Students meditating before class

Traditional vs. Modern or “American” Martial Art

*A version of this article first appeared in my May 2009 newsletter.

The biggest difference between what we do here and what other schools in town teach is that we are traditional Korean martial art. The arts we teach have been handed down and existed before the most recent Japanese invasion of Korea. Most Tae Kwon Do taught in the Muncie area is post-occupation, since the Japanese forbade the practice of martial arts in Korea during that time. Some Korean stylists traveled to Japan and learned Karate and Jujitsu and other arts there. They brought those arts back to Korea and taught them, or blended what they learned into their previous arts (after the Japanese left). Most Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido evolved this way.

The Difference

When schools teach “modern” or “American” martial arts, they are interested in either combat or winning contests. You hear a lot about the “effectiveness” of their techniques and how “reality-based” they are. For the sport-minded public, it’s a good approach. And soldiers and police need to practice techniques that are easy to learn and effective.
The rest of us, however, have other needs. Lots of us practice martial art for reasons like:

  • staying (or getting) in shape
  • learning meditation
  • learning traditional weapons (like sword and staff)
  • getting in touch with history
  • achieving a lifelong goal.

Traditional martial arts don’t have to be brutal or easy. Obviously, the techniques need to work, but they can be about more than combat effectiveness.

Internal Training

Traditional martial art revolves around internal training. People usually think of ki (or chi) as something mysterious, but I think that’s because we don’t have a direct translation for it in our culture. Ki is simply (and, okay, maybe mysteriously) the life-force. We train to harness and focus it with breathing, meditation, proper diet, and physical exercise.

Again, most of Western culture doesn’t understand meditation. We sit, quiet our minds, focus on our breathing, and meditation occurs.

Is martial art a religion?

Martial art, taught correctly, is not a religion, not a cult. We acknowledge we are beings with three parts: body, mind, and spirit. Training is about bringing these three parts into balance: something that modern martial arts cannot do. Traditional martial art training brings us into harmony (or balance) with our environment.

And the more we are in harmony, the less likely we are to require self-defense techniques.





Agree? Disagree? Want more information? Let me know.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.