Posts Tagged ‘korea’

Kido Kwan Featured My Article On General Choi’s Links To North Korea

Geneal Choi’s Communist Sympathies Seen Through ITF

        Kido Kwan, a website about Taekwondo news and topics, and is actually ITF based has featured my article on Gernal Choi’s link to North Korea and communism. This is the article that pissed off Jasmine Choi, the grand daughter of General Choi who lives in Canada (lol). Apparently the ITF world is split up into 12 factions now and people are rejecting the communist ideals and upset about North Korea gaining control of ITF style Taekwon-Do. Kido Kwan seems open mind about Taekwondo and is not rigid or cult-like and even features Kukkiwon topics. Pretty cool. I am honored they thought my article was interesting enough to promote it on their blog. My article is part 2 in their series about North Korea’s link to the International Taekwon-Do Federation. Check out the link to my article on their website below!

Kido Kwan: General Choi’s Communist Sympathies

Advertisements

What I Learned At The Foreign Master Instructor Course At The Kukkiwon

        I successfully completed the Foreign Instructor’s Course (FIC) at the Kukkiwon in Seoul, Korea. It was 5 days long for about 8 hours each day. I learned various things and had special training. I am so glad to have finished this course and so happy to be licensed as an official Taekwondo master by the Kukkiwon. One of the biggest goals in my life was to go to Korea to complete this course and become a Taekwondo master. I did it!

        I will discuss a few things that I experienced and learned during the event. There were plenty of interesting things I learned as well as figured out for myself about Taekwondo and martial arts and Korea. I will mention each topic in random order below. I hope to prepare other Taekwondoin about what to expect if they decide to go to Korea and become licensed masters. I personally believe for the absolutely serious Taekwondoin, especially those learning to teach should plan to eventually complete this course and become a licensed master. I hope to tell you what to expect during the course and some of the pros and cons.

The people who can attend this course must be 2nd dan or higher. Your qualification will only be given when you reach 4th dan. Those 3rd and below are given a “completion certificate” only. 4th and 5th are given a completion certificate plus a “successfully” completion certificate. These are the 3rd class masters. 2nd and 1st class are from “6th and 7th” and then “8th and 9th” dans.

 Many Lectures more than physical training

        I do not remember the names of the grandmasters who taught us and lectured us. This is because they did not list their names on any program for us to follow which I thought was a mistake. They should have given us the names of each teacher on the schedule. I think this slipped their minds. But each teacher was an 8th or 9th dan. I believe only one was 8th dan and the rest were 9th. The fact high ranking masters who have been involved in Taekwondo their entire lives in some of the early days of our martial art, are taking their time to teach us lower dan grades is such an honor! We were able to hear wisdom from senior Taekwoin who are grandmasters. How often can you listen to so many experienced people speak? During the course you get to learn so much and have them tell you how it is, and how the Kukkiwon stands on positions such as history and training. You maybe agree with it, or you may not, but even so you get to know what the official Korean stances are on topics. I find this fascinating and I was very satisfied on most of what I learned. It was refreshing.

       There were various topics such as history, philosophy of Taekwondo, demonstration, flexibility and first aid and more. The lecturers did not stick to one exact topic when speaking. For example the Philosophy guy spoke a bit about oriental philosophy and what the words “martial art” means, but he also spoke a lot about motivational things too. In fact most of the lecturers had a lot of motivational stuff to say. By motivational I mean they were motivating people to be martial artists and true masters. They really wanted to emphasize Taekwondo as a martial art and way to live.

A main example was how the grandmaster speaking about demonstration said nothing at all about how to make a great Taekwondo demo, but instead seemed to talk to us about how to be a true martial art master and what exactly Taekwondo is. He also talked a lot about history and dates of events. He was inspiring because he mentioned that a Taekwondo master has to know it all and research everything including actual/practical fighting. He used to be a kickboxer as well. A few of the grandmasters mentioned they did kickboxing at some point. I really think the Kukkiwon should try to emphasize practical fighting more and promote kickboxing and MMA as a valid outlet for Taekwondo competition but they are still focused on the Olympics and their annual Hanmadang performance competition. This master who taught this portion of the course was also the master who protested shirtless in front of the Korean government building against the special “jump dan” promotion test the Kukkiwon was doing for awhile. He knelt with just his dobok pants and black belt on without a shirt. He and others rightly protested it and they changed it. This guy is a true martial artist!

        Other topics were about proper promotion testing procedures and some first aid stuff. Remembering everything is pretty much impossible, but they gave us a course textbook w can refer to later. There was also a guy who spoke a lot on psychology and a lot of things that I thought was nonsense. He was a University professor. I think he was possibly from Yongin. I found what he spoke about hard to follow. He even talked about the movie Basic Instinct. Of course I respect him as an academic and grandmaster of Taekwondo, but I thought his lecture was a bit strange. It was kind of weird and inappropriate because he talked about sexual topics from that movie. I had no clue why he was talking about this and how it related to Taekwondo teaching. It had to do with desire, ego, and other things like that apparently. Honestly, a lot of the lectures like that were very boring to me and there was not enough time to in-depthly discuss each issue. Also we had practically no time to actually read the FIC textbook they gave us.

        The topics on first aid and flexibility were scientific and very interesting but there is no way that within an hour and a half (about how long each lecture was) we could memorize everything about those things. I think the main point is to research it later myself and understand it better. I can also read the textbook later about these topics. I am very glad they gave us a textbook. Unfortunately, it has many grammatical errors as a native English speaker did not edit it for them. Some things are hard to understand. This book is not the official Kukkiwon textbook, but a special textbook for the FIC graduates. I was hoping they would have given us an official Kukkiwon textbook, but I will have to buy that myself later for personal reference.

        The gist of the messages that I personally learned from were that Taekwondo is a martial art. It is a fighting system. There is a sport of Taekwondo, but Taekwondo is not a sport in itself. Taekwondo in the past used to focus on serious things including killing techniques. The demonstrations of the past showcased many powerful things. Now days Taekwondo has turned into more of a performance show. The grandmaster who said this was the one on the topic about demonstration and he did not say if this was bad or not, but said it with the attitude that it simply is what it is…that Taekwondo is a serious fighting art and deadly (not in those exact words but it was implied heavily), yet it has changed and the culture wants something else. I feel he did not openly want to state this change to performance art demonstration was bad, but felt he was sort of negative about it and wanted us to be true martial artists who can fight. He told us he used to kickbox and that practical/actual fighting is something we as masters should be researching. This grandmaster also gave us a bulk of history lessons with his motivational approach. There are many important dates that we should all know about Taekwondo’s history. I took some notes and will now list them.

Demo’s are very important. Demonstrations are a way to advertise our martial art and “are first showing.” They are for advertisement and diplomacy. In the old days they showed many hard techniques such as power breaking, self defense including killing techniques. Now demonstration seems more of a performance and less people want to promote fighting. Koreans call this kind of combat sport K1. Everyone is interested in full contact fighting but they do not always want children training for this. 

Instructors of Taekwondo need martial arts. This is what is the most important thing. Anyone can do sport and sport is not important. Martial arts is what is in our hearts.

1960 – there was the Vietnam demonstration which made Taekwondo to be viewed as a serious martial art in the world and showcased the effective fighting techniques. In the 60’s demos were not that important to do on the scale they were later.

1970 – demos became very important and emphasized. The Kukkiwon threw out the Pal Gwe forms and replaced them with the Tae Geuk poomsae. 

1971 – The Kukkiwon established first it’s demonstration team. 

1974 – The Kukkiwon then began to perform demonstrations worldwide.

1980 – Taekwondo became a university subject in Korea

Instructor’s need to know all poomsae and all the names of them. They need to know the real point of Taekwondo. They need to know gyoreugi (sparring), they should be able to perform various combinations of techniques, and instructors need to know how and do everything including real fighting. Instructors have to know how to actually fight.  

        The WTA president lectured us also about Taekwondo philosophy and about being powerful. Taekwondo is meant to build up muscle and strength and make one powerful. He was fierce in his lecture and even looked at me and did a mock strike at my face. I do not know why he did that. He also punched the podium and made a dent with his knuckle. I think he did it on accident but then pretended he meant to. HAHA! He slightly dented the wood on it and now it has his knuckle mark in it. He also made another swing at me later when speaking in order to surprise me. I sat in the front row and he went for my neck with a kind of knife hand or spear hand strike. This time I was ready and I blocked it. He acted surprised because I was prepared for it.

        He also gave us a lot of health advice for our bodies. He told us that we must drink lots of water. He asked me how much water a day I drink and told me that a guy my size should drink 10 classes of water a day. He was so serious about water and said Koreans view it as “spirit” and it gives people life and spirit. We need to drink water. But he saw I had a large jug of Pocari Sweat and criticized me for drinking it claiming it is unhealthy and pure water is better. I know that science and research says otherwise though, that when doing extreme workouts and with excessive sweating sports drinks are better; but I did not argue. He also emphasized we should not drink cold water, but only warm water. Chinese people also believe this. I do not agree with this and believe many times cold water is better to drink if you are getting really hot in very hot and humid weather. We need to cool our bodies down. But typically we can drink lukewarm water and it is good. This is what I believe.

I had been living in Korea for the year before this course and what is funny is Koreans hardly drink water. Every day I barely see any Koreans drinking water throughout the day. The average Korean will attest that drinking water while eating is extremely bad for your health and ruins your digestion. This belief is unfounded and a superstition. Science says otherwise. Even so, in Korea they usually drink a small cup of water after a meal which is a child’s size cup by western standards. It makes no sense to me, but it was great to hear the WTA president claim we should drink loads of water. I do every day. Koreans think I am crazy for drinking so much water. Even though many Korean dishes are soups which include water which would contradict their claims that drinking water while eating is bad.

I will now list some notes from the lecture:

Philosophy is our base knowledge and what gives us confidence. It is how we know our own self. 

Taekwondo philosophy is from our mind-ego-self confidence.

Masters must earn power and strength before they can even talk about Taekwondo philosophy. A master must build his muscles and power up and be strong. After this and only after can he talk philosophy.

Six tips for a healthy body:          1. fresh water            2. oxygen           3. proper food
4. Taekwondo training (not sports)         5. positive thinking
6. way or instruction of training (beup do)

You should not drink cold water, only warm water.  

Breathing is important and there are 3 types of breathing. Automatic-mechanism, semi-automatic, and manual mechanism.
When we are sitting we should breath slow, but if we are active we should breath fast. Do not breath fast if you are not moving and just sitting or something. If you are active and moving you should breath fast and not slow. 11 parts of the body aide in breathing. With automatic breathing we breath 5cc’s of air. There are 2 parts of breathing air: Semi-automatic breathing clears out dirty air in our lungs such as when we yawn. Manual breathing must also be done to finish making our body clean. When doing meditation one should breath slow with the nose first and avoid dust and cold air. The nose makes air warmer. 

Eat only when you are hungry. Eat until you are no longer hungry and do not eat anymore than that. Oil from food becomes stored in the body. 

A true Taekwondo master must have the confidence to win and beat anybody. 

A master should be able to make one motion and one kill. If you cannot do this then you are not a true master. 

A master must have positive thinking and spirit. 

The mind gets spirit from a healthy body. 

A master should get healthy through Taekwondo training and not other physical training or sports. Taekwondo training itself is what should make us powerful and healthy.

The lessons from your master gives you a healthy mind. 

        Overall the grandmasters want Taekwondo masters to be powerful, know how to actually fight, be muscular, be tough and know all of Taekwondo. A master has to know it all. He cannot only know part of it. This goes against some of the attitudes that Taekwondo people worldwide believe that we should specialize in a certain part of Taekwondo such as being a poomsae expert, or a sport sparring expert, or a demo expert. I like how they told us we should know it all and be good at everything. We need to actually know how to fight and know self defense.

Taekwondo history and the Kukkiwon’s official stance

       Taekwondo history was taught by Grandmaster Kim Young S. (9th dan). The Kukkiwon holds the belief that there were 5 main kwans that started Taekwondo in the beginning and that the history of Taekwondo starts in the late 40’s through Japanese Karate. The modern history is the most important history according to what they taught us. Of course they told us Taekwondo is originally from ancient martial arts in Korea going back 2,000 years which I honestly do not believe. We learned a small amount about subak, o byeng, subak-hee and other names. The last two are said to be unique martial arts to Korea. They believe that Okinawa was influenced by Korean martial arts somehow. I do not believe this at all. But some of the history was Korean national propaganda, but most of it was not. They did mention that China influenced Korea in in the beginning of their martial arts. One of the most interesting claims they made was that Taekyeon in fact DID NOT influence Taekwondo. They admitted that there is no evidence to support this claim and that Taekyeon existed along side soo bak and other styles. They claim only kwanbeop influenced Taekwondo.

        The Kukkiwon also admits that later Japanese and Okinawan Karate influenced Taekwondo greatly. Mostly through Tang Soo Do which was Karate.

        The 5 main kwans were:

Lee Wan Kuk’s Chungdokwan which was the Tang Soo Do style.

Yun Bung In’s YMCA Kwanbeop (this later became Chang Mu Kwan)

Chun San Sup’s Cheoson Yu Mu Kwan Beop Bu (this later was named Jidokwan, but they emphasized it was not originally Jidokwan at the time they founded Taekwondo originally)

Hwang Kee’s Mudukwon (originally he taught Hwa Soo Do but then later started teaching Tang Soo Do)

Byung Ji Ro’s Song Do Kwan

These kwans were all influential in what they called “original Taekwond0” which was around 1946-1947. Basically, it was Karate.

 Here are some notes with dates and things that the lecturer told us are the official stance of the Kukkiwon about Taekwondo’s history:

The Korean War caused a lot of chaos. It was 1950-1953. This limited what kwans could be doing during this time. 

General Choi was a 2 star general. He did not earn a real black belt in Karate in Japan and instead spent his time self training. There is no evidence to prove he ever received a black belt from Gichin Funakoshi. He founded the O Do Kwan with permission of the Chung Do kwan. O Do Kwan was a sub-kwan that became its own. The other kwan leaders actually were high dan ranks such as 4th and 5th dan black belts ranked in Japan in the art of Karate. Others were masters of Chinese martial arts as well. Choi was a general and had influence, but not from martial arts skills. 

In 1955 General Choi came up with the name Taekwondo and the name was accepted by the other kwans in the KTA. He wanted to be a “power man” and take control and tell everyone what to do. Since he did not have masterful skills in martial arts the other kwan leaders did not respect him in the same way. Yet, he was trying to fully control Taekwondo. He did not actually create Taekwondo and coming up with a name for a unified Korean martial art does not make him the creator of Taekwondo. He did not even have a real black belt. 

General Choi published the first Taekwondo book available to civilians. This is why people claim he wrote the first book on Taekwondo. But in reality 1 month before this book was published, the military had published a book on Taekwondo for soldiers. The difference was General Choi’s book was more developed. 

General Choi was the 3rd president of the KTA. It is always stated that Choi was the 1st president of the KTA, but the Kukkiwon claims the first president was another general named Chae Myung Shin who was a 3 star general and collaborated with General Choi Hong Hi and had many discussions about Taekwondo. Choi was only a 2 star general. (If anyone wants to argue these claims do so in the comments and please provide some evidence and explanations). So according to the Kukkiwon official stance General Chae was the first president. Not General Choi. 2 different guys.  

The KTA started sparring competitions. The KTA changed the martial arts name to Taesoodo. Later, General Choi changed the name back to Taekwondo when he was re-elected and became the 3rd president of the KTA. 

In 1963 Taekwondo became an official demonstration sport for Korea

In 1964 the hogu  was created by the Jidokwan. This is the Taekwondo chest protector. Later this year Taekwondo sparring became the official, national sport of Korea. 

In 1971 Dr. Kim Un Young became the president of the KTA.

The concept of Kukkiwon (Ku Ki Won) was created which means “National Techniques.” Dr. Un Young Kim developed Taekwondo further for athletic competition. 

The Kukkiwon building was built in 1972 on November 30th. This was 24 years after the beginning of Taekwondo.

1973 was a very important and major year for Taekwondo. The World Taekwondo Federation was established. Bruce Lee had used Taekwondo kicks in his movies which impressed the masses. He died that year and Bruce Lee was memorialized and much focus was on his martial arts. His movie kicks inspired many people to want to learn to kick like him. This same year the First World Championships occurred. Many people were impressed with Taekwondo’s kicking techniques. Bruce Lee actually trained with Taekwondo masters and learned kicks from them. One of these masters was a Kukkiwon master who is alive today. He was the one who was teaching this lecture. 

1974 and 1975 the first and second Asian World Championships. Taekwondo was a demonstration sport and became more popular.

1976 a Korean Robot Cartoon movie about a hero who was a Taekwondo black belt who controlled a giant robot made Taekwondo really popular with kids. 

1986 Taekwondo became an official sport in the Asia Games.

1988 Taekwondo became a demonstration sport in the Olympics

1994 Taekwondo was accepted to be an official Olympic sport.

1996 Taekwondo became  a major image in Korean culture and the government made it the official sport and martial art and cultural heritage of Korea.

2000 Taekwondo was an official Olympic event. The first Olympic Taekwondo event. 

The training in the FIC…

        The training portion was small and maybe we had 2 to 3 total hours a day of physical training. We rushed through the poomsae so fast that you could not remember every detail. So hopefully people already knew the poomsae before coming to Korea, yet I know for a fact many did not. This is what is odd about foreign Taekwondo people is many were terrible at poomsae and did not even correctly know them. It was crazy and it became a big issue with them when it came to testing time. People who were 4th dan not correctly knowing poomsae or even all of them is so wrong! We also did not have to actually spar ever the entire course. I fully expected to do sparring. We never once geared up. During the sparring training all we did were some team building games and foot work as well as kicking the paddles in combinations. But don’t misunderstand me, the training was physically demanding. You had to be in shape and have decent cardio to make it through the entire workouts. It was also extremely hot and humid in Korea and the Kukkiwon had no air conditioning, but had some large tubes connected to large fans on the edges of the mat to direct air onto the floor.

        They made us do movements over and over in the 90 degree heat in the Kukkiwon dojang. I felt like I was going to die, in fact most of us did. I sweated more than everyone there in fact. I went all out with every motion I performed. I felt odd because of the massive puddle of sweat I left all over my area. But as for making sure we could fight, I did not get any of that. We did have a self defense training session that was probably the best part of the course for me. It was fun and we worked on practical self defense and fighting. Punches to the face, knees, takedowns, armbars and chokes. Very cool. It was much like street fighting and MMA. It was awesome to know the Kukkiwon has the goal of promoting these kinds of things. True combat. The grandmaster who taught that portion also teaches the Korean army their combatives and he has worked with his team for 5 years to promote self defense to the Kukkiwon and wrote a book and made a video on it. It was inspiring to train this way and it is what I remember when I started Taekwondo as a teenager back in the 90’s. True fighting. There were a lot of joint locks and wrist lock throws and more. I totally loved this training and made me feel good about the possible future of Kukki Taekwondo being a real fighting art. The grandmaster also told me that he used to be competitive kickboxing as well. He was a real fighter and now taught the military.

        The entire week we had to be in our doboks. I recommend bringing 2 each day because if you do physical training there is a big chance you will be soaked in sweat. You do not want to be in sweaty clothes sitting in a classroom the rest of the day. So bring 2. After the second day I began to bring 2 uniforms each day and benefited greatly from it.

         One big thing I notice is the kindness and humility of the grandmasters. They took time to teach us and lecture us. They answered questions and were positive to us. Of curse they were strict and at times I felt afraid of them. Sometimes someone would be late or talk in class and one guy would yell or claim he should just leave because we don’t care he is teaching. But people quickly would say “No, no no!” They don’t play games, but they are very kind and love to share their knowledge. They were way nicer than some of the people who run the office. Almost all of them would stay for photos with people. Another funny thing i some of the are chain smokers even though it is typical understood smoking is bad for Taekwondo. I find this interesting. In fact most Korean men in general are chain smokers. I think it is simply an American thing that an instructor should not smoke or drink. Koreans smoke and drink like crazy. I am not encouraging people to smoke though. I think it is terrible.

        I believe the Kukkiwon FIC is a must for any serious high ranking black belt who wants to make Taekwondo a huge part of his life and not just a hobby. Some foreigners told me that Taekwondo is just a hobby and they are only taking the course for the fun of it, and it is not a big deal. I find this annoying. We need future masters who will take the advice of the grandmasters and be true masters and fighters in our style. So I believe the FIC is good for a lot of inner knowledge and not just physical. It is good to be taught “the way they want it” and to at least listen to it. Take what you want and agree with whatever you agree with, and ignore the things you do not agree with. But take the course and get properly certified. Often they hold the FIC in other countries as well for people who cannot travel to Korea. But each year it is held in Korea so go to the Kukkiwon website and look at the news for when they are holding the next one. When you pass the course you will be added to the database online which will list your photo and that you complete the master instructor course. The qualification is recognized officially by the Kukkiwon and the Korean government.

That is just a basic summary of what I learned. Of course there were more lessons I learned but this is enough to explain what you should expect.

I Completed The Kukkiwon International Instructors Course

        I completed this 51st Kukkiwon International Instructors Course for 2016 in Korea. It was held in the Kukkiwon itself in Gangnam in Seoul. Here is a video of what I was able to film. I really had no time to take many photos or videos during the training so all of the really cool stuff I could not film which is too bad. It was 5 days of lack of sleep for me and intense heat and hard work. I will never forget it. I am satisfied to claim I have completed master training for Taekwondo.

What I learned I will be able to take with me into my teaching in my future dojang. Not a lot of Taekwondo teachers have what I have since I was blessed enough to go to Korea.

My completion certificate and my new Kukkiwon/WTA dobok. Awesome!

Hwang In Shik is 73 years old and can still kick above his head like a maniac and do extreme cardio conditioning. 

I will post more details about the course later when I have more time. There are a lot of things to talk about and I feel motivated about the direction the Kukkiwon is taking Taekwondo. We were even taught by many famous Kukkiwon masters. Some of the guys I have seen in videos were there in person! I met Grandmaster Hwang In Shik and others.

 

Is Taekwondo A Respected Martial Art In Korea?

        We all know Taekwondo does not get much respected around the world, but what about inside Korea? Do Koreans themselves respect their country’s #1 martial art style? I just want to give some quick thoughts during my time in Korea and to update a bit on what I have been doing.

        The truth is Taekwondo is not really respected in Korea and 90% of Koreans do not take it seriously or think it i an effective fighting system. I have talked to many adult Koreans about this and they all think Taekwondo is pointless or unimportant. When Korea itself has a lack of love for their nations national fighting art we know Taekwondo is in bad shape. Most adults will take up boxing or Jiujitsu instead of Taekwondo. Heck, hardly any even do Hapkido either. Taekwondo is seen as a child’s exercise. It is something for the moms to drop their kids off after school between going to hagwons (private academies for extra studying). A large amount of Korean kids are pushed to study school subjects all day even to late hours in the night. This gives kids an hour or less basically to do some physical activity. Most Taekwondo classes consist of kids jumping rope to kpop, techno, and hip hop music for at least 15 minutes. This gives the sabum much time to waste in his or her office where he gets paid to not teach anything. After they waste time jumping rope they may go over some punches or blocks and a few kicks. After that they may play a game with a ball or sit around and waste time. Even the people who claim to be real true martial arts masters of the Kukkiwon seem to do this. They literally teach the children for about 20 minutes total each class. The rest is spent jumping rope, sitting around for a “break” (oh they must be soooooo tired after all that lazy rope skipping in the mirror and talking they just did) and playing games like soccer or something. It seems like a necessity for every Taekwondo master to own a bouncy castle which they set up from time to time on occasions. I saw this with my own eyes.

        There are hardly any adults who actually train in Taekwondo seriously. The rest just casually do it for working out and never want to make any kind of body contact. They do not want to one step spar, practice hoshinsool or do any kyureugi. The serious adults who like martial arts will end up training in something real like MMA. The most popular martial art in Korea by far right now is not Taekwondo. It is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. After that comes MMA or boxing.

        There are teenagers and young adults who do Taekwondo as a demonstration for theatrical performance art. These black belts and masters specialize in acrobatics and dancing. They are not strong. There is an extreme lack of strong people in Taekwondo. People who have power and abilities for fighting. I talked to a Korean who practiced Kyokushin Karate and was a 2nd dan and he expressed a lot of anger about Taekwondo. There is a bitterness and frustration to many Koreans who like true martial arts about Taekwondo. He told me that the old masters of Taekwondo are very concerned that there are no longer any strong black belts in Taekwondo and they are all weak.

        Many older people I talked to about martial arts in my English classes were confused as to why I came to Korea to learn “real Taekwondo.” I now understand why as even I have become confused as to why I made this journey. Well I am not actually confused, I am just disappointed. Anything I came here to learn about “actual fighting” has never came about. I had to join MMA to actually learn combat. Anything I learned in Korea could have been learned in the United States. I could have found a Kukkiwon master who knows the current KTA standards in the USA instead of coming all the way to Korea. In Korea all that seems to be taught is poomsae half assed, and many repititions of moves in a mirror which I could have done by myself at home and not paid money for.

        Koreans know the truth. Taekwondo is not being taught for realistic fighting. The few masters who care about this have no power to change anything or simply do not care. The leaders of Taekwondo have no vision and are more concerned with money and spreading Korean culture worldwide and making Taekwondo into some corporate club for Korean nationalism that has nothing to do with fighting. In fact the culture of Korea you learn in Taekwondo or through dojangs and memberships or tournaments is not actual Korean culture. To really learn Korean culture you must live here for awhile and understand Korea is a cold and bitter place more often than not. If you want to learn Korean culture then learn Korean culture. If you want to learn martial arts you must study fighting. Taekwondo does not have enough fighting study in the dojangs around the world, especially in Korea. It is simply a way to make money for young masters who have dreams of running large Korean daycare centers that teach kids to kick things sometimes. This is really a shame.

        One that I feel sad about is the lack of Kukkiwon fighters. Where are our fighting champions who will prove this art is real? All we have are the latest Olympic champions of WTF sparring that absolutely nobody cares about outside of WTF Taekwondo. Ask people who Steven Lopez is. Nobody knows or gives a crap. And most certainly the average Korean has no clue who he is either. Korean kids and teenagers know who soccer players and baseball players are. Not who is a Taekwondo master who has accomplished anything.

        I have since walked away from my dojang in Korea and dedicated the rest of my Korean training in MMA from my Korean MMA and Jijitsu instructor who actually teaches me how to fight. The rest of my Taekwondo time in Korea will be spent studying and learning in the Kukkiwon Foreign Instructor Course and watching the World Hanmadang. I could not compete in the Hanmadang because the website was too dang confusing and by the time I tried to sign up it was past the registration date. Oh well.

        Taekwondo is respected in Korea only as some cultural heritage Koreans do as kids, or to show off demonstrations and eventually become kpop dance stars. Other than that nobody cares. The martial arts enthusiasts here simply do not care about Taekwondo very much. The few who do, the fighters who do MMA, the old masters, simply do not have enough power or influence to change this or they are simply keeping their mouths shut and allowing all of this nonsense to happen because of some cultural reason westerners do not understand. Why would old masters not talk about the problems of Taekwondo today and why do they all all of the stupid things such as Taekwon-dancing, and Olympic leg fencing to go on? Do they not realize the loss of popularity Taekwondo has suffered and the authoritative influence of the Kukkiwon is waning in foreign lands? Even with these problems I still fully 100% support the Kukkiwon as the authoritative organization of Taekwondo, to give rank and the historic linage of Taekwondo unifying through it. It seems it may take foreigners like me to openly talk about this and try to influence Koreans to start making Taekwondo a respected self defense system that actually works, and a fighting system. I hope more people start talking which will influence Koreans to openly talk and make a change. There are far too many lazy instructors who don’t care and half ass teach their students, and many corporate white collar types trying to make money. They need new leadership.

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.

 

I Passed My 4th Dan Test In Korea

        I am proud to announce that I passed my 4th dan test in Korea. It was a great experience and such a relief! Finally after nearly 21 years I am a 4th dan black belt, master level, in Taekwondo. Master Jeong helped me register for this and drove me to the location to test. I am so thankful for him!

        The test is split up into 4 sections; 5 if you count basic motions as separate from poomsae. The longest part of the test is waiting for your time to perform as you sit there. Once you start the actual test it is very fast and only lasts about 30 minutes. It is rapid pace and you end up doing everything immediately. How it works is they separate everyone into groups. About 10 people in each group. Once they call your group you line up and perform.

        First, we did some basic motions and kicks back and fourth. They call all of the words out in Korean and expect you to know what they want you to do. So we did various blocks and a few strikes. Then we did 3 kicks. Only front kick, round kick and side kick That was it. After the basics they command you to do poomsae and they have 2 forms chosen. Everyone the entire test does the exact same motions and poomsae. Nothing is different from anyone else. This time they had us perform Keumgang and Taebaek. Lower dan levels had to do Koryo instead of Taebaek. But for us higher dan grades we did those 2 forms. After forms you are told to move to the other side of the room. The room is set up kind of like a tournament, but with only 2 rings. The first ring is for basics and poomsae, and the other side of the room is for sparring. For sparring they will have about 4 matches at once going on. Right away you put on sparring gear. You wear the full gear including a groin cup and mouth piece. But you do not have to wear the WTF tournament feet pads and gloves. You simply have to wear the basic arm guards, shin guards, hogu, head gear, groin cup, and mouth guard. They provided the hogu and head gear. You had to provide the rest of the gear. We then sparred. It’s supposed to be 1 minute of sparring and that is it, but my match went on for maybe 40 seconds. I think they count the 1 minute when the referee calls out the command before you even start fighting. I had to fight a tall guy who was bigger. It was kind of intimidating, but it was ok and I just fought like I was in a tournament. Master Jeong told me not to try and hurt people and not to go all out but in the heat of battle I felt like I had to actually fight. It was okay and no one got hurt. It just feels like a tournament and you have those nerves before you fight. After we sparred and did our thing the other guy was nice and very respectful to me and bowed to me and shook my hand. It was cool. Finally after sparring we had to break a brick. The brick was plastic. About 5 people in a line had to either break a plastic brick or plastic boards. The bricks and boards are supposed to be made to be as strong as the actual things. It is not easy to break the plastic bricks as they are very hard. But of course even a teenager can break them. I broke my brick the first try. I believe you get 2 or 3 times to try and break them. I am not sure, but I heard that breaking is not mandatory and you can still pass without it. So if you cannot break the brick you can still pass if you did well on other parts of the test. After the breaking technique there was  written portion of the test which was a multiple choice paper to fill out with 1 essay question at the end. All of the questions had things to do with Taekwondo history, philosophy, Olympic rules, theoretical knowledge of techniques and such. It was all in Korean and Master Jeong had to read it for me and explain it all in English. After I filled it out I handed it in and I was done. Boom! Test completed!

        Whew! After I did the brick breaking I was awarded a certificate of excellence and a gold medal for performing with top quality, especially for poomsae. They did not give these out to everyone. Only a couple of people got them in each division. I received the award for the adults testing for high dan rank.

13138943_10100372240823887_5365807981260003387_n

They printed out the certificate right there because they added my name on it, and spelled my name wrong but it is ok and I am so grateful to be acknowledged as a great Taekwondoin. To be acknowledged by the Koreans is so wonderful! I am so proud of myself and Master Jeong really taught me well!

        The Kukkiwon promotion test is not usually held at the actual Kukkiwon anymore. The only people who are allowed to test in Korea are residence. Either you are Korean and a citizen, or you have lived in Korea legally for 6 months. I have lived here for 6 months so I was eligible to test here. You cannot just travel to Korea and test at the Kukkiwon. They expect you to test in your home country and apply by mail. Also, in Korea you can actually fail the test. Unlike in America where virtually nobody fails ever because they paid money. But even so, some of the quality of students testing I saw was very poor and in my opinion not deserving of a black belt. So they still let things slide and allow low quality people to pass the test apparently. Hopefully, this changes. But if you do really, really bad or cannot remember the form or something, you can fail. That is what I have heard. The test is run in a strict way like the military. They yell commands and have you line up and bow. You are then told to move to other areas fast. It is very serious and strict. Testing is usually held in various regions of Korea. For whatever province you live in, that is where you will test. Our test is in Gyeong Gi-do and the city was Hanam. So it was held by the Gyeong Gi-do Taekwondo Association (GTA). Kind of like how in America each state has it’s own Taekwondo association under the USAT. In Korea it is all under the authority of the KTA. But yes, they do still hold promotion tests in the actual Kukkiwon, but not as much as they used to. It is mainly an office place and a place for special events such as demos they do every night for the general public.

4thdanbeltgive

Receiving my new belt for 4th dan from Master Jeong

4thdanTKD

        The purpose of the Kukkiwon promotion test is to check that you know the motions of Taekwondo, that you understand how to perform Taekwondo and how to actually use it. The sparring is held just to prove you can fight and know foot work and understand the sport rules as well. They also want to check your power with the breaking to show you are strong with technique. The Kukkiwon test is not to prove you are some gold medal world champion fighter or some deadly killer, but to show you have a mastery of the basics and are worthy of your dan grade. With all of the people testing, time is limited so the test is very short and straight to the point. I am sure the exam your local dojang holds for your test may or may not be much harder and more difficult. All that matters for testing is the Kukkiwon’s requirements of knowledge. Your instructor may have you do other things for him but the Kukkiwon requires just a small amount of things. That is how it is in Korea.

        I had a wonderful experience testing in Korea! I am not 4th dan and worthy of a Taekwondo master! YES!

Training MMA In Korea

        I was invited to train with a small club for amateur MMA who meets at the gym where I train. We trained on Sunday and it was pretty hard training. We did pad drills, takedown drills and various kinds of sparring such as grappling with punches sparring, stand up striking like Muay Thai style sparring and NoGi grappling parring and finally MMA sparring. Of course we used plenty of control to make sure we were safe and no one got injured; but that does not mean it didn’t hurt or it wasn’t tough! It was! And it did hurt! But it was a good experience to make me a better fighter and martial artist. If I plan to teach Taekwondo I want to know what I am made of and if I am worthy of being an instructor who teaches people how to fight.

        I just have a sore jaw, nose and of course my injuries on my body are very sore from the past surgeries I have had. Some of the guys are advances in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, and Kickboxing. One guy who was nearly 6’5″ was a professional MMA fighter in Korea and a Korea Kickboxing champion. The rest were beginners. One was a wrestler/grappler with no striking experience. So we just had a lot of fun!

        Padwork

       MMA NoGi Grappling Sparring

       Stand Up Kicboxing Sparring

It was a goo training session and it gave me more confidence and showed me may weaknesses to try and fix. I hope to keep getting more confidence so I will not fear fighting and be a stronger person.

 

 

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!

I Found A Mooto Store In My Neighborhood In Korea

        So I was walking around after doing poomsae  in the park in Bucheon and came across this business.

I am pretty excited. It is the Lunar Holiday (5 days of no work because it is Chinese New Year) so I have to wait until it opens later. I do not know if it is an actual store or a pro shop. It could be an administrative office or something. I hope there are things to buy because I could use some gear. I do not know what B/D stands for but maybe it is “business department.” So maybe they don’t sell actual products. Who knows. But I hope I can buy some cool gear: shoes, hats, MMA gear, doboks etc. WOOOO!