13 February 2014

Steven Capener

There are not that many non-Koreans who have come to Korea to formally study Taekwon-Do academically. Since I am currently pursuing a PhD in martial arts philosophy here in Korea, I do feel a sense of deeper kinship with other non-Koreans that have or is currently doing the same. There are very few of us.

Dr Steven Capener might very well be the first foreigner to have come to Korea to live here long term, and formally study Taekwon-Do and receive a PhD in the field. He got his doctorate degree at Seoul National University in Sports Philosophy, and researched the modernization of martial arts with focus on Taekwon-Do. He has also written one of the best essays, in my opinion, on the technical philosophy of Taekwon-Do sparring. His discussion of the Principle of Full and Empty Space, based in the Taoist idea of opposites, has greatly affected how I understand Taekwon-Do as well. I have shared a good chunk of his essay on my blog before: "The Do: The Principle of Full and Empty Space". In the interview below, Dr Capener also explains this concept with the help of demonstrators. (You can watch it from around 32:10 in the YouTube video.)

Dr Capener practises the martial sport version of Taekwon-Do, known as WTF (Kukkiwon-syllabus). As someone who have been active in WTF administration for many years, and particularly as someone who was an WTF athlete at a professional level, he has keen insight into how the style has changed, and he discusses some of the problems that is part of the sport at present. (You can see this part of the interview at around 37:15.)

It is definitely an interview worth watching for Taekwon-Do enthusiasts regardless whether you are an WTF-stylist or not. It is seldom that foreigners can get the opportunity to get a glimpse into Taekwon-Do as it is practised in (South) Korea.