency to point down, which is wrong, as shown in the photo below.

This photo shows an incorrect alignment of the fingertips.
In this photo, the tip of the middle finger is point downwards
instead of forwards like the index finger and ring finger.
For a proper technique, all the fingertips should point forward.
You can practice the correct positioning by tapping the three fingers together on a hard surface. This technique is designed to work with short clipped nails. (There are techniques such as the "cross-cut" aimed at the eyes that may benefit from longer nails, but the fingertip thrust works best with short nails.)

For a fingertip thrust, the hand can be turned vertical or with the palm either facing up or down, depending on the target aimed for. The vertical hand orientation is known as the spear hand or straight fingertip 선손끝 (seon-son-ggeut) as seen in the photo, the palm facing down orientation is known as the flat fingertip 어픈손끝 (eopeun-son-ggeut), and the palm facing up orientation is known as the upset fingertip 뒤집은손끝 (dwijib-eun-son-ggeut). There is also a variation where the fingers are at a right angle to the palm, which is known as the angled fingertip 호미손끝 (homi-son-ggeut).

Although a conditioned technique can be tough enough to pierce wooden boards, the technique is ideal for attacking nerve plexuses, such as the solar plexus (diaphragm), the philtrum, the bronchial plexus under the arm or the side of the neck, the nerves between the ribs, the pelvic region, and so on. Other soft targets such as the eyes and throat (windpipe) can also suffer damage from a finger tip thrust.

Fingertip attacks are classified as thrusting techniques in ITF Taekwon-Do. Thrusting techniques #뚤기 usually refer to techniques aimed at nerves and soft targets. Thrusts usually hit these vital spots straight on. Punches #찌르기 also usually attack linearly, but are generally aimed at harder targets; for instance, the sternum and ribs, or jaw (chin and angle of mandible) and skull (temple). A "thrust" should not be confused with a "strike" #대리기, which tends to reach its target with a curved or whipping trajectory.

The straight fingertip thrust as shown in the photos have the opposite palm below the elbow of the straightened arm. The palm-below-the elbow execution of the straight fingertip thrust is the formal way it is performed. This is not meant as a support for the arm. Rather, the palm is employed as a preliminary block. The palm is used to check the opponent's attack, to block down the opponent's attack, or push away the opponent's guard, in order to clear the path for the fingertip thrust. The block is formally taught as a palm downward block 손바닥 내려막기 (sonbadak nae-ryeo makgi) and as such the vector of the technique is downward. However, more advanced and realistic execution is as a type of parry, hence the block doesn't have to pedantically press down per se, but could instead just slap the opponent's attack aside (away from your center line), usually diagonally down rather than exactly downward. This deflection is very much akin to pak sao blocks in Wing Chun. As a strategy, this combination of clearing the obstacles followed by an instantaneous attack is very practical and can be done with other attacking tools. For instance, a palm downward block with simultaneous vertical punch, regular fore fist punch, or middle knuckle punch are obvious variation.

In the ITF Taekwon-Do curriculum, the straight fingertip thrust (with it's near instantaneous preliminary palm downward block) is taught around 8th geup as part of the fundamental movements in the pattern Do-San Teul (movement #6). Such a rapid combination of techniques is also found in another cluster in Do-San Teul, namely the fast motion double punch (movements #15 & #16 and #19 & #20).

Read more: Blocking in ITF Taekwon-Do

06 June 2019

The Unfortunate Cost of Evolving from Martial Art to Combat Sport

I've written long ago why I'm not fond of tournament sparring (1, 2). In short, if self-defence training is the goal, a focus on tournament sparring can hamper that goal because tournament sparring tends to narrow the scope of the training to the sporting arena context, which is far too artificial to reflect the reality of a self-defence encounter. Traditional martial arts, and in particular civilian defensive arts, envision quite a different context to prepare for than that of a competition ring.

However, in this post I want to speak about other "costs" that comes at the expense of a sport focus.

Here I want to focus on the WT style of Taekwon-Do as an Olympic sport. There are some attempts to get ITF Taekwon-Do to also join with WT to become one event alongside WT under the "Taekwondo" umbrella. There is a believe that such a move will secure the ITF Taekwon-Do's longevity, enhance its prestige, and strengthen Taekwon-Do's position at the Olympic Games.

Image Source: https://www.olympic.org/taekwondo

I am somewhat skeptical. I believe an evolution from martial art to combat sport comes at an unfortunate cost.

First, when a martial art changes into a sport there is a dilution of the rich historical arsenal of the original system. When Judo was developed as a streamlined version of Jujutsu, many of the original techniques were purged. Similarly, when the focus in Taekwondo becomes sport competition, a big percentage of techniques are inevitably neglected. Taekwondo enthusiasts are all aware how Olympic Taekwondo has reduced the martial art—that is by its very name supposed to be a foot-and-hand system—into primarily a kicking system. Sadly, an emphasis on kicking in sport Taekwondo has not enriched Taekwondo’s kicking arsenal with more kicks, but rather reduced the arsenal to only a handful of techniques that works well in the limited context of the sports ring.

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Roman_wrestling
Second, not only are there technical losses when a martial art becomes a sport, but there is also an intangible loss in the form of a reduced cultural and philosophical heritage. Of the surviving historic European martial arts (HEMA) that became modern sports such as western boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, and fencing, very little of the original cultural and philosophical heritage are practised and celebrated by the athletes training and competing in these sports. Even Judo, which was intended by its founder to be a pedagogic tool to teach certain philosophical values, is in current times usually practised simply as a sport with hardly any philosophical teachings as part of training. Contrary to such combat sports, in martial arts the cultural and philosophical heritages are usually integral to their practise.

Third, when the philosophical and cultural heritage is removed it is often replaced with “[p]ositive sporting values and objectives”*. In the case of Taekwondo as promoted by the WT, an emphasis is given to the sport values of Olympism. This means that the original East Asian philosophy and values that are inherent to the martial arts are replaced with western values (i.e. Grecian inspired Olympism) for the combat sport. The adoption of Olympism may at first seem commendable. However, the East Asian martial arts are not culturally neutral. Quite the opposite: East Asian martial arts, like folk dances, function as containers of cultural heritage. Therefore, when focussing on the sport aspect of the martial art there is an emphasis of the new sport values, which inevitably results in a de-emphasis of the original cultural heritage. In a discussion on the western-centric Olympic sports, Allen Guttmann laments the resultant cultural imperialism. He argues that even when East Asian martial arts spread to the west, they often “[transformed] in accordance with Western assumptions about the nature of sports”*. Ironically, instead of the intended goal of using Taekwondo for soft power diplomacy the result is a form of “soft colonialism,” where the original martial art loses its Oriental identity—to be replaced with a western inspired identity. At the very least this should be considered culturally insensitive and a regrettable loss.

Is the security and prestige of joining the Olympic Games worth the losses? For some people who see the opportunity of winning a medal at the Olympic Games in their chosen sport, it is worth it. For others, those who see the martial arts something other than a sport, for example as containers of cultural heritage, it is not.

18 April 2019

Knee-Bending Movement 오금질 in Korean Body Culture

A very important part of Korean body culture is the bending of the knees, known in Korean as "ogeum-jil" 오금질. In the video below, a Korean folk dance instructor discusses this feature of Korean movement. It is only in Korean, so it won't be of much value for most readers of my blog who do not speak Korean; however, even browsing through the video will highlight some of the similarities between the stepping in Korean folk dance and some of the ways we move in ITF Taekwon-Do.

The following video shows some Taekkyeon 택견 training. Taekkyeon is a Korean folk martial art that employs a three-beat triangular stepping known as "pumbalbgi" 품밟기 which also involves the Korean "ogeum-jil" or knee-bending.

It is likely that the term "ogeum-jil" is what became known as "knee-spring" in Taekwon-Do.

This motion of knee-bending is part of a larger aspect of Korean body culture known as "gulshin" 굴신, which refers to the contraction and expansion of the body through different means; for example, the bending and flexing of the knees, the expansion of the torso through breathing, and the lengthening of the spine, even the mental attitudes of lightness and heaviness. All of this may create a vertical lengthening or shortening of a persons frame, hence it has been translated into English by one dance scholar as "verticality".

In the following video about breathing in Korean traditional dance, one can see the different aspects of "gulshin" in action.

To understand ITF Taekwon-Do's sine wave motion, one has to take into consideration these aspects of Korean body culture. The sine wave motion is not merely a "scientific" attempt to increase the amount of body mass employed in techniques by first raising the body to create potential energy, and then dropping the body to convert the potential energy into kinetic energy. While this is part of how sine wave is understood, it should be understood within this larger, cultural framework. The sine wave movement is part of Korean body culture.

05 April 2019

"Martial Arts" in Korean

On a Facebook group that I belong, the following questions were recently posted:

1. When did the term "Art" get applied to martial studies? 
2. Do Koreans call TKD an "Art"?

The term “art” in “martial art” doesn’t mean “aesthetics,” as it is often suggested. The word comes from the old French “ars,” which means craftsmanship and was adopted into English to mean skill, particularly of something that needs to be practiced, hence the related term “artisan.” Thus, martial arts simply mean ‘war skills’ (“martial” from Mars, god of war; “arts” from ‘ars’ [old French], meaning craftsmanship, skill).

(As a side note, Dr John Johnson and Dr Peter Ha wrote a paper in which they argue that the English term “martial art” should be understood as a system for self-cultivation. They also propose that the terms “combat system” and “combat sport” be used for other types of martial arts that do not have the self-cultivation goal, but rather combative or sportive goals, respectively. I don’t agree with how they define the term “martial art” based on the etymology of “art” that means skill, as I explained above, but I agree with their assessment that there are different categories of martial arts and that using more precise language is probably better.)

In Korean there are three terms that is usually translated into English as martial arts: “musul 무술”, “muye 무예”, and “mudo 무도”. The base term “mu 무” (from the hanja: 武) translates to roughly “martial” (“martiality”). The suffixes “-sul 술”, “-ye 예”, and “-do 도” translate as “skill”, “art”, and “way” respectively. Since “art” in the English term “martial art” means “skill,” the closest Korean equivalent is “musul”. Interestingly, the “art” in “muye” actually does have a stronger aesthetic connotation in Korean; while “martial art” in English is actually more about a practiced skill, the Korean term “muye” is more about a creative skill.

The preferred term in Chinese for martial arts is “wushu” 武術, which is the same as “musul” in Korean and “bujitsu” in Japanese; i.e. martial skill. In Japanese, the term “budo” has become preferred for their (modern training of) martial arts and corresponds with the Korean “mudo”; i.e. martial way 武道.

Which is the Korean preference? Korean traditionalists typically use the term “muye 무예” (hanja: 武藝 ) in their writing. This point was brought up specifically by the professors at Kyunghee University (Korea) where I did my PhD. The ancient Korean martial art texts have “muye 무예” in their titles: Muyejebo (1598), Muyejebobeonyeoksokjip (1610), Muyesinbo (1759), Muyedobotongji (1790). A modern example is Taekkyeon practitioners who refer to their style as “our [Korean] martial art” (uri-ui muye 우리의 무예) in their writings. Even General Choi, when he described Taekwon-Do as the “Korean art of self-defense” literally called it “hoshin yesul 호신예술” (i.e. the art [creative act] of self-defense).

There are two things that need to be pointed out:

First, although the term “muye” is typically used to refer to traditional martial arts in Korean, that doesn’t mean that there is a very strong emphasis on creative expression. Having lived in Korea for over a decade and having trained in several Korean martial arts (ITF TKD, Hapkido, Taekkyeon, and other cross-training), hardly any Korean instructors I’ve trained under stressed creativity (creative self-expression) as a primary part of their discipline. That's one reason why I disagree with the notion that the ITF patterns is a dance where the practitioner can creatively express themselves. (I have not trained much with Kukki/WT instructors, so I don’t know if creative self-expression is something that is emphasized in Kukki/WT Taekwondo.)

Second, the terms “musul,” “muye,” and “mudo” are sometimes used to suggest a practitioner’s growth on the martial arts journey, starting with a basic acquisition of techniques (“musul”), to a creative improvisation of techniques (“muye”), to a spiritual discipline where lessons learned in the dojang is intuited to life wisdom (“mudo”) beyond fighting. I’ve written about this here on my blog, and Dr Johnson has also written academically about it.

In short, to answer the original question:

The English term “martial art” is better understood as “war skills”.

Koreans have three terms for martial arts: “musul,” “muye”, and “mudo.” All three terms can be used and often are used interchangeably by Korean speakers. Although lay people often use “musul,” “muye”, and “mudo” as synonymous, the term “muye” is typically employed by Koreans to refer to traditional Korean martial arts, differentiating it from the Chinese “wushu” (“musul”) and the Japanese “budo” (“mudo”). The terms are also sometimes applied to indicate a person’s progression along the martial arts journey, with “musul” referring to the foundation level or technical training and “mudo” implying ascetic self-development. Koreans who practice martial arts as a way of life refer to themselves as “mudo-in 무도인” (literally: martial-way-person).

Finally, as for “Taekwon-Do,” since the term includes the “-do” suffix, we can assume that the pioneers hoped that it would be a system of self-development and not simply a “musul” or “muye.”

29 March 2019

Korean Dance, Sine-Wave Movement, and Breathing

I recently took up Korean traditional dancing again. I'm taking classes offered by the National Theater of Korea, which also offers classes in Korean traditional drumming (that I also learned before), and Korean panseori (traditional singing). The reason for taking traditional dance (and why I previously took Korean drumming) is to continue my understanding of traditional Korean body culture.

Attending the recent dancing classes affirmed again the strong similarities with the way we move in ITF Taekwon-Do. Something that is particularly standing out for me this time is breathing in dancing, and how it correlates with the breathing we do in ITF Taekwon-Do. My friend Dr John Johnson also sent me some academic articles about breathing in Korean dancing which I'm slowly working through (as they are in Korean). The following quotation is from another article that I downloaded from somewhere else long ago, which illustrates the similarities between breathing in ITF Taekwon-Do and traditional Korean dance:

"When inhaling the body expands, rising, moving out or up, with arms and legs being lifted and stretched. When exhaling the body contracts, sinking, moving in or down, with arms and legs being lowered or bent." -- Dr. Young-Ae Park, "The Two Characteristics of Korean Dance".
Korean dance movements start from a lowered position with the limbs relaxed and the knees bent. This is the same for ITF Taekwon-Do techniques that start in a neutral position (sometimes known as the intermediate position), as I explained in a different post long ago.  In Korean dance, the dancer will start a movement by "rising, moving out or up" which corresponds with an inhalation. This is the same with most ITF Taekwon-Do techniques: the legs are extended, the body raised and the technique is "loaded" for execution. Next, the technique is "released" corresponding to a "sinking, moving in or down . . . and the legs being lowered or bent" while exhaling.

In Korean dance, such up and down movements, with associated breathing, includes more layers of detail, including mental states, postural nuances, particular points of relaxation and tension. The same can be said for the different techniques in Taekwon-Do, of course. I hope to write an article about this sometime, and will probably write about my experience in traditional Korean dance here on this blog in the future.