Tang Soo Do? Karate? Tae Kwon Do? Kung Fu? What exactly is Tang Soo Do, and how is it different from other martial arts?
The quick answer:
Many of the Asian martial arts share lineage and techniques to some degree, across the nations of Korea, China, Japan & Thailand, as each of these cultures influenced the others. To the untrained eye, it can be very difficult to tell the difference, from a technique standpoint, at least. Some arts focus more on striking techniques, others on throws and grappling, while others may focus on one aspect while blending elements of the others.
Tang Soo Do is a Korean art, and has a shared heritage with Tae Kwon Do dating back approximately 2,000 years. From a technique standpoint, training includes punching, kicking, traditional forms, free sparring and self defense, while also incorporating some joint locks and throws.
What makes Tang Soo Do unique, however, is the focus on developing the “whole-person” concept in students, helping them grow not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually.
The long answer:
The very first evidence of this form of Korean martial arts appeared during the Three Kingdom era (57 BC-935 AD) as Hwa Rang Do. Over the past 2,000 years, this indigenous martial art quietly developed through the generations. During some eras it flourished, and other times it diminished according to the political, economic or cultural environment. The art was known by various names throughout the eras such as Hwa Rang Do, Moo Sul, Kyuck Too Ki, Soo Bahk Ki, Soo Byuck Ki, Taek Kyun, etc…
Following Korean independence in 1945, the Korean martial arts were again merged and flourished throughout the entire peninsula. Many organizations were founded with various names such as Soo Bahk Do, Tang Soo Do, Tae Soo Do and so on. At the beginning of the modern era of Korean martial arts, Tang Soo Do was the most popular term. At that time, however, Korean political leadership was concerned with establishing international value based on Korean nationalism.
They recognized the popularity of Korean martial arts around the world, but were opposed to the use of the name “Tang Soo Do”, because the first word “Tang” could be interpreted as representing the Chinese Tang Dynasty (617-907 AD), and therefore might be viewed as a Chinese art, potentially diminishing it as being uniquely Korean. In 1964, a government sponsored group created a new name for Korean martial arts: Tae Kwon Do.
The World Tang Soo Do Association still respects the original term, and intends to preserve its heritage and value as a traditional art. While some Tae Kwon Do organizations have also maintained a focus on the traditional aspects of Korean martial arts, many groups instead converted to a sport, and have progressed to internationally recognized arenas such as the Olympic games.
While we provide venues of competition for our members, and some may even choose to participate in tournaments outside our organization, the World Tang Soo Do Association focuses on the traditional values of martial arts such as respect, discipline, self control, self improvement, etiquette, and humility. Ultimately, the Tang Soo Do practitioner seeks to live a healthy and harmonious life – physically, mentally & spiritually.