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  • Taekyon

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    Taekyon is a traditional Korean martial art, sometimes thought of as a sport due to its 19thand 20thcentury entertainment matches. It is recognised by the Korean government in 1983 and given the title of ‘intangible, cultural asset, number 76. The art, little know outside of Korea, is an effective and deadly accurate form of kicking-based, attacking and defending manoeuvres.
    Uniquely, dancing and singing is incorporated into the art, paying tribute to the Mongol ancestry. Its rhythm is defined by three-three timing as opposed to four-four timing found in other martial arts.
    The unique and difficult to learn basic stepping pattern is ideally placed to take advantage of gaps created in other martial arts and timing, coupled with unusual angles of attack, prove to be very effective in fellingopponents. I was lured to Soul in South Korea to learn the art from one of the few remaining teachers It is a uniquely placed training method and full contact competition, known as Taekyon gang battle. Having studied, researched and taught martial arts for 25 years, I have not come across a martial art that, as part of its routine training methodology, incorporated what can only be described as ‘gang battles’ where five men would battle, without the use of pads against another five opponents. This aspect of training intrigues me because it is realistic and encourages the development of peripheral vision. Practitioners learn to flow naturally in combat and whilst attacking single or multiple opponents, and are aware that single or multiple opponents may attack them at any time. This combined with the fact that it is part of each team member’s responsibility to ensure that other members of their team are not being overwhelmed is a vital aspect of training, overlooked in other arts.

    Korean culture places emphasis on Confucian values; loyalty, friendship and respect are highly prized characteristics. Perhaps the most startling aspect to Taekyon is in its attitude and mind set that practitioners use during any actual combat. Players are taught to be happy and relaxed during fighting and must not overly focus on aggression or negative mental attitudes such as hate or anger. Under competition rules, one might find this commendable, but during actual combat it is a complete reversal of what modern wisdom and other traditional martial arts would lead us to believe to be most effective. However, if one can maintain a relaxed and happy state of mind whilst fighting, then the responses .and reflexes may be quickened as a result of muscular tension being reduced. Fear is also drastically reduced, which further goes to enhance performance. Not to mention that if a player has success in applying a relaxed, happy attitude to combat, which is highly stressful, there are a range of other circumstances to which this mind set could be applied with great benefit to health and performance.
    The combat aspects differ from the sporting in Taekyon and include head butting, grabbing techniques (known as Sonkisul), grappling and trapping moves, pushes, kicks, sweeps, stamps and trips (known as Palgisul), all done in combination with the Pumbalki, the triangular footwork which is supposed to mimic the timing of the horses galloping.

    Annexed in 1910, by Japan, the Korean martial arts were officially banned forcing them to go underground. However it was not just the ban that had a profound effect on the arts, but rather the fact that because of the extremely harsh conditions that Koreans found themselves in during the occupation; the common people who had previously practiced Taekyon were forced to focus on survival and making ends meet rather than giving their time to leisure pursuits.
    Shortly after liberation in 1945, the Korean war started– 1950-1953 and Taekyon along with other nationalistic fighting arts started to gain popularity again in Korea. The way Taekyon was traditionally practiced by the majority of early students helped shape its fighting methodology today. It had no ranking structure, no pre-arranged forms or patterns. Given the fact that it was really only practiced by shop-keepers, farmers, peasants and gangsters, there were not set times and organised classes, but rather training may have taken place at random times and places and with many different teachers. Although we believe that organised groups of training did exist, for obvious reasons during occupation, formal records of those groups are not in existence.
    Success being the primary objective of the art, many practitioners hold the believe that rather than amassing a range of complicated techniques and forms and committing them to memory it is better to be able to use, effectively, a handful of techniques with a high degree of proficiency.

    Share your thoughts or experiences here
    Taekyon - Chris Crudelli Martial IQ Forums

    Author of this article Chris Crudelli is a Graduate of London University’s SOAS & Beijing Shi Fan University. He is also a Kung Fu & Taiji Master, Author & TV Host best known for his self-penned BBC TV series 'Mind Body Kick Ass Moves' broadcast in over 180 countries worldwide.

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