Rather, the sine wave motion is merely one manifestation of a greater principle found in many martial arts—the Wave / Circle Principle, which is extrapolated from the Taoist concept of yin and yang as depicted in the Taijitu 太極圖 (yin-yang symbol, known in Korean as the Taegeukdo 태극도). In this post I want to show how the sine wave motion is in fact consistent with the Taoist philosophy that underscores the Oriental martial arts, and is furthermore in line with the Korean expression thereof. The sine wave motion firstly manifests the Taoist idea of the Taegeukdo, commonly understood as the forces of Yin and Yang (In Korean: Eum 음and Yang 양); and secondly, it corresponds with the Korean concept of Sam-Taegeuk 삼태극.
What ever may be said about the actual practicality of the sine wave motion for combat purposes aside, I believe that the application and inclusion of the sine wave motion in this Korean martial art is philosophically congruent with Korean traditional philosophy.
"Approach it [Tao] and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end." -- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
|Tao / 도|
The more modern martial arts (those with the "Do"-suffix in their names), may not always clearly illustrate Taoism at a technical level, but they do embrace Taoist principles such as the interplay of Ying (Eum) and Yang at a philosophical level.
ITF Taekwon-Do has, however, evolved towards a more technical embodiment of Taoist ideas in a way that makes the contemporary manifestation of ITF Taekwon-Do much more akin to Wudang styles than to its earlier way of moving that resembled linear Shotokan Karate. The way Taoist movement manifests in ITF Taekwon-Do is in its oscillation between emphasized moments of extreme relaxation, followed by momentary tension. ITF Taekwon-Do seems to be riding a wave of tranquility and explosive movement, of soft and hard, of base and vertex, of continual change. I've written elsewhere similarities I observe between ITF Taekwon-Do and such Chinese styles as Taichi Chuan and Xing-Yi Chuan.
|Taijitu / 太極圖|
In a manner of speaking, the originally Chinese Taijitu 太極圖, which was also adopted into Japan, present a dualistic (two-dimensional) cosmology of two equal, but opposite forces working in harmony. The same is not exactly true for ancient Korean philosophy where the Taijitu was conformed to the Korean cosmology. First the Taiji(tu) became the Taegeuk(do) 태극(도) in the Korean paradigm.
|Taegeukdo / 태극도|
|Sam-Taegeuk / 三太極|
The Sam-Taegeuk is a uniquely Korean expression of the Taegeuk. Where the normal Taijitu / Taegeuk consists of only two opposite forces / phases that are in continual change, the Sam-Taegeuk embraces three harmonious forces. The third, yellow force symbolizes man ("humanity"). This idea is traditionally known as Sam-Jae 삼재, but is now more commonly referred to as Sam-Yoso 삼요소, which directly translated means “three elements” or “triple essence”. The Sam-Taegeuk symbolizes the harmonious interplay between the forces of heaven (한을 / 천국), earth (토 / 지구), and man (사람 / 인간). In physical terms we might interpret these as a rising force, a lowering force, and a connecting or normalizing force.
What we find in ITF Taekwon-Do is not a pure adherence to the Taiji in the Chinese tradition that functions on a binary paradigm of two opposing forces working in harmony. Instead, ITF Taekwon-Do functions within a traditional Korean philosophical paradigm of the Sam-Taegeuk or Sam-Yoso. In Korean culture we most noticeably recognize the idea of “three” in the typical three-beat rhythm used for much of Korean traditional music. The same rhythm can be recognized in Korean martial arts. ITF Taekwon-Do, like Taekkyeon—Korea's folk martial art—follows Korea's traditional three beat rhythm, explained by Grandmaster Kimm He-Young: “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.” (I quoted Grandmaster Kimm before in a previous post dealing with a similar topic.) The three phased sine wave motion matches the “Korean body rhythm” and is in congruence with the Korean concept of Sam-Taegeuk. Or to phrase it differently, there is a harmony between ITF Taekwon-Do's sine wave motion and traditional Korean cosmology. Deeper inquiry into the Sam-Taegeuk and how this influence the Korean psyche and Korean kinaesthetics may be an interesting and possibly insightful endeavor.
Note that with this essay I did not attempt to argue in favour of the sine wave motion on technical grounds. I have done that elsewhere on this blog. My aim was merely to show that it is consistent with traditional Korean cosmology symbolized by the Sam-Taegeuk and reflected in the three beat Korean “body rhythm” as is also evident in Taekkyeon, Korea's folk martial art. In other words, it is reasonable to say that ITF Taekown-Do, like Taekkyeon, moves in a certain way because they are Korean martial arts that reflect Korean kinesthetics based on Korean philosophy and cosmology.
- A Philosophical Look at Chon-Ji
- The Wave / Circle Principle
- Balgyeong in ITF Taekwon-Do and the Taekkyeon Connection
- From Hard Style Karate to Soft Style Tai Chi