11 December 2023

The Muhyeong (No-Form) Principle in ITF Taekwon-Do

On 22 November 2023 I delivered a paper entitled "From Decisiveness to Adaptability: The Muhyeong-Principle in (ITF) Taekwondo" at the 4th International Taekwondo Conference under the theme "Martial Arts Meditations: Philosophical Issues and Contemporary Research on Taekwondo", organized by Youngsan University (South Korea) with the support of Kasetsart University (Thailand), on occasion of the 40th Anniversary of Youngsan University. 

It was an online conference, so the organizer requested us to prerecord our presentations and then join the conference via Zoom for panel discussions. Below is the recording I made, and below that is the abstract of the paper. 


From Decisiveness to Adaptability: The Muhyeong-Principle in (ITF) Taekwondo

Dr. Sanko Lewis

This paper explores one aspect in the evolution of taekwondo from karate. Karate emphasizes kime (“decision”), manifested as the isometric concentration of the whole body at the final moment of the technique. Taekwondo inherited this concept but named it jipjung (“concentration”). Taekwondo’s jipjung retains the physical aspects of kime, but underlying philosophical connotations differ. Furthermore, the ITF style of taekwondo introduces the concept of muhyeong, meaning “no-form,” which functions as the complementary opposite of jipjung. If jipjung represents the moment when the technique is concentrated into its clearest form, muhyeong represents the unformed state of the technique—the state of potentiality. This emphasis on the relaxed and formless part of the overall movement enhances muscular efficiency and offers strategic adaptability. It may also be interpreted as aligning with East Asian philosophical ideas, such as eumyang (yinyang), muwi (wuwei), and mushim (mushin).

Keywords: Taekwondo, karate, kime, jipjung, muhyeong, East Asian philosophy, martial arts philosophy.

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