28 February 2016

PhD Graduation

It is with much thankfulness and appreciation of the support of my family, friends, and my Taekwon-Do and martial art community that I can announce the completion of my PhD degree in Taekwon-Do (Oriental Philosophy & Martial Arts). My graduation ceremony was on 17 February 2016, and on 21 February I was pleasantly surprised to receive a “Best PhD Dissertation”-award from the Graduate School of Physical Education.

I commenced my studies here in Korea, at Kyunghee University, in 2013. It involved two years of course work, and in the third year I finalised my research and wrote my dissertation. At the end of 2015 I submitted the dissertation, had to give a preliminary defence presentation, and had to later defend my dissertation before five examiners on two occasions. Although I was very nervous about defending my thesis, in the end the defences were less grueling than I had anticipated. I was able to answer the examiners' questions satisfactoraly. The examiners' feedback was quite helpful. While there are parts of the dissertation that I think I could develop more fully, the thing I am most disappointed about my dissertation is that I did not have time to get it professionally proofread. Had I done so, I would have failed to submit before the graduation deadline, which would have meant that I would have missed the 2016 graduation and would have only been able to graduate in 2017. (The Graduate School of Physical Education only has one graduation per year, in February.)

Me with Dr George Vitale who came all the way from NYC,
USA, to attend the graduation ceremony. I am extremely
humbled by this beautiful gesture of camaraderie. 
The title of my dissertation is “Promoting Peace, Practising War: Mohism's Resolution of the Paradoxical Ethics of War and Self-Defence in East Asian Martial Arts.” It is basically a paper on the East Asian ethics of war and how this relates to East Asian martial arts. In particular, I aimed to resolve the paradox found in East Asian martial arts that promote peace, while at the same time teach violent martial (“war”) techniques. I honestly enjoyed the research into East Asian religion and philosophy, Just War Theory, self-defence ethics, martial art history, and all the other strands I had to pull from to write the thesis. I hope to continue my research in this and related fields.

Many people ask me, now that I have a degree—and one in Taekwon-Do of all things—what will I do with it? The honest answer is that I don't know. I was already working as a university lecturer before I started with the PhD, so getting a doctorate fits within my career path. The question for me was in what field was I going to further my studies. I considered several other fields, but one of the deciding factors for me as an expatriate living in Korea was the uniquely “Koreanness” of this degree. Doing a degree in martial arts philosophy is something quite specific to Asia. I mean, I could have done a PhD in philosophy practically anywhere in the world—even East Asian philosophy could be done at an Asian Studies department outside of Asia. However, a degree in martial arts is peculiarly East Asian in nature. Thus I decided that as I'm living presently living in Korea, I should take advantage of this unique opportunity. There are only a handful of non-Koreans in the world with a degree in Taekwon-Do and even including Koreans, very few people that specializes in martial arts philosophy.

For those of you that do not know, the whole idea of having Taekwon-Do as a university degree was the initiative of General Choi Hong-Hi, the principle founder of this martial art. Gen. Choi approached the founding president of Kyunghee University and proposed to him to start a Taekwon-Do degree program; hence Kyunghee University was the first university to start a Taekwon-Do department. Kyunghee University's Taekwon-Do department is arguably still the top Taekwon-Do department in the country, and the university is ranked among the top ten Korean universities.

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