Is WT/WTF Taekwondo More Traditional Than Given Credit For?

Discussion in 'Tae Kwon Do' started by HamiltonOHJMA, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. HamiltonOHJMA

    HamiltonOHJMA New Member

    I've read for years about how WT/WTF style Taekwondo isn't as traditional as ITF Taekwondo or the original 9 kwans, including Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do. It seems that the main reason for this perception is the lack of punching to the head in the Olympic sparring. However, it does contain both forms and one step sparring, which are traditional methods of training. Granted, it does not have a dedicated self defense curriculum, but I have read in two threads on internet forums that for the last 2 year the Kukkiwon Instructors Course has contained a self defense module, so it appears that they are adding that in.

    Given that other than the Olympic sparring they have the same things you find in Traditional Taekwondo styles, should it be viewed as a Traditional Martial Art?
  2. Aegis

    Aegis River Guardian Admin Supporter

    This surely depends on how you define "traditional". If it's based on how old the art is (which is sometimes taken to be the case) then TKD may not qualify because it's still fairly new, while if it's based on the use of forms, self defence techniques, etc, then many very modern arts would also qualify, especially if you include fixed paired drills as forms.

    Does it matter?
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  3. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Traditional in martial arts is a weird term.
    Many of the arts associated with that term are fairly modern (under a 100 years old) while other arts not associated with that term are much older.
    The things often associated with being a 'traditional' art (belts, gi style uniforms, learning a pattern per grade, etc) are also pretty new developments often derived from judo (which in itself is a modern development of older arts).
    In short, the idea of tradition in martial arts is a bit of a tangled web of stuff, some of which aren't even as old as the older people on this forum. :)
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  4. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Jeez, those are some really good points Smitfire.

    I never really thought about it, but you are right. Wrestling is one of the oldest Martial arts, isn't it? But do most people think of it as a traditional martial art? I mean I do, but I don't know that most people do. Boxing too. Is the term "traditional" also erroneously defined by descending from exotic lands for us westerners? I.E. does it coming from China or Japan give it credibility as being "traditional?" :confused: At least the way most people think about it?

    I always thought of TKD as a traditional art. But I never really put any thought into the definition. And I don't know much about the art. I did it for like 2 months in high school. Don't remember any of it at all.

    When it comes down to it, is "traditional" about as vague and useless as the whole "internal/ external" terminology?
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  5. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    I think the reason ITF styles are seen as more "traditional" is simply that they pre-date the WTF style.
  6. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Its funny to me that people claim credit for an art being traditional when some of the patterns aren't even as old as me (45).
    I used to train at a judo club that is older than taekwondo itself. Not the art of judo but the actual club itself predates the formation and naming of tkd.
    But still the techniques can be traced back much further than that (via okinawan karate) so in a sense there is tradition there to some degree (just not the thousands of years some sources claim).
    I think people get too obsessed with tradition as it, in some ways, seems to give an art more validity.
  7. HamiltonOHJMA

    HamiltonOHJMA New Member

    I don't disagree with any of the points made, and have been aware of them for years. However, that is a separate issue than what I am asking about. My original post isn't referring to the historical facts of the Japanese and Korean arts that were founded in the 20th century, but rather the common perception that ITF style Taekwondo and Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do are seen as more traditional and self defense oriented, while Kukkiwon/WT style Taekwondo is commonly put down for only being about sports competition with no effectiveness in self defense. I'm simply pointing out that the Kukkiwon syllabus, based on looking at the "Taekwondo Techniqes" section of their website, contains many of the same techniques most martial artist think of as traditional, such as the knuckle punch, knife hand, spear hand, etc., and that WTF schools often employ those techniques in what are commonly thought of as traditional training methods, such as one-step sparring and forms, just as ITF and Moo Duk Kwan schools do, that's all.

    Personally, I train at a WTF school that is sports oriented and drills strategies based on electronic scoring, etc., and I am trying to find as many ways to make my own training more like the Taekwondo of the 1940's through 1970's, so I am focusing my training at home between classes on one-steps and forms. If anyone has any other suggestions on how to train more for self defense given the limitations of my school's focus, I would appreciate it. Thanks.
  8. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    I like the whole post above, but want to address this. Even if an art is older and considered traditional, that doesn't mean it can't be a living growing thing. New forms can be added, can't they? Just as long as the origin of the form - it's lineage - is taught?

    I think of my own lineage.

    CLF dates back to 1836. Some of our forms date back to our founder, Chan Heung, but forms have been added all down the line. Including my GM. He had added lots of forms. I know that one form has also been added by my particular school's founder, Tai Sigung Nathan Fisher.

    My other style, Yang Tai Chi. I don't think anyone would say it is not traditional. But it originated with only a couple of forms. (My school teaches that it was originally the long form and the 54 gim.) Many lineages and schools have added many forms. Again, including my GM.

    Hmmm, and yet, some traditionalists scoff at new forms and weapons being added. Calling them not traditional parts of a traditional art. I haven't heard this in CLF, but I have in TCC.
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  9. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    Personally, I wouldn't conflate "traditional" and "self defence," as I think they are two very different things indeed. I don't think set-sparring or forms are a good way of drilling self defence without considerable modification.

    If you wish to train a self defence skill set, you could do worse than finding like minded people and training with them at home. Look at the work of Dr John Titchen in books and here on MAP in threads like the Sim Day thread on the self defence forum. This will start to take you in the right direction. Think about common attacks and drill against those. Use protective equipment to allow you to do so under pressure and with contact. Have fun :)
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  10. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    I spent all weekend at the WT World Grand Prix in Manchester. Some great fights between amazing athletes at the very top of the kicking game. Olympic-style TKD is a very modern martial art that utilises cutting edge advances in sports science / medicine / nutrition / psychology, etc. The heads of governing bodies should readily embrace that and use it as their USP, rather than wasting efforts trying to prove they're promoting a traditional martial art. I think it stems from a scarcity mindset fuelled by a fear of missing out on trainees who may opt for less 'sporty' systems (i.e., missing out on revenue). Just do you, and do it well.
    HamiltonOHJMA likes this.
  11. HamiltonOHJMA

    HamiltonOHJMA New Member

    I agree with the sports science/medicine/nutrition/psychology part, and also agree with the amazing athletes being at the very top of the kicking game part. However, I am one of the people who want to do more than just kick. I'm 54 years old and disabled, so I'm never going to be a great kicker, plus the reason I have been interested in Martial Arts my entire life is for self defense first, and sports as an added fun bonus, so I like practicing one-steps and forms, plus basic techniques that are not safe enough for full contact sparring (knuckle punches, knife hands, etc.).

    I think all of those scientific advances can be applied to self defense as well as sports. They have also made similar advances more directly applicable to self defense with things like full body suits (Redman, etc.) that allow one to hit a training partner with full force in the groin, neck and other targets you could not hit full contact otherwise. If I could afford one of those, I would bring it to class so we can practice the traditional techniques realistically. Those sorts of options seem to be ways to incorporate new advances with traditional martial arts, which I think is good for both the street defense and sporting sides.
  12. Simon

    Simon Moved on Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    Personally I think self defence classes are separate to any class you may attend.

    Given that self defence is a system all on its own trying to incorporate it into a regular class isn't doing it justice.

    We can all stick someone in a redman suit and go full contact, but that assumes any confrontation is going to go physical.

    It doesn't cover what to do and say to prevent it going physical. It also doesn't cover how you justify what actions you took.

    Let's assume the worst happens and you seriously injure someone. How do you justify your actions? Actions that could land you in prison if you don't know how far you could and should have gone.
  13. Monkey_Magic

    Monkey_Magic Well-Known Member

    Simon, I think you should do something on self-defence at the next MAP meet.

    I know you can hardly cover an entire syllabus, but a little something would be good (e.g. self defence and the law, verbal de-escalation or the fence).
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  14. Simon

    Simon Moved on Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    I'm not sure we'll have enough time this year, but it is something I'd like to do one year; maybe even a separate seminar for a couple of hours at the end.

    Providing people are interested I'd do it. John Titchen, Mitch and myself have spoken about it in the past, so one day.
  15. Monkey_Magic

    Monkey_Magic Well-Known Member

    I think this would be great
  16. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    As others have pointed out, 'traditional' is a problematic word. I think you first have to understand that it's primarily applied to non-European martial arts. While Scottish back-hold might be a traditional folk style of wrestling just like sumo, no one would call it traditional because it's European. So I think it's important to actually ignore that word a bit when comparing it to its brethren.

    Personally I think it's viewed as less traditional because its myopic focus on kicking in sport artificially isolates it from being as relatable to physical violence. Learn to punch exclusively as in boxing and you have physical skills which are much more readily applicable to physical violence compared to exclusively kicking. Now some of these people may have passable punching, or even have cross trained in kickboxing or boxing and developed good punching ability, but if the focus of the group is sport, and the focus of that sport is to almost exclusively kick then it's more artificial and seen as less traditional. If you're training the older material (forms, etc) and have a greater balance of physical skills instead of mostly focusing on how to boff people in the head with your toes then even if your reality is that your skills related to physical violence may not be as good as a boxers, it will be seen as more traditional because the aim is more realistic.

    At the end of the day the important thing is whether your training is doing what you want. If you want to get really good at playing a game of isolated foot tag and that works for you, cool. If you want to focus on more applicable physical skills, practice forms all day, etc. also cool. If it works for you, go nuts.
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  17. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Background - I hold a 5th dan in Kukkiwon Taekwondo (WTF) - the kwan I trained in was 'Oh Doh Kwan' based, meaning that the roots were what eventually became ITF, execept that the head of this group had gone with the Kukkiwon and South Korea format. I studied in that system to 1st geup and then went to Korea and earned my 1st and 2nd dan ranks in a 'pure' WTF school, then came back to my previous school and continued on for my 3rd, 4th, and 5th dans in a lineage that came from the Oh Doh Kwan

    Depends how you define 'traditional'.

    I tend to look at 'traditional martial arts' as being an art focused on a specific way of training for a specific set of goals and usually includes a focus on character development, wear of uniforms, prescribed requirements for testing and use of rank/titles. I see 'traditional' more of a result of the martial arts brandings of years past where it was not sold as 'violence' so much as character development and a way to learn 'ancient secrets of fighting' all bundled in some sort of foreign style packaging.

    Taekwondo itself isn't that old, but when you wrap it in some Korean nationalism (and tie in some (very weak) links to older Korean arts like Taekkyeon and Subak), some uniforms, and Eastern philosphy, I guess it comes out as more 'traditional' than other popular arts out there, such as MMA. I think MMA has specifically marketed itself away from this to be attractive to a new demographic - 'as real as it gets and tested in the ring' with no uniforms or ranks... definitely a strong selling point today.

    I don't think this is an issue. I always liked WTF sparring because it allowed 'full contact' (to restricted targets) whereas ITF allowed more targets with less contact. Both are good and I think training under a mix of both is more fun, but I always like more freedom on the side of contact vs more open targets. I don't think it impacts 'traditionalism' at all.

    WTF and ITF both have lots of forms and step sparring (boy, I did a lot of forms... at one point I had to know most of the Chang Hon forms plus the 8 Taegeuks and KKW black belt forms plus the Pal-gye forms). I think people do look for set types of training like these in so-called traditional arts. They also lend themselves well to a rank system with belts and tips and fees for each level and makes it easy to judge tournaments and promotions. There may be better ways to accomplish your goals than forms and step sparring, but I agree that these are key components of Taekwondo.

    I've never been terribly impressed with the 'self defense' offered in Taekwondo. The material in Gen. Choi's Encyclopedia is not the most inspiring and a bunch of it seems lifted from Hapkido. From what I've seen in WTF, it's not much better. That said, I do feel that TKD provides a great base for self defense, especially in the footwork, striking, breathing, movement, and strategies in the standup realm. For TKDists who want better 'self defense', I recommend cross training in other ranges and in some sort of RBSD systems.

    To me, Taekwondo of all brands is 'traditional'. The roots, from Karate, are traditional, and I think the art has evolved into something that Korean nationalists can proudly call as 'their own' now. If you strip away the character development, uniforms, forms, and such, you fall more towards 'modern sport' than 'traditional art'...

    Anyway, that's my two cents :)
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  18. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Excellent post.
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