Posts Tagged ‘tiger division’

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. 


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. 

Taekwondo Is Taekwondo: All Aspects Of The Art Are One Thing

*Authored by White Dragon. 

        Taekwondo is a martial art style that consists of various techniques. All aspects of Taekwondo make it the system it is. There are not different subjects of Taekwondo that are separate from one another which people choose what they will pursue like it is some major in a university. For instance, “I am doing Taekwondo and pursuing my major in the area of demos, and my friend is studying Taekwondo and majoring in applied Taekwondo-dance with a minor in twirling light up nunchukus.” If that were so Taekwondo would not be 1 thing but several separate studies. Some people actually argue that there are separate things in Taekwondo to pursue and we need people specializing in separate areas to show the full range of Taekwondo and you don’t have to be good at everything. To them I say, “How ridiculous!”

       Of course naturally some people will be better at certain things than others within Taekwondo, and physical limitations make some things impossible to do well. Such things should not be held against a person. With that being said, in general, a black belt should be an expert at everything in Taekwondo as a whole and be completely competent in displaying expert skills and be able to take care of themselves in a fight. Black belts should not just be sloppy brawlers, nor weakling ballet dancers.

        Each distinct aspect of Taekwondo simply is part of the entire Taekwondo system which makes it whole. All function together to make up the combat system. A poor analogy would be a human body. We have a head, hands, and feet etc. Each part is still the human body yet they are distinct parts of it; but they have to function together in order for the body to work completely and exist. You cannot have just a head and say it is a body and it is alive. You cannot specialize in using your hands more so than your eyes etc. It all functions together as your body. Likewise, Taekwondo has forms, sparring, self defense escaping and so forth, but these are not separated apart from one other since all of them are Taekwondo. This idea is the same for all martial art systems.

        Unfortunately, now days we have a lot of clueless people from mcdojang culture going around arguing that to be a Taekwondo black belt you don’t have to be good at everything, but just choose a part of Taekwondo to do and you can still be considered a black belt. They say we need people who focus on doing awesome demos, champion tournament competitors, expert poomsae performers, and practitioners of effective self-defense, as well as performance artists who do drama and dance. I find this to be absolute nonsense and a pathetic excuse to relax standards for what it means to be a Taekwondo fighter as well as sell out the hardcore training and effectiveness of this beautifully, brutal martial art. It takes away what it means to be a black belt. It is “fight fantasy pretend training” for people who don’t like to fight nor ever train to seriously harden their bodies and minds who have absolutely no intention of preparing for real combat if the time comes for it. It has become a silly child’s game and a “workout” for “Taekwondo moms.” Added to this you have those tool bags with dumb hair cuts going “peey peeey! peheeeeey!” when they throw kicks and do triple flips learned in gymnastics and not Taekwondo. In fact, such behavior actually is avoiding Taekwondo training more than actually training in it as they substitute the fighting art for gymnastics and dance steps. So more time is spend learning to do back hand springs than actually effectively using a round kick to knock someone out. Since people are generally superficial they will watch a flying kick routine and think that guy is soooo amazing, but when a hard striking Taekwondoin can throw a good front kick in a Kickboxing fight he will get no respect from the general popular Taekwondo world.

        One example of this idea happened to me on youtube. A black belt teenager had videos where he was doing some spinning jump kicks. All though he was not actually pulling them off well. I talked about Taekwondo with him some for fun, then he disrespected me because I do not do flying flip kicks but focus on the fighting art. He told me he had no intention of fighting and does not even care about it and if I cannot do flying kicks I am lesser quality and not a very good black belt. He also acted like it is a virtue that he does not fight and anyone who wants to train Taekwondo for combat training is wrong and somehow immoral. So basically to him a black belt means performance art and not fighting. He has no respect for the true fighters and only likes showing off.

        All aspects of Taekwondo work together to make a complete fighter who understands the Taekwondo system. You must master technique and do basics, and you must memorize forms while understanding the application for each distinct movement in the forms. Taking this knowledge you are able to use various attacks and defenses in a fight, especially in self-defense situations. There are also one-step sparring techniques, escaping from grabs, board and brick breaking, and combination striking. Along with this comes sparring, the natural movement of the body when fighting in a practice format. The point of all of this is to train the body and mind in order to move masterfully in a combat situation so that you survive. The sport sparring came into play because people wanted a route to get out their aggression and try out techniques in a full contact format. The rules were made in order for safety. Originally, sparring was just a simple outlet, not a serious pursuit but then it became the intended focus for political reasons as well as money. Originally, Taekwondo sparring allowed punching to the head with no head gear of chest guards. Later they took out the punches to the head and added chest gear. This was both good and bad for the style. The chest gear was a smart idea for such bouts but taking away face punching really weakened the art since the focus became the sport and not the system itself.

        The grandmaster I received my black belt from was a very well known 9th dan from Korea who fully supported WTF sparring, yet he emphasized that Taekwondo is a martial art not a sport. Sport is a very small percentage of Taekwondo. This was actually brought up as a question to me in order for me to pass my black belt exam. He wanted to make sure I knew that Taekwondo was a serious fighting system and not a sport. He wanted me to be good at Taekwondo in general and not one part of it. I also heavily participated in WTF sparring during my Taekwondo life, yet I understood the truth.

        If all you do is practice tournament sparring, whether Olympic or point tag; if all you do is play by rules, figure out how to score points with kicks, and last through timed matches so you can win gold medals, you do not fully understand Taekwondo. If all you do is train for sparring competitions and ignore poomsae and you never practice self defense techniques, then all you are is a game player and not a martial artist. If you only train for the Olympics then you are missing out on thousands of techniques that Taekwondo has to offer and you will never be well rounded. You will most certainly lose a fight against someone who does not play by rules and attacks you in ways you would say are illegal. Sorry, but there are no rules in Taekwondo fighting, only rules in Taekwondo sport sparring.

        With technique practice came the idea of competitions with poomsae (forms). Whoever does the most perfect technique wins the tournament. This is good for the sake of practicing proper technique, but it should not be the end all for why you practice Taekwondo. With an emphasis on sport performance and looking good, a lack of understanding of technique application and being able to use it in real life occurs. Over time the rules changed to make poomsae more graceful and pretty, and less on hard movements for combat. So now people focus on performing forms in order to please judges and not with a combative mindset anymore. Poomsae, like any “forms” in a martial art system, develops individual fighters to get better at Taekwondo and also should not be the end all of why you train. Taekwondo was created for self-defense and war because it is a martial art. If all a person does is figures out how to move the way that would make judges feel tickled enough to give you the highest score so you can win a gold medal, and all you do is practice that kind of movement every day, you slowly become more and more ignorant of overall Taekwondo.

        If  you simply think about moving in an angle to look aesthetically pleasing without an actual combat sense then you are clueless and know nothing of real martial arts. So you can kick high? That is great because high kicking is important and trains the body in flexibility for faster, stronger, and better angled kicks to knock someone out. But wait, all you do is kick as high as possible so your form looks pretty like a ballet dancer? Your leg muscles are not built nor strong and have no power? Well then, you will completely lack an understanding for how to kick in a real fight. There are all kinds of poomsae champions out there who only care about looking as good as possible when doing forms to win tournaments. That is all they do, but these people really do not fully understand Taekwondo nor can they use it for its original intention. That is to say, to harm an attacker so he stops harming you. They have simply become robotic in their movements.

        These aspects of the entire set of techniques and training devices that make up the art of Taekwondo go hand in hand to complete a Taekwondo trainee for actual use. You cannot simply train in forms only and then say you are a Taekwondo expert, and you cannot just do tournament sparring and claim you are a Taekwondo expert, nor can you just practice self-defense escapes and claim to be a Taekwondo expert and finally, you cannot just train for board breaking or doing “amazing” demos and call yourself a Taekwondo expert. You cannot be complete in Taekwondo without all of these things working together. If you are not told what a technique means, when you do your form you will lack understanding of the entire point of focused poomsae training. Then when you are attacked you won’t be able to use it to defend yourself. If you only play by rules you will never understand the more lethal techniques of Taekwondo or how to strike in various ways that provide more options. If you only kick above the waist for chest gear you will never understand what it is like to kick a leg, or avoid being kicked in the leg. Nor will you have a good understanding of the hand techniques in Taekwondo.

        Probably the worst offenders of separating Taekwondo up in parts are the “demo team experts” who simply exist to show off and act arrogant. They have completely lost focus of the real point for doing a martial arts demonstration. To show why Taekwondo is one of the best martial arts in the world and can save your life. Instead, they focus on how you can look cool to people and show off. With the lack of discipline in the fighting arts instructors have trained kids to grow up in Taekwondo without any intended combat focus. They have no clue what they are doing and think they are badasses by age 18. They completely avoid the “politically incorrect” idea of causing harm to another human and become to board with standard Taekwondo training that they incorporated dance steps, aerobics, theater dama, and singing, as well as movie fight scenes that are based in total fantasy; and they have also adopted pro-wrestling moves from lucha libre that are nowhere found in the Taekwondo system. I find it incredibly annoying that whenever there is a Taekwondo demo you cannot avoid hearing “Gangnam Style” and watching Kukkiwon certified black belt Korean men and women in full dobok attire disgracing the uniform of Taekwondo doing that dance. I am sorry but “Gangnam Style” is not a cultural presentation but idiotic kpop-pop culture. In fact, the lyrics of the song and the artists attitude in life completely contradict the tenets of Taekwondo. But nobody cares. It’s entertaining to them, and that is all that matters.

        The worst offenders of cheesy/cornball demos that are embarrassing to serious martial artists are the Korean Tiger’s; but what is sad is even the official Kukkiwon demo team does this. Yes, these elite demo teams can perform expert level movements in basic techniques and do amazing kicks which are totally cool, but they always end up doing embarrassing stuff like “Taekwondo-dance” and even add in sexual moves for the “hot, Korean, black belt chicks” to do. I do not see how this is acceptable.

Remember when your Korean master instructor would kick your butt and make you do 1,000 pushups if you wore your hat on the dojang floor? I do…apparently the Korean Tigers do not. These kpop b-boyz are master of Korean-Pop Kwan Do! Hardcore Gangam Style Black Belts!

       Contrast a Japanese martial art’s demonstration with a Korean martial art’s demonstration and there is an obvious difference. The Japanese Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu people show off a very serious attitude of Budo, a warrior philosophy and attitude.  They show why their martial art works and why it is a serious fighting system. That is the point of the demo, to display effective combat. When you see a Korean style demo such as Taekwondo or Hapkido you get over the top theatrics and annoying music. You have guys screaming waaaay too loud for realism and people flopping all over the place after they get hit by super-hero-Tekken like attacks. This is video game style movements that are ridiculous. Nobody attacks a person like that nor do one defend himself like that. Korean martial arts always try to be comedic and fun and popular as well as display a little too much Korean nationalism (not that it is a bad thing to promote Korean culture because I embrace that in my Taekwondo teaching). Korean Taekwondo today lost the attitude of Mudo (the Korean transliteration of Budo). Oldschool Koreans trained much like the Japanese with deadly intentions and an attitude of seriousness. Because war and self defense is a serious thing, and fighters and warriors need to have strong character to defend society. Taekwondo was created fresh out of the Korean War and went right back into war in Vietnam. Before this World War 2 had just been finished approximately 8 years prior where Japanese Imperialists surrendered to Russia and the United States. The Japanese Imperialists since 1910 had previously brutally dominated the entire Korean Peninsula through killing and fear. Oldschool Korean masters came out of this chaos, yet so many Koreans have forgotten this after only a few generations.

        It is beyond pathetic when all you want to see is one badass Taekwondo demo and you check YouTube and see a video titled “military Taekwondo.” While you are clicking it you are thinking, “Oh yeah this is going to be the REAL stuff and cool realistic fighting demonstrations!” But no, you are completely pissed off before the video ends as you see Korean soldiers in camouflage doing fantasy fight scenes like Dragon Ball Z, then randomly bust out doing Gangnam style. Is this seriously how the Korean military wants to be represented? Pair up a United States Military martial arts video with a Korean Military martial arts video and notice which one is actually badass and tough and shows the dangerous nature of their soldiers. The answer is obviously the U.S. soldiers. They always show no BS combat moves while Korea is stuck doing stupid drama shows. I long for just ONE demo on YouTube not to be extremely embarrassing and cheesy. It really makes the rest of the Taekwondo world look bad. It also has an impact on obtaining the serious students of martial arts that an instructor like me wants because when people see the name “Taekwondo” on your business card they instantly shun you, or feel afraid to hang out with you because you are now a geek to them. All of the people who want hard self defense practice, and a real martial art program always go to MMA or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools. In fact, it has long been said Taekwondo is the world’s most popular martial art in advertising (popularity does not guarantee quality though), but I honestly think today Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the world’s most popular martial art right now as well as MMA training. Also, I have heard numerous times people tell me they would rather do Muay Thai because it is real and not do Taekwondo because it is weak. When watching videos of Taekwondo guys getting their asses kicked by tough Muay Thai fighters it is understandable why people think that way. Only a few videos online show Taekwondo fighter’s beating Muay Thai fighters. This should not be so.

        This is why so many mcdojos/mcdojang’s of Karate and Taekwondo gyms are desperately trying to impress older students by creating “Grappling/MMA/Kickboxing programs.” Some Taekwondo mcdojang’s even use Krav Maga for self defense instead of Taekwondo, as if Taekwondo does not have self defense itself and we need another style to replace it. The world is considering Taekwondo to be a joke and believe it’s for children to pretend fight with; not a serious, mature, self defense system. And no one seems to care but a select few! People like Grandmaster Hee Il Cho, who emphasized modern training, self-defense, and boxing in their Taekwondo were not embraced by the larger Taekwondo community. Grandmaster Cho thus created his own Action International Martial Arts Association.

        When the cheesy nature and pointlessness of such demo people are brought up you hear the cries of many a mcdojang teenager or disgruntled Korean who realizes Americans are ditching TKD for MMA. McDojang teens will say, “Taekwondo has many parts! Not just fighting! We have demo experts, sparring people, and you don’t know!!!” Then the Korean instructor would say, “I am Korean. I am a master. You must stop being disrespectful I am higher rank than you blah blah!”

        What really sucks is originally in the early days of Taekwondo it was trained for serious fighting always, and trained men and women to be confident with a better quality of life through their martial art. Taekwondo was effectively used to kill many Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. The Tiger Division was a complete Taekwondo combat unit where Korean soldiers trained Taekwondo all day on base, and even wore white doboks with black belts. They went out and hunted Viet Cong and killed them. This is a rich history that so many mcdojangers have no clue about! The poomsae we do is full of many brutal techniques that children shouldn’t even know about, yet these forms are taught to them and the kids are given child black belts. But these kids don’t have any clue what the technique means except for the fact it looks cool. Children should not be allowed black belt ranks! Period! This is why the Kukkiwon officially only gives out poom rank or junior level grades to acknowledge the student is still immature and not with full knowledge or power of Taekwondo.

This crap will never happen in my dojang or else…

        Taekwondo is a martial art style. Martial arts are various systems of combat used for self-defense and also times of war. The dictionary says that “Martial” means:

“military; inclined or disposed to war; warlike; of, suitable for, or associated with war or the armed forces; characteristic of or befitting a warrior.”

And the term “Art”  means:

“the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. Skills and techniques of such.”

So martial arts express and display such military and warrior-like skills. Taekwondo is a form of military-warrior-like-skill. Taekwondo is not a game, a sport, or a dancing style. Unfortunately, some people do not understand this, and this is a problem.

__________________________________________________________________________________________ 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.