A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do

Discussion in 'Tae Kwon Do' started by StuartA, Oct 21, 2008.

  1. StuartA

    StuartA Guardian of real TKD :-)

    Just seen this:


    A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do
    by Alex Gillis

    Check out the blurb:
    Product Description
    Obscure documents, Korean-language books, and in-depth interviews with tae kwon do pioneers tell the tale of the origin of the most popular martial art. In 1938, tae kwon do began at the end of a poker game in a tiny village in a remote corner of what is now North Korea by Choi Hong-Hi, who began the martial art, and his nemesis, Kim Un-Yong, who developed the Olympic style and became one of the most powerful, controversial men in sports. The story follows Choi from the 1938 poker game where he fought for his life, through high-class geisha houses where the art was named, and into the Vietnam War where the martial art evolved into a killing art. The techniques cut across all realms—from the late 1960s when tae kwon do-trained Korean CIA agents kidnapped people in the U.S. and Europe, to the 1970s when Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and other Hollywood stars master the art’s new kicks. Tae kwon do is also a martial art for the 21st century, one of merciless techniques, indomitable men, and justice pumped on steroids.

    About the Author
    Alex Gillis is a university writing instructor and a professional journalist specializing in literary nonfiction and investigative research. He has trained in tae kwon do for 25 years and is a third-degree black belt. His instructors were some of the pioneers of the martial art, and he had rare access to these men and their families and disciples. He lives in Toronto.

    Sounds interesting! :)
  2. rtkd-badger

    rtkd-badger Fundimentaly Manipulated

    Thanks Stuart, I'll look it up.
  3. paddy ska

    paddy ska Valued Member

    i seen this review of the book, it got me all excited. Its out 1st November,
    have a read then give it to someone for Christmas!!

    In the world of martial arts, tae kwon do is often derided for having more bark than bite – due to its clubs’ high membership fees, the sport has earned the unfortunate epithet “take my dough.” Who would have thought that this high-kicking discipline beloved by suburban housewives and hyperactive eight-year-olds can boast of bar-brawl origins and a frighteningly violent history? In A Killing Art, Alex Gillis traces the sport’s unlikely and decidedly nefarious development.
    Far from being ancient, tae kwon do was created in the 1940s by a larger-than-life character named Choi Hong-Hi. The book primarily follows Choi’s life: through childhood in rural Korea, schooling in Japan (where he trained in karate and tested new techniques on racist bullies), and imprisonment during the Second World War, to military power (teaching his new martial art to anti-communist forces in Vietnam) and political connections (including lucrative deals signed at Seoul’s geisha houses). But the nascent art escaped Choi’s control, becoming a tool of Korean autocrats – both in the North and South – seeking to foment nationalist fervour. Choi immigrated to Canada and watched as his creation became, in one incarnation, a tool of Korea’s ruthless intelligence services and, in another, a declawed, mass-marketed sport that, through underhanded means, found its way into the Olympic Games.
    Gillis, himself a tae kwon do black belt, succeeds in debunking the sport’s mythology, but inadvertently perpetuates the myths of the art itself. When he writes about corruption and backroom dealings, his voice is compelling and the depth of his research astounding. When he retells with apparent credulity anecdotes of martial artists eviscerating opponents with their bare hands, though, he simply comes across as naïve.
    Not that this should deter readers. A Killing Art is fascinating, fast-paced, and reads more like a spy novel than a history. Beyond that, it evokes a certain voyeuristic pleasure that comes with unearthing the sordid past of something seemingly harmless
  4. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    There are so many variations to the history of Tae Kwon Do and how it was "really" formed. Hopefully this book will shed light on the truth.

    Cheers for the info StuartA.


  5. StuartA

    StuartA Guardian of real TKD :-)

    Thought i already done that with my book :woo:

    Seriously, where did you get all this further info from (about the author, writting style etc. not Choi per se)... it sounds almost as if you've already read it!

  6. paddy ska

    paddy ska Valued Member

    I cheatingly typed in ALEX, GILLIS, KILLING into Google, and copied and pasted. and I think it was the 4th or 5th one down.
    The website had quill in the title.........
    I feel such a fake now...........
  7. Slindsay

    Slindsay All violence is necessary

    Seriously, are we sure about this because that last sentence at least sounds so ridiculous it makes me wonder if ther whole thing isn't a **** take.
  8. StuartA

    StuartA Guardian of real TKD :-)

    LOL.. can you link it perhaps, I ask as i know Alex is lazy with internet searches :)


  9. paddy ska

    paddy ska Valued Member

  10. aaron_mag

    aaron_mag New Member Supporter

    Sounds like it will perpetuate a lot of myths and hype. Also will do no good to relations between WTF and ITF practitioners...

    I should clarify that I'm not really into the whole 'secret history' that permeates all martial arts origins. This is not only TKD. The whole Oyama killing the bull with knife hand strikes (anyone who has seen this historical footage will see that the poor steer that Oyama is 'fighting' is merely trying to get the heck away from him. The expression is like, "I was just sitting here chewing grass! Why are you jumping on top of me?"), Gracie Jiu Jitsu versus the gangs of Brazil, etc, etc.

    Isn't it enough we get value in the day to day training? Why the need for all these fantastic origin stories? When I see photos of Mas Oyama I am impressed with him as a physical specimen. When he casually punches through a stack of tiles I'm in awe. Why isn't it enough that he was a good martial artist without adding on these layers of, "He fought bulls..."?
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2008
  11. HwaRang

    HwaRang Just don't call me flower

    It may just be the cynic in me but it sounds like an absolutely fantastic piece of fiction.

    I might even buy it.
  12. Alexander

    Alexander Possibly insane.

    Nice find - I'll enjoy going through it!

    EDIT: If I have the time I'll try and post some comments up.
  13. wmks shogun

    wmks shogun Valued Member

    At the very least, it should be an interesting read. I will probably pick it up and give it a go. Slightly off topic, but related: Does anyone know of any other biographical works on Gen. Choi, Hong Hi? Staurt, I know you have done a 'fair' (read: a lot) of background work into the patterns and the historical context in which they were developed, any recommendations (beyond your book, which I own, and its short history is brief, but very informative)?
  14. Rob T.

    Rob T. Valued Member

    Have you read 'Tae Kwon-Do & I' Gen. Choi, Hong Hi's autobiography?

  15. StuartA

    StuartA Guardian of real TKD :-)

    Rob beat me to it! I hear Dr. Kimms "History of TKD" is due out soon (some say November)

  16. TheWaywardSon

    TheWaywardSon Habitual Line Stepper

    While I'm inclined to agree on the hype vs content argument I'll probly at least give this a look see, discussion thread at a later date perhaps?
  17. KickChick

    KickChick Valued Member

    I have been waiting for the release of this book for several months now, and I received it last week way before the release date of November 20th for here in the States.

    I have but a few more pages to read.

    I must say it is very easy reading and filled with anecdotes and memoirs of Choi's life and how he perpetuated the art of Tae Kwon Do.

    Gillis has done his research and was privy to first hand accounts by many of the pioneers of the art whom he had the privilege to interview The way that he has written such historical accounts makes it very easy to follow and understand.

    Surely some will find certain chapters controversial .... but all in all it's a book about when Tae Kwon Do was considered a very deadly and effective art (one strike, one kill) and about the difference in training now and fifty years ago.
  18. Darryl

    Darryl Valued Member

    Kara te Original meaning 'Tang' Hand. Funakoshi changed it to 'Empty hand' because of anti Chinese sentiment.

    'Empty hand' in Korean is 'Kong Soo Do' ... Tang hand is 'Tang Soo Do' !

    During the Japanese occupation The Japanese taught the Koreans some Empty hand.
    In turn Anti Japanese sentiment invented a New History for their Art and called it Taekwondo Gen Choi 1940's.
    Original TKD was pure Karate.
    As is Karate is Kung Fu.

    From China to the Ryu Ku / Okinawan islands and from there to Japan and so to Korea...but then the Koreans take it back to Japan as the school Kanbukan which became the Renbukan.
    Remember one of the most famous masters of Karate (Kyokushinkai)was Mas. Oyama...a Korean.(He invented it!) - Due respect as I studied some Kyokushinkai and some TAGB Taekwondo also.
    Sorry lads some of the most famous kata's come from Kung Fu Sanshin=San Chien...Three wars...etc. etc. etc.
    Taekwondo was first Taesoo Do... sorry. I'm not saying things weren't added to the art, but a long history...I think not...a little like Aikido.

    Please don't think I'm knocking any of these Arts as I am not, I have a great respect for many Masters that I have trained with within them, BUT please check your history first. This book sounds a bit James Bond...now I love a good film...but I liked Lord of the Rings too...and that was real!
  19. DEATHskull

    DEATHskull TKD Bearfighter

  20. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    All well known stuff. And?


Share This Page