Monday, January 28, 2008


Exploring the Definition of Taekwon-Do

Reference: Definition of Taekwon-Do (ITF Encyclopaedia: Vol. 1, p. 21-23.)

In volume one of the Encyclopedia the definition of Taekwon-Do begins with the statement "A way of life." It would do you good to read through this section in the Encyclopedia on your own. However, I would like to highlight and comment on some sections.

"To put it simply Taekwon-Do is a version of unarmed combat designed for the purpose of self-defence." This statement says much about how we should consider Taekwon-Do. Firstly it is a form of combat. It is in other words a method of fighting, battling or making war! The goal of this combat, fighting or war is self-defence. In Korean history the Korean nation only went to war as an act of self-defence. This is the same in Taekwon-Do, only fighting when needing to protect yourself or your loved ones.

"It is the scientific use of the body in the method of self-defence; a body that has gained the ultimate use of its facilities through physical training and mental training." It is quite clear that Taekwon-Do training has two parts; physical training being the one and mental training being the other.

The definition continues to say that though Taekwon-Do is a martial art: "…its discipline, technique and mental training are the mortar for building a strong sense of justice, fortitude, humility and resolve." It is Taekwon-Do's aim to uplift the character. The Taekwon-Do Black Belt should courageously and firmly stand for what is right no matter the circumstances, and with humility. (Note how humility is defined in Taekwon-Do: Moral Culture, Part Two, C. Be Humble.)

"It is this mental training," continues the section, "that separates the true practitioner from the sensationalist content with mastering only the fighting aspect of the art." When a student asked his Grand Master 'What is the essence of Taekwon-Do training?' the Grand Master answered: 'It is just mind training.'

Because Taekwon-Do is first and foremost an art of fighting, it has the innate possibility of being misused. Taekwon-Do is a "lethal weapon" intended for the "rapid destruction of…opponents." It is therefore imperative that "mental training must always be stressed to prevent the student from misusing it." This mental training is known as Moral Culture in Taekwon-Do. A student trained in Taekwon-Do, but without the Moral Culture to govern it, is to be compared with a gun in the hands of a child!

How little time is spent on anything else but the fighting aspect of the art. Most Taekwon-Do classes focuses only on the fighting aspect. There are many reasons for this, but I am not going to discuss them now. However, the Black Belt must therefore make it his or her self-proclaimed obligation to spend quality time at this mental training that is so ignored. This mental training is one of the reason we can call Taekwon-Do an "art of self-defence".

Added to self-defence is "health". General Choi says that Taekwon-Do: "…indicates the mental training and the techniques of unarmed combat for self-defence as well as health…" How pitiful it is when we teach people how to defend themselves against aggressors, but we neglect to teach them principles for healthy living. If we do not teach our practitioners how to defend themselves against an unhealthy lifestyle we can just as well stop teaching them to defend against an enemy, for both have the ability to shorten the life. Self-defence should be broadened to self-preservation, which includes protection from various forms of attack on ones well-being. Do you now understand the importance of something like "Health Principles" in martial art study? It is the natural overflow of studying an art of self-defence.

Taekwon-Do is also defined as a "scientific" method of self-defence. "[I]nvolving the skilled application of punches, kicks, blocks and dodges with bare hands and feet to the rapid destruction of the moving opponent or opponents." This says quite a lot about the characteristics of Taekwon-Do. As a scientific method it should include the "scientific use of the body" through scientifically sound techniques. In other words the use of "punches, kicks, blocks and dodges" should make sense scientifically. This means that their use should make sense both on an anatomical/biological level as well as be in coherence with the science of physics.

Taekwon-Do's technical superiority is clear when we consider its understanding in the fields of anatomy and biology in such teachings as "Vital Spots", "Blocking and Attacking Tools" and the "Training Secrets" and in its use of Newtonian Laws in such principles as the "Theory of Power".

What many overlook is that Taekwon-Do's ultimate goal, as an art of self-defence, is fighting against "moving" opponents. As an art that rely on traditional physics, Black Belts should familiarize themselves with these theories of motion, balance and momentum in the context of human combat. The Encyclopaedia states: "Most of the devastating manoeuvres in Taekwon-Do are based specially on the initial impact of a blow plus the consequential additional force provided by the rebound of the opponents moving part or body."

When I tell students that Taekwon-Do has much in common with styles such as Tai Chi Ch'uan or Aikido they are shocked. This is because of an unbalanced understanding of Taekwon-Do. Clearly they have never read the following sentence that follows on the previous quote: "Similarly by using the attacker's force or momentum, the slightest push is all that is needed to upset his or her equilibrium and to topple him or her." Does not this sound like something from an Aikido lesson? No, dear reader, this is basic Taekwon-Do theory and part of the "definition" of our art!

The final thing I would like to highlight from this section of the Encyclopaedia is that Taekwon-Do, which is "A way of life" should be natural and instinctive. "In the case of the students of Taekwon-Do who have been in constant practice or the experts themselves, they spend no time thinking, as such an action comes automatically to them. Their actions, in short, have become conditioned reflexes."

In conclusion, I hope that from the above, you as a Black Belt have become aware of some of the voids in your understanding of Taekwon-Do. Study these voids and through practice fill them and you will have attained the mind of a Taekwon-Do Black Belt.

Kutoka kushoto, marehemu Jimmy "the kick" Castor, Riffat Said, Sabum Sin Jae Sop na John A Masawe.

From left, the late Jimmy "the kick" Castor, Riffat Siad, Sabum Sin Jae Sop and John Masawe.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Seeing demons!!!...A white belt Tanzania Taekwon-do trainee during the "Baptism by 200 squat jumps" (Yellow Belt Test). He is doing "full gravity sit ups" while at the same time he is receiving strikes on his abnominal muscles. (Note that; full gravity sit ups require you to literally hang almost upside down then sit up thus moving against the gravity and, of course, brave the abnominal strikes on the way "up"). The spirit of fire is being created!!

Car jacking in progress...A handgun pressed hard on the point just behind the jaw so that it does not "slide off easily". Any suggestions from Steven Seagal? Nada. If unfortunatelly the situation reached that stage without you being aware..then PRAY and give the man the car. Don't try to piss him off. If that trigger is pulled...ooh ooh ooh...Noma!

Suppose (luckily) you were aware..You suddenly hit the brakes..grab the gun and the hand that held it..( where the barrel is pointing at) and you proceed to disarm him. Question is; do you know how to do a handgun disarm? What about doing a handgun disarm in a confined space like in a car?

Trying to befriend the instructor prior to the Yellow Belt Test a.k.a Baptism by 200 squat jumps.

If you have been trained in the art of concealed weaponry, you stand a good chance of coming out of the "cage" unscathed. One moment he is pointing a gun at you and the next moment he sees "something shiny" coming towards him at a blinding speed and aiming for the vital organs/spots.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Taekwondo now mandatory training for South African Army

The South African Army has opened a taekwondo center in an army base, which will bring up 100 taekwondo instructors who will take charge of South African soldiers' physical training. Korean Ambassador to South Africa Kim Kyun-seop, Korean Defense Attaché to South Africa (Lieutenant Colonel) Lee Sang-hae, a South African Army Major General and South African military officers participated in the opening ceremony.

The center will produce around 200 taekwondo instructors by the end of this year (2008). "The Republic of South Africa has the strongest economy in Africa, and it has peace keeping operations dispersed in countries such as the Sudan and Congo. So, it will be a good opportunity to promote taekwondo in African countries," said Lieutenant Colonel Lee. A 5th-degree black belt holder himself, Lee played a key role in making the Korean martial art required physical training for the South African Army.

The exporting of taekwondo is expected to have various ripple effects. In the training, verbal command will be given in Korean and South African soldiers will have a chance to speak it. Also, it will be a great opportunity for the Korean government to promote the country and strengthen bilateral ties at a time when the Chinese government is striving to penetrate the African market. Also, it is highly likely that African countries will import Korean-made defense items in the future.

The South African Army chose to introduce taekwondo in the belief that it will fortify its troops in general. A South African officer said, "According to the UK Army's assessment in the past, our troops lacked hand-to-hand combat training experience. The UK Army sent a team of advisors for physical training, but they are gone now. So, we decided to start taekwondo training."

Lee further explained that the Korean martial art provides not only physical strength but also spiritual cultivation, so it could play a part in correcting morale problems, including sexual harassment in the army.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Usipime baba 'ake..teke nyoofu la pembeni (yop chagi) lililovurumishwa kwa umahiri na Said Kennedy Said. Ole wako likupate kidevuni...Lazima ukae mwanawani...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mkono wa kulia kwenye paji lake la uso..mkono wa kushoto shingoni..chini ya kisogo. Sokota kichwa chake kuelekea kushoto, inua juu kidogo betua kwaap...Game Over!!

Taekwon-do Crew..before yellow belt test (a.k.a baptism by 200 squat jumps)

The founder of I.T.F. Taekwon-do, the late General Choi Hong Hi with Sabum Rifat Said (left) and BooSabum John Masawe (right).

Mwasisi wa I.T.F. Taekwon-do, Marehemu Gen Choi Hong Hi (katikati) akiwa na Rifat Said (kushoto) na John Masawe (kulia)

BooSabum John Masawe (kulia) na Hamza Sheiza

Taekwon-do crew..after baptism by 200 squat jumps (Yellow belt testing)

Washikaji nauliza..nitoke vipi? Strangle hold from the rear while inside a vehicle is a common carjacking technique..Any Van Damme suggestions please? Time is running out!

One moment he is pointing a gun at you...the next moment...suddenly the steel is in his throat...


“Once the combative mind frees itself of the obstructions from necessity (primarily caused by the fixation with technique), it will evolve to its highest state of absorption and enhance its moment to moment capabilities with refined accuracy. The "fight," from its earliest point to its state of incompleteness, is so vast that any attempts at locking onto specifics deludes our chances of survival from the minimal... to the extreme.”
This was part of a reply given to someone a while back by a senior Korean martial arts instructor.
Let's take the first part of the quote and work from there. "Once the combative mind frees itself of the obstructions from necessity (primarily caused by the fixation with technique), it will evolve to its highest state of absorption and enhance its moment to moment capabilities with refined accuracy." The majority of combative systems today, traditional and modern alike rely either solely on or 90% of the time on physical tactics. It's either about grappling or striking, or about which 'technique' is most efficient under which attacks, etc. When the fight isn't bound by rules, codes, or previous agreements such as sparring or athletic events, then human behavior becomes the primary source in which information is filtered. The state of mind in which the individual is in at the moment, based on the time and events of the day or week's occurrences, will have a predominant effect in his reactions in that moment. We cannot change an individual's core behavioral components, but it is possible to activate quicker tactical reactions to behaviorally rooted situations. For instance, fighting or defending against an unarmed man requires different tactical implementations than fighting or defending yourself against two armed men. If you possess but a solidified technical response then you will be consistently prompted by your 'mind' to perform that response, whether the situation calls for it or not. If the situation presented happens to be outside of your combative safe zone, then you will possibly freeze upWhen sparring or competing, we are in a 'prepared' state of mind fighting in a combative safe zone. Unfortunately you are fixating, i.e. you are concentrating and using your skills against only one opponent who happens to be in a safe and comfortable zone.In a nutshell, if you're fixating or limited within the factions of a 'style' or 'system,' anything that happens outside that realm will not be handled properly. The majority of these sport systems do not take into consideration behavioral elements and tactical awareness. It's not about a takedown, an arm bar, a choke, a kick, or a 3-punch combination; techniques are INCIDENTAL and INVOLUNTARY. Emotional inertia and behavioral filtration are the delivery system that allows these technical applications to succeed. The wrong tool at the wrong time can get you killed!! We're not talking about the drunk at the local bar either. A fight is just a fight. You win, you lose, an ego is bruised, a nose is broken, and it's over. This is the commonness that creates presumption that sport combat is fully functional... under these types of 'common' situations, sport combat is highly functional. But what if the level has been increased a couple of degrees? Suppose now the drunk is a hardcore street-fighter armed with a switchblade knife? And he is assisted by two or three members of his gang?The majority of sports fighters will find it impossible to properly handle such situations correctly. Most will revert to Jackie Chan - Jet Lee flicks which will, in most cases, and after just a few seconds make them look like they were involved in a car accident.
Let's examine the second part of the quote. "The ' street-fight,' from its earliest point to its state of incompleteness, is so vast that any attempts at locking onto specifics deludes our chances of survival from the minimal... to the extreme." As stated above, a street-fight isn't purely a physical phenomenon, it is one that involves psychological warfare, emotional contingencies, and tactical and situational awareness – as well as intuitiveness and an ability to read the 'future' based on an accurate perception of the past and present. A ' street-fight,' per se, only ends when one side is cease to be a risk to the other party and that is usually after not more than 10 to 15 seconds. Imagine the following: You're out with your girlfriend (fiancĂ©, wife, whomever) and this guy starts to hit on her in front of you. She politely declines and he insists, saying, "Why don't you leave this mshamba and come with me so I can show you what a real man is like?" He shoves you off your stool, where you lose your balance and fall to the floor. You get back up and confront him. Before you can go pre-emptive, his friend grabs you from behind. Now, if it had reached that level you have failed because you were supposed to be aware of your surroundings,(situational awareness. remember?)Each and every fight whose roots aren't sport oriented has a pre-contact stage, a physical stage, and lingering aftermath.
As practitioners of a reality based style, at Taekwon-do I.T.F. the first thing we do is impart to them the necessary skills (profiling, situational and environmental awareness, assault indicators, tactical threat assessments etc.) to avoid a potential threat or confrontation. Then we arm them with pre-contact psychology (fear and stress management, adrenal stress conditioning, perception time enhancement, reaction time reduction, etc.) in order to move, not necessarily 'faster' than the opponent, but earlier. The third step is the physical portion. We cover all ranges of combat (contrary to popular belief, we're not all about flashy and fancy kicking that you see in movies). We rely heavily on athletic ability, conditioning the students through functional combative strength training. We cover tool and target development in the kicking, boxing, close quarter combat, grappling, and ground fighting. We have separated grappling and ground fighting because you can grapple standing up. All the ranges are then worked together through drills, sparring, and scenario based training. I believe in this type of I.T.F. Taekwon-do’s military approach to training. If you're not sweating, bleeding, and invoking stress on a physical, psychological, and emotional level in your training, then you are not training for reality.
The last step (not necessarily in training time, but for explanation purposes) is to teach students the legalities of their actions. It is important to look at the legal, moral, and ethical aspects of self-preservation, as you don't want to end up in prison because you put some drunk in a coma through excessive force.
Currently Tanzania Taekwon-do Association has developed the Civilian Anti – Terrorist and Tactical Self Defense Program which stresses on Awareness and Close Quarter Fighting as it has been found that most cases of assaults, robberies etc occur in a confined space, like in a car during a car jacking.