Saturday, 16 May 2009

Taekkyeon or Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76

Ok so I'm getting it. Slowly, but I think I'm getting there. You see it's difficult when you've been fed the Tang Soo Do party line for a long time you kind of ... accept it. But after a bit of digging and reading around you realise that things aren't quite what they seem.

All the official manuals would like you to believe that Tang Soo do is an indigenous Korean martial art with a heritage of 2000 years and including the Hwarang Knights in its family tree. You can tell I thought something wasn't quite right:

...and these ruminations were confirmed by reading 'A killing Art' by Alex Gillis which shows how General Choi and his main technical director Nam Tae-hi both trained in Karate-do, called in Korea Tang Soo Do. When Choi met the South Korean president, Rhee Syng-man,  soon after the Korean war it was the president who insisted that the demonstration of martial ability that had just been laid on for him by Choi be called Taekkyon. Rhee, understandably, didn't want to hear that these Korean warriors were practicing a Japanese martial art. This got Choi thinking about a new name and a new art form and he ultimately went on to form Tae Kwon Do.

What Rhee was talking about, Taekkyon, is a traditional kicking martial art performed in Korea and while it may not be the pre-cursor to Tae Kwon Do or Tang Soo Do as some insist it must have an influence on these styles post-Second World War. How can I be sure? Check out these videos and you'll see what I consider to be typical Tang Soo Do kicks. Of course there may have been some cross-fertilisation between the two arts. Taekkyon had been banned during the Japanese occupation (and before that Confucian ideals frowned on physical feats in favour of intellectual ones) so both Tang Soo Do and Tae'kkyon attempted to recreate themselves in the late 20th Century. 

Tae'kkyon has an intriguing dance-like quality similar to the jinga of capoiera but the kicks look powerful and focused enough to make a mess of your face! Interestingly it is has the crazy sub title of 'Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76'!

Good Taekkyon history site (in French only).

...and compare the Taekkyon initial 'dance' to the Brazilian martial art of capoeira and it's 'Jinga':

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