Early Tang Soo Do Historical Articles II
by John Hancock
I first met Han Chi Sup in August 1984. He was practicing in the Trent Gymnasium on
Yongsan Army Post in Seoul, South Korea. I remember standing in the archway leading into
the gym. To my left another master led a small group of students through the intricacies
of some hapkido techniques. To my right, alone and absorbed in his own efforts, Han
immersed himself in the execution of a rather long and intricate series of movements. His
motions were filled with power, yet they were fluid and sinuous. I knew there was pattern
and purpose to his dance.
Nonetheless, my original argument that the
forms are Okinawan, not Chinese, and that Hwang did not learn them in China, was now
substantiated. However, I would have been happier to have discovered that Hwang had at
least learned the- forms from Japanese karateka while in China. Unfortunately, this was
not the case. It was a bit disappointing to find out that the grandmaster's only knowledge
of and experience with the forms came from books.
About the author. John Hancock is a LaGrange, Kentuckybased free-lance writer and tang soo do practitioner.
by Mitchell Bobrow
| This month's guest
columnist, tang soo do moo duk kwan stylist Mitchell Bobrow, was a top tournament
competitor during the golden age of sport karate, fighting the likes of Joe Lewis and
Chuck Norris, and earning the nickname the "Boy Wonder." Today, Bobr ow is the
owner of Otomix footwear and travels to tournaments around the country to promote his
lightweight training shoes. Join him here as he treads down memory lane in his
all-leather-soled high tops, recalling his tales of American karate. -The Editor s
Definitely, no question about it, the hardest person I ever fought was Joe Lewis. The first time I met Joe in the ring was at the Jhoon Rhee Nationals in Washington, D.C. I was only 15 years old, and I was
|definitely outsized and outclassed. Joe was a cut above the rest at that time. I had
won seven straight matches in the eliminations just to make it to the finals to face him,
and he beat me like I wasn't even there. Joe was seeded into the finals because he was the
defending champion, so I had to face a fresh Joe Lewis. That wasn't an easy task.
I met Joe in the finals of that tournament in 1966, '67, '68, and '69. It wasn't really a rivalry, but everybody knew that you weren't going to win an event unless you got past Joe. I only got past him once. The last time we ended up meeting on the tourna ment floor, it was one of those days when I said to myself "You've got to do it now, or it's never going to happen."
So I went out there and scored with a roundhouse kick to Joe's face and made his nose bleed. In those days, if you caused a nosebleed, the referee just told you "Please don't do that again," and you kept on fighting. When I saw the blood trickling down Jo e's nose, I knew things were going my way. It gave me a psychological edge, and I won.
Of course, injuries go both ways. The first time I faced Joe, he broke one my ribs. He had that fantastic side kick, and at one point he grabbed my arm, lifted it up, and shot that side kick underneath, cracking a rib. That first time we fought, he totall y manhandled me. But it was a great lesson.
Since I've started marketing my Otomix shoes, I've been to hundreds of tournaments across the United States-tae kwon do tournaments kung fu tournaments, open tournaments. From my 27 years in and around tournaments, it seems like the competition around the country is improving. In the forms and the weapons divisions, competitors are absolutely better than ever. You see guys out there like (1990 Black Belt Male Co-Competitor of the Year) Mike Bernardo, and they're phenomenal. Back in the '60s and early '70s , there were some good forms performers, but there was nobody the caliber of Bernardo, who could work a bo (staff) like that.
As far as fighting goes, though, I think the equipment and the rules they use now have dwarfed the talent available. I think a lot of today's fighters are probably more talented than they show at tournaments. We used to throw six- and seven-technique comb inations, but the judges today are too quick to break the action to look for a point. A guy will throw one kick, and the judge will break to check with the corner judges. But maybe that kick was meant to set up another kick or a punch. When these guys are training in their gyms, I'm sure they're throwing three or four kicks or punches in a combination. But when they get out there in the actual event, the judges stop the action as soon as it starts. It makes people overcautious, and it doesn't let anyone k now how much talent they have, because the fighting is all chopped up.
Not only are the rules dwarfing competitors, but the equipment is too. When I competed, we were lucky if we could find shin guards, let alone pads for the hands or head. And I never really understood why they called this stuff safety equipment. They made everybody put it on, and then on top of that, they told you that you could not hit. I was under the impression that once the safety equipment was on, they would say "OK, now you'll be able to hit because you're wearing safety equipment." Instead, they sai d "You can't hit at all." If you can't hit at all, what do you need safety equipment for?
When I fought, I would always use a kick or two to set up my favorite technique: the reverse jump back kick. It was my best kick-I could score with it with either leg. Sometimes in my mind I would play games, saying "Well, I've scored twice with the right leg, let's see if I can do it twice with the left."
I used to leave the ground quite a bit; I did a lot of aerial techniques. At the time that I was competing, I was one of the tallest men on the circuit, and my height made my kicks more effective. I never had trouble fighting smaller men, because I could usually keep people from getting too close with my roundhouse kicks.
Tournaments and competition have changed a lot since I competed. But for the most part, things are looking better than ever.
By Floyd Burk
Close your eyes and try to think of just one person who has been successful as a
martial arts student, instructor, school owner, point-fighting competitor, full-contact
fighter, full-contact and open-karate tournament promoter, expert analyst, and host of
martial arts events for network and cable television.
The Journey Begins
The Atlanta, Georgia resident began his martial arts journey in 1963. His first
significant accomplishment occurred in 1966 when he earned his black belt in tang soo do.
Soon thereafter, Corley seriously began considering opening his own karate school. And
that's exactly what he did in 1967 ... even before his 21st birthday.
Corley's next significant contribution was organizing sport karate's Battle of Atlanta.
It didn't take long for the Battle of Atlanta to became the benchmark for all open
sport-karate tournaments. It would surpass the National Karate Championship in Washington,
D.C. and the All-American Championship in New York City. In a few short years, it became
the biggest tournament in the world.
A Karate Pioneer
Corley has also had a tremendous impact on full-contact karate. According to undefeated
full-contact karate champion Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, Corley "did more for
the sport of full-contact karate than any other person."
Corley has made an impact behind the scenes, too. He has become an expert analyst and
host for martial arts events, logging more than 1,000 hours of television coverage.
Viewers from all over the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Asia have
listened to his commentary.
Turns to Gold
As you can see, Joe Corley has been successful from Day One. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold. For all of his accomplishments, Joe Corley has been inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as the 1998 "Man of the Year."
About the author: Floyd Burk - a frequent contributor to Black Belt Communications, Inc. - teaches traditional American karate in San Diego, California.
by Linda Denley
I once heard that the Korean words tang soo do mean "never to
retreat." Whether that's true or not, it describes the fighting art perfectly.
Tang soo do is a hard-hitting, assertive fighting system that stresses powerful, effective techniques. Without it, I wouldn't be the tournament competitor I am today. But I'm a martial artist first, a tournament competitor second. My successful career in professional karate, which includes seven straight years as the number one women's fighter, and membership in the BLACK BELT Hall of Fame, is a direct result of my successful tang soo do training.
Many people know I've competed in karate for over 12 years, and they're curious about how I've won so many titles and how I've competed in such a rough sport for so long. There are some basic reasons for my success, all of which resulted from my tang soo do training.
Most importantly, I take my training seriously. Unfortunately, a lot of martial artists don't, and whatever happens - good or bad - is fine with them. But my training is serious in the studio, and that seriousness carries over into the tournament ring. When I enter the ring, I'm there for one reason: to fight and win.
One of the best ways to beat your opponents is to psych them out. Earlier in my martial arts career, most of my opponents fought the name of Linda Denley rather than the person. As soon as they did that, they lost. I had 'em before they entered the ring. Because tang soo do is such a hard-hitting, aggressive fighting system, it's excellent for mentally getting the best of opponents. They see you charge in and hit hard, and it often leaves them helpless.
Tang soo do has also been a driving force behind the length of time - an unprecedented 12 years - I've spent on the national tournament karate circuit. Although some people burn out after a few years, I'm nowhere near that stage. I'm not sure I ever will be.
Most people who quickly burn out in the martial arts, whether it's in traditional training or in the tournament ring, are in the martial arts for the wrong reasons. They train and compete because of hate, envy, revenge, and that type of thing. These people don't last because they're not martial artists in the true sense of the term.
On the other hand, my tang soo do training puts the martial arts in the proper perspective. Whatever I do in the martial arts, whether it's forms, tournament fighting or teaching, I do it the best of my ability. I try to improve myself through each endeavor. Furthermore, I've lasted in sport karate longer than many other top-name competitors because I don't get involved in the sport's politics. Although they're inevitable in any sport, you don't have to be part of them unless, of course, some people pull you in against your will. I've found that whenever politics are mingled with the martial arts, they do nothing but bring you down. They're one of the major reasons for burnout.
Tang soo do is a goal-oriented fighting art. Within its ranks, everyone is encouraged to shoot for higher achievements - to earn more advanced belt ranks, gain more skill and knowledge, or some other objective. When I first started on the national tournament circuit, I only had one goal - to be number one.
That goal was extremely important to my success, and because tang soo do is so goal-oriented, it was an easy one to set and eventually achieve.
But many of today's martial artists don't have goals. They just ramble through months - even years - of martial arts lessons without any real pur pose or objective. They enter tournaments and say to themselves, "Well, maybe I'll win and maybe I won't." However, such an attitude is foolish. You need goals to give you something to work for. They give you sincerity and purpose in the martial arts.
There are two types of goals in my training: short-range goals and long. I range goals. Short-range goals are stepping stones to my long-range goals. For example, let's say I've just started taking tang soo do (or any other system). One day, far into the future, I want to be an advanced student and own my own school. That's my long-range goal.
But how do I get there? Do I just wake up one morning and - boom! - there it is? Hardly. It's going to take hard work and a lot of short-range goals. Some of those short-range goals will probably include earning promotions in specified periods of time, helping my instructor so I can learn how the school runs, and teaching part-time. Another short-range goal might be to save a certain amount of money each month so I can get my school off the ground. Now do you see how short-range goals work? They are the building blocks of long-range goals.
It works exactly the same if you want to become a great tournament fighter. Set short-range goals, such as winning specified small tournaments throughout the year in your belt division, and then use this experience to help you win major tournaments when you're a seasoned martial artist.
Let's talk about sparring and tournament fighting for a minute. Tang soo do techniques are excellent, not only for self-defense in the street, but they make super moves for tournament fighting. A lot of tang soo do moves give me an advantage over non-tang soo do fighters. For instance, some martial artists can only fight with the right side of their body.
But in tang soo do, moves are distributed 50-50 on each side of the body. One-half are hand techniques, while the other half are kicks. You should be able to use every limb equally well, not your right side better than your left, or your hands better than your feet. And because tang soo do so strongly emphasizes equal distribution of techniques, I've been a much better all-around martial artist.
When I'm fighting in a tournament, I never have to think about my next move. Why? Because it's automatic. When I'm in the ring, I'm looking for targets I can hit when facing my opponent. What I do comes naturally because I've repeatedly practiced my tang soo do techniques. That's one of the beauties of the art - it's so thorough that effective fighting strategy becomes second nature.
I've always been known as an aggressive fighter. Again, much of that comes from my tang soo do training, which has never stressed defensive fighting. When you apply the martial arts, whether in a tournament or for self-defense, you're not there to stop and stare. You're there to fight, and if you fight aggressively, you'll keep your opponents so busy they won't get a chance to apply their techniques. Make your opponents respond to you as much as possible. That way, you don't have to respond to them. This is one of the basics I learned in tang soo do.
Another fighting tip I learned in tang soo do is to double every technique. That way, if you don't hit with your first technique, you're bound to connect with the second. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't double their techniques. They throw one technique and stop.
A low/high roundhouse kick is a perfect example of an effective double technique. You're bound to hit one of the two targets, such as stomach and face, especially if your opponent doesn't maintain a proper guard position. Although you can do many double techniques with kicks, punches, backfists and ridgehands, use only what works. The main thing is to create an opening so you can land a blow.
One final point: Develop a winning attitude. You need it for success in the martial arts, no matter what your style or system, whether you compete or not. And when you strive to win, do so for the right reasons, such as character building and the perfection of your martial arts skills.
Good training in any legitimate martial art will do that. Fortunately for me, tang soo do has done that very well.
by Robert W. Young
Chun Sik Kim heads the International Tang Soo Do Federation, one of the largest traditional martial arts organizations in the world. In addition to 14 dojang (studios) in the Pittsburgh area, he oversees more than 100 schools in the United Kingdom, Korea, Canada, Greece, Panama and other parts of the United States. But no matter where this brand of tang soo do is taught - Asia, North America or Europe - the stances, techniques and forms are exactly the same. That's because Kim believes that, when it comes to martial arts, traditional is definitely terrific. Here's the short version of his life story.
Chun Sik Kim wasn't a particularly tough kid. Like millions of other children around the world and plenty in his hometown of Songtan, Korea, he had problems with things like self-esteem and coordination. And as the only son in a single-parent family, he worried about being able to defend himself and his mother should the need ever arise.
What made Kim different from his peers is that very early in life, he found a simple solution to all his problems: the martial arts. He started when he was 10. "At that time, I did weight lifting, judo and boxing," he says.
Then Kim happened to visit a tang soo do school run by a master named Song Ki Kim. He watched as hordes of children kicked and punched like nobody's business. The next day, he joined. "I loved it," he says. "We trained about two or three hours a day for five days a week. Sometimes I would come home late, but my mother knew where I was and the tang soo do school was close to my home, so it was OK."
The master-to-be didn't have as many styles to choose from as modern-day students have. "There was moo duk kwan, ji do kwan, chung do kwan and others, but they were all tang soo do," he says. "I liked moo duk kwan because it looked more traditional, more strict and more focused. I thought the students worked harder."
Months later when Kim received his moo duk kwan green belt, he thought he knew everything there was to know about tang soo do. His head grew two sizes too big, and he stopped attending class.
"But I came back three months later because I missed it," Kim says. "When I started, my mother didn't want me to go because she was afraid I might get hurt, but I went anyhow. This time, my mother made me go. And I wanted to go back."
Kim was concerned that his master would be angry about his three-month vacation, but he wasn't. In fact, the master welcomed the lost sheep back into the fold. "But I still feel very bad because I had 'betrayed' trim for three months," Kim admits. "I never quit again."
For any Korean boy obsessed with the martial arts, times were tough. "Before my master got a school, we practiced outside in the dirt," says Kim, who earned his black belt when he was 12. "If it rained, we couldn't practice. In the summertime, we would go to the mountains to train. We didn't have any equipment, but sometimes we used a rice bag filled with sand as a punching bag."
Back then, the dobok (uniform) was a bit different from the way it is now, Kim says. "The sleeves were shorter; they came to just around the elbow. And the pants came down to just below the knee. I'm not sure why - maybe it was because we were poor and didn't have enough material to make the uniform longer. Anyway, it was cooler in the summer because the wind blew through, and it didn't stick to your skin."
Kim and his young classmates spent most of their time drilling in the basics: kicks, punches, forms, one-step sparring and free sparring. Especially free sparring. My master would have 20 people stand up, and each student would spar 20 times for five minutes with each person," Kim says. When you add in short rest periods between rounds, that comes to about two hours of bone-smashing, flesh-pounding torture.
There weren't a lot of tournaments where students could test their techniques against others, Kim says. "About once a year, martial artists from across the country would come together for one, or there would be a big Asian tournament." These were full-contact events in which competitors wore only basic chest and head protection.
The skills Kim worked so hard to perfect then are identical to the ones he and his federation's instructors teach now. "Our ha dan mahk kee (also spelled hadan makgi, meaning low block) was the same as what we teach now," he says. "I don't believe in changing techniques. I tell people I can teach only what I learned. Modern instructors may create new styles, but what's going to be around in the future? The traditional martial arts.
"The world changes every day, but anything traditional should not," Kim continues. "People need some stability in life, and traditional martial arts can provide that." One of the most important things the traditional arts teach is respect, and that should never change, Kim insists.
To help promote traditional tang soo do to a wider audience, Kim packed his bags and moved to the United States in 1972. In 1973 he appeared on his first magazine cover-Official Karate. In 1974 he organized his first tournament, which attracted about 700 people. After that, he made the cover of Black Belt, Karate Illustrated and Karate/Kung Fu Illustrated.
The master, who is now based in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, admits that the teaching methods he and his instructors currently use have been modified a little to better deal with students' busy schedules. Because of school activities and sports, children just can't invest as much time in their training, he says. "But parents need to remember that martial arts can help academic studies," Kim says. "I tell students what my master told me: 'On one side you have education, and on the other side you have martial arts.' " It's the perfect balance, he claims.