A Killing Art

The Untold History of Taekwon-do

The book reads like a spy novel, which is more or less the best way to describe South Korean politics from 1960-1980.  The author, though, is openly hostile to General Choi and his tone mars an otherwise good read.

What We Do Know

Did General Choi invent Taekwon-do and how does it relate to ancient Korean styles?  Choi invented the term. To the degree such moves were practiced in ancient Korea we simply don’t know.  There are Karate elements to it, but Choi’s style is recognizably is.

His theory of power is notably different from Karate, and with his later use of “sine-wave” it is different from breakaway Taekwon-do styles.

  1. Reaction Force (based on Newton’s 3rd Law)
  2. Concentration (pressure being equal to force multiplied by area)
  3. Equilibrium (maintaining center of gravity)
  4. Breath control
  5. Mass
  6. Speed (united the previous five)

Be glad you didn’t live in Korea in the 20th century.  General Choi was imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese around WWII, which was common to many Koreans.

Battle Stories
~Battle of Yongmunsan: Chinese special forces and North Korean elements overran a Korean outpost.  It was completely dark.  One Korean leader, Second Lt. Nam, singlehandedly, with his hands, killed 20 men in the dark.  He knew the communists had shorter hair and when he approached one, he felt his head and killed or spared him accordingly.

The 1960s began a series of coups and counter-coups and later saw the KCIA (Korean secret police) abducting and terrorizing Korean citizens across the globe.  Even worse, the KCIA fronted many organizations and laundered its money through the Moonie Cult. To his credit, and the author grudgingly admits this, the General wasn’t involved.

 

Sun Tzu: The Art of War

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Prelude:

A good general will control the following five aspects of war.

Moral Law

Heaven–binaries, night and day, etc.

Earth–represents distance

Commander = virtue of wisdom

Method and discipline = subdivision of armies

In good Puritan, Ramist fashion (I realize Sun wasn’t a Puritan.  It’s a joke. Chill), Sun Tzu gives list after list of how to achieve victory in battle.  Within each list are more divisions. Yet he never loses control of the argument and occasionally speaks in wise, concrete terms.  It’s quite refreshing at times.

Warfare is successful by using speed and deception.  Hold out baits. Feign disorder, and then crush the enemy.

He gives practical advice for setting up camps, using terrain to your advantage, and avoiding costly campaigns against fortified cities.

Controlling the Energy of War

He writes, “The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.”  Energy is like the bending of a crossbow. Decision is the trigger.

It’s fascinating to reflect that the greatest generals mirrored some of Sun’s advice without being aware of it.  Nathan Bedford Forrest, for example, could barely read and write, yet he positioned his artillery and troops in such a way at Brice’s Crossing that it was called “the perfect battle.”  Stonewall Jackson would often hide his movements and plans from his own men, just as Sun suggested.

 

Living the Martial Way (Forrest Morgan)

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I think I had the same reaction to this book as everyone else:  it was groundbreaking when it first came out. Looking back 20 years later, it’s still very good but we have perhaps a more critical view.  Forrest Morgan addresses the problem: how can we live a warrior lifestyle in a non-warrior society? To answer that question we need to get beyond the strictly physical aspects of being a warrior and approach it via mental (or maybe spiritual).

Honor and integrity are what separates warriors from thugs.  I think what made this book “click” back then is kind of what makes Jordan Peterson click today.  I’m not personally a fan of Peterson, but I do understand why people find him compelling. He isn’t a Marxist and he urges you to take charge of your life.  Good for him. Morgan does the same thing, but without the Jungian baggage.

His take on religion is balanced.  Some martial arts are more closely aligned with religions than others.  You just have to be discerning.

If we could boil this to a few quotes or main ideas, Morgan highlights the role of strategy in a warrior’s mindset.   That’s where this book is probably unique and what caught me off-guard when I first read it.

“Strategy is the essence of warriorship. It lives in the heart of everything the warrior studies, practices, and does with his life.

There are individuals who step beyond the mere technical mastery of artificial systems to touch the essence of personal warfare, the very soul of The Martial Way. But you can’t achieve this kind of mastery studying one system alone. Remember, all systems are artificial. The only goal truly worthy of a serious warrior’s efforts is mastering The Martial Way itself.”

There are some areas of the book I think are dated.  While Morgan was correct that we don’t need as much protein as the average bodybuilder intakes, we need more than he gives us credit for.  Further, most people won’t get “bulky” by working out. Proof? Check out the guy at the gym who has been lifting for the past 3 years and still weighs 150lbs.   Bruce Lee did standard weight training, 3×10 and while he had one of the greatest physiques of all time, he wasn’t “bulky.”

With that said, he does have a point about training effectively.  While I do chin ups regularly, I never go to exhaustion and I don’t need to do bicep curls.  I do kettlebell squats instead of regular squats. While deadlift is king of exercises, I’m too injury prone and kettlebell swings is probably a better exercise.

Table of Contents Below

 

Foreword ……………………………………….. 1

 

INTRODUCTION ……………………………………. 3

Background on the Martial Arts ……………………. 5

Martial Arts, Martial Ways, and The Martial Way …….. 9

Why Practice The Martial Way Today? ………………. 10

The Design of This Book …………………………. 11

 

         PART ONE: THE WAY OF TRAINING

 

Chapter 1: The Warrior Mind-Set ………………….. 17

Getting the Mind-Set ……………………………. 24

Acknowledge Your Warriorship …………………….. 25

Pursue Internal Versus External Objectives ………… 27

 

Chapter 2: Your Martial Destiny ………………….. 33

Doctrine, Strategy, and Tactics ………………….. 36

Choose Your Strategic Foundations ………………… 40

Analyze the Threat ……………………………… 41

Evaluate Your Physical and Emotional Assets ……….. 42

Select a Doctrine ………………………………. 43

The Pitfalls of Narrow Doctrine ………………….. 44

Build Your Skills Around a Doctrinal Core …………. 47

 

Chapter 3: Train as Warriors Train………………… 51

Make Training a Daily Regimen ……………………. 54

Employ Shugyo in your Training …………………… 56

Take a Jutsu Approach to Training…………………. 61

 

Chapter 4: The Warrior’s Way of Strategy…………… 75

Plan Your Strategy in Four Phases…………………. 79

Identify Your Strategic Objectives ……………….. 79

Collect Intelligence…………………………….. 81

Plan for Environment…………………………….. 83

Program for Engagement…………………………… 85

How to Develop Tactics ………………………….. 87

Read Your Opponent ……………………………… 98

Control the Fighting Range ………………………. 90

Feint Effectively……………………………….. 92

Use Rhythm and Timing …………………………… 93

Avoid, Evade, and Intercept ……………………… 95

 

Chapter 5: The Warrior’s Spell Book ……………… 101

Kiai and tiki …………………………………. 103

Find Kokoro …………………………………… 107

Practice Haragei ………………………………. 111

Develop Kokyu Chikara ………………………….. 116

Apply Kime ……………………………………. 118

Practice Kata With Utmost Seriousness ……………. 122

Mushin – Mind Without Thinking ………………….. 123

Zanshin – So Alert You Dominate …………………. 128

 

         PART TWO: THE WAY OF HONOR

 

Chapter 6: The Foundations of Honor ……………… 137

The Basic Tenets of Honor ………………………. 142

Obligation ……………………………………. 143

Justice ………………………………………. 144

Courage ………………………………………. 148

Honor and Face ………………………………… 149

Develop Your Own Sense of Honor …………………. 152

 

Chapter 7: Honor in Action ……………………… 157

Putting Honeor to Work …………………………. 159

Truthfulness ………………………………….. 159

Courtesy………………………………………. 161

Restraint …………………………………….. 163

Loyalty ………………………………………. 165

Service ………………………………………. 170

Honor in the Fog of Life ……………………….. 171

 

Chapter 8: Revenge and Suicide: Perversions of Honor . 177

The Forty-Seven Faithful Ronin ………………….. 180

Revenge and the Scales of Honor …………………. 182

Suicide: Courage or Cowardice? ………………….. 186

Standards for Planning Revenge and Suicide ……….. 188

 

         PART THREE: THE WAY OF LIVING

 

Chapter 9: Warrior Fitness ……………………… 195

The Great Sham of Modern Martial Arts ……………. 197

The Qualities of Warrior Fitness ………………… 199

Body Types and Muscle Physiology ………………… 205

The Three Pillars of Fitness ……………………. 209

Train for Muscular Strength and Endurance ………… 210

Condition for Aerobic Capacity ………………….. 212

Develop Flexibility ……………………………. 217

Nutrition and Weight Control ……………………. 220

 

Chapter 10: Religion and Mysticism ………………. 227

Eastern versus Western Religious Thought …………. 229

The Principle Asian Religious Doctrines ………….. 231

Confucianism: The Way of the Sages ………………. 232

Taoism: In Pursuit of the One True Way …………… 235

Buddhism: Following the Eightfold Path …………… 240

Shinto: The Nay of the Kumi …………………….. 248

Mysticism and the Danger of Cults ……………….. 252

Martial Arts Training and Religious Convictions …… 256

 

Chapter 11: The Warrior Stands Alone …………….. 261

The Three Keys to Warrior Dignity ……………….. 264

Develop a Commanding Posture ……………………. 265

Discover the Power of Physical Grace …………….. 268

Cultivate the Austere Quality of Shibumi …………. 270

The Secret of Personal Power ……………………. 274

 

Chapter 12: Mastery and The Martial Way ………….. 281

Mastery in The Martial Arts and Ways …………….. 286

Mastery in The Martial Way ……………………… 291

 

Appendix A: Glossary …………………………… 301

Appendix B: Selected Bibliography ……………….. 309

Chuck Norris: The Secret Power Within

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Norris, Chuck.  The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.

This is the early primer to his later autobiography.  The subtitle sounds goofy, I grant you, and Asian purists would probably (rightly) say that Chuck still doesn’t understand Zen.  Fine. The book as it is, though, is quite good.

Zen is when you gain knowledge through intuition, that lightning strike moment.  Sure, some use it for pagan purposes, but we’ve all had that ‘aha’ moment.

Is Zen Eastern magick that will lead the Christian down pagan paths?  No. It’s intuition. It’s following the path of intuition, a path made possible by hundreds and thousands of hours of discipline.  Repetitions “create intuition, to make the mind or body able to flow without reflection or pause” (Norris 45).

“No one, not even a lover, looks at you as intensely and closely as someone who intends to knock you out in the ring” (41).

Breathing techniques: “during inhalation [imagine] a very silver thread….drawn in uninterruptedly through the nostrils and [flowing] down the spinal column, where it is held for a few seconds in the lower abdomen.  Three-quarters of the air is then exhaled gently through the mouth in a steady, concentrated, powerful, but relaxed, stream” (65).

Shadow Warriors:  Don’t be a spiritual ninja.  Ninja created chaos and won through misdirection.  Don’t be like that towards those you love (107).

What about ki (or chi)?  This does border on mysticism, so careful thought is required.  I don’t know about all the “life energy moving through the body,” but in terms of movement and breaking boards, it makes sense. When you break a board, visualize the attack through the board (129).

Against all Odds (Chuck Norris)

Norris, Chuck.  Against all Odds.  Broadman & Holman.

As John Piper said, “Read Christian biography!”  He probably didn’t mean this, though.  It’s a fun read.  Chuck is very honest about his moral and spiritual failings, and when he talks of repentance, he speaks in concrete terms of sin and turning to Christ.  He also speaks about his more mundane failures and while we will never have his level of success, we can have success by simply not giving up on reasonable goals.

He was born into a poor family whose father was a wino.  He joined the Air Force and did time in Korea after the war.  It is there he learned Tang Soo Do (he had earlier broken his collarbone from judo).  He failed his first black belt test.  He came home with his Martial Arts background and began a successful karate career as an instructor and competitor.  Had he stayed there he would have been recognized as the second best martial artist in the world (Bruce Lee, of course, was the best).

Bruce Lee got him into a few movies (remember that final fight scene in Return of the Dragon) and urged him to take acting more seriously.  Chuck then starred in minor roles while he kept hearing, especially after Lee’s untimely death, that “karate movies” were over.

And while Chuck didn’t mention it, he sort of created a new market of movies.  He didn’t give the old “chop saki” movie.  He created a “Lone Wolf” type of character who embodied “Merica” values while using martial arts.  He ultimately perfected this character with Walker, Texas Ranger.  This might explain why all of the “karate movies” in the 80s were flops, excepting perhaps Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme.  They didn’t bring anything new to the game.  Chuck did.

He’s honest about his failures.  His first marriage failed and he wasn’t a good father and husband.  And while his second marriage was (is) successful, sin brings baggage.  Yet the book points out the baggage and how godly counseling can work through it.

The other aspects of the book are probably well-known to most, including his KICK-START campaign: getting martial arts into public schools.  My take on it: it can work if the school district wants it to work.  My former instructor was involved in this. The problem is that you are retraining minds and breaking over a decade’s worth of bad habits.  You are dealing with dysfunctional structures.  You’re lucky if you can make progress in a year.  School boards, though, want results yesterday.  That’s not how reality works and so the program is dropped.

This is a truly encouraging book and easy to read.  I read it in a few days.