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The White Elephant in the Room

Monday, April 6, 2015

The White Elephant in the Room

By Grandmaster Mel Steiner

Suffice it to say there is more than one could ever write about a Grand Master.

For more information of Grand Master Steiner click here


Sixty years ago, a panel of visionaries gathered together to name and label an 2established martial arts, so as not to confuse it with any other; Mr. Yoo Hwa Chung, Grandmaster Son Duk Sung-director of Chong Do Gym, Maj. Gen. Choi Hong Hi-Commander of the 3rd Military District, Gen Lee Hyung Kun-the Joint Chief of Staff, Mr. Cho Kyung Kyu-the Vice Speaker, Mr. Chung Dae Chun-Senator, Mr. Han Chang Won-President of Political newspaper, Mr. Chang Kyung Rok, Mr.Hong Soon Ho, Mr. Ko Kwang Rae and Mr. Hyun Jong Myung.  

From then, Ch’ang Hon became Taekwon-Do and the only art which could make such claim, as most others, were and are, either a Chinese or Japanese martial arts; “Koreanised” duplicate. These Korean stylized arts, continued onwards in time similarly, yet with Korean terminology and little to distinguish or separate them from their roots. To say they were or are Taekwon-Do, would have required them to identify and give credit to the work and accomplishments of Gen. Choi and his seniors, who too contributed in the creation of Ch’ang Hon. None of those other arts have so done to this date and stand alone, through their own and singular, separate contributions to their own art.  Technically, they should not be considered as Taekwon-Do since they were not part for said consideration at the naming day in 1955. In no way does this diminish their hard work, or their steadfastness to their cause and vision all these years yet, they are separate from Taekwon-Do.

Despite Ch’ang Hon’s original components being heavily borrowed from Shotokan, Gen. Choi Hong Hi, through the creation of the nine Taekwon-Do Secrets, completely evolved said base as follows:

1.     To study the theory of power thoroughly.

2.     To understand the purpose and method of each movement clearly.

3.     To bring the movements of eyes, hands, feet and breath into a single coordinated action.

4.     To choose the appropriate attacking tool for each vital spot.

5.     To become familiar with the correct angle and distance for attack and defense.

6.     To keep both arms and legs bent slightly while the movement is in motion.

7.     All movements must begin with a backward motion with very few exceptions. However, once the movement is in motion, it should not be stopped before reaching the target.

8.     To create a sine wave during the movement by utilizing the knee spring properly.

9.     To exhale briefly at the moment of each blow, except a connecting motion.

Over time, Ch’ang Hon became unrecognizable as to its root, evolving into a unique Korean martial arts and as envisioned by a Korean who was born to a then undivided nation. It is ridiculous to label this art, as some have tried to do, as being from one or the other Korean nations, since divided by the 38th parallel.

Gen. Choi spent 13 years writing the majority of the system down, into a condensed book and eventually, expanded it into a 15 volume encyclopedia with over 30,000 photographs. Unbelievably, there are those who blatantly either ignore what’s written, or have chosen to contradict his instructions as to physical movements through addition or omission. No doubt, there are some movement interpretations that may not be clearly defined in writing by him and which allow for Masters and Grandmasters to research and come up with viable results.

From 2002, the once single federation founded in 1966 broke up into several, today they are still spending time, money and effort, all jockeying for organizational, technical and official control of all those individuals who were once one. That which once held them together, has become a point of contention among those fragmented groups, whereby their internal rules not only do not allow for recognition of anyone outside their own group, but do not permit participation in any events, other than their own, for their own as well. They have separate certification, separate seminars, separate junior championships, separate world championships; to the exclusion of all but their own members.

Adding to the mix, their history jumping from the three kingdoms era, suddenly coming along in 1973. Technically completely different in every way, without mention nor credit to Gen Choi, or anyone else in between as to their name, surges an Olympic system, also calling themselves Taekwondo. To suggest a need for both differing groups to come together, has not been convincingly explained to anyones’ satisfaction. For years and ongoing, there is talk of unification.

Ridiculous at best, considering the confusion as to what and who exactly is considered as Taekwon-Do.

Sitting on the sidelines, quietly observing the struggle for organizational control, while being completely ignored by all the major groups; are the non- aligned, Grandmasters, Masters, individual practitioners, schools or group of schools, including most if not all of the senior Chang Hon pioneers, who sacrificed with their blood sweat and tears promoting Taekwon-Do all those hard, early years too; all comprising the white elephant majority in the room.

In this, the 60th anniversary of the naming of Ch’ang Hon Taekwon-do, those that continue to refer to the written instructions left to us by Gen. Choi, regardless of affiliation, will serve to maintain his legacy and vision for a distinct truly Korean Martial Art.

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