07 November 2012

Sine Wave Motion & Korean Kinesthetics

For a long time I have felt myself to be a singular voice proclaiming the obvious connection between ITF Taekwon-Do's sine wave motion and the movement of Taekkyeon, Korea's folk martial art. As someone that has trained in Taekkyeon, the link is glaringly obvious. Even though General Choi Hong-Hi downplayed Taekkyeon's influence, the link is undeniable as almost anyone that has trained in both ITF and Taekkyeon will tell you. It is therefore with much satisfaction that I read Paul Mitchell's interview with Grandmaster (Dr.) Kimm He-Young in last month's issue of Totally Tae Kwon Do (Issue #44).

Children playing Taekkyeon
Grandmaster Kimm, a Korean martial arts historian, affirmed what I have found as well, that ITF Taekwon-Do's kinaesthetics is very much a Korean way of moving which is very clearly also seen in Taekkyeon. Grandmaster Kimm explains that although “General Choi says he is not using Taekkyeon in creating Taekwon-Do system [sic], he is using Korean body movement, which is different from Japanese body movement,” (p. 20). The core of Taekkyeon is its three-rhythm movement; the most fundamental training in Taekkyeon is the poombalbgi 품밟기, Taekkyeon's three-rhythm stepping. Grandmaster Kimm continues to explains that “Japanese [martial arts] have a two beat movement, 'block, punch', 'block, punch'. But the Korean body rhythm has 3 beats . . . one two three, one two three. This is the reason that in free sparring Koreans are always moving, the Japanese are steady. General Choi said his Taekkyeon didn't influence his Taekwon-Do, but the Korean people's body culture [kinaesthetics], which you can see in Taekwon-Do, you see in Taekkyon as well, iki yakki iki, one two three” (p. 21).

[Read more about the Korean rhythm here.]

Grandmaster Kimm explains that although Taekwon-Do techniques are “Shotokan based” they are “adapted to Korean body culture” (p. 21), i.e. Korean kinaesthetics. In a previous post I said basically the same: “ITF Taekwon-Do has incorporated the soft style wave principle from Taekkyeon into the Karate way of moving.”

In trying to understand ITF Taekwon-Do's kinaesthetics (including its employment of the sine wave motion) one cannot approach it exclusively from a Japanese, Karatesque paradigm. One has to include the Taekkyeon connection, and you must take into account the greater context of Korean kinaesthetics. The Korean “Body Culture”, as Grandmaster Kimm refers to it, is visible also in traditional Korean dance. In closing, look at this video that I took earlier this year of Korean Buddhist monks and nuns (yes, Korea has Buddhist nuns) performing a dance ceremony during Buddha's Birthday celebrations. An ITF practitioner will immediately recognise the “sine wave motion,” and people familiar with the Korean “Body Culture” will recognise it very easily as well.