Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The I Ching and its Relationship to Poomsae Philosophy

  by Mark McNutt - Brown Belt Essay    

  Light, water, fire, earth, the peacefulness of a lake, the stability of a mountain, the intimidating effect of thunder, the duality of wind that can alter between soothing and destructive: connect these to poomsae and what was once a mere workout for the body becomes exercise for the mind and spirit as well.  What Taekwondo and the I Ching have in common is that they are both meant to be a way of life.  The I Ching is just a book until it is lived by a person who moves and talks and thinks and interacts with other people; Taekwondo poomsae is merely a series of defense moves, not that  
practical for daily living, until it is imbued with the spiritual and ethical philosophies of its founders.  
The I Ching, also known as The Book of Changes, was originally composed by the Taoist sage Fu Hsi and became a cornerstone of Taoism; Confucius later amended it. Taoism and Confucianism were two of the philosophies that the ancient Korean warrior the Hwarang, forerunners of Taekwondo, embraced.  I believe its safe to say that here the original connection between the I Ching and Taekwondo was made.  But it was centuries later that someone solidified this connection by putting sixteen specific Taekwondo forms, the eight Taeguek forms and the eight Palgwe forms, together with the I Ching’s eight trigrams.  Their motives for doing so are clear.  They wanted the body and the mind and the spirit to come together and be as complete as the yin/yang philosophy that is at the heart of the I Ching and in turn at the heart of the Korean culture.  They wanted each student of Taekwondo to be a living representation of the yin/yang symbol where the negative and positive of everything is represented by two complete halves forming a perfect circle. 

            So today, each Taeguek and Palgwe poomse has its correlating I Ching symbol.  Taeguek Il Jang along with Palgwe Il Jang have Heaven and Light; Taeguek Ee Jang along with Palgwe Ee Jang have Joy and Lake, and so on.  As with most things spiritual, we are handed down established interpretations by teachers and sages, then encouraged to have enlightenments of our own.  I shall approach the meaning of the I Ching symbols with this in mind.  

            Il Jang -   Heaven and Light 

Here is the concept of Pure Yang.  It points to the Creative Force that lies behind everything.  The actual I Ching interpretation is Sky; to me that suggests openness, perhaps openness to learning and the spontaneous creative process that arises thereof.  

Ee Jang -   Joy or Lake

 Non-aggressive.  Serene.  Gentle.  Spiritually uplifting.  This seems to point directly to meditation and the meditative way of life.  Our spirit, like water in a lake, reacts to agitation.  When left alone, both water and spirit will revert to their natural state, that of serenity, which can also be interpreted as joy. 

            Sam Jang -   Fire and Sun 

This suggests great energy, something that is very lively and unpredictable.  In contrast the sun by day and a fire at night can be a source of consistent warmth and comfort.  It is interesting to note that the forms that coincide with these symbols are very different from each other.  Taegeuk Sam Jang contains quick double punches and ends with a complicated series of low blocks, front kicks, and middle punches; whereas Palwge Sam Jang has no kicks, only singular punches, and at times draws on the elementary and therefore comfortable forms of Kicho Il and Kicho Ee. 
            As for a personal meaning, I think I spot a bit of yin/yang humor here in this sense.  That while we aspire to be quiet, calm and peaceful, like a lake or the glowing sun, we must avoid boring those around us.  Amidst our tranquility, we must embrace the unpredictability of fire, its vibrancy, its spontaneity.  That way we attract life to us, rather than cause life to sit back and yawn.

            Sa Jang -   Thunder 

A storm and the danger it can bring – Thunder gives this a voice.  The yin and yang of this of this has to do with courage in the face of danger.  Thunder can make a person cringe, and yet by itself it is harmless.  The disrupting effect of a kihop is one way of putting an attacker off-balance, but then it must be followed by action.  Thunder reminds us to be prepared for action and to be on guard about losing our focus.  Courage can be described as a mental and spiritual action, the ideal stance for facing thunder.  Courage has the wisdom to know that trials will pass like a thunderstorm.

            Oh Jang -   Wind

The yin and yang qualities of Wind are obvious.  It is sometimes forceful, sometimes gentle; sometimes it pierces through, sometimes it is yielding; sometimes it is destructive and sometimes soothing.  I was born in the Nashville region, part of Dixie Alley, the Tornado Alley of the South; I am very aware of the destructive power of wind.  Also, the humidity in summer can be overwhelming there, but a gentle breeze can be the ideal answer for it.  A poomse flows and if done meditatively, it can have a soothing effect upon the performer and perhaps upon observers; yet its movements are intended for battle situations where one must be destructive in order to prevent destruction to oneself or to others. 
Yook Jang -   Water

This is the idea of acceptance, flow, and consistency.  Even the idea of forgiveness is here, for being unforgiving creates impasses in one’s path. A person must be malleable to life.  As it has been said in the dojang, water flows downhill and takes the path of least resistance.  Unlike the water of Ee Jang’s lake, this water is moving and meeting obstacles head on and becoming what the situation requires. 
A Taekwondoist must accept whatever an attack demands and take the proper shape for defense, while at the same time looking for an opening to flow into with a counter-attack.  Poomse done properly must flow and be as pleasing to the eye as the motion of a stream.  It has been noted that the consistency of flowing water can in time smooth down the rough edges of rocks and even carve out canyons; a student with a black belt is simple a student with a white belt who has had their rough edges worn away by consistency. 

            Chil Jang -   Mountain

My first inclination is to say that this is about stability, perhaps the stability of knowing one’s own mind or the stability of maintaining a healthy and balanced life.  In Taekwondo there is the physical stability of its stances that act as launching pads for all of its moves.  There are also the five tenets of Taekwondo that encourage stability in day-to-day life.
However, upon studying I discovered a different meaning.  The actual I Ching interpretation is Top Stop.  In Master Cook’s book Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior this is described as “the wisdom of knowing when and where to stop, as if one is traveling up a steep mountain.”  Coming at it from that angle, I believe this is about setting your own pace, working toward your personal best, reaching for your own goals and not for the goals someone else has set for you. 
            Pal Jang -   Earth

Here is the concept of pure yin.  It marks the wholeness of opposites coming together to form perfect balance.  Taeguek Pal Jang and Palgwe Pal Jang equal completeness.  They are the last forms before obtaining black belt status.  Earth represents physical creation, the final result of what was begun with Heaven and LightEarth must be yielding in the creative process in order to be solid in the end.

            As a final note I will make the observation that like the I Ching, poomse is best when it is internalized. It is good to think, ‘The I Ching says, therefore I should do’, but it is even better to simply do.   When a certain form is in my mind’s memory, I can execute it accurately: but when it is in the memory of my muscles, it frees my mind to go elsewhere, perhaps into those spaces in between thoughts where the act of meditation lies.  But a form should never be mechanical: therefore, its philosophy must be absorbed as well.  Then instinctively an advanced student performing poomse can have excitement like fire, can flow like water, can express inner joy, can be forceful like the wind, can inspire courage like thunder, can know when to start and stop like a mountain climber, and know when to yield like earth.  When I think of the totality of Yin/Yang, from Heaven and Light, the act of creation, to Earth, the creation itself, I realize that a poomse that was created for students is not finished until a student performs it.  Only then is it a complete and solid creation.  In the same way Traditional Taekwondo is not complete until a student lives it in and out of the dojang.  Thanks to the influence of the I Ching students have something to carry away with them, something that will help their daily lives be as balanced as the Yin and Yang symbol is to the eye.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Chosun e-newsletter Archive Volume 7 #2 February, 2016

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the February edition of the  Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter! The long wait for a new home for CHOSUN will be soon be over and we are excited to be able to offer our current and future students a new and improved dojang and yoga space! We THANK all our students, families and friends for their loyal support during this transition and look forward to the continued success of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center!
Please take note of 2016 Test dates listed below...

View the 2015 Chosun Taekwondo Academy Retrospective 

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Patty Cook, Editor
Happy Valentine's Day !

                                                                                                                          Chosun Taekwondo Academy celebrating 19 years!

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Korea "Destinations" by Jeff Rosser from CHOSUN newsletter February, 2016

Jeff Rosser's column can be seen in every monthly edition
of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter

Buyeo, The Gateway to Baekje

     Just a few hours south of Seoul, is a sleepy little town that was once home to one of Korea’s greatest kingdoms. That town is Buyeo, formally Sabi, which was the Baekje capital from 538 AD until the dynasty’s collapse in 660 AD at the hands of the Shilla (Gyeongju) and Tang (China). While most tourists to Korea visit Gyeongju, few have heard of the wonders of Baekje that Buyeo has to offer.
Jeongnim Temple Buddha Statue

     At the heart of the city is Busosanseong, a mountain fortress with earthen walls, pavilions, and temples. The back side of the mountain is highlighted by Nakhwaam cliff (falling flowers rock) which overlooks the Baengma River. Legend has it that upon the kingdom’s fall at the hands of Shilla and Tang, 3000 court ladies of Baekje refused to surrender and leapt from this cliff. It is said that the sight of their colorful dresses fluttering in the air looked like flower petals floating down into the river, hence the cliff’s name. From the base of the mountain, you can take a ferry down the river providing you with an excellent view of the cliff.
     Other sites that shouldn’t be missed include Gungnamji Pond, Jeongnim Temple, the Baekje Royal Tombs, and Baekje Culture Land. Gungnamji is Korea’s first artificial pond and is surrounded by willow trees, covered in lotus blossoms, and highlighted by a pavilion atop a small island in the middle of the pond. Jeongnim Temple sits in the center of the city and has its own museum as well as one of only two remaining Baekje stone pagodas and a Goryeo era stone Buddha statue. Baekje Culture Land is also worth visiting. Although a recreation, it’s a magnificent example of how the ancient capital once looked. While Sabi Palace is certainly impressive, it is the 5 story wooden pagoda of the reconstructed Neung Temple that attracts the most attention. Together, all of these sites make Buyeo one of Korea’s best kept secrets.

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About the author:

Jeff W. Rosser is a teacher, martial arts instructor, and writer in South Korea. He’s a former AAU U.S.A. National Karate Team member and has competed internationally in Karate and Taekwondo. He also has over 22 years of experience in Karate, Taekwondo, Ju-Jutsu, and Judo. He’s a columnist for Taekwondo Times (“The Hidden Art”),writes monthly for
TotallyTaekwondo Magazine and is the author of Combative Elbow Strikes: A Guide to Strikes, Blocks, Locks, and Take Downs, an in-depth analysis of the practical applications for five of the most common elbow strikes found in the martial arts. 
Contact info: (Email)

"Mrs. Pyke Eats Korea" Gim Bap

"Mrs. Pyke Eats Korea" can be seen every month
 in the Chosun Taekwondo Academy newsletter
from the February, 2016 newsletter

     We all love Japanese Sushi Rolls, but have you ever tried Gim Bap?  Gim Bap is Koreas Sushi Roll. Gim; pronounce Kim is seaweed and Bap is rice.
     Gim Bap is composed of rice seasoned with sesame oil, various vegetables, meat or seafood. You can make it Vegetarian or not. The main components of this dish are: rice, seaweed, and Danmuji (yellow pickled daikon radish).  You can find the Danmuji in any Korean market. They are packaged as two or more. They are giant yellow Daikon and will keep forever in the refrigerator.

     My favorite combination is with spinach, beef, carrots and eggs. It takes a little time to prepare because each component is cooked, but once that is done the rolling begins. 
     First we scramble an egg and cook it in a pan like a pancake.  Flip it out on a cutting board to cool, then slice into long strips.  Next sauté sliced sirloin steak in soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar and sesame oil.  Set that aside to cool.  Next blanch the spinach for one minute, rinse under cold water then squeeze dry and chop. Mix with garlic and sesame oil.   Season the short grain rice with sesame oil while still warm. It’s best to have the rice warm to the touch for easy rolling.   You can make the roll without a bamboo mat but I recommend that you get one.  Place a sheet of toasted Nori on the mat and pat down a thin layer of rice (about ¾ cup).  Keep your hands wet so the rice doesn’t stick.  Now you can layer the ingredients one on top of the other.  Pick up the bottom edge of the mat and use it to roll the Gim up and over the fillings. Continue to roll until you have a perfect Gim Bap.  The first time is always a little tricky but by the time you get to the last, you’ll be a pro. Slice the roll into half inch pieces then serve.
     Gim Bap is not served with soy sauce like Sushi.  All the flavoring is within the roll.  This is a very popular lunch box food in Korea.   Leftover Gim Bap is dipped in egg and pan fried until golden.  Sounds amazing.

A new You Tube website about Korean Cooking is called: Anyone Can Make.  

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