Posts Tagged ‘Gangnam’

How To Get To The Kukkiwon In Korea

        If you are ever going to visit Korea you are probably going to go to the Kukkiwon at some point since you are a Taekwondoin. It is absolutely easy to get to the Kukkiwon once you know where it is. The first time I found the Kukkiwon I randomly walked into on on accident in Gangnam. I have since been there a few times doing whatever, namely to go to the Mooto and KSD store. Here is a video about how to find the Kukkiwon.

Basically take subway line 2. It is the light green line. You want to go to Gangnam Station. Once you get to Gangnam station go to exit 12 and walk up the steps. Once you get outside keep waking straight. You will see a McDonalds and Daiso store on the left. Keep walking to the first crosswalk. Do not cross the street. Instead turn left up the steps on the corner. There is a thrift store type fashion store with clothes outside right there. When you turn left up the street stay on that side and walk straight up. The street is a steep hill. You will walk right next to a Mooto store. Feel free to check it out and buy stuff. Or look and come back and buy stuff. Then you will see a park with a pavilion on the left. Keep walking. You will see the Kukkiwon gate, that is the sign you are basically there. Walk up the hill more and take the low road. The high road will take you beside the building and it will not be a good experience. You want to see the Kukkiwon straight on in the front for your first time to get the proper experience. Once you take the low road you will walk right in front of the Kukkiwon and you can walk up the walkway to the front steps.

After that you can check out the Kukkiwon and explore the halls and the dojang floor. It is usually set up like a theater with a stage since they do so many demonstration shows with theatrics. You cannot actually train there. After that go explore the outside grounds and see some rock monuments dedicated to the Olympics and things like that. You can walk around the whole building and behind it there is a pavilion that is nice to sit in and take photos. Behind that is a small fitness park for old Korean people. Across the front parking lot there is an area you can get a few of part of Gangnam with some sky scrapers and things. There is another small fitness park there. Behind the Kukkiwon on the left side the the Taekwondo museum which has a lot of Olympic trinkets and artifacts. It is actually quite boring since it has nothing to do with fighting or interesting stuff except joining the Olympic games. But I have to say there are some old doboks of world champions and some old sparring gear to look at. Other than that there is some faulty Korean history that is simply not true about Taekwondo and a lot of things dedicated to Dr. Un Young Kim. The best thing in the museum are the original Kwan seals on brass plates. It has all 9 kwans listed with their original spellings in English and insignia. Very cool and that is the main reason to go into the museum.

After you explore the Kukkiwon and have your Taekwondo fantasy realized to see the heart of Taekwondo worldwide you can relax as you will somewhat be disappointed in the fact the Kukkiwon is not at all impressive as a building and is boring…but still, YOU DID IT! Take tons of photos and be proud of your black belt rank! I am! Even though it is not very impressive I still like going an I still feel a Taekwondo connection. The next thing to do is go to the KSD store. Walk out in front of the Kukkiwon and turn left down the street and you will walk down a small hill right into the KSD martial arts store. You can buy Taekwondo gear. They usually sell Nike, Adidas, Star, and KSD brand equipment. They have cheap kicking paddles for 17 bucks. Cheaper than the Mooto store. They have some patches and cool t-shirts of the Kukkiwon for very cheap. There are cheap Taekwondo shoes and doboks. You can buy belts and more. The store is more plain than the Mooto store but you need to price shop and check everything out. After you leave the Kukkiwon make sure to buy what you need in the Mooto shop. Buy doboks, get an embroidered belt ordered for pickup, buy more patches than the KSD has, buy MMA stuff, shoes whatever.

Enjoy your time in Korea as a Taekwondoin and make sure you tour the Kukkiwon. You can walk in on your own. It is open to the public. When the Korean Kukkiwon people see foreigners they smile and nod or bow some and are happy to have you. But hardly any speak English so you have to ask for help and they will walk around until they find someone who speaks English and you can ask them what you want.

Finally, make sure that when you come to Korea and visit the Kukkiwon you have time. In the evening they usually have a free Kukkiwon Demo Team show you can just watch. It is top notch and really fun even if it includes some stupid Taekwon-dance crap and slly stuff. The flying kicks are amazing and the poomsae looks tight and it pumps you up. Enjoy it! It is entertainment.

Right now though they have The Greatest Taekwondo Show which is a huge demo which costs 40,000W (about $40 and if you have a dan ID card you get a discount for about 20 bucks). I think I will go to this show sometime just to check it out. This is a special event that has been running for weeks now. Maybe after they finish up they will go back to the free Kukkiwon Demo Team shows again. I am not sure.

 

My Visit To The Kukkiwon 

        After finding the Kukkiwon on the Lunar Holiday and it being closed I was able to go back to it a week later. I took the subway to Gangnam and was able to visit the Kukkiwon again and go inside. It was the moment all Taekwondoin worldwide want to experience. Visiting the “Mecca” of Taekwondo. Here is a video I shot inside:

A lot of people do not think the Kukkiwon is a big deal. Especially most Koreans. None are really concerned about it. But to foreigners it is mysterious and all of the stories of Taekwondo we heard, the superpowers of all the Koreans, and the power of Taekwondo being centered here is a huge deal! I heard other foreigners say they did visit the Kukkiwon and were unimpressed and bored.

Well it was fascinating to be inside, but I have to say the building of course is quit old and smaller than I thought it was. It actually is not that big of a gym. The Taekwondowon in Muju is way more impressive but less historically significant and is kind of a retreat park to go to for events. The Kukkiwon seems to hold less events. When you go inside you can walk around the entire dojang in hallways that have photos and posters of significant things in Taekwondo history. Some of them are kind of boring but others are interesting. If one has a lot of time to document Taekwondo history I believe they should spend a few days documenting the photos. Honestly most of them have to do with the Olympics and things I find quit boring. Like “so-and-so of whatever country introduces Taekwondo for the world tournament, or whatever. Like maybe a president of some random country is shaking hands with some master or whatever. One interesting photo is that of ITF North Korean Taekon-Doin with some Kukkiwon people who allowed them to do a diplomatic Taekwondo mission at the Kukkiwon. So in the past ITF and Kukki/WTF tried to have friendly relations and give respect to each other. Obviously, for the most part that is gone out the window, except you will have a very hard time finding a Korean master who will openly say bad things about the ITF. Instead they will use avoidance language and subtly say ITF is not so good, without directly insulting them. Anyway…

Inside the dojang floor one can see flags of many nations above. When I went half of the floor as taken up by a stage for doing demos. The Kukkiwon Demonstration Team puts on quite a show 5 nights out of the week at 7:30pm. So if you get a chance you and go see the show. IT IS FREE! What is amazing is the day I went hardly anyone was in the audience yet they put on a very high quality demo with great production. The demo team has worked so hard they are virtually flawless. This show could make a lot of money on tour at Arts Centers and Theaters worldwide. Kind of like how the Shaolin Monks tour, the Kukkiwon could do it too.

They had the floor covered with rubber so we could wear our shoes in the dojang. The demo has a lot of drama and theatrics, but for the most part it does not suck. The music and little drama really make the show good and most of the techniques are flawless poomsae, basic motions, and a ton of super high flying board breaks with kicks and punches. Very talented acrobatics and spinning kicks. Some of it is also “tricking” style. Then there are a few fight scenarios. One was a bit unrealistic and too fantastic to be believed could work and was more like a movie fight. Others had more hoshinsool oriented concepts which in my opinion was the absolute BEST scene of the entire demo. Unfortunately, at the end they add some cheese and do hip hop Taekwondo-dance with Gangnam style Taekwondo silly dance nonsense to close out the show. Of course the general public who are not martial artists or fighters will love it, but for me I hate it. Other than that the Kukkiwon demo was AMAZING and totally worth seeing.

Now besides that, I went to the Kukkiwon Museum which is a smaller building behind the dojang building which is above a cafeteria. I do not know when they serve food but it seems to be ONLY for special occasions. The museum above though is up some steps and the museum is quite small. The artifacts are 99% Olympic oriented artifacts and photos from world tournaments, International Olympic Committe stuff, various games and souvenirs and medals. Some doboks of former world champions, old hogu and protective gear are displayed too. One cool artifact was the original bamboo hogu. So it is true, the original hogu were bamboo instead of foam padding. The bamboo is covered by leather or some material that is the standard color of chest gear with the red or blue target area on white. The rest of the artifacts are quite boring, and also the false history of Taekwondo being 2,000 years old is promoted and pretty annoying. Saying in the 4th century Korean kingdoms practiced a version of Taekwondo. I wish they would be accurate about Korean martial arts history.

Now the best part of the museum in my opinion are the brass plates that have the original kwan seals on them. The 9 original kwans (they do not have a seal for the administrative kwan called KwanRiKwan, so it seems to be an unimportant kwan not worth mentioning) are displayed. I took some photo for people to see:

kwanseals

kwanseals2

MOO DUK KWAN

moodukkwan

JI DO KWAN

jidokwan

OHDOKWAN

ohdokwan

SONG MOO KWAN

songmookwan

KANG DUK WON

kangdukkwan

CHANG MOO KWAN

changmookwan

JUNG DO KWAN

jungdokwan

CHUNG DO KWAN

chungdokwan

HAN MOO KWAN

hanmookwan

So there is a good look at the artwork and symbols in the original kwan seals with their original spelling.

Overall, I believe if given the chance, even if it may be unimpressive to some, the Kukkiwon is a must visit place. If you can come to Korea you have to visit the Kukkiwon and experience it. It will further your Taekwondo life education and it is a nice place to hang out. You an hang out there outside in the park area under the Korean gazebo and use the outdoor work out equipment. It gives you a good view of the areas of Gangnam as well. What is amazing is the entire area had no houses, no buildings, and as just fields and woods when the Kukkiwon was built. The Kukkiwon stood on the hill in view of all. Now it is hidden by skyscrapers and large trees. You cannot see it unless you go to it. The whole city is huge now overshadowing the Kukkiwon. Gangnam is a fancy rich area sort of like the USA’s Beverly Hills and people go there to party and shop. The new culture is taking over and the old warrior culture is fading away.

In reality the Kukkiwon is just a building for office work and printing back belt certificates and registering people. The gym floor is usually used for demonstrations and less classes and training now. What is crazy is Conan O’Brian came to Korea the day after I went to the Kukkiwon. Conon visited the Kukkiwon the day after I was there. I fI showed up I would have saw Conan O’Brian in person breaking a board. CRAZY! Oh well!

I Randomly Found The Kukkiwon While Walking In Gangam

Yes I went to Gangnam and realized that the Kukkiwon is also in Gangnam. So after getting off the subway I decided to walk around in hopes of finding the Kukkiwon and before I knew it I walked right into it. WOW! Enjoy the video!