Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's in your engine?

Engine Room, By Joep Roosen
Andre Bertel, a student of the late Asai sensei, wrote a blistering article on the state of Shotokan in New Zealand.

I am not a student of Shotokan, and profess to know little of the politics of his organization. His article, however, gave me much to think about as I nodded my head in agreement with his views.

When the fundamental 'engines' of Shotokan karate are not included, or seriously flawed, one merely has a thin shell.

This quote, along with one more:

Shotokan karate is such narrow and deep river, so without depth, it really has nothing. It reminds me of a saying I’ve heard several times here in Japan; “there is no worse karate than bad Shotokan”. Clearly this is because of Shotokan’s simplicity, and therefore, requirement of extreme technical exactness.

gave me a great deal of thought as I related it back to my own training. Specifically, it brought 2 questions to mind:

1. In many ways, this premise rings true for Tang Soo Do. There is a great deal of variance between schools, across all organizations, which call themselves Tang Soo Do. Some are very rigid and move almost like their Shotokan counterparts, while others have taken the Chinese influence very much to heart and have a very "longfist" type feel to their motions. In an art that is based largely upon creatively modifying concepts from other arts, when does someone truly need to stop and say "I'm not really doing Tang Soo Do anymore!"? If the "engine" as Mr. Bertel calls it remains the same, is that enough?

2. What is the "engine" of Tang Soo Do? What drives all of our techniques. Certainly we can all agree on the concept of Hu Ri, Ho Hup and Shin Chook. Are there other ideals which, when combined, create this truly unique art?

After reading this article about a month ago, and finding it in line with my other thoughts on Ryu Pa, I've been spending a great deal of time in class talking about what I feel are the engine components of the art. In most ways, class is no different than usual, but I'm working very hard to make sure the basics are thoroughly applied to all techniques. The last thing I want is a "thin shell."

For me, you can't call it Tang Soo Do unless:
1. Motion originates in the waist. (Hu Ri!)
2. The back leg drives the body forward into a technique, as opposed to just stepping forward. This is a bit of simplification as the front leg is somewhat involved, but I don't just step into a technique.
3. The opposite hand acts counter to the technique, enhancing the rotation of the hip as well as the opening and closing of the chest.

For those of you reading, I'd like to hear from you. What are 3 things you think Tang Soo Do must have in order to remain "Tang Soo Do" in name?
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