Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Korean kicks (all through the night)
This is a post in reply to Dan Prager's comment here and follows on from my previous post about which kicks are used within hyung (forms) and drills and what proportion of drills are kicking based.
This is a very good point as traditionally Korean martial arts are heavily oriented to kicking techniques, notably high kicks and jumping and spinning techniques and this can sometimes be seen in competition Tae Kwon Do. Indeed whenever I have trained with the University Tae Kwon Do club all we seem to do is incredibly tiring kicking drills with jumps a-plenty. This influence on Korean martial arts is said to come from the Northern Chinese Kung Fu tradition of high, acrobatic kicking and high stances as opposed to the Southern styles which were more 'grounded'. (Following is cut from Wikipedia: "The main perceived difference about northern and southern styles [of Kung Fu] is that the northern styles tend to emphasize fast and powerful kicks, high jumps and generally fluid and rapid movement, while the southern styles focus more on strong arm and hand techniques, and stable, immovable stances and fast footwork.").
It has to be said though that Tang Soo Do is Korean 'karate' and effectively a traditional martial art with it's main heritage in Japanese karate. Karate's name was originally taken from the logograms for Kara and Te (唐手): China and hand. It was later (~1930s "a few years after I came to Tokyo...I was then able to suggest that the art be renamed" ref1) that Funakoshi changed the meaning to 'empty hand' (空手) for political and ideological purposes. Tang Soo also means China hand.
So we see the semantics of the names but are the arts themselves similar? It's true that the core forms are very similar which I have outlined previously and I have trained with Japanese clubs and compared forms. One of the sensei actually noted that the version of the form I was doing seemed like an 'older' version which had since further developed in his style. It's certainly interesting to see how seeds are planted and grow into the same plant but with slightly different variants.
Tang Soo Do is a kicking-based karate but as it has it's roots firmly in the Japanese/Okinawan heritage there is a lot of traditional hand techniques to be practiced and this brings me directly to Dan's question: what is the proportion of hand/kicking combinations in drills outside of kata? The short answer is 70/30 kicks/hands. The longer answer is that it's a bit more complex. Often the combinations are mixed and after hand techniques there may be a period of combined hand and feet. 30% techniques in the class may be done from front stance (chungul ja sae) which lends itself to the hand combinations with a few kicks interspersed much like in the hyung. We then develop into kicking from back stance (hugul ja sae). Finally we'll practice jumping kicks and jump spinning kicks.
Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art with strong traditions within Japanese karate, as the similarities of the original names imply. It does, however, hold on to some of the indigenous high, powerful and acrobatic kicking typified by Northern Chinese influences. This is reflected in the training: traditional forms, altered only slightly with higher kicks but more leg-based drills than traditional 'te' derived Japanese arts.
(ref1 p. 34. Karate-Do, My Way of Life, Gichin Funakoshi. Published by Kodansha, first paperback edition 1981)