April 16, 2024


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Saving Traditional Taekwondo by KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim

Recently I met with some of the top leaders from the Taekwondo community around the world because we are all concerned about the rapidly decreasing value of Black Belt worldwide.

There was a time when brown belts were feared. After all, they are almost black belts and everyone knew that you could never defeat a black belt. Taekwondo ranks were esteemed and respected. Times have changed.

The difference in the level of training and knowledge from the Sports organizations to the traditional organizations is mind boggling. The Sports people actually believe that they also know traditional skills. Although their training may cover some similar topics the depth and intensity of that training is far below the traditional standard. It is much like comparing Boy Scouts to Military Commandos. They both learn orienteering and how to purify water but their purpose and ability levels are worlds apart.

Below I will outline a Five Step Plan of Action to resurrect traditional Taekwondo.

  1. Step one in saving taking is that we have opened up the Instructors Course and Masters Course in Korea and will be providing instruction at these courses with translators so that you can learn in your native language of English and nothing gets lost. To save traditional Taekwondo in the USA there must be education to reinforce the true nature and meaning of combative application, tactical implementation, and execution of the defensive and protective aspects of the art and science. The authentic self-defense technical and tactical concepts, applications, strategies and philosophies must be emphasized and always forefront in its entirety and true nature for starters. I believe that too much attention has been given to sports competition with unrealistic illusion that sports/Olympic style teaching emphasis is real Taekwondo. Our martial arts culture is one of real tigers not paper tigers. WE MUST, get back to the basics. So many so-called Black Belts / Masters have improvised and added what they feel it should be, rather than excepting what it is or even understanding what the technique is all about. To restore the knowledge that has been lost in the last thirty years.
  2. Sharing the right information is the second step in saving Taekwondo.  Realize that “Independent” schools are the ones who fall behind the standards the fastest. Many of these independent schools claim to have their own organization but provide no leadership and no benefits. Collecting membership fees the produce no benefits is theft even if they get to wear your patch on their uniform. Students should avoid throwing away their money at those schools and seek out qualified instructors. Students should benefit from their organizational membership. We now make a great effort to provide a monthly worldwide newsletter in English covering the same topics and information that is taught in our Korean schools.
  3. The third step to saving traditional Taekwondo is for instructors to teach authentic Taekwondo including the philosophy. Without it you are only teaching people how to fight. Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit should be common themes in your lessons. I was shocked to meet Kukkiwon certified “Taekwondo” instructors who were not even able to name the Five Tenets of Taekwondo. Knowing these things are requirements of anyone wishing to be a Taekwondo teacher. .
  4. The fourth step to saving traditional Taekwondo is to respect the uniform standards and why they exist. Uniform standards are important. Could you image the loss of discipline and lack of respect that would go on if new recruits to the Army were allowed to wear a General’s Uniform with four stars on the shoulders? The same holds true for Taekwondo uniforms. When students are allowed to wear uniforms of a level that they have not earned yet it does not make them “Special”. It only makes you foolish. There is no sense of accomplishment to be given something that you didn’t earn only because you paid a fee.
  5. The fifth step in saving traditional Taekwondo is to restore the concept of Loyalty to our art. So many younger Koreans don’t actually consider anyone their teacher because they are getting their rank and training at Universities. So they no longer follow a teacher as a mentor. This is a dangerous development because Taekwondo without loyalty will not last another generation. Each Dojang should proudly display the photo of the Master and his direct Master. Lineage is very important. It is one of the ways to quickly separate the real from the fake in the Taekwondo community. Many of these instructors can’t even tell you what Kwan of Taekwondo that they come from. This means that they are only a Taekwondo athlete, NOT a martial artists or their instructor wasn’t what he claimed. But this will be the article for a future issue.

About the Author: KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim is Chairman of the USNTA Board of Directors and a former Republic of Korea Marine Corps Taekwondo and Close Quarter Combat JuMokDo Instructor. He is an expert at the Military Art of Taekwondo. 9th Dan GunDae (Military) Taekwondo, 9th Dan ChungDoKwan, 9th Dan JungDoKwan, and 8th Dan Kukkiwon. Visit his website at https://usnta.net and like his page at https://www.facebook.com/USNTATaekwondo