Why are Shotokan patterns on a TKD web site?
Despite what many would have you believe, Tae Kwon Do has very strong roots
extending into the Japanese martial arts. The most notable of these, primarily
because its tradition still continues today, is Shotokan Karate.
For those studying what Koreans TKD stylists call the "Pyong-An" patterns, you
will either be intrigued or alarmed to discover that they are exactly the same
patterns practiced in Shotokan karate. In Japanese they are called "Heian".
Tae Kwon Do black belts who, as part of their traditional curriculum, studied
patterns called Bal-Sek, Chul-Gi, or Kong-San-Koon would do well to know that
these patterns are also traditional Shotokan forms with the Japanese names Bassai,
Tekki, and Kanku, respectfully. Even the WTF-recognized Palgwe patterns have
Japanese origins. If you examine the Pyong-An (Heian) forms, you will see many
of the movement sequences are copied directly into the Palgwe patterns.
When the WTF began its rise to prominence in Korea, it sought a way of purging
the Japanese influences from its homeland's martial art. The reasons for this
are not officially documented in any official charter or statement. However, one would
be safe in assuming that there were myriad reasons -- none the least of which were
patriotism, pride, and love of tae kwon do mixed in with equal parts arrogance and
fear. Traditionally, Koreans have had a bitter relationship with Japan, beginning
with that nation's occupation of the Korean peninsula for nearly 40 years. This
was not a friendly occupation, but, rather, one in which Koreans were raped
of their culture, art, history and even language. While both nations
are quite different now, in many older Koreans this bitterness remains. And, while
most of the younger generations will acknowledge that era simply as part of history,
it is still a very prevalent attitude ingrained into the culture, regardless of
whether or not one disagrees or is in opposition to it.
This may partially explain the WTF's motivations. However, there were a
number of other internal and external pressures to "purify" Tae Kwon Do.
When Korea won their Summer Olympics bid in the early eighties, it needed a
demonstration sport that symbolized its nation and people. No other sport came
close to matching its peoples' strong sense of patriotism, devotion, and beauty.
Because this worldwide attention would soon put a critical eye on their nation as a
whole, the WTF was saddled with the additional pressures of presenting a sport
that would represent all its nations people and, in the end, glorify their home.
As part of this response, the WTF created and promulgated a new series of patterns
called the "Taegeuk". ('Taegeuk' is the name of South Korea's national flag.)
One of their intentions was to create an entirely Korean set of hyungs (or patterns).
You see, by this time, the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) had already
begun its spread across the globe, bringing Tae Kwon Do to many other parts of the
world. Their patterns (the Chon-Ji pattern set) were also heavily influenced
by the Japanese styles. The ITF, however, was disowned (and damned) by the WTF,
who is the official government body in charge of Tae Kwon Do's development.
(If you're interested in the history of the ITF, follow this link:
So, to bring us back to the topic at hand, why have I included Shotokan patterns here
on a web site that, on the surface at least, seems to be one concerned with Tae
The reason is that the Japanese martial arts were around long before Tae Kwon Do
ever had a name. It provided the foundations for what soon became something
wholly Korean and uniquely beautiful in the world. Whether these Japanese
traditions were forced upon the Korean peninsula during the occupation or whether
they were accepted whole-heartedly by open minded masters of the time is irrelevant.
What matters, in my opinion, is that they are preserved as such. Today, Shotokan
Karate is the only widespread martial art that uses forms upon which modern Tae
Kwon Do was built. (Again, in my humble opinion) I feel that, for those students
who enjoy their TKD hyungs and are ready for additional material, studying the
Shotokan patterns enhances their art and opens new windows of insight into Tae
Kwon Do's principles and inherent beauty.