18 May 2015

My PhD Studies & the 5th International Symposium on Taekwondo Studies

Over the weekend of 9-10 May I had the privilege to attend the 5th International Symposium on Taekwondo Studies, sponsored by the WTF as a precursor to the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia, and organized by the International Associationfor Taekwondo Research, It was particularly heart-warming that at least three of the speakers at the event were ITF Taekwon-Do practitioners and scholars: myself, Dr George Vitale (who was a keynote speaker), and Dr John Johnson (who was one of the main organizers and master of ceremonies). The WTF Championships' opening ceremony also included an ITF Taekwon-Do demonstration. Later ITF and WTF practitioners demonstrated basic movements together -- a very symbolic act.

The reason for my attendance was to present a paper and a poster at the symposium that preceded the WTF World Champs. I represented the university where I work, and also Kyunghee University where I am currently enrolled into a PhD program.

My poster was concerned with the influences in martial art forms. I argued that understanding East Asian martial art forms as simply combat drills result in several problems. To solve these problems one have to consider other influences that contributed to the development of the forms, which include Daoyist exercises, folk dances and ritual practices, and East Asian conceptions of mind training through physical activity.

The paper I presented concerned another topic, namely pacifism and war ethics. The title is "The Paradoxical Pacifist Teachings of East Asian Martial Arts." Basically, East Asian martial arts admonish their members not to engage in fighting, or that the highest goal of martial art practise is not fighting. This is paradoxical since the core focus of martial art practise is combative techniques. I argued that the reason East Asian martial arts (as apposed to Western combat systems) teach combat avoidance is because they are based on the pacifist teachings of East Asian philosophies such as Taoism, Confucianism, Mohism and Buddhism. I furthermore continued to show ways in which this paradox can be overcome by means of normative ethics.

This paper is part of my research for my PhD dissertation, which I need to submit--God-willing--by October this year. I have finally completed all my coursework and a few weeks ago I wrote my comprehensive exam and obligatory foreign language exam. I'm thankful that I passed both, since nearly half of the attendees did not pass the comprehensive exam.

Unfortunately, because I'm so busy with work and studies, I'm not getting to write here as often here as I would like. For what it is worth, I have several writing topic ideas just waiting for an opportunity to be written.