Friday, February 24, 2012

Chosun Student Essays

The Value of Traditional Taekwondo Training

Mark Rodenburg
February 1, 2012

What is Tradition? Though there are many definitions of the term, one is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.”1 This definition seems a particularly apt description of Chosun’s philosophy and pedagogy, for several reasons.
One reason is the mention of inheritance. In this regard, Chosun students are lucky enough to be part of a direct connection to those that established taekwondo in the United States, and continue not only to actively practice the art, but carefully pass along the discipline and techniques in a way that makes obvious the esteem with which they are held.
Another reason it seems apt is that our classes are routinely peppered with lectures and demonstrations of the established patterns of taekwondo thought, action AND behavior. Nearly every class provides some intriguing glimpse of deeper topics, such as the role of the I Ching, Ki development, or taekwondo as an “action philosophy.” The students regular exposure to these diverse areas makes it clear that the formal exercises and techniques comprise only a portion of the broader tradition that surrounds the martial art.
Further, the definition implies that established customs may be used as measures of correctness both for students who seek to acquire skills, as well as the quality and methods of instruction. It seems apparent to me as a Chosun student that I’m the beneficiary of carefully tended standards for proper skill execution and the master/student relationship that goes back to the founding of taekwondo and into earlier times as well.
To me, this sense of the historical connection powerful, and unique. There is a sense of belonging with others that have come before and currently practice. Maybe it’s just my advancing age, but the instruction at Chosun has made a sense of fraternity with taekwondo students (and perhaps other martial arts styles, as well) almost palpable.
Due to this sense of fraternity, there is also a feeling that there is a responsibility to protect the integrity of the practice. As a Chosun student, I can sense the desire of all instructors to preserve the art. For example, several of the black belt poomsae I’ve seen practiced are somewhat rare, their teaching often limited as schools sometimes feel the need to simplify their curriculum. And the commitment to return to Korea regularly to connect directly with the Moo Duk Kwon ensures that traditions are transmitted directly to the student body.
One previous training experience I had highlights to me the difference between this traditional training approach and a more, er, eclectic approach. For a short time I trained at a school in Philadelphia (where I had gone to university). The school billed itself as a taekwondo studio, but the actual classes included a hodge-podge of taekwondo, grappling, aikido, and probably other styles. Further, while taught by a black belt instructor, there was no indication that this instructor was a master of these various styles. As a result, I had no confidence that the skills I was being taught were vetted and battle-tested, as are those we practice at Chosun. By following a traditional training regime, we can be confident that we study carefully-selected techniques that have been tested, refined, and transmitted with the utmost integrity.

1 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tradition

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1 comment:

  1. David Wright 3rd Dan United Martial ArtsFebruary 28, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    Very good analogy. Tradition is being lost. The "Do what the customer wants to do." is becoming the norm. I feel that money talks to the many, and the traditional right of way is being thrown out the window. My class was structured through the old time TaeKwon-Do ethics. And, that is how it will stay. Grand Master Sang Kyu Shim used to tell us that everything has to progress, but never forget where it had came from.

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