That change comes by a return to the beginning of modern-day Taekwondo. A change led by the very first Kwan. Despite those who would choose to debate, March 20, 1944 became the first official government recognition of Song Moo Kwan, and the foundation of Taekwondo, by Supreme Grand Master Ro, Byung Jick.
As the debate between tradition and sport rages, there is a different kind of debate that must be had. One where Taekwondo practitioners, masters and different associations set aside their differences, while their leaders come together for the good of all Taekwondo, and the martial arts as a whole.
That unification was initially tried in a great effort by the World Taekwondo Federation. Its creation set in motion the unification of all Kwans for the benefit of something greater. That goal was a great dream. However, it did not satisfy the goals of some. They went their way without the banner proclaimed by the government of Korea. This resulted in a loss of identity. Without remembering where each system began, the struggles endured, and the reason for unifying in the first place. Taekwondo’s strength then became a struggle for legitimacy between Instructors, associations; and, finally, a weakening support of the dream.
The greatest fighting system in the world, “Taekwondo”, was then relegated primarily to that of a “sport”; and, a method of discipline training for kids. No longer would the world’s most elite military, law enforcement, and traditional practitioner be seen with awe and wonder. Not with the presumption of loss in Taekwondo’s primary self-defense capacity.
Engagement as an Olympic event was spectacular. The hope of further world recognition soared; and, was excitedly embraced. Today there is something different. Advertisements that; “We teach Olympic Taekwondo” permeate the internet, and local schools. Safety being touted over the presumed discipline of traditional schools seemed to indicate that there was something much more dangerous in a setting that was not sport oriented.
What ever happened to teaching in a manner where technical skill was maintained at a level where “sport” was simply a well-trained mindset, which could be turned on and off at will?
This past week I noted the number of comments of those watching a re-presentment of the infamous fight scenes of Phillip Rhee and his brother Simon Rhee from the feature film “Best of the Best” (1989). Oddly enough, this came out just a year after Taekwondo became an Olympic exhibition event in Seoul, Korea. Yet the Martial Arts demonstrated in this movie are continually referenced as to ‘how’ Taekwondo should be presented in today’s tournaments.
While this might be seen as violent as most boxing or MMA type matches, there is no doubt the skills employed are akin to that of the bygone era of Bruce Lee. Traditionalists claim that this is what Olympic Taekwondo should look like. Still, the cry of safety concerns prevent a hybrid of sorts. Perhaps due to the underlying remembrance of Taekwondo as a “lethal” discipline.
Enter my comments of Song Moo Kwan. 22 million worldwide practitioners of Taekwondo; and, until recently, just over 10,000 which were honored by Song Moo Kwan’s founder (Supreme Grand Master Byung Jick Ro) to have achieved Black Belt ranking.
What is the difference?
Song Moo Kwan has gracefully and quietly maintained the traditions founded in the original Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo, under the leadership of Senior Grand Master Ro, Hee Sang. Without fanfare and boasting, Senior Grand Master Ro has taught an element of ‘sport Taekwondo, which is a controlled component of the original self-offense/defense used practical protection. This controlled aspect of Taekwondo technical expertise easily creates a sport mind-set, which is never confused with its more aggressive offensive combat component.
Senior Grand Master Ro, in keeping with Song Moo Kwan tradition, has successfully organized its own sport component rules, permitting greater control, while exhibiting spectacular skill to spectators. In short, a return to the technical prowess of system founders, without sacrificing safety and security in execution for its student and instructor base.
Some have christened this Song Moo Kwan leadership, a higher form of Taekwondo. Yet, for those 10,000 black belt members, it is nothing new. It is merely remaining true to their Song Moo Kwan – Taekwondo heritage.
Senior Grand Master Ro, Hee Sang, remains the only son of a founding Kwan which has remained to carry on the leadership, respect, and traditions which brought Taekwondo to its present leadership position in the martial arts industry, and the world today. Perhaps this is why he is referred to by many as “Joong Kwang Dae Sun Sa” (Best of the Best).
More and more Song Moo Kwan alumni are being called upon to lead. We are being called upon to return to the principals that set Song Moo Kwan apart from the rest. Demonstrating the history of Song Moo Kwan leadership, for ourselves and all Kwans, as we go forward today under Senior Grand Master Ro, Hee Sang. This continues as the Korean home of Song Moo Kwan is rebuilt; and, world leadership for Taekwondo reunites those from all associations.
The choice is yours in considering a higher form of training. Training from the first family of Taekwondo – the House of Ro. We welcome you to our family. The original Song Moo Kwan family.