Author: Reverend Daniel Duplantis
Morio Higaonna, the founder of the International Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation once wrote:
“Karate begins and ends with kata. Kata is the essence and foundation of karate and it represents the accumulation of more than 1000 years of knowledge. Formed by numerous masters throughout the ages through dedicated training and research, the kata are like a map to guide us, and as such should never be changed or tampered with (Kane & Wilder, 2005).”
This description is strikingly similar to the way the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Eucharist, the sacrament by which bread and wine is substantially changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. It states:
“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch (CCC 1324).”
In essence, forms are to martial arts what the Lord’s Supper is to Christianity. It is the spiritual center of its respective art, and to belittle or, heaven forbid, remove this spiritual center is to remove the essence of martial arts.
Author: Bret Gordon
Here at the American Jidokwan Association, we offer training and certification in both Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do. Of course, this often comes with the question of how someone can earn rank in multiple arts simultaneously. The simplest answer is that they are the same art, separated only by minor curriculum requirements that once learned the practitioner becomes eligible for certification.
However, this opens up a broader discussion on the subject of cross-ranking in the martial arts. What is cross-ranking? Is it legitimate? How can one do so? Let's dive right in...
Using our organization as the first example, as I stated before we treat Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do as essentially the same martial art. Our expression of Taekwondo lends itself to a more Japanese/Okinawan Karate approach, rather than what is commonly seen in sport/Kukkiwon Taekwondo, and of course Tang Soo Do is simply the direct translation of Karate anyway (using the older kanji for "China Hand"). In both arts, the same fundamental techniques are taught with the same body mechanics.
Author: Bret Gordon
Probably most common in Taekwondo, but certainly not an obscure concept in other arts, is belonging to multiple organizations and holding different rank in them all, despite it being the same art.
Many practitioners of traditional Taekwondo have two affiliations: their Kwan and the Kukkiwon, and hold a different rank in each. A lot of this (for Taekwondo practitioners at least) is due to the history of the Kukkiwon itself, which I'll briefly detail in this article, but then it raises the question on which is your true rank?
For those who are unfamiliar with the history of Taekwondo, let's break it down. Following the end of the Japanese Occupation of Korea in 1945, numerous martial arts schools called Kwans were opened up with the instructors sharing what they learned under the Japanese: Karate! Of course, they used their native Korean language, so they called their art either Tang Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, or Kwon Bup (Tode, Karate, and Kenpo respectively), but it was no secret that what they were teaching was Japanese Karate.
In the 1950s, the Korean government (understandably) wanted to erase the connection to Japan from their culture, including martial arts, and ordered the Kwans to change the name of their art to something uniquely Korean. Many names were proposed, but they eventually settled on Taekwondo. Without getting too deep into the politics, suffice it to say that all nine original Kwans eventually unified under the Taekwondo banner and the newly formed Korea Taekwondo Association.
Author: Bret Gordon
When all of the Kwans were first established in Korea, they used terms like Tang Soo Do 唐手道, Kong Soo Do 空手道, and Kwon Bup 拳法 to describe their art. These terms are Korean translations of Tode-Do (Way of the Chinese Hand), Karatedo (Way of the Empty Hand), and Kempo (Law of the Fist) respectively. The founders of the Kwans learned Karate from the Japanese, and that is what they taught.
Jidokwan, specifically, has its roots in both Shotokan (through Chun Sang Sup), as well as Shito Ryu Karate and Shudokan Karate (through Yoon Kwe Byung). Yoon had actually run a martial arts school in Japan during the 1940s (the Kanbukan, later renamed Renbukan) as a sister school to the Shudokan. When he returned to Korea, he was hired by Chun Sang Sup to teach at the Yun Moo Kwan Kong Soo Do Bup (which would later become Jidokwan). Yoon is also reported to have taught Tang Soo Do/Kong Soo Do at 3 different universities. Yoon was voted as Chun Sang Sup's successor in 1953, after the latter's disappearance. Under his tutelage, the Jidokwan became one of the leading schools of the era and gained a reputation as ferocious fighters. While initially abstaining from using the name "Taekwondo," Yoon worked hard in the late 1950s towards Kwan unification under the Korea Kong Soo Do Association. He would also later join Hwang Kee's Korea Soo Bahk Do Association.