29 March 2019

Korean Dance, Sine-Wave Movement, and Breathing

I recently took up Korean traditional dancing again. I'm taking classes offered by the National Theater of Korea, which also offers classes in Korean traditional drumming (that I also learned before), and Korean panseori (traditional singing). The reason for taking traditional dance (and why I previously took Korean drumming) is to continue my understanding of traditional Korean body culture.

Attending the recent dancing classes affirmed again the strong similarities with the way we move in ITF Taekwon-Do. Something that is particularly standing out for me this time is breathing in dancing, and how it correlates with the breathing we do in ITF Taekwon-Do. My friend Dr John Johnson also sent me some academic articles about breathing in Korean dancing which I'm slowly working through (as they are in Korean). The following quotation is from another article that I downloaded from somewhere else long ago, which illustrates the similarities between breathing in ITF Taekwon-Do and traditional Korean dance:

"When inhaling the body expands, rising, moving out or up, with arms and legs being lifted and stretched. When exhaling the body contracts, sinking, moving in or down, with arms and legs being lowered or bent." -- Dr. Young-Ae Park, "The Two Characteristics of Korean Dance".
Korean dance movements start from a lowered position with the limbs relaxed and the knees bent. This is the same for ITF Taekwon-Do techniques that start in a neutral position (sometimes known as the intermediate position), as I explained in a different post long ago.  In Korean dance, the dancer will start a movement by "rising, moving out or up" which corresponds with an inhalation. This is the same with most ITF Taekwon-Do techniques: the legs are extended, the body raised and the technique is "loaded" for execution. Next, the technique is "released" corresponding to a "sinking, moving in or down . . . and the legs being lowered or bent" while exhaling.

In Korean dance, such up and down movements, with associated breathing, includes more layers of detail, including mental states, postural nuances, particular points of relaxation and tension. The same can be said for the different techniques in Taekwon-Do, of course. I hope to write an article about this sometime, and will probably write about my experience in traditional Korean dance here on this blog in the future.


03 March 2019

The Teleology of Sparring in ITF Taekwon-Do

The following video recording is of my presentation at Stanford University, at the 2019 International Academic Conference for Taekwondo. The video quality is a bit low as I captured it with my mobile phone from the video stream that was made during the conference. When I find a better quality recording, I will post it later. Below is also the abstract for my presentation.



Abstract: The Teleology of Free Sparring in ITF Style Taekwondo

The Korean term for sparring in ITF style taekwondo is matseogi which denotes opposing or standing up against an adversary. This is different from the term gyeorugi (i.e. from gyeoruda, “to compete”) that is used in WT / Kukki taekwondo or the older term daeryeon (“fighting”) that was used in the early development of taekwondo. Matseogi in ITF style taekwondo ought to be understood teleologically as a “Korean martial art of self-defense.” Towards that goal, the ITF pedagogy guides the practitioner through various types of matseogi (from “pre-arranged” to “unrestricted”), which is supposed to sequentially prepare the practitioner for the telos (i.e. ultimate goal) of real-life self-defense. It is very difficult to prepare for a real-life self-defense situation because reality is often chaotic, with many unpredictable variables. Consequently, the ITF pedagogy offers yaksok matseogi (“pre-arranged sparring”) with much reduces variables, so that the practitioner can focus on and hone appropriate skills for specific variables. Progressively more variables are introduced until the practitioner finally practices jayu matseogi (i.e. “free sparring” or “unrestricted sparring”), which is supposed to allow for the inclusion of as many variables as possible to mimic the chaos of a real-life self-defense encounter. This type of training is often referred to as “reality based” training. However, the term jayu matseogi (“free sparring”) has been appropriated for competition sparring at ITF tournaments. Because competition sparring is bound by numerous sparring rules, this type of sparring still has too many reduced variables to reflect the very high variable situation of a real self-defense encounter. Since for many ITF schools competition sparring is considered jayu matseogi, their pedagogic telos is never achieved, as there is no ultimate “reality based” training that mimics the unpredictability of a real self-defense encounter. It is my proposal that ITF competition sparring should be renamed because the current misapplied use of the term jayu matseogi effectively erases the true definition and purpose of jayu matseogi in the ITF pedagogy. Instead of jayu matseogi the term gyeorugi is an appropriate designation for competition sparring. Furthermore, actual “reality based” jayu matseogi needs to be reintroduced in schools where it is not trained, in order for ITF style taekwondo to achieve its pedagogic telos as a “Korean martial art of self-defense.”