Tang soo do Training:
Tang Soo Do
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Brief Overview/Basic Philosophy:
Tang Soo Do is a form of Korean martial arts that was influenced by many different styles. Some consider it the Korean version of Karate, as it is a peaceful sport with strong cultural roots.
One of the main goals of Tang Soo Do is to build character in its students, and respect is a valued trait of every practitioner. Unification of the mind, body and spirit is a goal the Tang Soo Do practitioners strive to achieve. This unification is thought to lead to an ability to harness the chi, or power inside an individual.
Unlike some other martial arts, Tang Soo Do is considered a way of life and is meant to be practiced throughout life. The teachings of this art are meant to be applied not only in physical situations, but in making choices in life.
Although the core values of Tang Soo Do are very important to practitioners, the physical aspect is also important. Students of Tang Soo Do learn various self-defense techniques and striking techniques. It requires endurance, flexibility and coordination.
History and Origins:
Although Tang Soo Do can be considered a modern martial art because it was officially created in the 1900s, it is a combination of other systems that date back to centuries ago. Understanding the origins of Tang Soo Do first requires an understanding of Korean martial arts.
In 1945, Korea had five types of martial arts. This included Chung Do Kwan, Yun Moo Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan and Song Moo Kwan. After the Korean War in 1953, there were four more additions. Oh Do Kwan, Han Moo Kwan, Kang Duk Won and Jung Do Kwan made it a total of nine separate organizations. With so many different systems, there was a lack of organizational structure.
In 1961, the system in Korea was still disjointed. In fact, all of Korea was disjointed. The Japanese forces had occupied Korea for some time, and after the Japanese left the Korean government was actively trying to restore a sense of national identity. They ordered that one martial arts organization was to be made, and was to include all of the different systems in the country. This organization was called the Korea Tang Soo Do Association. Eventually, it was changed back to the Korea Taekwondo Association in 1965. Because they feared losing power, there was a reluctance of some martial arts masters to unify with Tae Kwon Do.
Although the government’s goal was to unify the systems, they failed to keep the different schools from teaching their unique styles. Strongly opposed to following along with the majority, leader of the Tang Soo Do Hwang Kee fought to practice his style. He had many followers, most from Moo Duk Kwan.
Hwang Kee had studied many different martial arts, and these greatly influenced Tang Soo Do. His training was so varied because he was forced to leave the country in the late 1930’s. It was at this time that the Japanese had taken over Korea and banned martial arts, and Kee had no choice but to leave. He spent twenty years in China studying Yang kung-fu, until he returned back to his home country. All of his experience led him to be highly proficient in the ancient Korean fighting art of Taekkyon, Japanese styles like Shotokan and Chinese styles that included Kung Fu and Tai Chi.
Tang Soo Do has become moderately popular in other countries. Renowned actor Chuck Norris has a black belt in Tang Soo Do, and his notoriety has stirred up some interest in the system.
Training and Techniques:
The main physical goal of Tang Soo Do is to stop an attacker quickly. To accomplish this goal, the curriculum includes hand strikes, kicks and blocks. Striking techniques include punches, chops, and spear hands. There is quite a variety of kicking techniques, with one of the most powerful being the round kick.
There are also self-defense moves, such as wrist grabs. These are varied and can be single hand or double hand techniques. Many blocks and grabs are followed through with a takedown.
Just as important as strikes and defensive moves, stances in Tang Soo Do need to be learned before anything else can be taught. There is a horse stance, a ready stance, a back stance, and many more. These are drilled until a student knows them all by memory.
Students practice forms, known as hyeongs, very frequently. Learning the forms teaches students balance, endurance and coordination. In order to move up a rank, students must demonstrate that they have memorized the forms associated with their rank. In addition, forms are a way for practitioners to compete at events. The forms are movements created as a reaction to an attacker. Although the number may vary at certain schools, there are usually nine forms a student must memorize to achieve a black belt. These forms can be split into three sections: Kee Cho, Pyung Ahn and Bassai. Kee Cho forms are based on Shotokan Karate, Pyung Ahn are based on Japanese Karate and Bassai are based on Karate.
Another part of training is known as one-step sparring. Practiced in pairs, this is a series of scripted defensive moves. It starts with one partner throwing a designated strike, and the other reacting to it with a set response.
Sparring is part of Tang Soo Do training, although it is usually light or no-contact. Because respect is such a major part of the Tang Soo Do philosophy, disrespect while sparring is not allowed. It is about helping developing skills and helping fellow students grow.
Uniforms and Rankings:
The Tang Soo Do uniform is the traditional Karate Gi, with a slight twist. There is a trim around the hem of the uniform’s top, and this can be colored to coincide with a student’s color belt ranking.
There is some variation among the ranking system of Tang Soo Do depending on the school. Traditionally, there are only four belts: white, green, red and black. Most American schools have added in more rankings to give lower rankings more motivation. Each color is associated with a specific philosophy, an animal and an element.
In most American Tang Soo Do schools, the first belt is the white belt. This is also known as the 10th gup. The next is the 9th gup and is yellow, followed by the 8th and orange. The number system continues to descend. Stripes are incorporated at the orange belt; one stripe on an orange belt marks a 7th gup. The next rank is green belt, followed by green with one and then two stripes. Red Belts are the final step to becoming a black belt, and are required to get four stripes before moving on. Ironically, black belts do not receive a black belt. The belt is navy blue for philosophical reasons; black belts continue to train and learn and as they do, their belts become darker.
Organizations dedicated to the Style:
All American Tang Soo Do Association– Dedicated to preserving Tang Soo Do and sharing it with others
International Tang Soo Do Federation – A worldwide organization that sets standards and regulations for the instruction of Tang Soo Do