Archive for February, 2014

Taekwondo Is A Serious Deadly Killing System

*Authored by White Dragon

        Taekwondo is not a sport, as Mr. Simmons from the movie “Foot Fist Way’ would say, “Taekwondo is a serious deadly killing system and probably the best of all martial arts.” The latter of that statement is debatable, but the first part of that memorable quote is true and always has been true. Taekwondo actually is a deadly serious killing system. Most Taekwondo practitioners today do not realize the deep history Taekwondo has had in warfare. Taekwondo was given the ultimate proving ground for legitimacy that any Martial Art system could ask for, war. Taekwondo was used in the Vietnam War. Korean ROK Marines also taught this style to U.S. Special Forces soldiers and also South Vietnam Soldiers during that war. The U.S. military adopted Taekwondo for its Special Forces training along with Karate. Taekwondo techniques were added into U.S. Military Martial Arts programs because of the styles effectiveness.

Taekwondo warriors training to kill in their black belts on a military base in Vietnam

After Taekwondo was formed in 1955 about a decade later the Vietnam War took place and Korea entered into it. They along with U.S. soldiers fought against the communist regime of the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas. Taekwondo was given opportunity to not only prove existing techniques work for killing in war, but also develop more techniques for use on the battlefield. The military division that was known for hardcore Taekwondo was the elite Tiger Division, and to a lesser extent the White Horse Division which was larger and had Taekwondo fighters but were not elite troops. Taekwondo combat was used for hand to hand fighting in various situations when soldiers did not have guns or were in close quarters situations. One such type of situation was when Viet Cong would hide in bunkers and the Korean Marines did not have heavy weapons to blow them up. They would charge in there fighting with Taekwondo techniques and bayonets. They were known to cave in ribs, snap necks, choke people to death, and use bone crushing strikes with conditioned fists and feet, along with stabbing people to death.

The military branch of Taekwondo was the Oh Do Kwan led by General Choi at the time. He taught the Korean military Taekwondo and the Tiger Division came from that kwan. The Korean Taekwondo Association at the time and had since given General Choi the permission to start his own, seperate, and unaffiliated branch of Taekwondo in his International Taekwon-Do Federation which left the KTA. The KTA remained and eventually fully entered into the Kukkiwon and is a World Taekwondo Federation national member today. While the ITF was their own separate entity and was based in Canada. So since Vietnam, some soldiers went into the ITF, but the official military kwan, the Oh Do Kwan, remained with the KTA and was absorbed, as the rest of the kwans were, into the Kukkiwon. The Vietnam War is part of Kukki-Taekwondo’s history and Tiger Division is part of the true linage of Taekwondo.

During the Vietnam war Captain Yoon, who was only a 3rd dan black belt, was the leader of the Tiger Division and a serious badass. Only 4 other instructors in this military unit were 4th dan black belts while he only had 3rd dan. This shows that dan ranking meant something really important in the old days. If you had a black belt you were a serious fighter and no one to mess with. A solid dan rank such as 3rd dan meant you were even more deadly. 4th dan has always been considered a high dan rank and qualifies a person as a master. Unfortunately, now days dan ranks pretty much are ambiguous and do not necessarily mean anyone is capable of fighting well, but they are supposed to. Even so, Captain Yoon being a 3rd dan and being the Captain of the Tiger Division speaks a lot about the hardcore fighting ability of 1960’s Taekwondo fighters.

Training to defend and kill

Korean Taekwondo Marines practice sparring, rifle against empty hand

Captain Yoon emphasized training on the makiwara, an Okinawan Karate training device that toughens the fist. Striking the surface of this object conditions the knuckles so the bones dense up in order to strike with extreme power without injury. It also deadens the nerves to pain. The proper fist alignment from the chambered position also strengthens the wrist for impact as the makiwara gives slightly when struck. Hitting this tough surface that slightly gives (though not very much) develops a powerful punch in the trainee. The Tiger Division base camp had makiwaras all over camp so soldiers could strike them and practice. They also hit sand bags, that were used to line up the walls near machine gun turrets for protection, as striking objects all around the base. It is very rare now days to find a Taekwondo dojang with a makiwara in it. Some dojangs don’t even have a heavy bag to kick. This is a bad thing as fist and shin conditioning is vital to using Taekwondo punching and kicking for self defense. The focus on sport sparring and demo teams has brought a lack of black belts with conditioned fists. Even without makiwaras there are other ways to condition the fists with other objects. There really is no excuse to be a black belt and have weak fists. Many Taekwondo black belts today who do not train for “killing” or self defense will break their hands when striking someone’s head.

Captain Yoon, a 3rd dan black belt, and leader of the Tiger Division striking a makiwara on base

Taekwondo makiwara training on base

Apparently, the Tiger Taekwondo warriors walked around on base in their doboks doing all of their duties. They only wore field gear and military fatigues when they went out on missions. They even had a dobok inspection when reporting for training. They had to have clean uniforms just like any military uniform. The dobok was considered a military training uniform for this division. That is something more taekwondoin should understand, that their uniform is just as important as a military uniform, and should be respected just as much. It was once said by a Taekwondo grandmaster that “the only difference between Taekwondo and the military is the uniform” obviously applying it to civilian taekwondoin today. Notice that back then in the 1960’s in Vietnam the dobok was still in the Japanese, Karate-gi style. Very slick.

Taekwondo demonstration on base

Reporting for duty in our nice clean doboks sir!

The military base’s dojang with hard wood planks for a floor

The Tiger Division patch for their Taekwondo uniform

Color patch for their military field uniform

Taekwondo soldiers often taught the Vietnamese civilians self defense to protect themselves from communist terrorists

When someone mentions the words “tiger” and “taekwondo” in the same sentence most people will automatically think “The Korean Tigers.” The Korean Tigers demo team that dresses up like b-boyz and dances gangnam style. The same silly group that cares more about their haircuts than fighting who do gynmastics demos in black belts and silly fantasy movie fight scenes. Hopefully people who read this article and look more into the history of the Tiger Division and read up on them will now think about badass, elite, Taekwondo warriors who could cave in rib cages and snap necks and who fought against the evils of communist terrorists.

Now you know some very interesting history that should give pride to every Taekwondoin out there. Hopefully, now, many Taekwonoin will understand the serious nature of Taekwondo; the fact that it is meant for self defense and is also a deadly serious killing system and should be respected and used properly. This mindset will only benefit future Taekwondo fighters.

*Most of these photos were originally from an old Black Belt Magazine article featuring the Tiger Division (taken from the Kidokwan blog), some were taken from other Vietnam history websites. 

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

One Of The Best Demonstrations Of Taekwondo Basics On Youtube

*Authored by White Dragon

        The following video is one of the best demonstrations of Taekwondo basics I have seen on YouTube. It is simple with proper technique and straight to the point. If WTF/Kukkiwon Taekwondo instructors had their students do more of these types of demos I feel that Taekwondo would be looked at with more respect and dignity in the Martial Arts world. Doing something like this to showcase techniques used in Taekwondo, plus hoshinsool, as well as a more free style of sparring in the Kickboxing style for a demo in my opinion would be a very effective way to keep the honor, dignity, and seriousness of this fighting system. Showcasing the sport as a side feature at a demo would also be acceptable as long as you show Taekwondo being used in a free combat style of sparring with it. I like how this video is done in a military drill style with precision to show discipline.

        The following video is one of the best demonstrations of Taekwondo basics I have seen on YouTube. It is simple with proper technique and straight to the point. If WTF/Kukkiwon Taekwondo instructors had their students do more of these types of demos I feel that Taekwondo would be looked at with more respect and dignity in the Martial Arts world. Doing something like this to showcase techniques used in Taekwondo, plus hoshinsool, as well as a more free style of sparring in the Kickboxing style for a demo in my opinion would be a very effective way to keep the honor, dignity, and seriousness of this fighting system. Showcasing the sport as a side feature at a demo would also be acceptable as long as you show Taekwondo being used in a free combat style of sparring with it. I like how this video is done in a military drill style with precision to show discipline.

Egyptian Taekwondo Federation taekwondoin doing basics

Demonstrating black belt quality for basic technique is a great way to showcase the beauty as well as effectiveness of Taekwondo when paired with demonstrations of actual use for self defense with partners and also sparring. It is a relief to find such a video that lacks the pointless music, drama, taekwondo-dance nonsense, and does not feature “gagnam style.” The lack of music and silly theatrics makes Taekwondo more serious and people can hear the snap of the dobok on each strike and the loud, and normal kiaps (not the ridiculously exaggerated kind you see at a typical demo). That to me is better than music!

There are so many cheesy, cornball Taekwondo demo videos on youtube as well as instructors who have terrible technique and look sloppy making teaching videos. Seeing students who are actually good without silly theatrics and an instructor yelling out commands like a drill sergeant gives me hope. But I don’t know anything about this group, maybe they also do cheesy demos with music. At least in this video they are not. Hopefully all who read this blog will see what I am getting at and hopefully be inspired to make more serious and hardcore demos without trying to appease the mainstream Taekwondo moms in suburbia. Those who know nothing about Martial Arts or what combat systems really are about and who think that Taekwondo is just a fun activity for kids to be babysat at that wish they were ninjas and watched Naruto way too much. Hopefully people will notice high quality and sophisticated movements which are aesthetically pleasing in themselves without the extra packaging of movie-soundtrack-action music, kpop, and the overall dorkiness of fantasy fight scenes not based in reality.

Proof That Taekwondo Was Meant To Punch You In The Face

*Authored by White Dragon 

It is often said that Taekwondo practitioners suck at punching and if they ever do punch, they never punch the face. This would make Taekwondo very boring. Well, here is some video evidence of early Taekwondo in its foundational period (1950’s) showing people punching and hand attacking to the face!

Taekwondo face punching:

The best part of this video is the free sparring. Notice how they are constantly attacking the head with their hands, and even throw low strikes to the body. This shows the heavy influence of Japanese Karate in Taekwondo’s foundational period. There are plenty of hand techniques that many Taekwondo instructors are not teaching which is sad. 

More exciting oldschool footage. Some of the same footage but other footage as well. Notice that even doing basics they have some hand techniques that are rarely taught today to students. Some of the hand techniques and stances look somewhat Kung Fu in style. This shows some of the Chinese influence on Taekwondo. Also, it is great to know that even in the early days they were practicing flying kicks, but it seems way more practical and useful flying kicks and without the boring gymnastics that demo teams do today. 

 

This is some glorious footage! Don’t you just love old Martial Arts video footage like these? Notice their doboks are in the pure, white Karate gi fashion. This was before they instituted the v-neck style and the black v-neck for black belts.

Here is more footage of interesting things:

Back in the day when Martial Artists actually cared to collaborate with other stylists and learn useful things. This is Mas Oyama the founder of Kyokushin Karate collaborating with Korean Taekwondo students. 

Here is some more modern footage showing proof that Kukki-Teakwondo does have face punching and it should be trained. 

Another modern Kukki-Taekwondo video showing various hand and arm strikes. He has some epic kiaps and overdramatic students! Awesome techniques!

And even another Kukki-Taekwondo master showing various face punching technique!

 

And just for fun here is an early Taekwondo master in the 1960’s showing some badass self defense techniques. Here you can see the influence Judo had on Taekwondo for self defense and that Taekwondo is a self defense art useful for combat and not just a boring sport of foot tag.

        Taekwondo is a deep Martial Art with all kinds of techniques. Ignoring most of them in order to be good at a sport that disallows pretty much 95% of the techniques makes you less effective for self defense. It also makes Taekwondo very boring. Taekwondo should not be boring as it is actually an exciting and useful fighting method. If you are not a Martial Artist and you want to attack a Taekwondo fighter then you deserve to get a punch to your face! If you are a Taekwondo fighter and you just read this article then…Get back to training and start punching people in the face and throwing people, along with your kicks!

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Babes In Doboks

        Everyone knows Taekwondo has all the babes and they look wonderful in nice, clean, crisp, white doboks! That is one the benefits of training at your dojang. Taekwondo babes. This is a salute to all the hot modeling catalog Taekwondo girls in their cool doboks with their black belts! V-neck W.T.F. approved only of course!

Yes, I would love to practice hoshinsool with you next to that giant Korean flag. Lets work on the rear bear hug, I grab first. Seejak!

Why sure! I would love to practice kicking pad drills with you 2 ladies. Let's go!

Why sure! I would love to practice kicking pad drills with you 2 ladies. Let’s go!

 

Hello ladies! Is this going to be Taekwondo ground techniques class? okay you both attack me first!

Hello ladies! Is this going to be Taekwondo ground techniques class? okay you both attack me first!

Ohhh yeaahhh! Time to stretch!

Uh oh! Look who brought some sass onto the dojang floor! Not too sure if I like the female specific doboks…

You’re welcome!

Why Do We Chamber Our Punches In Taekwondo?

*Authored by White Dragon. 

        You heard it a million times by all of the combat realists out there, “Nobody would ever punch like that in a fight or even stand that way so why do you still do reverse punching from the hip!” Believe it or not there is actually a purpose for why most traditional martial arts punch with a chamber. Karate, Kung Fu, and Taekwondo all punch from the hip in their forms and even have students practice basic blocks and strikes from a chambered position of the fist on the hip or ribs. For Taekwondo we hold our fists on our belt which is on our hip.

        All basic level students need to learn to punch from the hip as well as punch from a standing guarded position (sparring stance or boxing style). Both starting positions for blocking and striking can easily be taught to a white belt level student and should be, but also a heavy emphasis on the chambered punch position is necessary to develop the idea of self defense striking and blocking. This also aids in perfection technique with better control of body movements and proper body mechanics. Basics practice helps a person move their arms more gracefully, more accurately, and helps the muscles tense properly and also gives strength to the limbs.

        I have heard it said that chambered, or reverse, punching develops more power than a regular boxing punch. This is not actually true. Some instructors claim that punching from the hip, as well as the twisting motion the wrist does, develops way more power than a standard boxing punch. Cho (1988) explains,

“While some varieties of martial arts recommend rotating the fist while delivering a punch, very little seems to be gained. Physicist J. Walker calculated that the fist rotation adds about 0.4 joules of energy to a punch (one joule is the energy needed to lift one kilogram 10 centimeters). Since the energy contained in a good punch, according to Walker’s calculations, is about 150 joules, Walker concludes that fist rotation makes a negligible contribution.” (p. 41)

So why do we rotate our fist then? First of all it is comfortable to do so. Starting the fist upside down in a relaxed position resting on the hip makes it easier to punch. Holding your first right side up causes muscle tension and awkward feelings in the wrist and elbow joint. The twisting of the fist is a natural movement of the bones, tendons and muscles connecting from the shoulder to the elbow and wrist into a faster and still powerful strike. The twisting of the fist allows for natural body alignment of the joints that protect them with a sturdier landing on impact as the arm, wrist, and fist tense as the last second. Without twisting your, and instead keeping your fist right side up, the punch will be slower since the turned wrist would be tensed up at the start (try it yourself and see how it feels. Hold your fist palm up on your hip, then hold it palm down and see which feels relaxed). A tensed up wrist has a less stable impact on landing that is not as good for the joints.

        The idea that twisting causes more power at the last second of a punch might be a myth or a misunderstanding from oldschool Karate and Kung Fu masters before such studies were made, but it still helps make punching easier from the chambered position. Another way twisting could help is if you have very well conditioned and gnarly knuckles with rough skin that really scratches surfaces. The twist could add some last second friction that would hurt someone’s skin by drilling and scraping with a twist. But of course how many people have such knuckles and how much pain would this cause? Not much but as comedic as it sounds it is still something that is plausible.

        Hip rotation does generate a lot of power in a punch as well as any strikes and blocks within Taekwondo. But I personally have found that boxing punches can generate just as much power, if not more, simply by shoulder and hip rotation. Both boxing and Karate/Taekwondo punching uses hip rotation, and in a lesser sense both use shoulder rotation, yet boxing uses a lot more shoulder pressure and rotation into each punch as well as twisting the knee and sitting on the toe for added power.

        Boxing punches from the top of the torso, while Taekwondo chambered punching punches from the bottom of the torso. Hands raised in a guarded position is punching from the top, standing in a traditional stance such as horse stance or long front stand and punching from the belt level, or hip, is punching from the bottom. Both are necessary for a strong control of limbs, hand eye coordination, and dexterity. You will be more well rounded in controlling your arms if you move in many different ways and do not strictly stick to the 5 basic boxing punches. This is hard for the beginning fight enthusiast student who begins training in Taekwondo. He wants to punch like the UFC fighters and finds traditional training boring. But if the instructor knows why we punch from a chambered position and can easily explain and demonstrate it then it could open the students mind to taking traditional basics seriously.

        The opposite reaction principle is used in traditional strikes. Opposite motions create more power. The famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton’s (1642-1727) Third Law of Motion states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is true in Taekwondo. When one arm is extended out and the other is chambered on the hip you are ready to perform this Law of Motion. When you throw your punching hand out and the extended hand immediately retracts at the same time there is opposite reaction power going on. Throwing one arm and punching does not have the same amount of power as when the opposite arm and shoulder also rotation backs in a pulling motion. This is why in horse stance or doing forms the Taekwondo fighter has a guided hand that always pulls back with each strike and block. Opposite reactions of the arms and shoulders and hip twist cause greater power for greater injury to the attacker. This is important to understand. Within Taekwondo traditional basic striking and blocking there is more power from opposite motions for single powerful strikes than if you just do boxing style punches. On the other hand, boxing punches also use the opposite reaction principle in a tighter form that is still very powerful and devastating to an attacker. The large Taekwondo movements will have more power in a self defense situation from hands down position than if you first raise your hands up before reacting to the attack. You can also punch from the hip as well as slightly raise your fist to medium torso before punching which is more powerful than a simple boxing punch. Stopping to raise your hands like a boxer first is a slower reaction and less powerful. This is true from a casual standing position much like how you will stand when randomly attacked. Now in a squared of position when a fight is going on the boxing stance is a lot more practical and powerful in the middle of a fight. There is a difference.

        The most practical reason Taekwondo punches with a chamber on the hip is in my opinion because of the self defense oriented nature of the Martial Art. Learning to punch with your hands down or lowered will help a person in  performing self defense a lot easier than if he only trains to fight in a ring with gloves up. In real life, outside of combat sports people walk around with their hands down and do every day activities. When a person is attacked they are attacked usually wit their arms down and not in a guarded position. Learning to punch from the bottom of the torso will allow for faster striking from such a position; and efficient power to devastate the attacker by striking vital areas will be easy to perform. You must not first raise your hands like a boxer in a guarded position, then, and only then throw a punch or block. That would be slow and a waste of time when the danger of the attack is imminent and already occurring. It is my philosophy that chambered punching is “self defense” punching. Blocking and striking both from this makes perfect sense when thinking about self defense techniques. This could be grabs, punches, kicks and holds from 1 or more attackers.

        This is one reason practicing forms is helpful. Forms are various self defense techniques combined in a pattern and designed to be used as individual techniques for individual circumstances. Forms help the Taekwondo practitioner move their arms and strike and block from various angles from the chambered (self defense) position. The fight fan, MMA trainer, or average guy on the street who claims reverse punching is out of date and stupid is just ignorant and does not understand the nature of self defense positioning. If someone grabbed my shoulder on the side and was about to hit me, and my hands were down because I was minding my own business I believe it is much faster, more efficient, and more devastating to throw a hard punch to his ribs or solo plexus from the hip than it is to raise my hands like a boxer and then punch him. This is self evident.

        Now once you react to an attacker from the chambered/reverse punching position then of course common logic would say that you should immediately raise your hands in the guarded position (like a boxer). Once the fight is on and you get out of something and are ready and squared off it is common sense to raise your hands and start your kickboxing skills firing away. Only a stupid person would keep their hands on their hips and stand in front of an attacker and think he will fight in horse stance. This idea that a Taekwondo fighter would do that is pure ignorance and created by people who know nothing of martial arts or self defense. It is usually promoted by wannabe MMA fighters who jump on the anti-traditional martial arts bandwagon.

This is how traditional striking and blocking basics should be practiced. Notice the slight hip rotation and the tightness and speed. There is much power in each strike from opposite reactions. Pulling and thrusting motions. 

        Traditional strikes and blocks can easily be transferred into a more sparring or guarded position like a kickboxer. In a real world self defense situation attacks can come from all kinds of crazy angles. Anywhere from low, high, medium, from the sides and more. Sometimes straight forward and sometimes swinging from the side. So knowing how to low block, high block, outside block etc is important and these types of traditional blocks can easily be transferred into a tighter more quick position for blocking and striking, with the hands guarded up. And this is the point of these techniques to be used. You should modify your traditional Taekwondo techniques for a faster, quicker, tighter fighting position.

Notice the traditional blocks such as high block, down block, inside block etc. They are modified for a tighter style that will be useful when squared off and already fighting. The boxing punches and Taekwondo blocks work effectively together. There is still speed and power from opposite reactions. 

        There are situations for more large movements and also smaller movements. We exaggerate our movements in poomsae and basics training because it gives a fuller body workout stretching the full ranges of muscles and thus working out the body more fully than if we only practice in close tight boxing punches. But both are necessary for a true Taekwondo fighter. None should be neglected as both work the body out in different ways and both have combat effectiveness.

        Chambered or reverse punching is important for self defense and overall for a complete martial artist, especially the Taekwondo fighter. Learn to do both, master technique and practice in all the various ways and be ready to fight when you have to.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Works Cited

        Cho, H.I. (1988). The Complete Black Belt Hyung W.T.F. Hee Il Cho: Los Angeles, CA.

Here Is Some McDojang Comedy Relief

        Enjoy these hilarious video clips from the movie “Foot Fist Way.” How many of you have actually seen a demo much like this, or much worse yet, participated in such a demo? Have you ever met an instructor who tries to sell you his training and make you sign up? Did you watch a video in his office, did he show you his trophies? Have you ever met someone like Senior Certified Instructor Mr. Simmons?

        Leave some comments and tell us your stories!! We want to hear them! 

*Language warning beware.

Who Is King Of The Demo?

What You Want Is Taekwondo.

Fighting Is Imperative To Taekwondo Training

       *Authored by White Dragon. 

        If you claim to be a Martial Artist and you don’t fight then you really know nothing of the Martial Arts. This holds true for Taekwondo. You will know nothing of Taekwondo unless you fight. Regardless of physical ability (possibly handicaps, injuries, mental challenges etc.) a student must train to fight the best he can. By fighting, it does not mean you must fight in a tournament, or in a cage fight, or some kickboxing event only. No, by fighting, it simply means at least sparring in your dojang and sometimes going hard on one another. Another way to fight is outside of the dojang. If someone attacks you then you fight them. If no one attacks you then you could provoke them into fighting you so you can try out your techniques, but that really is not a good goal to have, for the essence of self-defense is to only fight back when attacked. Going out looking for a fight is immoral and against the principles of Taekwondo’s martial philosophy. Nonetheless, a Taekwondoin must fight if he wants to prove he knows anything about Taekwondo. This can easily be done in a gym environment supervised by a qualified instructor.

        It is a myth that for one to prove he is black belt quality he has to fight in an MMA cage, or Kickboxing ring for sport fighting. You can still be a decent fighter without competing. An example of this reality is when author Sam Sheridan (2o10) paid a visit to Renzo Gracie’s (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master) gym in New York and met John Danaher “New Zealand John.”  Danaher is Renzo Gracie’s top Professor (Instructor) and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu genius (Sheridan, p. 235). He has never competed! He had a childhood surgery go wrong on his knee so he does not compete but is excellent in knowledge and physical abilities in the gym (Sheridan, p. 236). He is so respected that even Georges St. Pierre took private lessons from him and many other top names in MMA. The point being, even though he does not train to fight in competitions he is still a good fighter. You can be a fighter even if you do not compete.

        The meaning of being a fighter does not necessarily mean you practice combat sports and are a paid professional fighter. The word fighter simply means “a person with the will and disposition to fight, struggle, and resist.” A Taekwondo fighter is simply that same kind of person with such a will and disposition who trains in Taekwondo. It should be acknowledged that any true Taekwondo black belt should, thus, be a Taekwondo fighter whether or not they participate in combat sports. Also whether or not they are soldiers in the military. Sport fighters and soldiers are fighters, but not all fighters are sport competitors or in the military. All true Martial Artists train to be ready in case there is a need to fight; whether or not they plan to fight in the ring or in honorable duty calls to defend one’s family, friends, and personal interests. Hopefully, all Taekwondo fighters embrace the 5 tenets of Taekwondo and will fight for what is good and not selfish ambition.

        There is no excuse not to spar in your school. At first sparring can seem scary, but over time confidence can be built through contact training drills that build up over time to harder connecting techniques. This can be from defensive drills where you allow yourself to get hit either on your body or padded gear; and also within sparring you can start out light contact with realistic techniques and over time develop into a fearless full contact fighter. Every Taekwondo fighter should experience full contact sparring at some point in their training history, at least in a controlled environment in the dojang under the safety of instructors watching. Hopefully the Taekwondo fighter makes this a reoccurring practice throughout his training life in order to keep skills up. Gradually, the Taekwondoin soon enough will develop self confidence and be able to control his fear.

        Many dojangs today over emphasize self confidence for emotional security and self esteem while spending hardly any time on physical self confidence. If people are built up to believe in themselves without proving it physically they are going to be in a lot of trouble as they will have a false sense of security. Overconfidence destroys Martial Artists. Grandmaster Hee Il Cho explains that “physical confidence can only be gained by learning how to fight and knowing how to take care of yourself in a real situation” (p. 52). That means not simply doing sport sparring for a tournament rules format, but free sparring with a wide variety of target areas and self defense techniques. Cho also expresses, “Fighting is imperative in the martial arts. Without fighting, you’re not understanding total and complete martial arts, because until you get physically hit by someone, you won’t know if something works” (p. 52). In the Martial Arts it is expected you will get bumped and bruised and even bloodied. This is just a fact and it is something to expect and fight through. Your instructor should help you with mental strength and pain tolerance. This is not to say it’s okay to be injured, it is not. A real Taekwondo instructor watches for the safety of his students and helps them avoid real injuries. Safety gear is important to start off with and can gradually thin out over time, and if one chooses to spar without gear that is up to them with a partner of mutual understanding and common sense. But bumps and bruises and even blood should be expected! Students must learn to get over it and realize it only makes them stronger when they heal up.

        Training for tournament fighting is a good start for any Taekwondo student wanting a fight experience with some benefits of extra safety. But it should not be the main goal of the overall fighting technique that student will know in his Taekwondo life. Becoming a tournament champion and earning trophies and medals in a point fight system can bread unnecessary arrogance and embellished claims of skill if one is not careful, nor has an instructor there to make him check himself. The development of the W.T.F.  has been a blessing and a curse for the art of Taekwondo. On one hand it brought world-wide awareness of Taekwondo and has received acknowledgment in many countries and governments and within international organizations such as the IOC. This has been great for the spread of Taekwondo, but the curse in all of this is that the W.T.F. explicitly only represents sport sparring and sport poomsae competition. They exist solely to promote the tournament sport with all of its rules and regulations and all of its limitations for real world combat. They do not care about anything else. This has caused so many Taekwondo masters to only care about their students winning sport fighting, point tournaments and poomsae competitions. They have a total lack of focus for open rules competitions such as Kickboxing and MMA, as well as an unconcern for real world self defense.

        If Taekwondo is realistically going to keep up with the times and develop further in the Martial Arts world this overemphasis on sport has got to stop. Sport is great, but not an overemphasis on it. If the Kukkiwon is going to be the leader in Taekwondo development and advancement then they should start developing fighters for other modes of combat sports such as Kickboxing, Knockdown style, and MMA. Why not create a Kukkiwon Fight Team and train them for such events? Taekwondo is, first and foremost, a fighting art. Such competitions will only allow Taekwondo to prove itself in more combative avenues which will increase its credibility. This will only cause people to notice effective techniques that could transfer over to self defense.

        Taekwondo also is in general, a fighting art for self defense. The republic of Korea teaches it’s soldiers Taekwondo, and the Martial Art has been used in the Vietnam War to kill the enemies by ROK Marines. Morgan (1992) concurs,

“As anyone who has faced the army of the Republic of Korea can testify, Taekwondo can be a devastating method of unarmed fighting. But to learn true combat, students must practice without the constraints of tournament rules.” (p. 53)

        To understand fully the art of Taekwondo, the practitioner must spend quality time in sparring; not just for tournaments but also for real life situations targeting all over the body from leg kicks, face punches, knees, and elbows. This can be done in a safe environment and there is no excuse not to spend significant time training in such a way to help the Taekwondo fighter become adequate with the full range of Taekwondo techniques. You cannot simply practice for spin kick tricks, poomsae competitions and demonstrations, or board breaking. One especially should avoid wasting time on “Taekwondo-dance” and all of the other silly antics that people have created to impress ignorant masses of pop-culture followers who have no concern for the warrior way or self defense, and just enjoy showing off and dancing. The Taekwondo student must  practice using Taekwondo for what it was originally intended for, which is fighting.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Works Cited

        Cho, H.I. (1988). The Complete Black Belt Hyung W.T.F. Hee Il Cho: Los Angeles, CA.

        Morgan, F.E. (1992). Living The Martial Way. Barricade Books, Inc.: Fort Lee, NJ.

        Sheridan, S. (2010). A Fighter’s Mind. Atlantic Monthly Press: New York, NY. 

What’s On The Menu: An Analysis Of Your Typical McDojang Part 3

*Authored by White Dragon and Grey Wolf

Part 3: Final Part.

McDojang tactics 

Most mcdojangs always have crazy uniforms for various things within their schools they sell their students. Demo team uniforms, tournament uniforms, class uniforms, t-shirts, black belt club uniforms etc. It is all just to make money of their student base so they have to keep buying various uniforms. Another thing is mcdojang organizational leaders realize their style is lacking in realism so they have to adopt other martial arts styles within their curriculum to fill the gap. The ATA is known for starting its Krav Maga (Israeli self defense art) program, and even at one time had an MMA program. They saw the trend of MMA and tried to make money quick. What mcdojangs will do is buy out a martial arts group or pay that group to liscence them to advertise such as using the Gracie’s name for Gracie Jiu Jitsu for the ATA, or Wolfpac Jiu Jitsu for the ITA. They then have paid for the right to have a grappling program and claim their instructors are now certified to teach it. What they do is have very loq standards for how an instructor gets certified, so then someone who would only be a high white belt, and at most, a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is claiming to be a grappling expert and teaching their ignorance to their Taekwondo students. Mcdojangs do not stop there, they come up with all kinds of martial arts certifications to boost the credentials of their school owners such as Korean weapons certification, jong bong staff certification, Kumdo sword certification, grappling certification, Krava Maga certification, self defense certification, and more and more on top of their already 9th degree black belts in their Taekwondo style. So their ranks come within their own group, certified by their own group, for their own group. It is not as if a independent martial artist who is a Taekwondo ranked instructor who also has Jiu Jitsu rank from a separate Jiu Jitsu organization. They do not have cultured people within martial arts but are inbred stylists creating bastardized versions of such martial arts styles sprinkled on top of already bastardized Taekwondo.

Another tactic mcdojang organizations do, the ones who have money, is set up annual trips to Korea. They try to make their students think they are going back to their roots, but all they did was pay for a trip to Korea and become tourists, and then pretend the Kukkiwon represents them because they got a tour of it. They also usually pay to rent a temple or a place where you can behave stoically because of nice Korean landscape scenery and then have some training. In reality South Korea has nothing to do with their style nor does Korea even recognize what they are doing as legitimate Taekwondo. The black belt ranks do not transfer to the Taekwondo gyms in Korea.

One of the most annoying tactics to me personally is the average mcdojang chain’s claim to have the most top qualified instructors in the world who go through a “rigorous training process” and are re-certified annually and tested to make sure their instructors have the “most up to date training methods and techniques” available. This is very impressive to parents but all it really means is an in group’s leaders oversaw their instructors and taught them the latest marketing tactics and gimmick in their organization and introduced to them new materials or changes of old material in their own group. It is not as if an official independently run and legitimate Taekwondo organization tested their instructors and licensed them like how a personal training certification works or an athletic commission. It is basically as if McDonald’s said they train their managers in the latest burger making, fry cooking, cashier running methods. It would be like McDonald’s testing their own workers to be better at McDonald’s. It is not like the Health Inspector’s or Top Chef came in to test the workers and teach them high quality culinary techniques. So their claim to teach the highest quality methods and claim to annually test and re-certify instructors is complete BS and only serves as a money making scheme not only to get parent’s fooled into signing their kids up in long term contracts, but to make money off of their franchise owners and instructors themselves. It costs money to be re-certified and take tests, and go to seminars etc. in order to keep your rank and remain an instructor.

One last thing worth mentioning is that just because someone is a part of a mcdojang does not mean they automatically suck. People are individuals and it is possible someone who has good fighting skills attends a mcdojang or is part of one. They could be good if they do self study outside the typical curriculum they learn and  if they are athletically gifted. Maybe they spar their friends outside their gym and cross train. Another reason someone might be good is because of the fact that often, groups like the ATA will and have hired WTF tournament champions who are Kukkiwon black belts or ITF black belts, and also expert competitors who originally trained in another style. Some people can be bought with enough money and are paid and given business opportunities to switch to their organizations. But even so the quality of the average student is seriously lacking and it is extremely expensive.

Kukkiwon certified instructors are legitimate

The Kukkiwon is independent from most dojangs around the world and serve only as an organizational backing that regulates the art and provides LIFE-TIME certification for people who earn their ranks and also a world culture for Taekwondo. There is no re-certification fees or mandatory seminars and this is a good thing. A martial arts gym can be Kukkiwon certified yet be given a lot of leeway to teach various things for self-defense. Gyms are independently run but still belong to the Kukkiwon linage, and their rank certifications are quite cheap, even compared to the average fitness trainer’s personal training certification. Some people may think that mcdojang’s advertisements sound impressive because they have standardization, but do not be confused, the Kukkiwon has standards and better standards not based on marketing schemes and whatever a corporate entity wants to implement to make money. Kukkiwon gyms have the Kukkiwon standard for what Taekwondo is, yet they can teach anything they want to teach for Taekwondo and self-defense. A true Taekwondo instructor who also wants to be certified in grappling will actually just go to a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym and train. That would bring a wide variety of separate martial arts into their gym, not a bogus inter-organizational certification.

Conclusion

There are various mcdojangs all around and can be identified by their sales tactics and low quality fighting skills in their students as well as no link to the Kukkiwon. They have all kinds of gimmicks. All of this is why if you want to train in Taekwondo you need to start off looking for a Kukkiwon certified instructor. This is the first step in avoiding the mcdojang trap. Now getting a good quality self defense and fight oriented Kukkiwon instructor is another issue for another article.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Grey Wolf is a Martial Artist of 14 years and instructor with a 3rd degree Taekwondo Black Belt.

What’s On The Menu: An Analysis Of Your Typical McDojang Part 2

*Authored by White Dragon and Grey Wolf

Part 2.

Mcdojang Sparring “World Champions”

Below is a comparison of 2 of the largest McDojang chains at their “world tournaments.” Notice how big the audience is, possibly the ATA has a lot of people watching, but is it as if the ENTIRE world is competing and not only regional white guys? The ITA world tournament looks incredibly small:

ATA World Championship Sparring

ITA (Tiger Rock) World Championship Sparring

One does have to say ATA is slightly better, and has a slightly larger venue. but they are both nowhere looking like a giant world competition such as the WTF World Championships, and also pretty lacking in skill. These tournaments are in the point-break style of light touch contact. If you so much as touch the person with your foot they stop the match to call out some points. This leaves absolutely no room for realistic countering or even defense against being countered as all one has to worry about is if their foot or hand touches the other person’s body or head gear. And God forbid if you so much as move their head or body you could be deducted a point, and at worst disqualified for “excessive” contact. Now we don’t want to get hurt because we all know fighting is not about hurting people…right?

Now compare both of those fights to the World Taekwondo Federation style of fighting where you hit full contact and it is continuous. There is no point break, or light touching for points. You have to hit hard to score. And unlike the mcdojang organizations, legitimate Taekwondo tournaments actually are WORLD events with many countries competing. The venues for the tournaments aren’t simply held in the USA and are extremely large.

Match in Korea at the Kukkiwon 

Knockout at WTF World Championships

Small tournament, precisely timed, tornado kick knockout

See real Taekwondo sport actually can hurt you. Knockouts are perfectly legal! You are encouraged to hurt your opponent as long as you use proper attacks to the correct scoring areas. Notice the difference in skill from the ATA and ITA compared with typical World Championship quality WTF sparring. The techniques are precisely times and not flailing around by chance or random flying kicks for no reason. There is speed and high power and such sparring can honestly get quite scary if you are fighting at a tournament.

There have been more recent additions to mcdojang, light contact sparring. They have implicated a “continuous” rules format where they do not stop the match to call points, but the rules for scoring are exactly the same! Light contact touch only, and how do they call points? Using a clicker, and it is completely subjective. Whoever tags each other lightly 100’s of times more than the other person wins. So if you watch a tournament you will see machine gunning hand touching and foot touching and if you hurt the other person you get disqualified.

Comparison of Forms from ATA, ITA, and the WTF standard (analysis by Grey Wolf)

ATA 1st dan Black Belt Form

ATA Shim Jun (1st dan)

First of all, this poomsae is pretty long. There really isn’t a need for it to be so long other than the fact ATA increases their forms by 2 or more movements every belt rank — and the fact it has to fit one of the patterns on the Songahm star. A lot of the hand techniques don’t make sense. At least two points in this video there are uselessly difficult kicking combinations; considering there are three kicks in the combo, the two last kicks would have little to no power. The difficulty and frequency of these kicking techniques makes the form seem loose and sloppy aesthetically. The angles are weird and would never be used in a combat situation (except for point tag foot touch sparring against another uselessly kicking opponent). Most of the spatial progression is made during kicking combinations. Besides that, everything is constrained to one area: no shifts from stance to stance, or much traveling distance like proper poomsae teaches.

ITA (Tiger Rock) 1st dan Black Belt Form

ITA 1st dan Poomsae

The first problems in this form are the awkward front leg round kicks from the back stance. Nobody is every going to use or try that. The next is the use of flashy spin kicks. Other than a turning side kick, poomsae should not overuse spin kicks or use overly-flashy jump kicks. Toward the end of this form is a kicking sequence where you front kick forward and then side kick to the side 90 degrees without dropping your foot. This is absolutely illogical. For one thing, you should not keep your foot up in sparring. For another, you’re never going to front kick and then side kick 90 degrees in another directions on the same leg, much less without dropping your foot. Using double kicking on the same leg has a purpose in fighting, but not at those angles or in such a stance. This sort of nonsense makes Taekwondoin look ridiculous, like they could never fight in a real kickboxing or MMA fight. Poomsae is about teaching how to string together basics. While good poomsae sometimes do have jumping kicks or more advanced hand techniques, generally they are sandwiched between lots of basic techniques and also train people in covering stance with stepping with each technique. Good quality poomsae are sensitive to the teaching of movement principles rather than just stringing together progressively harder, flashier movements. This is what mcdojangers misunderstand about the nature of forms: forms do not have to get more difficult for each belt rank, and merely throwing in a bunch of difficult techniques is not the proper way to go about making a form more advanced. It’s just a way to artificially engage a student so they don’t worry about perfecting their fighting skills instead since most of their students lack a combative interest or mindset. This form is devoid of useful basic techniques such as straight punches, and instead has a lot of hand techniques whose relationship to one other is not readily discernible.

And finally the World Taekwondo Federation Standard For Black Belt Poomsae As Recognized by the Kukkiwon

KKW/WTF Koryo (1st dan)

Koryo is one of the more difficult forms from the Kukkiwon Taekwondo curriculum to perform correctly. That said, the flashiest movement in the whole form is just a double side kick. If you lower the height of both your sidekicks, this technique is actually easily applicable to real fighting situations, whether as a low fake to side kick, or double striking kicks from the knee to the body or head, or 2 slower kicks with power in both movements. This technique is actually used in full contact Olympic sparring a lot, and works. The form is tight and filled with plenty of immediately applicable basic hand techniques, most notably the throat strikes. Most of Koryo’s stance transitions are made from kicks, but the rest of the Kukkiwon forms have several stance to stance transitions, which teach proper weight transfer and are much more practical than predominantly kick transfers from each stance. It also looks sophisticated which is something mcdojang forms lack.

Comparing video evidence it is self evident that Kukki-Taekwondo is superior in all areas.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Grey Wolf is a Martial Artist of 14 years and instructor with a 3rd degree Taekwondo Black Belt. 

What’s On The Menu: An Analysis Of Your Typical McDojang Part 1

*Authored by White Dragon and Grey Wolf

This article is split up into 3 parts for easier reading. This is part 1.

Introduction

In the Martial Arts world a “mcdojo” or a “mcdojang” is a derogatory term used to describe a Martial Arts gym that only exists to make as much money as possible at the expense of realistic, and high quality Martial Arts training. The term comes from the idea that just like with fast food the McDonald’s Corporation is not high quality food and is a cheap version of American delicacies. Likewise, certain Martial Arts gyms are the equivalent to that in the Martial Arts World. Thus the terms “mcdojo” and “mcdojang.” “Dojo” is the Japanese term for gym while “dojang” is the Korean term. So depending on if you train in Japanese Martial Arts or Korean Martial Arts at such kind of a gym the proper term applies. Also this concept for Chinese Martial Arts would be “mckwoon” as “kwoon” is the term for gym in Chinese.

Now with all of this it is apparent that throughout the modern history of Martial Arts the Korean art of Taekwondo has been the victim of this syndrome more than any Martial Art style in the world. There are many mcdojo’s for Karate and other Japanese arts, plenty of them. But Taekwondo mcdojang’s pretty much started this whole trend and are the worst offenders!

American McDojang

Taekwondo in America is full of many “mcdojang” chains all claiming to teach Taekwondo. There are multiple large organizations and even more smaller ones that some people might not know about. These groups each claim they teach the Korean art of Taekwondo and train Taekwondo black belts. But how can this be so when each organization has completely separate techniques and forms and their own style? The way they claim you should move as well as completely different forms vary from chain to chain. Their sparring style and rules format for each of their sports are also their own entity devoid of anything Korea taught for sport sparring. This is because in the 70’s and 80’s when most of these organizations were founded they got caught up in the ridiculous “Sport Karate” tournament circuits instead of Taekwondo fighting.

All of these chains started inside the USA and are not linked back to Korea within their distinct styles, except sometimes through a Korean American who decided regular KTA and Kukkiwon teaching was not good enough (other times it is a White guy or American citizen who starts his own chain). These Koreans usually had a superior master who studied genuine Taekwondo and started their organization. When the master stepped down to pursue other career goals these lesser masters threw out the regular forms and made their own up. Usually, the forms exist simply to show flash and they lack any hint of logical progression in movement and do not have real combative application, at least much that is effective. This is because most of these mcdojang “grandmasters” never have been in a fight and really don’t understand combat or care. They also only train their students to spar in their light contact touch format with ridiculously over-protected gear. They exist to impress and make money and pretend  in a very convincing manner to the average non-martial artist seeking to become a student.

Consequently, within this world of mcdojangs come political struggles. If greed and popularity or power is the goal of certain founders one can see how this trickles down into the subordinates and in-fighting occurs. Splits within organizations happen.

The following is an analysis of the ATA as well as comments about the ITA written by Grey Wolf, a Martial Artist of over 14 years and a former ATA student and ranked 3rd dan black belt within that organization who had come to his senses and converted to Kukki-Taekwondo:

Analysis of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA)

The American Taekwondo Association was co-founded by original Chung Do Kwan graduate Kang Suh Chong and his student Haeng Ung (H.U.) Lee. Before moving to the USA, Kang founded his own school of Taekwondo, the Kuk Mu Kwan, and served as head instructor of the Korean Intelligence Agency as well as commanding instructor of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army. As an 8th dan in Taekwondo upon arriving in the US in 1969, he started a school in Brooklyn, New York, and co-founded the ATA. At this time Kang and Lee practiced and taught the Chang Hon system of forms, which are the family of forms created by General Choi Hong Hi and practiced by the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). In 1973, he was the first Chung Do Kwan graduate to receive the honor of 10th dan from its founder, Lee Won Kuk. Kang served as president of the ATA until 1978.

After Kang left the ATA to serve as vice president of the ITF, H.U. Lee, formerly vice president of the ATA and now an 8th dan, made a complete political takeover, effectively wiping Kang’s contribution to the ATA from its official history. The current history now says that H.U. Lee solely founded the ATA with a unique vision of the martial arts. The ATA continued to use the Chang Hon forms until 1983, when together with his top masters, Lee created the Songahm system of forms. ATA Taekwondo to this day is known as Songahm Taekwondo. (Songahm means “pine tree and rock” or “pine tree temple” and was H.U. Lee’s nickname.)

Sometime during the 1980s and 90s, the general quality of the ATA went downhill. Today, the ATA is the premier McDojang. Being the largest martial arts organization in the USA, and one of the largest in the world through its sister orgs WTTU and STF, it is the model of McDojang success that all other McDojangs aspire to be. As a former member, below are several points of criticism I have for the modern ATA:

1. Promotion. It is well known in the martial arts community that ATA is a belt factory. While some schools do not hand out belts, it seems that most do. You pay for a promotion and you get your belt no matter what. Furthermore, most schools have a one year black belt program. It doesn’t matter how talented you are: you cannot legitimately get a black belt in one year realistically in a true Martial Art style.

2. Child Dans. The ATA does not have a poom or jr. black belt system like the Kukkiwon does. When you become a first degree black belt you are a full-fledged Chodan in ATA, regardless. Kids younger than 8 years old have been able to achieve black belts. Three points: (a) someone under 15 will not have developed enough limbs to correctly perform techniques in a real life situation; (b) does not have the requisite maturity to  handle the responsibility and authority attached to a black belt; and (c) does not have the abstract thinking capability or technical knowledge to teach other students, which a black belt will be expected to do. Additionally, this is a trend generally looked down upon by the martial arts community at large.

3. Absurd Intermediate and Advanced Poomsae. The first 5-7 forms of the Songahm poomsae system are actually pretty good. They make logical use of basic techniques with an obvious Chang Hon flavor to them. Beyond that, however, the forms become ridiculous. They are bogged down by strained, impractical kicking segments, and hand techniques never practiced in self-defense, dragging on and on longer each and every form. The difficulty of some of the useless movements makes it to where almost no one can execute them correctly, giving them a very sloppy and loose feel. By time you’re a 3rd or 4th degree black belt, your form could be up to 100 movements and take several minutes just to perform. Taekwondo is not Tai Chi. The point of poomsae training is to work on proper body mechanics in order to develop muscle memorization for self defense techniques. Simple is better. Overly complicated is useless.

4. Inane Sparring. The light contact, point-break format promotes the abysmal habit of foot fencing and fails to teach real-world applicable combat skills. Instead of launching full kicks, students make repeat machine gun kicks in the air that are not fully extended and which have little to no power — all for the sake of tapping the opponent to gain a point. Allowing points for mere taps creates terrible fighting habits. I’ve seen it in other students and I’ve seen it in myself; I was terrible at sparring coming out of the ATA and did not learn how to hold my own until put in a harder, freer sparring style.


*Even during promotion testing when you are showing your skills as a test to show you deserve to advance in rank they are busy doing twirling air kicks without even touching each other. What purpose does this serve for self defense proficiency as a black belt? Notice the incisive clapping and cheering by the students. It is as if they are brainwashed, yet the parents are unresponsive and do not react. These ATA kids are typical child-black belts considered to legitimately be chodan. 

5. Diluted Tournament system. ATA generally forbids its students to compete in any tournaments outside of the ATA. The majority of tournaments are held by chain owners or between franchises. Above this are state hosted tournaments. Lastly there are the National and World championships. It seems everyone is a national, state, or world champion in something. Everyone. It’s not very often you meet a national champion from USAT or a world champion from the WTF. But it is commonplace with the ATA. In low level tournaments, everyone gets a trophy; places are not usually announced. In high level tournaments, there are so many ways and opportunities to win, that winning hardly means anything. If you’re a world champion, it’s just a world champion in ATA. ATAs best sparrers are not impressive. Unlike with the USAT, AAU, and WTF, where not only do they have the most elite Taekwondo athletes in the country and the world, but they also compete in many open tournaments to qualify for high level USAT, AAU, and WTF tournaments. That means they test their skills against all styles of Taekwondo, Karate, and sometimes even kung fu. Claiming world champions is simply a marketing tactic to make people think they have the most elite Taekwondo instructors and students in the world so parents will want to sign their kids up. What is worse is some of these “world champions” are only that in weapons twirling or forms, or some other ridiculous demo show off event as the ATA has all kinds of divisions for random things. Once they win they get to buy a new uniform that says either “World,” “National,” or “State Champion on the back with their name. This is pretentious and also makes students a little too prideful.

6. Cultic, Egotistic Culture. It has been the observation of me and many other outsiders that ATA students generally walk around with a chip on their shoulder. I did when I was in it. ATA students have a lot of pride in a training system which ill prepares them for either self-defense or open competition, yet they walk around as “world champions” and feel special. Furthermore, many schools have a sort of cult mentality about the primacy of the ATA and their political founder. Psychological manipulation occurs on a daily basis with actions such as forcing the audience to clap excessively when they do a demo, using cheesy techno music when sparring in class, and making students memorize pointless creeds, as well as participate in ridiculous ceremonies and rituals nowhere found inside historic Taekwondo or Korean culture itself (candles, giant staffs, reciting words, special silk uniforms etc.) Said founder, H.U. Lee, is referred to posthumously now as Eternal Grand Master. Need I say more?

*ATA looks more like a Masonic cult than a Martial Arts style. It comes off as very religious. It is a cult of personality about their founder who they speak in awe about calling him “Eternal Grandmaster.” 

Analysis of the International Taekwondo Alliance (ITA)

The International Taekwondo Alliance, known to southerners in the US as Tiger Rock martial Arts, is a style of Taekwondo known as Ho-Ahm. The ITA was formed after some high-ranking ATA black belts decided to defect from the ATA and start their own organization teaching their own curriculum. Aesthetically, Tiger Rock uses the same looking uniforms, branding tactics, instructor/master hierarchy, and name schemes for techniques as the does the ATA. Recently, though, Tiger Rock has changed their uniforms to look more futuristic and modern, yet originally their uniforms were nearly identical and you can still see many wearing them still today.

Much of what is said about the ATA applies to Tiger Rock, some of it more so. Their level of skill is far below that of ATA’s. ATA students are infamous for a low level of skill, yet at least there is a fairly regular group of students in each Dojang that has good kicking technique, etc. And also the instructors are almost always capable technically. But Tiger Rock is not so. Anything the ATA does badly, the Tiger Rock does worse (a comment on a Tiger Rock video once said, “Anything the ATA sucks at, the ITA sucks worse). Sometimes not even the instructors are capable technically of performing their art.

Tiger Rock’s place as a McDojang is unique. Whereas most McDojang organizations were founded by legitimately skilled big name Taekwondo sabums from Korea, Tiger Rock was founded by some guys in the ATA who weren’t even the most important masters. ATA is diluted Chung Do Kwan/Oh Do Kwan/Kuk Mu Kwan Taekwondo. Whereas, Tiger Rock is a diluted Songahm Taekwondo which is already diluted from its parent systems!

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Grey Wolf is a Martial Artist of 14 years and instructor with a 3rd degree Taekwondo Black Belt.