29 September 2011

Kukkiwon Gangster

A gangster in front of the Kukkiwon
I've been living in Korea for nearly five years now and never really made any serious effort to visit the Kukkiwon. The main reason is probably because I'm chiefly an ITF Taekwon-Do practitioner and the Kukkiwon is the WTF taekwondo Mecca. While ITF Taekwon-Do and WTF Taekwon-Do are related, they styles are significantly different that for me to visit the Kukkiwon would have had no direct benefit, other than for interests sake. I therefore had no reason to visit the Kukkiwon before. The first time I came to Korea I actually lived quite near to the Kukkiwon and although I lived in the area for about a year and a half and was even curious about going thereon occasion, I just never got around to it. This changed recently.

The Taekwondo Hall of Fame Ceremony was held at the Kukkiwon last month, so I ended up going there at long last. I would probably not have gone was it not for the fact that Master Kim Hoon, the head of the ITF dojang ('The Way' Martial Art Academy of Seoul) that I am a part of, was going to receive a citation from the Taekwondo Hall of Fame, so I was eager to support him. That's how I ended up visiting the Kukkiwon at last.

Yip, that's me in front of the Kukkiwon trying to look like a gangster. Let me know if I succeeded. My attempt at looking like a gangster is quite on purpose and tongue in cheek. If you know the real history of Taekwon-Do you will likely catch the joke.

19 September 2011

Another Perspective on the Reaction Arm

I wrote about the reaction arm in fundamental techniques, particularly traditional punching, a few weeks ago. In that particular post I basically said that there are two main views regarding the function of the reaction arm. The one view sees it as critical for maintaining proper structural balance. The second view holds that these reaction arms act as pulling techniques. Therefore, an interpretation for a traditional punch would basically be that you pull your opponent towards you with the one hand (reaction hand) while pommeling him with the other. There is a third view which I did not mention in that post, partially because it is such a very traditional view that is dismissed by many people, and because it doesn't apply to most techniques—only a small group of techniques may actually benefit from this interpretation of the reaction arm.

This third view considers the spine of the body as one's central axis and your arms as extensions on opposite sides of each other that rotates around this axis. There are two objects that can help you envisage this view.

A Korean pellet drum,
which is called a do 도 in Korean.
The first object is a pellet drum, known in Korean as a do 도 / 鼗 or nodo 노도 / 路鼗. A pellet drum has two membranes on opposite ends of the barrel. On the sides of the barrel are two strings with pellets attached at their ends. A pole is attached through the drum (through the barrel, not the membranes).

A Japanese pellet drum toy,
known as a denden daiko でんでん太鼓.
One plays a pellet drum by swiftly rotating the pole in one direction and then in the other direction, which causes the pellets to swing because of the centrifugal force that occurs when the pole is rotated. The pellets hit the membranes and create sound.

Aeolipile, aka Hero's Steam Engine
The second object is an aeolipile, sometimes refered to as Hero's steam engine, after Hero of Alexandria that described its mechanics in the first century A.D. An aeilipile is basically a boiler that is so set-up that it can rotate around an axis. On opposite sides of the boiler are two curved nozzles pointing in opposite directions to each other and perpendicular to the axis of the boiler. When steam escapes from these nozzles, thrust is caused, based on the the rocket principle in accordance with Newton's Third Law of Motion. This causes the boiler to spin around its axis.

Both objects are somewhat flawed to describe what happens in the human body in the third view of the reaction arm. Nonetheless, they help to illustrate the underlying idea. Note that in both cases there is a pair of opposing elements: the two strings-and-pellets on the drum and the opposing curved nozzles on the aeolipile. In both cases the pair of opposing elements rotate around a central axis. The traditional martial art idea is that the one opposing element contributes to the force of the other opposing element. In other words, by forcefully swinging my arm in one direction, this adds to the force of the other arm moving in the opposite direction.

Me trying out Pak Hok Pai in Hong Kong
In some of the Chinese martial arts one sees this idea flamboyantly applied. Sometimes the arms are literally flung in opposite directions just like the strings-and-pellets on the pellet drum. A good example where this idea is applied is Pak Hok Pai, the (Tibetan) White Crane Kung Fu system.

There is definitely power in these techniques caused by the centrifugal force, but I would be hard pressed to say that the arms moving in opposite directions cause the noticeable force in each other. It is probably more correct to say that the arms swing because of the centrifugal force. It is not the arms in themselves that cause the force. It is easy to demonstrate that the arms do not directly influence each other's reaction to the centrifugal force. Stay on one spot and then start to spin around, keeping both arms relaxed so that they naturally swing away from your body because of the centrifugal force acting on them. Now bring one arm towards your body, keeping it tight against you. The fact that this arm is kept from acting on the centrifugal force, contrary to the other arm, does not influence the other arm from still swinging normally as before while you keep on spinning on the spot. The essence of the force, therefore, lies not in your arms working in opposite directions, but lies in the actual rotation of your body that is spinning around an axis. (What is properly influenced when you use only one arm during this spinning exercise is your balance. You have better equilibrium with both arms out.)

The important thing is therefore not the opposite directions that your arms are moving in; the important thing is the rotation of the body around its axis which causes centrifugal force. While I don't believe that the arms moving in opposite directions contribute to each other's force, that doesn't mean that they could not contribute in another way. If pulling back my arm helps me in rotating my body around it's axis faster, then it can actually influence the centrifugal force, which in turn will influence the other arm.

Sanko's Imaginary Jet-Propelled Rotating Glove-Weapon

To explain this, imagine a ridiculous weapon I invented for this post that works similar to an aeolipile. The weapon is made up of a structure with two beams attached at opposite ends of an axis. At the far end of one of the beams is the attacking tool—a boxer's glove—attached perpendicularly to the beam. Perpendicularly attached at the far end of the other beam is a rocket engine. The jet propulsion of the rocket, in accordance with Newton's Third Law of Motion, causes the structure to rotate around the axis, resulting in the glove hitting a person standing close by. We see here that the beam moving in one direction causes the motion of the beam moving in the opposite direction—the glove's force is equal and opposite to the force of the rocket.

Speaking of this principle of Reaction Force, i.e. Newton's Third Law of Motion, the ITF Encyclopaedia states that “A punch with the right fist is aided by pulling back the left fist to the hip” (Volume 2, p. 15). The encyclopaedia doesn't expand on this topic, so it is unclear how pulling back the left fist contributes to the punch with the right hand. The only way I see this to be feasible is if the reaction arm (the one that is pulled back) contributes to the acceleration of the body's rotation around its axis. This in turn will help to push the punching arm which is structurally on the opposite side of the body, just like the glove is opposite to the rocket as depicted in my imaginary weapon.

Many traditional martial arts are of the view that the reaction arm contributes to the force of the acting arm; that pulling back the non-punching arm aids the punching arm. It must be remembered, however, that the reaction arm is not directly affecting the acting arm; instead, it is possible for the reaction arm to contribute to the rotation force of the body. If the reaction arm is not positively affecting the rotation of the body around its axis, then it is not contributing to the force of the strike. On the other hand, if the reaction arm contributes to the rotation of my body around its axis, then it may very well contribute to the force of the punching arm.

It is important to remember, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, that only some techniques—those that potentially benefit from centrifugal force—will benefit from the reaction arm in this way. For many techniques the reaction arm does not contribute to centrifugal force; instead it contributes to better structural balance and its associated benefits.

Read the previous post on "The Reaction Arm."

13 September 2011

Totally Tae Kwon Do

In Issue #31 of Totally Tae Kwon Do magazine you can read my contribution "How Do You Quantify Taekwon-Do?" (p. 13, 14). In it I ask the problematic question regarding how we measure the value of Taekwon-Do. Do we measure it by numbers? In other words, do we count the number of medals won, the number of students in the dojang, or the number of black belts in an organization? If not, do we measure it by students' ability to defend themselves, the positive transformation of their characters and living of the 'Do'? How would one measure such intangible things?

As always, there are many interesting reads in Totally Tae Kwon Do. One I plan to spend some time on is "The Cross-Limb 'Loadings' Rule Meets Weiss's Rubric" by Master F. M. Van Hecke.

Early Influences on Taekwon-Do

Taekwon-Do was established when a group of Kwan merged together under the umbrella term Tae Kwon Do. The word Kwan 관 / 館 is a Korean word that literally means house, building, hall, gymnasium or school, but has the connotative meaning of a family or clan—a martial art clan; i.e. a group of martial artists that share the same culture, philosophy and technique. In the 1940s the original five Kwan were established: Song Moo Kwan, Chung Do Kwan, Moo Do Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, and Jidokwan. In the 1950s a further four Kwan were established: Han Moo Kwan, Oh Do Kwan, Kang Duk Won and Jung Do Kwan. (See this French website for a quick overview of how the nine Kwan fit together.)

By looking at what martial arts were practiced in these original Kwan and/or by their founders we can get a good idea as to which martial arts contributed to what are the actual roots of this modern Korean martial art known as Taekwon-Do. The umbrella name Tae Kwon Do was accepted in 1955, and the official Korea Taekwondo Association was first established in 1959/60 and finally affirmed in 1965. To complete this exercise our focus will be on looking at the martial arts practised in these Kwan by 1960; in other words, those martial arts that contributed to “original Tae Kwon Do.” Taekwon-Do has changed dramatically since 1960; however, our aim here is not to see how Taekwon-Do had turned out, but merely to see what the original ingredients for Taekwon-Do were.

Song Moo Kwan founder Roh Byung Jick is said to have practiced as a child techniques that he saw practiced at local Buddhist temples. It is uncertain what exactly the martial art was that was practiced at these temples. Later in life Roh went to Japan to study where he practiced Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi.

Chung Do Kwan founder Lee Won Kyeok secretly practised Taekkyeon as a child. Later he also went to Japan to study and practised Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi. He claimed to have also traveled to China were he practised Kung Fu. It is uncertain what style of Kung Fu he had practised; he was however the first to use the term Tang Soo Do (Chinese-Hand-Way) for his style. However, Tang Soo is the Korean rendition of Kara-Te or Karate. The original forms practised by the Chung Do Kwan was the Pyong-Ahn forms, which are basically the Pinan kata from Okinawa that were used in Shotokan Karate under the name Heian.

Moon Duk Kwan was founded by Hwang Kee. He supposedly studied Taekkyeon by himself as a boy by copying a Taekkyeon expert he saw in his neighborhood; however, he didn't have any formal training in Taekkyeon. As a railway worker he often travelled to Manchuria (China) where he practised Kung Fu. In 1957 a librarian from Korea National University in Seoul gave him access to the Muye Dobo Tongji, an ancient Korean martial art manuscript. From this he extrapolated Soo Bahk, an old Korean form of combat. Because Hwang Kee did not want to unify into the new Taekwon-Do system, it is uncertain how much his martial art knowledge contributed to what became early Taekwon-Do.

Chang Moo Kwan was founded by Yoon Byung In who had studied Kung Fu (Baji Quan known as Balji Kwon in Korean) in Manchuria under a Mongolian instructor. He also practised Shudokan Karate in Japan with Kanken Toyama.

Jido Kwan founder Chun Sang Sup practiced Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi in Japan. Although he called his style Kong Soo Do, it was basically just Karate. Chun Sang Sup was also close friends with Yoon Byung In (Chang Moo Kwan) and frequently trained with him. They sometimes travelled to Manchuria together where they practised in Kung Fu, probably Baji Quan. The Jido Kwan also had Judo ties. (It was the first gym to teach Judo in Korea.)

Han Moo Kwan founder Lee Kyo Yoon was originally a student of Chun Sang Sup (Jido Kwan). His style was most probably based on Shotokan Karate with some Kung Fu influence and may have included some Judo.

Oh Do Kwan was founded by General Choi Hong Hi (known as the “Father of Taekwon-Do” and Nam Tae Hi (Choi's “Right-Hand Man”). General Choi practiced in some Taekkyeon as a child and later studied Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi while at university in Japan. The Oh Do Kwan system was used in the South Korean military. Most of the military instructors that taught the Oh Do Kwan system was originally from the Chung Do Kwan, including Nam Tae Hi.

Kang Duk Kwan was founded by two Chang Moo Kwan students, Hong Jong Pyo and Park Chul Hee. It is accepted that their style was not much different from Chang Moo Kwan: Kung Fu (Baji Quan) and Shudokan Karate.

Jung Do Kwan was founded by Young Woo Lee, a former student of Chung Do Kwan. It is accepted that their style was not much different from Chung Do Kwan: Mostly Shotokan Karate with some Taekkyeon and Kung Fu incluence.

From this list we can get a good idea of the original influences on what became known as Taekwon-Do. The strongest influence was undoubtedly Shotokan Karate. Other influences were Taekkyeon and Kung Fu, probably Baji Quan. We can expand this list by looking at the “Original Twelve Taekwon-Do Masters.” This group was put together by the Korea Taekwon-Do Association in 1960 to promote Taekwon-Do. Apart from their training in Taekwon-Do under the leadership of General Choi Hong Hi and Nam Tae Hi, some of them were also versed in western boxing, Judo, and gymnastics. It is also believed that General Choi Hong Hi incorporated Hapkido (at the time probably Hapki-Yusul) into the system to expand the self-defence arsenal. General Choi Hong Hi who was the first person to write a book on Taekwon-Do and later also the ITF Encyclopaedia had the strongest influence in standardizing the original syllabus that was used by the Korea Taekwon-Do Association, therefore his martial art experience in Taekkyeon and Shotokan Karate is the be considered the most influential, particularly as far as ITF Taekwon-Do, of which he was the founder and first president, is concerned. Also strongly influential on ITF Taekwon-Do were the original instructors that were mostly from the Chung Do Kwan. Again Taekkyeon and Shotokan Karate are the major influences, along with some Kung Fu.

Regarding ITF Taekwon-Do, which is my primary style and the main topic on this blog, I stand by my view that Shotokan Karate and Taekkyeon are the two main roots. Other noteworthy influences of which we can observe some technical material in ITF Taekwon-Do are Western Boxing, Judo, Hapki-Yoosool and maybe some Kung Fu.

12 September 2011

What's the Difference Between Taekwon-Do and Hapkido?

Image Source
Since I have black belts in both (ITF) Taekwon-Do and Hapkido, I guess that I am in the position to answer that inevitable question: “What is the difference between Taekwon-Do and Hapkido?” The most common answer to this question is that:

Both Taekwon-Do and Hapkido are Korean martial arts and have as part of their respective arsenals kicking and striking techniques, as well as joint manipulation and throwing techniques, but that there is a difference in emphasis. Taekwon-Do emphasizes kicking and striking and Hapkido emphasizes joint manipulation and throwing.

The problem with this answer is that it doesn't really discuss the actual difference, the actual uniqueness of the two martial arts. It is pointing out their similarity and then arguing for a difference in degree. Basically this answer is saying that the two martial arts are essentially the same, like hot water and cold water that are in essence the same, but only different in temperature. That there is a difference in emphasis is true and may satisfy the curiosity of someone with little or no real knowledge of the martial arts, but for anyone else, the answer of emphasis seems, at worst a sign of little depth of understanding of the two martial arts, or at least a sign of explanatory laziness. To truly answer the question thoroughly will require an extensive discussion stretching many many pages! For this reason I am indeed guilty of explanatory laziness. However, in this post I will attempt to highlight some real differences between Taekwon-Do and Hapkido. Since my own study is mostly in ITF Taekwon-Do, this is where my focus will be: the difference between ITF Taekwon-Do and Hapkido (Footnote 1). Note, that there are people much more experienced who have studied both arts for a much longer time than myself, that are better qualified to answer the question.

Different Names, Different Origins

Not surprisingly, a good place to start is to see why there exists such an emphasis on the different techniques. In other words, why does Hapkido emphasize joint manipulation and throws and Taekwon-Do emphasize kicking and striking. As someone that spends his time with words (Footnote 2), I believe there is much to be learned from names.

Just by looking at the name Tae Kwon Do (foot-fist-way), it is already obvious that the emphasis in Taekwon-Do is kicking and striking. Taekwon-Do has two main roots, a native Korean root and a foreign Japanese root: Taekkyeon and Karate, respectively. The principle founder of Taekwon-Do, General Choi Hong-Hi, practised in Taekkyeon as a child and later in Shotokan Karate while studying in Japan.

Taekkyeon is a martial art with great emphasis on foot techniques which are often circular in nature (crescent style kicks). Taekkyeon kicks are frequently used for attacking the lower limbs—foot sweeps, but also include some high crescent kicks, as well as jumping kicks. There are also hand techniques in Taekkyeon that focus mostly on grabbing, pulling or pushing the opponent, often in combination with foot sweeps or foot hooks; the aim being to topple the opponent. The first syllable in Taekwon-Do was deliberately chosen to mimic the first syllable in Taekkyeon.

The second part of Taekwon-Do—i.e. “kwon”—means to “break or smash with the fist or hand,” sometimes translated into English merely as “[fighting] fist” or “boxing.” This connects with Taekwon-Do's Japanese root in Karate 空手. The name Karate literally translates as “empty hand” (Footnote 3). Many of Taekwon-Do's techniques derive from Karate, especially Shotokan Karate.

Korean marines training during the Vietnam War
Image Source
Taekwon-Do's chief developed as a modern martial art occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. By the time the term “Tae Kwon Do” was chosen, the emphasis on “foot-fist-way”, i.e. the way of kicking and striking, was already firmly established. However, during this time other styles such as judo and the early forms of Hapkido were also practised in Korea. General Choi who pioneered and oversaw Taekwon-Do training in the South Korean military and some of the other pioneers who were also versed in these martial arts included techniques from these styles. Now joint-manipulation and throwing and other grappling techniques became part of the Taekwon-Do arsenal, but more as a “self-defence” supplementation than part of the core syllabus.

Image Source
The opposite happened with Hapkido. It is generally accepted that Hapkido started with Choi Yong-Sul, a Korean man that acted as a servant in the household of a Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu master. What is Aiki-Jujutsu? Tokyo Asahi explained it as follows in 1930: “This technique is a perfect self-defense art where you avoid being cut, hit or kicked, while at the same time you don't hit, kick or cut. As the attack comes you handle it expediently using the power of your opponent. So even women and children can execute these techniques.” (Footnote 4) In other words, Aiki-Jujutsu did not emphasize kicking and hitting / striking. It was based on exploiting the momentum of the attacker, focusing on throwing and joint-manipulation. When Choi Yong-Sul returned to Korea from Japan after WWII, he began to teach, what he called Yusul. “Yu-” is the Korean pronunciation for “Ju-” in Japanese, as found in “Jujutsu” or “Judo.” It literally means “soft”; “Yusul” means soft techniques, in other words techniques that exploit the opponent's motions by pulling or pushing the opponent and manipulating his limbs. Soft-styles are low on active offensive techniques like kicking and striking. Because Yusul might be confused with Judo (Judo in Korean is Yudo), Grandmaster Choi later changed the name from Yusul to Yu Kwon Sul; i.e. “soft-fist-techniques.” This change in name also indicates that something additional came into what he was teaching. It wasn't just “soft techniques,” meaning joint-manipulation and throwing techniques, anymore, but now also included “fist” techniques. A strong cross-pollination with the modern eclectic styles in Korea occurred, especially in the late 1950s—at this time the hard styles had already merged under the umbrella term “Taekwon-Do” in 1955. This early form of Hapkido began to include techniques from the prevailing Korean styles such as kicking techniques and striking techniques. By the time new names for this style such as Hapki Yusul and Hapki Yu Kwon Sul and Kido emerged, it goes without saying, that “soft techniques” was still the foundation and kicking and striking were supplementary. In the middle of the 1960s the International Taekwon-Do Federation, i.e. ITF Taekwon-Do, was established. At the same time the name Hapkido became widely accepted. Hap-ki-do can be translated as “coordinate-energy-way” or the Way of Harmonious Energy. Unlike the earlier name Yu Kwon Sul, or even Tae Kwon Do, that basically describe the techniques these styles emphasize, the name Hapkido (Footnote 5) is more a description of underlying principles.

So far we have established why there exists a difference in the type of techniques emphasized in Taekwon-Do and Hapkido respectively. From their very start Taekwon-Do focused on kicking and striking and Hapkido focussed on “soft techniques”—joint manipulation and throwing techniques. Kicking and striking is something that was incorporated into Hapkido later in its development and similarly joint-manipulation and throwing techniques were also assimilated into Taekwon-Do when it was already established as a foot-fist-way. So what are the truly unique things in these individual Korean styles?

Arresting Techniques

We find the answer when looking at the early authorities that used these styles. Taekwon-Do was from its very beginning a military combative system. The spearhead for Taekwon-Do was the 29th Infantry Division of the South Korean military, which developed towards the end or shortly after World War II and the Korean War. It was later again battle tested in the Vietnam War. Hapkido on the other hand was taken up by the Korean Police Force. The brutality of Taekwon-Do that was appropriate for the battlefield was ill-equipped for controlling civilians. Unlike a soldier who uses combat to kill or seriously injure an enemy, a police officer is there to protect civilians. For this, a police officer needs techniques that can control a person, without causing serious harm or killing them. Hapkido provided the solution.

Image Source
Joint-manipulation techniques in Hapkido are used to control the opponent by either causing pain—resulting in pain compliance—or physically manipulating the skeletal system or musculature of the person. Either way, it is possible to physically control the opponent, or literally pin the opponent down on the floor. This usually involves what is generally known as joint-locks. In the police force such techniques are invaluable. In Korean these techniques are known as chepo-sulgi 체포술기, from the verb chepo-hada 체포하다 that basically means arresting or apprehending. In other words, these are techniques used by law enforcement to arrest or apprehend a person.

ITF Taekwon-Do does not have chepo-sulgi or joint locks. Joint-manipulation in Taekwon-Do are not used to control (i.e. arrest or “lock”) an opponent, but to break the joint. A typical self-defense maneuver in Hapkido for when somebody grabs your wrist is to put the opponent's grabbing hand into a wrist lock. The equivalent in Taekwon-Do is not a joint-lock but a joint-break. For such self-defense scenarios the ITF Encyclopaedia prescribes three solutions: an attack, a release with counter-attack, or a break. In other words, if someone were to grab your wrist you can defend yourself from this by either directly attacking your attacker with your free limbs; or you “release” yourself by pulling your wrist free from his grip and then doing a counter-attack; or you can break the opponent's wrist. The ITF Encyclopaedia does not provide as one of the options joint-manipulation to cause pain to the opponent's joint. The ITF Encyclopaedia is very specific about the fact that it is a joint-breaking technique. Any joint-locks or chepo-sulgi currently found in ITF Taekwon-Do is something that was added much much later and is not part of the original curriculum (i.e. it is not in the ITF Encyclopaedia).

Image Source
Furthermore, Hapkido has many techniques used for pinning the opponent against the floor or against a wall. Such techniques are used to keep the opponent immobilized until more police backup arrives and the person is formally arrested and taken away. Taekwon-Do does not have pinning techniques. Instead it offers various attacks for finishing off the opponent while he is on the floor, which is inline with Taekwon-Do's function as an originally military combat system.

Here we see a true distinction between Taekwon-Do and Hapkido. Hapkido has chepo-sulgi—arresting or locking and pinning techniques—that Taekwon-Do just doesn't have.


Image Source
Something else that Hapkido has is weapons. Weapons were not part of the original practice in Hapkido, but with time a variety of weapons became part of the curriculum, such as the short stick, the staff, the cane, the nunchaku and the sword. Taekwon-Do may sometimes include weapon practice, but this is only as a means to an end. Defense against weapons is part of the Taekwon-Do curriculum, so many instructors feel that in order to properly defend oneself against a weapon, you should understand the weapon and these instructors therefore teach basic principles for using different weapons. Actual weapon training merely for the sake of using weapons is not part of the Taekwon-Do curriculum.


Image Source
Something that Taekwon-Do has, which Hapkido for the larger part does not have, is patterns or forms. In ITF Taekwon-Do they are known as teul 틀, while in WTF Taekwon-Do the word poomsae 품새 is more generally used. Historically the term hyung 형 was used. Patterns are basically a series of fundamental movements sequenced together to form a hypothetical combative encounter with an imaginary opponent. It is basically a type of choreographed shadow boxing and is common in many oriental martial arts. The purpose is to train certain sequences of fundamental movements, including footwork, balance, rhythm, breath control, and other qualities.The patterns are also used as a vehicle for teaching about Korean history, philosophy and oriental etiquette and ethics.


There are a number of other things both similarities, with different emphases, and unique differences that I have not included. For instance, Ki / Gi. In Hapkido there is a focus on Ki-training. ITF Taekwon-Do acknowledge the value of Ki, but training focusses primarily on the application of Newtonian physics. Or Korean history and oriental etiquette and ethics (“Moral Culture”) that are heavily emphasized in ITF Taekwon-Do, but not as much in Hapkido. Of course, each style also have some unique techniques; for instance both Taekwon-Do and Hapkido have unique kicks that they do not share with each other. How power generation works in the two styles also differ. Hapkido, for example, focus on the danjeon, while Taekwon-Do focus on the waist—danjeon and waist are possible synonyms, with slight differences in meaning. There is much still that can be discussed. I didn't even mention choking techniques, for instance. As I said earlier, a comprehensive analysis of the differences of the two styles would take a very very long time.


Taekwon-Do and Hapkido are both Korean martial arts and both developed primarily out of Korean and Japanese styles. Taekwon-Do was strongly influenced by Japan's hard style Karate, while Hapkido evolved out of the Japanese soft style Aiki-Jujutsu. While Taekwon-Do and Hapkido developed to both include kicking and striking, and joint-manipulation and trowing techniques, there has been a difference in emphasis from the start: Taekwon-Do focussing more on kicking and striking and Hapkido focussing more on joint-manipulation and throwing. Apart from the difference in emphasis, Taekwon-Do was rooted as a military combat system, while Hapkido grew to function within the police force. Hapkido therefore developed techniques useful for the police in arresting and apprehending civilians, while Taekwon-Do's techniques remained brutish, for use against foreign enemies, not native civilians. This resulted in Hapkido having “arresting techniques”, but Taekwon-Do not. Hapkido also incorporated weapon training as part of its eclectic arsenal. Taekwon-Do does not emphasize weapon training, although it does emphasize defense against weapons. Furthermore, Taekwon-Do has patterns which are often used to teach Korean history, philosophy, oriental etiquette and ethics, and other technical skills. Traditionally, Hapkido does not have patterns and doesn't emphasize the teaching of Korean history, philosophy and oriental ethics. These are just some of the major differences between these two Korean arts.


Footnote 1: My Hapkido black belts are from the Korea Hapkido Federation 대한합기도협회 and Korean Hapkido Federal Union 대한합기도총연맹. My primary training has been with instructors from the Korea Hapkido Federation.

Footnote 2: I'm a university lecturer in an English Department and teach, among other things, poetry. A big part of the study of poetry is to understand the denotative meaning of words.

Footnote 3: Although Karate 空手 currently translates as empty hand, it used to translate as Tang hand. Tang referring to China's Tang Dynasty. Karate's roots, in other words, are to be found in China. The Korean martial art Tang Soo Do translates as Tang Hand Way. It is sometimes called Karate-Do, or Korean Karate. Tang Soo Do is basically a Koreanized version of Karate.

Footnote 4: Tedeschi, M. 2000. Hapkido: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique

Footnote 5: It is noteworthy that Hapkido 合氣道 and Aikido 合気道 (a Japanese style that also developed out of Aiki-Jujutsu around the same period) means practically the same. However, unlike Hapkido that included a large variety of kicks and strikes into its syllabus, Aikido developed separately without such offensive techniques.

04 September 2011

General Dojang Etiquette

I thought it good to review some of the common Taekwon-Do etiquette that are generally expected of students. Much of the text below I've gathered from a variety of ITF syllabi through the years. I can unfortunately not remember the original sources. Nonetheless, these “rules” are fairly common around the world and are generally applicable in all ITF Taekwon-Do schools.

In the Dojang

  • Don't be late for class. To be late shows disrespect for your fellow students, your instructor and the art. Instructors often plan a class with the students in mind that are likely to be in class, so if you are going to be late, inform the instructor. It is just good manners.
  • Upon entering and leaving the dojang bow to the class. Also make sure to bow to the instructor and all black belt members as a sign of greeting and respect. Bow and acknowledge others present in the dojang which should include firstly the instructor, the assistant instructor, then senior members. Children will acknowledge adults. Similar courtesies should be paid when visiting other martial arts dojang.
  • Where several people are entering, ensure the senior person or adult is shown the courtesy of entering first.
  • Remove footwear prior to stepping onto the training area. Ensure shoes or other articles are neatly stored in accordance with the wishes of the instructor.
  • While a class is in session, do not hang around or play around in the dojang. If you talk, let it be Taekwon-Do.
  • If you are early which is preferable, start warming up or practice your patterns.
  • Members should arrive at least 10 minutes before the commencement of class and be prepared both physically and mentally.
  • If the instructor is occupied, the most senior member present will commence training promptly until the instructor arrives.
  • If you are late change into dobok as quickly as possible, quickly loosen up and then stand on attention and wait for the instructor to invite you to join the rest of the class. Make sure to do your changing and loosening up as quickly as possible so that nobody needs to wait for you. It is considered very rude and disrespectful to have the class have to wait for you. When late, stand at the back or side of the dojang in such a manner that you are clearly visible to the instructor, but not disturbing, until the instructor acknowledge and invite you onto the training area.
  • Never be disrespectful to your instructor during class. If you disagree with the use of a technique, discuss it after the class in private. Never speak to your instructor on first name basis while you are in dobok. Use the appropriate titles.
  • All members must treat each other with courtesy.
  • When seeking to meet or ask a question of the instructor or senior, a student should stand at attention and keep alert to the situation at hand until approached or spoken to by the instructor or senior. The student shall ensure the dobok is well adjusted prior to the meeting.
  • Visiting instructors or seniors should be acknowledged by all members present upon meeting and entering the dojang.
  • During training members should not leave the dojang without the permission of the instructor.
  • The junior students present shall be responsible for the setting up and tidying up of equipment and the dojang floor at each training session. The senior members (other than the instructor or his/her assistant) shall supervise the putting away of equipment by junior members after the completion of training having regards to the wishes of the instructor.
  • Members must ensure their dojang is kept tidy.
  • Members should ensure visitors are treated with courtesy, provided with seating, accompanied and given advice where necessary.
  • Members must not make any unnecessary noise or disturbance inside the dojang.
  • All training fees or payments must be paid promptly at times indicated by the instructor. (During the first week of each month.)
  • The correct uniform is a correct dobok top with a correct dobok trousers. Black belts shall where official black belts and have a 3cm wide trimming around the bottom of the jacket; 4th Dan’s and above are distinguished by a 3cm black stripes down the outside of the jacket sleeves and trousers.
  • Do not wear jewellery as it can cause injury to yourself and other students.
  • Dobok must always be clean, ironed and worn correctly. They should be in good repair. Female students may where a white (or corresponding belt colour) T-shirt or sport-bra under their dobok jacket. Ensure that your dobok is clean and neat at all times and your belt tied correctly - this shows your pride in the art.
  • Wash your dobok regularly. A dirty or smelly dobok shows disrespect to the style and your training partners.
  • Belts shall be worn by those qualified for them, wrapped around the waist once and tied in the correct manner.
  • During training, if the dobok needs to be tidied up, the student must turn about to adjust. Don't fidget with your dobok while facing the instructor or seniors.
  • Dobok should not be worn outside the dojang unless on special occasions as specified by the instructor. The DO-bok is intended for the DO-jang.
  • In the hot summer months the club T-shirt instead of the dobok jacket can be worn with permission from the instructor.
If there is anything you think that is also typically common Taekwon-Do etiquette for the dojang that I have missed, please share it in the comments. 

02 September 2011

Information on Hwang Su-Il

Hwang Su-Il (6th Dan)

Master Hwang Su-il is one of the most famous Taekwon-Do practitioners, in part because of his involvement with the Tekken 3 fighting video game. The movements of the character Hwaorang (introduced in Tekken 3) were based on actual movements of Master Hwang, using motion capture technology. Since I posted about having met him back in 2009, many people in search of information on Master Hwang's Taekwon-Do school in Japan end up here. That original post on Master Hwang has proven to be the second most viewed entry on my blog. (The most viewed post is “What I Have Against Tournament Sparring – Part 2.”)

People landing at my blog in search of information on Master Hwang Su-Il are usually looking for information about his dojang in Japan. I asked a Japanese friend, Instructor Yuki Kaneko, to translate some useful information about Master Hwang Su-Il from Japanese into English for me, which he graciously did. I hope it is of value to some of you.

The name of Master Hwang's dojang is Taekwon-Do Hwarang Hwang Dojo. (Dojo is Japanese for the Korean dojang; roughly translated in English as gym or school.) Master Hwang's dojo has eleven branch schools; however, the main branch is the Taekwon-Do Nakano Dojo.


Kimura Building, 1st Floor,
1-6-6 Yamato-cho,
Nakano-ku, Tokyo,

It is near Nogata 1-Chome Koban (Police Station).

Contact details:

Telephone No. : +81-3-5327-4077
E-mail Address: suil_hwang [at] nifty.com
Homepage URL: http://tkd-hwangdojo.jp/ (Japanese only)

Training Time Schedule

Sunday: Senior /Adult (All Levels) 11:30AM-1:00PM
Monday: Senior / Adult (All levels) 8:00-9:30PM
Tuesday: Kids 5:00-6:00PM, Senior / Adult (All levels) 7:30-9:00PM
Wednesday: No class
Thursday: Senior / Adult (Beginners) 7:30-8:30PM, (Intermediate & Advanced) 9:00-10:00PM
Friday: Kids 5:00-6:00PM, Senior / Adult (Beginners & Intermediate) 7:30-8:30PM, Adult (Advanced) 9:00-10:00PM
Saturday: Senior / Adult (Advanced) 11:30AM-1:00PM, (Beginners) 1:00-2:30PM

Some Basic Information About Master Hwang Su-il

Master Hwang Su-il (6th Dan) was born on 31 July, 1970. He is a Japanese citizen, but of Korean ancestry. Apart from being the athlete on whom the Tekken character Hwaorang's movements are based, Master Hwang has a very successful career as a ITF Taekwon-Do competitor. In 1992 he was the Sparring World Champion during the ITF Taekwon-Do World Championships in the light weight division. At the next World Championships (1994) he obtained a bronze medal in the middle weight division. In 2000 he was the middle weight champion at the 1st Asian ITF Championships. In 2010 at the ITF World Veteran Championships, he won gold in both sparring (under 64kg) and patterns (6th Dan class). The ITF World Veteran Championships are for adults of forty years and older. During his career, Master Hwang has consistently proven to be one of the world's great Taekwon-Do players and through his example continues to be a role model for other Taekwon-Do practitioners around the world.