Varieties of Taekwondo training
Actual training in the art of Taekwondo is far from homogenous. There is certainly the typical or shall we say theoretically typical method of practice, which descends from the four basic disciplines or subjects of formal Taekwondo training.
Poomse: Known as Kata in Japanese and Okinawan, and as either forms or patterns in English, these sometimes elaborate and complex sequences of Martial Arts techniques are typically performed by a single participant enacting an imagined battle between multiple opponents.
Sparring: Known as Ju-Kumite in Japanese, Tae-Ryon or Gyoorugi in Korean, and simply "sparring" in English, this facet of martial training is a practice or sport version of fighting utilizing particular rule sets, protective gear, and an emphasis on sportsmanship.
Self-defense: While all techniques are technically regarded as having to do with self-defense in general, when a Taekwondoist speaks of "self-defense techniques", they are usually referring to a body of escapes from holds and locks such as headlocks, bear hugs and other common sorts of rudimentary attacks that a person may encounter when fighting against an untrained fighter.
Breaking: One of the most recognizable facets of traditional Karate and Taekwondo training, the breaking of wood, bricks, rocks, ice blocks, roof tiles, pottery and other such intimate objects are categorized under the heading of "breaking", or Kyuk-Pa in the Korean tongue.
A school balanced in these four disciples would be said to be an ideal Taekwondo school, correct? Not necessarily so…
You see, in this art, as in all others, the artist has the right to interpret or emphasize whatsoever they see fit so long as it respects the original spirit or parameters of the said art form. This being the case, a particular Dojang (Dojo in Japanese/Okinawan, school/academy in English), has the innate right to specialize in one of these areas, as in a particular school who is known for their prowess in poomse or sparring.
This is not without precedent in comparison to other schools of thought; in the Christian faith, it is understood that particular gifts, be they prophecy, interpretation of scriptures, speaking in tongues or any other para-normal sort of phenomena, are individually bequeathed and distributed.
This sort of thought is ubiquitous thru ought much of spirituality. This said, let us delve further into actual archetypical schools in order to grasp what exactly constitutes Taekwondo training;
In the original days of this art in the U.S., Taekwondo was less distinguishable from Karate than it has become. In the times preceding the 1980's, Taekwondo was seen in "Open-Karate" circuits, and viewed as an approach to Karate fighting, as were the proper Karate styles of Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, Isshin-Ryu and Kenpo (Okinawan Kempo was less prevalant).
Beside these Okinawan and Japanese arts (Kenpo Karate actually bearing Chinese ancestry), were the collective Chinese arts under the banner of Kung-Fu, and the Korean arts under the generalization of Taekwondo. It would seem that the Mud Duk Kwan/Tang Soo Do clan might be opposed to being labeled as Taekwondoists when the fact is that under the venerable Grandmaster Hwan Kee, Mu Duk Kwan pre-existed Genreal Choi's Taekwondo proclamation. Chuck Norris would stand as the most accomplished American Tang Soo Doist. And for those who remain unaware, Master Norris was a feared and respected full-contact Karate fighter and American Kickboxer, in an era where it was truly "kill or be killed". This climate can be attested to by rugged veterans such as S. Henry Cho, Peter Urban, Steve "Nasty" Anderson, Billy Blanks (of Tae-Bo fame), Herbie Thompson, "Golden Boy" Joe Lewis and many other legendary early Karate pioneers in this country.
Am I neglecting the achievements of the actual founders of these arts in the United States? Possibly. The fact is, that in speaking of Karate in America in the 1950's, I am only familiar with the achievements of Kyoshu-Ryu/Ryuku Kempo Grandmaster George Dillman.
Let us say as a general statement that Taekwondo training in the pre-1980's period of this country was very similar to Karate training. This would include hard sparring; kata; board, brick, and rock breaking; self-defense or lock/hold-escaping; one, two and three-step sparring; traditional-style body conditioning; rigorous adherence to a strict code of classroom discipline; and a general focus on the philosophy, history, and implications of Eastern martial thought.
Let us designate this sort of variety of Taekwondo practice as "Traditional-style". This can be further distilled into a sort of practice which emphasizes the philosophical and higher-minded approach to martial practice, and it this sort of an ideal that borders upon the internal arts such as Tai-Chi, Qi-Gong, Ba-Gua, and quite possibly the Indian spiritual-science of Yoga. That this discussion leads directly into the heart of philosophical and metaphysical speculation, as well as serves to bring us to the doorstep of the esoteric and arcane, is obvious to the adept, advanced neophyte, or sincere seeker.
After this period, the rise of the American style of Karate came into its own. Many of these early American Karateka chose to de-emphasize the traditional aspects of poomse and breaking in favor of a more purely sport-oriented form of Karate, regarded as "American Kickboxing" today. This hard-hitting sport allowed all of the movements associated with western boxing as well as nearly all kicking techniques above the belt. This style was easily recognizable in respect to the participants general use of satin Karate-type pants and usually a black belt. This style of training has largely fallen to the wayside with the advent of U.S.-based Muay Thai, yet remains a potentially lucrative possibility for the would-be sports entrepreneur to revive and capitalize upon.
Many in American Taekwondo beginning the 1970's went in the same direction as the mainstream Karate movement at the time, which was in favor of adding music to poomse, adopting flashier competition wear, and in general adding a more theatric quality to the practice of Karate.
Eventually the new style of Olympic Taekwondo came into vogue. Though not yet an Olympic sport at the time, the W.T.F. was busy organizing and developing a world-wide sport phenomenon that is at the same time breath-taking and dangerous. Full power kicks to the head when issued with lighting-like speed and pinpoint accuracy spell knockout, and it is this crown jewel that the adult black belt Olympic Taekwondoist seeks as a climax to a competitive bout.
The extreme violence that is possible in Olympic-style Taekwondo forces other Taekwondoists to retreat to the safety of their theory and controlled practice. However, in gyms such as Velocity Martial Arts and American Top Team of Pompano Beach ,Boca Black Belt Academy, Caulett's Academy of Martial Arts, and the Florida Taekwondo College, inexperienced Taekwondoists can expect to be raised up in a nurturing environment while they hone their skills and are gradually introduced to the more physical practice of true Olympic-style Taekwondo. This sport has not become a worldwide phenomena without measures in place to provide for the safety of its participants, but rather it would seem that Taekwondo stands as one the few sensible options for an inexperienced person beginning their martial journey.
There are those who have chosen to apply the militaristic nature of Korean Taekwondo to their training. These would-be commandos practice their techniques which include knife, gun, club, and other contemporary street weapons into a no-nonsense form of practice, which places no emphasis on sport or beauty, but rather concerns itself solely with efficiently and effectively eliminating a potential threat thru any and every sort of tactic available.
While this overview is by no mean exhaustive, in conclusion, one may view the totality of todays MMA scene as the culmination of modern Taekwondo. Where styles such as Wing-Chun and Aikido rely on stances and movements that seem out of place in today's MMA world, many a Taekwondoist has realized or been shown, that with their pre-existing Taekwondo kicking and footwork, a bit of Bruce Lee's fighting theory, and today's MMA cross-training, Taekwondo can be as viable a means of modern combat as it was in those early full-contact days.
At Velocity Martial Arts and American Top Team of Pompano Beach, our masters and instructors are versed in all facets of Taekwondo experience. Allow us the opportunity to lead you on a veritable journey the thru the cosmos of this art and its depths. We will customize a Taekwondo program for you which yields the results that you seek, answers those questions which as of yet remain unanswered for you, and will test your inner-character in ways that for you remain unexplored.
Join us in pursuit of these incredible realms of human achievement and experience. Begin your quest to achieve self-mastery thru the Martial Arts today!