A Killing Art: The Untold Story of Tae Kwon Do (Anglais) Relié – 11 février 2008
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I am currently a 4th Dan black belt in the Korean martial art of Taekwondo and I am certified by the Kukkiwon out of Seoul, South Korea. I am also a 4th degree black belt in Japanese Karate (basically Shotokan/Kyokushin) and certified through one of my original instructors, Shihan Dennis Dallas.
Now before I go any further, I feel that I must emphatically state that I was fortunate enough to learn the actual martial art of Taekwondo, and not the sport version which is so prevalent today, although in my original school we did often compete in numerous tournaments throughout the year. However, the primary emphasis on what we learned and practiced was the practical and realistic use of the techniques, not just how to "score a point" with a particular punch or kick. My original instructor, who was Japanese, taught me and numerous others the arts of Korean Taekwondo and Japanese Karate, and if you know anything about the relationship between the Koreans and the Japanese, you can see the significance of this and how difficult things were at times, not only for my original instructor, but also his students.
And it is with this background and train of thought that I write the following review.
I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this book for quite some time now, and imagine my surprise when it arrived in the mail yesterday when the release date was listed as November 20th, 2008. I just couldn't wait to start reading it. Well here it is approximately 10 hours later and I not only have read it through in its entirety once, but also went back over several different chapters and read them a second time.
Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed at all in this book. As a matter of fact, this book was like a breath of fresh air, and some of the material that is in this book I had heard years ago by various instructors who had told me even then that there was a lot more to the art than what was known by most instructors, let alone the general public that were currently taking lessons in Taekwondo.
Now this book is definitely going to stir the pot of controversy and there is no doubt in my mind that there are going to be a lot of Taekwondo practitioners on both sides of the equation that are going to scream and holler and try and dispel the author and the material in this book as trying to mislead the reader, or even out and out call him a fraud.
Well let me assure you that the author is anything but, and in fact, is actually shedding a lot of light on an art that although it may be the most popular martial art currently practiced throughout the world, still gets a bad rap from many in the martial arts community for its focus on Olympic sport instead of following its true heritage of being a very deadly and effective martial art, which is what the true art really is.
The author has obviously done his research on the subject and has been fortunate enough to gain the trust of men who were either directly involved in the formation of the art of Taekwondo, and/or those who were close to those very same men. The history is not always pretty, and as a matter of fact, is rarely so, and in some cases is downright ugly and repulsive, but therein lies the beauty of it. The author doesn't "sugarcoat" the events and people that created the art, he is straightforward, blunt, and to the point in relating the various stories and events that created the men that in turn created the art.
This book is very well presented and the material in it has been well researched and laid out for the reader to follow and understand. The author had included a lot of very significant historical photographs that really added to the overall appeal of this book and the incredible history that it conveys.
I can not recommend this book highly enough and I only ask that each reader approach this book with an open mind and an empty cup in order to read the material presented without any preconceived notions or biases towards Taekwondo, and/or a particular branch or style. If you can do that, then you will truly realize the significance that this book has not only in the history of Taekwondo, but also all of the martial arts.
Martial Artist/Krav Maga Instructor
Author and Creator of numerous books and DVD's.
But along the way you are treated to a detailed account of how TKD developed, how it got it's name, it's use during war time, life as viewed by koreans, the creation of the ITF and the WTF, the creation of a olympic sport etc. etc. The sanitized version probably all TKD martial artists are semi aware of, but this isn't the sanatized version this is the untold story of the founding and development of TKD as is practiced today.
The story includes war, prisons, politics, bribes, personal vendettas, kidnappings, family struggles, dealings with North and South Korea, how high men can climb and how low they can fall, and the creation of a martial art that has spread around the whole today. Best of all it isn't a made up story but one based on current events. Very well documented.
This book sheds light on the creation of TKD and the persons involved who molded and formed the TKD that many students practice today. I recommend it for anyone studying TKD, karate, or anyone in the martial arts that is interested in reading about martial art history. It is well written and I found it interesting so I completed it in a couple of days.
One minor criticism of the book is that, I believe that the author ties the art itself to organizations and to the individuals at the top of the organizations. I believe that the organizations provide a structure and context for study of the art, but the art is not dependent on the organizations. The most important thing that attracts practitioners to the Asian martial arts, and which keeps them training for decades, is the underlying Asian philosophy associated with the art. These include discipline, control, respect, balance and perfection. That mental and somewhat spiritual aspect of the art was not developed in the 20th century. It was not created by a handful of individuals. Instead, it evolved over millennia and is present to a greater or lessor degree in every school. Whether or not there is competition, it is the pursuit of the philosophical aspects of the art which truly distinguishes the "art" from the "sport". I believe that pursuit of the philosophical aspects occurs primarily at a personal level. Therefore, the question of whether someone is practicing an art or sport depends on the individual, not on the organization.
As the title of the book suggests, TKD is and should always be thought of as "A Killing Art." One difference between the "martial arts" and the "fine arts" is that the martial arts have a practical application. The fact that the martial arts are born of life and death struggle requiring physical and mental strength and agility help the practitioner to explore their limits and face down their demons. That terrestrial aspect grounds the ephemeral art and marries the training of mind and body. I believe that it is the desperate struggle for survival in battle that enables greatness, and marks the difference between martial arts and other physical and mental disciplines such as yoga. Unfortunately, I don't believe that the Author adequately addresses this aspect of TKD's history, origin and individual purpose.
But this is a well researched and informative book. Most of it fit in with rumors I'd heard over the years, but instead of hearsay you had interviews, etc from the actual participants.
If you have an interest in TKD, particularly in the ITF variety, this is a must have. I recommend it to my students all the time.