If you’re a Taekwondo instructor, you can give this worksheet to your students as practice of Korean numbers. It contains ten exercises on the Native Korean numbers 10 to 100, using only the romanisation of the Korean in the Revised Romanisation system. Click the link to download the PDF file.
If you’re fortunate to be the owner of a copy of Choi Hong-hi’s condensed or full Encyclopaedia of Taekwondo, and you’ve wandered through some of the pages at the back of the book concerning belts and ranks and titles, you might have seen a section describing the Korean titles given to black belts of various degrees.
In this section there are some very familiar words such as sabeom (written sabum in the book), which means ‘instructor’. The hangeul for sabeom is 사범, and you can look this word up in any reasonably comprehensive Korean-English dictionary. The word is also listed on many websites about Taekwondo as meaning ‘instructor’, and is used in lots of Taekwondo schools every week around the world.
However, also in this section of Choi’s book, you’ll also see words such as sahyun and sasung. Choi describes these words as being used to refer to high-ranking Taekwondo practitioners; however, if you try to look these words up in a Korean dictionary, they are nowhere to be found.
I’ve done this many times over the last few years to try to figure out what the hangeul and hanja for these words are, but have never found anything in any dictionary to suggest that they even are Korean words. Part of the difficulty in doing this is guessing at what the hangeul might be. In his various books, Choi uses his own system of romanising Korean text that is largely based on the American pronunciation of English letters. Knowing this I would guess that the hangeul for sahyun would actually be 사현 and the hangeul for sasung would be 사성; however, putting these words into good online Korean dictionaries (such as dic.naver.com) reveals nothing.
I concluded that these words were simply too obscure to be included in a normal Korean dictionary. I reached a dead-end. Until that was I discovered this page http://www.masterhoward.com/news/342-explanation-of-itf-tkd-titles.html by a Dublin Taekwondo instructor called Robert Howard, which finally gave me the answers I was looking for.
The reason these terms do not appear in standard Korean dictionaries is because they are new terms invented by Choi. This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising – Choi studied calligraphy from a young age, and seemed to like inventing new words (he came up with the name ‘Taekwondo’). I think this is even evident in the names he chose for the Changheon-yu forms, which I think are far more interesting than those of the Kukki-won forms.
The information on the page linked above reveals that sahyun is actually 사현 師賢 sahyeon. 사 師 sa means ‘teacher’, ‘master’, or ‘expert’, and 현 賢 hyeon means ‘a worthy or virtuous person’ or ‘moral’, thus sahyeon means ‘moral teacher’ or ‘wise teacher’. The syllable 현 also appears in words such as 현자 賢者 hyeonja and 현인 賢人 hyeonin, both of which mean ‘wise man’ or ‘sage’.
Similarly, sasung is actually 사성 師聖 saseong. 성 聖 seong means ‘sage’, and thus saseong means ‘sage master’ or ‘sage teacher’ – a title so honorific it could pretty much only be used for Choi himself. The syllable 성 聖 seong also appears in the word 성현 聖賢 seonghyeon, which means ‘sage’.
사현 師賢 sahyeon; moral teacher, wise teacher
사성 師聖 saseong; sage-master
These two words reflect the idea that Taekwondo is not just a method of combat – it is also a moral culture. They also show that high-ranking Taekwondo practitioners should not just be skilled fighters, but should be moral teachers and leaders.
These two words also, to an extraordinary degree, show the presence of Confucianism in Taekwondo. Korea was, for a very long time, a model Confucian society, and Confucian ideals still permeate modern Korean culture. One of the central ideas in Confucianism is that of the sage-king – the idea that the leader of a nation (and leaders in general) should aspire to be like the great sage-kings of antiquity – benevolent rulers who embodied Confucian ideals. The fact that Choi has chosen words here that seem to specifically refer to sagehood shows the influence of Confucianism on Taekwondo.
These two words will be added to the next edition of Taekwondo Terminology (whenever that comes out).
If you’re a Taekwondo instructor, you can give this worksheet to your students as practice of Korean numbers. It contains five exercises on the Sino-Korean numbers 1 to 10, using only the romanisation of the Korean in the Revised Romanisation system. Click the link to download the PDF file.
In this fourth video in the series on counting in Korean, we look at how to count from 10 to 100 using Sino-Korean numerals.
(I started writing this article before the World Taekwondo Federation changed its name to just World Taekwondo, but the point still stands. Also, this article somewhat assumes that you haven’t read any of my other posts, as I use the conclusions of this post across the rest of the blog.)
The two most popular styles of Taekwondo are generally referred to as ‘WTF Taekwondo’ and ‘ITF Taekwondo’. I don’t know about you, but to me these are rather uninspiring names for styles of Taekwondo – sets of initials – they are quite stale and corporate.
‘WTF Taekwondo’ refers to the World Taekwondo Federation, which follows the style and curriculum of Kukki-won, the national centre for Taekwondo in Seoul, South Korea. It’s the style that’s used in the Olympics, so it’s a very visible style of Taekwondo.
‘ITF Taekwondo’, following a similar idea, refers to the International Taekwondo Federation. The ITF was founded by Choi Hong-hi, and the organisation follows the style of Taekwondo promulgated by Choi. However, since its inception, the ITF has split multiple times, and presently there is not just one International Taekwondo Federation, but at least three (which you can read about here: http://taekwondo.wikia.com/wiki/ITF_Taekwon-do). This division is the result of years of disagreements. Several separate organisations call themselves the ‘International Taekwondo Federation’, and each one claims to be the genuine ITF.
There are also other international organisations which practise the same style as the ITFs, but which don’t call themselves the ‘ITF’ (and aren’t necessarily direct secessions). Taekwondo International would be an example of this.
All of the different ITFs (and the other organisations like Taekwondo International) continue to follow Choi’s style of Taekwondo, but there are variations. An example is that students in some of these organisations practise the form Juche, and students in others practise Kodang. So when we say ‘ITF Taekwondo’, which ITF are we referring to? Which ITF is the authority on what ‘ITF Taekwondo’ is?
The name ‘ITF Taekwondo’ is therefore ambiguous. It doesn’t refer to just one style – it refers to one or all of several, ever-so-slightly different styles practised by the different ITFs and ITF-like organisations. (And when you have to explain to someone why the style of Taekwondo you practise is called ‘ITF Taekwondo’, you end up having to explain all of that history, and it gets confusing quickly.) Also, neither of these style names are Korean. I think in Taekwondo, a general principle should be: Korean first, English second (or any other language second). ‘ITF Taekwondo’ and ‘WTF Taekwondo’ are therefore not ideal names for these two styles.
Furthermore, while ‘ITF’ and ‘WTF’ Taekwondo are the two most popular styles, there are several other styles of Taekwondo. ‘GTF Taekwondo’ is the style of the Global Taekwondo Federation. The GTF was established by Bak Jung-tae, and follows a style that’s derived from Choi’s style. The proper name for ‘GTF Taekwondo’ is a topic for another post.
There’s also Cheongdo-kwan Taekwondo. Cheongdo-kwan was one of the original Kwans in 1950’s Korea. Today, the official Cheongdo-kwan supports the curriculum of Kukki-won, but there are other groups with the Cheongdo-kwan name which practise the original style of the school, which includes a number of forms from 松濤館 空手 Shōtōkan Karate.
It’s clear that the names generally used for many styles of Taekwondo are not ideal. So what should these styles be called? What form should these style names have?
Style names in Karate follow one of two schemes: the –ryu scheme, where the style name ends in 流 ryu, meaning ‘style’, such as 剛柔流 Gōjū-ryū or 一心流 Isshin-ryū, and the -kan scheme, where the style name ends in 館 kan, meaning ‘hall’ or ‘place’, such as 松濤館 Shōtōkan. Why is this relevant? Why are the naming conventions in Karate relevant to Taekwondo? Well Taekwondo is of course related to Karate, and one of the features that it borrows is that its name follows the same naming convention as many Japanese martial arts. The -do of Taekwondo is the same -do as in 空手道 karate-dō, 柔道 jūdō, and 剣道 kendō. Consequently, the conventions of style names of Japanese martial arts are also relevant for Taekwondo. Indeed, the original Kwans of Taekwondo all followed these conventions, and the -kwan (관 kwan is the Korean pronunciation of 館 kan) scheme (hence why they are called ‘Kwans’):
- 창무관 彰武館 Changmu-kwan
- 청도관 靑濤館 Cheongdo-kwan
- 강덕원 講德院 Kangdeok-won
- 한무관 韓武館 Hanmu-kwan
- 정도관 正道館 Jeongdo-kwan
- 지도관 智道館 Jido-kwan
- 무덕관 武德館 Mudeok-kwan
- 오도관 吾道館 Odo-kwan
- 송무관 松武館 Songmu-kwan
You may have noticed that there is a Kwan in this list which does not follow the -kwan naming scheme. Kangdeok-won has the ending -won. 원 院 won means ‘institute’ or ‘centre’, and the fact that Kangdeok-won is considered influential in the development of Taekwondo establishes the -won ending as a valid ending for style names in Taekwondo.
Considering these naming schemes, we can write a list of conventions that a style name should follow. A traditional style name should:
- Be a Korean name, subsequently translated into English or romanised
- The -ryu or -yu naming scheme (流 -ryū in Korean is pronounced either 류 -ryu or 유 -yu)
- Or the -kwan naming scheme
- Or the -won naming scheme
- Be based on
- The name or pen-name of its founder (a traditional example of this would be Shōtōkan Karate, which was named after 船越 義珍 Funakoshi Gichin, whose pen-name was 松濤 Shōtō)
- Or a philosophical concept (a traditional example of this would be Gōjū-ryū, meaning ‘the hard and soft style’)
- Or a place (a traditional example of this would be 少林流 Shōrin-ryū, a style of Karate which is reportedly named after 少林寺 Shàolín sì – the Shàolín Temple in China)
So following these conventions, what are some better names for ‘ITF Taekwondo’ and ‘WTF Taekwondo’?
As for ‘ITF Taekwondo’, Choi’s pen-name was 창헌 Changheon, meaning ‘blue pavillion’, and so his style of Taekwondo could be called 창헌유 Changheon-yu. And indeed, Choi himself calls his style this in older versions of his encyclopaedia. This is the name I use for the style whenever I write about it (and is the name Choi’s style is known by in South Korea). Another possible name for Choi’s style could be Odo-kwan. Odo-kwan was one of the nine Kwans, and was founded by Choi. This follows the -kwan naming scheme, and 오도 吾道 odo means ‘our way’. If Choi ever called his style of Taekwondo this, he did not do so very often, and so this name should not be used to refer to Choi’s style of Taekwondo as it exists today.
As for ‘WTF Taekwondo’, ‘WTF Taekwondo’ is not the style that follows the philosophy and principles of a single person, but is instead the style put forth by the Taekwondo centre in Seoul, known as 국기원 國技院 Kukki-won. This name can be used for the style of Taekwondo, as well as the physical place, since the name already follows the conventions listed above – 국기 國技 gukgi means ‘national art’ or ‘national skill’, thus is a philosophical concept, and the name follows the -won scheme.
So these are my recommendations for how we should refer to the major styles of Taekwondo. ‘ITF Taekwondo’ is properly called Changheon-yu Taekwondo (or Ch’anghŏn-yu if you prefer the McCune-Reischauer Romanisation, and Changhon-yu if you prefer a simplified romanisation), and ‘WTF Taekwondo’ is properly called Kukki-won Taekwondo (which would be written Gukgi-won in the Revised Romanisation, and Kukki-wŏn in the McCune-Reischauer Romanisation). These names are unambiguous; they are Korean; and they are not stale or corporate in the way that ‘ITF’ and ‘WTF’ are.
If you’re a Taekwondo instructor, you can give this worksheet to your students as practice of Korean numbers. It contains five exercises on the Native Korean numbers 1 to 10, using only the romanisation of the Korean in the Revised Romanisation system. Click the link to download the PDF file.
In this third video in the series on counting in Korean, we look at how to count from 1 to 10 in Sino-Korean numerals.
The second video in the series – in this video we look at how to count from 10 to 100 using native Korean numerals.
What is hopefully the first of many videos, in this video we look at how to count to ten in native Korean numerals.
Last year, Kukki-won announced that ten new forms had been developed for competitions, with many of the forms being specific to certain age ranges of the competitors.
Kukki-won has given the names of these forms in romanised forms according to the Revised Romanisation of Korean, but the Revised Romanisation is often confusing, so in order to prevent confusion on how to pronounce the names of these forms, here are the names of the ten new forms in various systems of romanisation, as well as an intuitive spelling for those generally unfamiliar with Korean.
|Han-geul||Hanja||Revised Romanisation||McCune-Reischauer Romanisation||Approximate Pronunciation||Meaning|
|나르샤||none||nareusya||narŭsya||nar-shya, nar-sha, na-ru-shya, na-ru-sha||‘flying up’|
|비각||飛脚 *||bigak||pigak||bee-gak, pee-gak||‘flying kick’|
|어울림||none||eoullim||ŏullim||oh-oo-leem||‘harmony’, ‘society’, ‘appropriateness’|
|새아라||none||saeara||saeara||sey-a-ra||‘sun rising sea’|
|한솔||none||hansol||hansol||han-sorl||‘great pine tree’, ‘large pine tree’|
|나래||none||narae||narae||na-rey||‘wing’, ‘bird’s wing’|
* This is assumed to be the hanja for the name of this form, but may not be.
Already interesting with the names of these new forms is that most of them do not have a hanja writing. This is very unusual for form names in Taekwondo; by far the majority of all forms in Taekwondo have names that can be written in both han-geul and hanja – indeed all of the other forms in Kukki-won Taekwondo have this property.