29 October 2011

Grandmaster Kang Shin Chul's Creative Pattern

Grandmaster Kang Shin Chul (right) and myself.
Grandmaster Kang Shin Chul was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame on August 25, 2011. At the banquet after the certification ceremony Grandmaster Kang performed the following creative pattern. I recorded it on my tablet so the quality and stability is not too great.

Grandmaster Kang is a WTF Taekwondo practitioner so my reaction to his form is somewhat mixed, particularly because while I recognise some iconic WTF-style pattern motions, this form is hardly typical of WTF patterns. It is, as I wrote somewhere else, much too flamboyant. Then again, that is part of Grandmaster Kang's character. However, I'm referring to more than just the outfit. I'm more specifically referring to the fluidity and flow, to the ample circular motions, of his pattern, which doesn't reflect even the high level WTF patterns; see for example Ilyo, one of the highest WTF patterns.

Grandmaster Kang's pattern reminds me far more of Taekkyeon patterns than of WTF Taekwondo patterns; consider, for example, these forms by three Taekkyeon grandmasters:

While I see resemblances, what Grandmaster Kang is doing is definitely not Taekkyeon. He is combining rigid WTF fundamental strikes with fluid WTF kicks to create a new form that is maybe more reflective of how WTF is performed in reality. Think about WTF demonstrations: what one often see is the flashy spinning kicks with hardly any hand techniques, rather than the karatesque WTF patterns. So maybe Grandmaster Kang is presenting us with a more authentic WTF, than what we typically see in the WTF patterns.

The white colour and long sleeves of Grandmaster Kang's hanbok does remind me somewhat of the jangsam robe worn by seungmu dancers. Traditionally the seungmu dance was performed by Korean Buddhist monks. I'm not sure, but this may be part of his inspiration.

As an outsider (I'm not a WTF practitioner), it is, to be honest, difficult for me to reconcile my stereotypical expectation of a WTF pattern and the creative form Grandmaster Kang demonstrated at the banquet. Then again, as a grandmaster he is at liberty to perform his martial art whichever way he likes. After all, if it is truly a martial art, there must be room for artistic expression. And as one Taekkyeon grandmaster told me, "Because we live in a civilized society, people don't train in Taekkyeon to learn self-defence, but to enjoy it" (rough paraphrase). The same is most likely true for WTF in South Korea. Since people don't train in WTF Taekwondo in Korea for self-defence purposes there is really no reason why the patterns ought to have practical application. They could just function as a type of "martial dance", and that would be a good description for Grandmaster Kang's pattern, wouldn't it?


Anonymous said...

This man totally changed my opinion about WTF.This pattern grandmaster Kang found is out of this world.Technique,fluidity,movement,fantasy!Exceptional!And it's because of this post that I 've found this blog.

SooShimKwan said...

For the most part, WTF patterns are still quite karatesque rather than authentically Korean. Grandmaster Kang is indeed an interesting person, and brings a valuable synthesis to WTF, I think. What he is doing is more "Korean".

Anonymous said...

Many people say the same thing(karatesque)about ITF and all the korean martial arts(japanese copies).
I believe although japanese or chinese influence are there,korean martial arts are unique.
I believe gm.Kang takes WTF poomsae by the hand and leads it to a road of renewal and respect of tradition.I hope he 'll continue the same way.

Anonymous said...

Just as a side note, wtf/kukkiwon patterns are indeed practical, it's just that people are too caught up in the sport to apply hae sul to the forms. So far I've found one good book which breaks down poomsae into practical self defense. It is entitled "the taegeuk cipher".