From Creation to Unification: The Complete Histories Behind the Ch'ang Hon (Itf) Patterns (Anglais) Broché – 1 août 2013
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First, a note for the sake of full disclosure. As the author worked on finalizing this book, I shared with him a similar report I had written as my thesis when testing for 1st degree black belt. We Battleshipped back and forth about various factual and stylistic questions after he had read my report. He was even so kind to include me in the acknowledgements and bibliography.
While I consider Mr. Anslow a friend, and I might have contributed in this book in some small way, I am not obligated to give the book a positive review. Just as I would expect him to provide constructive criticism of my writing or taekwon-do technique, I will do the same for this book. I certainly can't be critical of his taekwon-do technique since he outranks me. :)
That said, let's get to the brass tacks of this review.
Taekwon-do practitioners who perform the Ch'ang Hon patterns or, as is the case with my school, a derivation of them due to various splits over the years will be familiar with the pattern set that goes from Chon-Ji through Tong-Il. As students, we are expected to learn the meanings as put forth by General Choi Hong-Hi in the ITF Encyclopedia. Often after a student gives a correct meaning during class or testing, I will ask them, "Correct, but what does that mean?" This is my way of telling the students they need to do more than just rote memorization of the meanings. It's no different than learning how to perform a pattern correctly but not understand the applications of the various techniques.
As noted at the outset, when I tested for 1st degree black belt in 2002, my thesis was a 97 page (what, you complain about a two page report for your belt testings? :) ) history of the patterns from Chon-Ji through Kwang-Gae (at that time the highest pattern I knew). I had started at blue belt with Joong-Gun, as I found his life and patriotism fascinating. It continued until black belt, when I went back and did histories for the patterns prior to blue belt.
That said, I might have more insight than the average person when it comes to analyzing this book my Mr. Anslow. And, without a doubt, I was not disappointed.
He provides detailed information about each of the 25 patterns from the ITF curriculum (including both Juche and Ko-Dang, for those expecting 24) as well as the six GTF patterns created by Grandmaster Park Jung-Tae prior to his death in 2002. Included as part of of each pattern is a listing of the definition as put forth by Gen. Choi, even if it is incorrect (such as the birth year of Do-San Ahn Chang-Ho), then Mr. Anslow proceeds to dissect and analyze the meaning, determining, if possible, the reason behind the number of moves in the pattern.
Mr. Anslow also provides much detail about the history behind the person or concept for which the pattern was named, supplying many pictures about the people involved and giving very detail footnotes. These footnotes naturally tie to an extensive bibliography at the end of the book.
The author is also not shy about pointing out errors in the original meanings, not in an effort to discredit or demean Gen. Choi, but rather point out that Gen. Choi was first and foremost a solider and martial artist, not a historian. Consequently, it's not unheard of that some facts may not be as accurate as at first glance.
Overall, I am very impressed with this book. Mr. Anslow has been doing research on this for decades, and it shows. I can also know from personal interactions with him that if he was not able to validate as factual something he ran across, he excluded it from the book rather than risking the integrity of the book. There are some stylistic things that annoyed me, but those have no bearing on the overall quality of the book. Naturally, I did find a couple of items that I believe are factually incorrect, which is inevitable in a first edition. If those due bear out to be inaccuracies, I have no doubt the author will make every effort to correct them prior to the next edition.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
For the patterns, there are over 200 pages for the ITF patterns. There is so much information crammed in 200+ pages that a person would need to read it more than once to fully comprehend. For the serious ITF practitioner this will surely become a reference book as it has so much more information that the little blurb we typically see with each pattern. The amount of attention to detail as Mr Anslow gives his perspective but not bashful about stating other possible scenarios/theories.
Not to get too long winded, I'll sum this up succinctly, any serious ITF practitioner should have this in their library!
General Choi wanted Taekwon-Do to be a world wide martial art but within that he wanted it's unique Korean identity to be preserved. Reading this book will remind people why that is important. The forms/hyungs/tuls were named after important places, events, or people that help shape the Korean identity.
We are required to learn the definition of our forms. We have all done it but often the definition feels incomplete or somehow "wrong". I found this unsettling and spent sometime researching the different definitions and tried correcting them. There is so much more to the story then we learn from a simple memorization. It is often said that the best way to learn about a martial art is to immerse oneself in the culture of the art. This book will help one do that.
The author has provided lengthy explanations of the histories of the namesakes for each of the forms. He does a good job of giving the historical aspects but more importantly he corrects some of the misconceptions and factual errors that we have come to know. He explains some of the controversy of the individuals and their histories. There are some histories that are not as well documented and the author provides both sides. The significance of these people/events are explained by showing how contemporary Koreans view them. The writing style is easy too read and written for the casual reader. Mr. Anslow has been writing for the online Totally Tae Kwon Do magazine so he has an easy manner to his writing. I don't want to scare anyone off by thinking it is going to be academic in tone but that being said I don't want anyone to think it isn't well researched. Anslow has done a superb job of researching. The book is footnoted and has a significant bibliography. One of the things I like most is that it breaks the axiom that all martial arts book have horrible black and white illustrations. The book has glorious color illustrations whenever possible.
Those that want a more detailed account of the histories will find it here. Those that want a jumping off point into the Korean history will find this book the best starting point for further investigation.
There are two things I want to highlight. The author makes reference to when each form was created and who was there. This is a part of Taekwon-Do history that needs to be explored in more detail before we lose the resources of the different individuals that were there. Perhaps another book or at least a lengthy article?
The second thing is the corrected definition for the forms. Anslow has rewritten those definitions that were either unclear or misleading. Hopefully we will see more people using them in the future. A worthy addition to any library and more specifically a needed addition to any Taekwon-Do library.