10 February 2011

How Do You Quantify Taekwon-Do?

During my travels in South Africa so far and discussions with different instructors, a common theme has popped up -- namely, the over emphasis of the sport aspect in Taekwon-Do. I've heard complaints that some practitioners are preferenced over others because of their likelyhood to perform well at championships, while other practitioners whom are not sportsmen may struggle to test for black belts.

I've complained about the over emphasis of the sport aspect of Taekwon-Do before (see here and here), but never really considered why there seems to be such a preference to the sport side. In the meantime, I have come to a probable cause. Sport seems to be a good way to measure success. It is quantifiable. If your students win many medals at a championships, you can call your school successful and you have the medals to prove it. It is much more difficult to quantify self-defence. Then there are the other, more abstract, aspects of the martial arts that are just as difficult to measure, like character building, spiritual growth, and so on. These aspects, in my opinion, is of greater significance, but in a materialistic culture where success is measured by the physical things you have acquired (e.g. Medals), such abstract achievements are under played.

The issue goes much further than just instructors measuring the success of their clubs by how many medals they achieved. The governing body is faced with the same problem. If we want to measure the success of the organization, we obviously look at the numbers. How many black belts were produced? How many competitors attended the World Championships? How many medals did we bring back? We do not ask, How many people have changed for the better? How many people have been saved from a mugging? The issue of self-defence is particularly problematic. If I did my job correctly, I would have made my students more aware of their surroundings, more safety conscious, more confident, and therefore less likely to become a victim of a violent crime. Since we are not counting how many people defended themselves from a physical attack, but rather how many people avoided the situation in the first place, it is exceedingly difficult to put a number on it.

I'm not yet sure what the sollution is. It should entail a mindshift from quantity to quality. It also needs to take into account the more abstract value of martial art training -- the value of the 'Do'.
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Ymar Sakar said...

This is the same problem military budgets have faced for the entirety of human history. When things are peaceful, nobody asks how many wars and sacked cities the military funding prevented. They only complain about how much it costs and how much sugar daddy programs they could have in their home districts if military funding was cut. After all, things are peaceful right? Then comes the Vandals and other barbarians and Rome realizes they don't have an army worth a dime, let alone a sack of salt. Then Constantinople realizes maybe they should have used the gold used to bribe the barbarians and Muslims, and used that to pay for an actual army. By then, it's too late.

The way I quantify success is through an internal filter. I was exposed relatively early on to the stark difference between social rules playing around and survival mechanisms of the jungle or zero civilization. I know BS when I see it. In fact, I knew BS back when I was watching Hercules the Legendary Adventures as a kid and was wondering "if the goal is justice, why don't you just kill all these villains in your way instead of throwing them around for 10 minutes and then they get right back up and then you have to waste energy throwing them again....". Yeah, I was big on "efficiency" even when I didn't know a thing about martial arts or H2H. That's instinct, not cultural learning at work.

The only way to judge on an organization level is to always have judges that can process the survival instinct and recognize it. But that's like saying we need to hire geniuses with IQs over 180 and nobody else. Doesn't work like that.

SooShimKwan said...

"This is the same problem military budgets have faced for the entirety of human history. When things are peaceful, nobody asks how many wars and sacked cities the military funding prevented.

At the same time, some countries over spend on so-called "defense forces", when there own people are starving.

I'm still looking for solutions . . . unfortunately my IQ is not over 180. (For what IQ's are worth.)

Ymar Sakar said...

In NOrth Korea, the military is not so much there to defend against foreign invasions from the US, Japan, or South Korea, as it is to keep the local people in line. Thus that isn't so much of a military as an internal police force. It's the same way in the US for the TSA and the green police. They are not so much to prevent terrorism and economical disasters as they are to control the local populace.

For one thing, no amount of North Korea or Iraq's military spending ever could have made a dent in defending against a US invasion to begin with.

Ymar Sakar said...

Assuming the leaders of the powers that be are rational, at least in the sense that they know now to commit suicide, they are aware of this and thus there's an ulterior motive for having such a large armed force.

For Saddam, formerly of Iraq, it was to keep the Kurds and Shia in line and to provide jobs and loot to the SUnni tribes that is in his alliance. For North Korea, it is probably similar.

In a self defense context, this would be the same as the guy that learns how to fight and carries around weapons like tactical folding knives or guns, and then uses this confidence to go start looking for fights. The objective wasn't necessarily self defense, but some ulterior motive.

Jana_From__ITF_TKD_Jamaica said...

The idea is that sport competition teaches good reflexes and good combinations and inspires courage in the competitor. But everything you said about the drawback of sport competition is true too. In the end I think it comes down to the training method. If the training method of sport martial arts (boxing, muay thai, a la stance footwork, combinations, blocking, counters etc) are used by traditional martial arts and traditional martial arts spend equal time teaching throws, low kicks and the rational behind techniques. everything's ok. But some instructors haven't seen that yet, maybe in time?

SooShimKwan said...

Hopefully you are correct and with the accessibility of the Internet things will change.