The Leading eBooks Store Online 4,353,660 members ⚫ 1,442,818 ebooks

New to

Learn more

A Killing Art

The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do, Updated and Revised

A Killing Art by Alex Gillis
Buy this eBook
US$ 11.99
(If any tax is payable it will be calculated and shown at checkout.)
The eagerly anticipated updated return of a bestselling martial arts classicThe leaders of Tae Kwon Do, an Olympic sport and one of the world’s most popular martial arts, are fond of saying that their art is ancient and filled with old dynasties and superhuman feats. In fact, Tae Kwon Do is as full of lies as it is powerful techniques. Since its rough beginnings in the Korean military 60 years ago, the art empowered individuals and nations, but its leaders too often hid the painful truths that led to that empowerment — the gangsters, secret-service agents, and dictators who encouraged cheating, corruption, and murder. A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do takes you into the cults, geisha houses, and crime syndicates that made Tae Kwon Do. It shows how, in the end, a few key leaders kept the art clean and turned it into an empowering art for tens of millions of people in more than 150 countries. A Killing Art is part history and part biography — and a wild ride to enlightenment.This new and revised edition of the bestselling book contains previously unnamed sources and updated chapters.
ECW Press; August 2016
ISBN 9781770906952
Read online, or download in secure EPUB or secure PDF format
Title: A Killing Art
Author: Alex Gillis
When I need a break from my life, when I need to confront stress, fear, and madness, I flee to a place of power, to a room where meditation meets brute force. I climb to a third-floor studio or descend to a basement gym, and as I feel a hardwood floor or a padded cement slab under my bare feet, I smell the sweat and effort of those who came before me, and I hear their laughter and yells, and, occasionally, I remember the blood that fell. I find reprieve in sweat and struggle. This is not a hobby for everyone, and it is perhaps odd to call it a "break," especially because the Korean martial art that I practise, Tae Kwon Do, is extremely difficult to master and can lead to real breaks — bone breaks. Its creators embedded innumerable tests within its techniques, but the training is usually safe, and I always look forward to going. I walk into my dojang, the Korean name for a martial arts gym, hoping that my instructor, Mr. Di Vecchia, will be there with his old stories and wisdom, that Floyd will be stretching and preparing for one of his spectacular jumping front kicks, that Marc will show us the mid-air split kick once again, and that Martin will push us with his spirited sparring at the end of class. Anyone can begin the fundamentals of the art, but few can stick with it as these men have. I began Tae Kwon Do when I was a teenager, twenty-five years ago — when the art peaked in many ways — and I met these martial artists over the decades, as the physical moves hardened my muscles and strengthened my heart and mind. The Koreans who created the martial art consciously set out to strengthen individuals and, eventually, entire nations. Tae Kwon Do is an art of self-defence, but if you enter the closed rooms of its history, you realize that it is the art of killing and if practised with care and intent, an art of empowerment. It can empower more than the body. The best martial artists apply physical techniques to mental states; they can erode or raise emotional substrata; they can build or destroy reputations, careers, friends, families, and countries. The complex paths they take — for better or worse — often depend on age-old loyalties and new-found betrayals. I discovered this the hard way many years ago. On April 20, 2001, in the year of the Snake, I walked into the Novotel Hotel in Toronto, Canada, to wait for the "Father of Tae Kwon Do," General Choi Hong-Hi, who would lead a three-day seminar for black belts. I was naive then, and revered the eighty-two-year-old Choi and the other founding members of Tae Kwon Do, including a man named Kim Un-yong, and I felt intimidated walking into the seminar room, partly because Choi was a hard taskmaster. He had become a major-general in the South Korean army at the age of thirty-three, and even though he had retired from the military in 1962, he was still known as "the General." He and his men had sacrificed their bodies, careers, and families to perfect a martial art now practised by more than 70 million people in nearly 180 countries. I can picture the first day of his 2001 seminar as if it were today: I wait in the Amsterdam Room of the Novotel with 100 black belts from the United States, Canada, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Honduras. Standing among the bowing, whispering martial artists, I feel as though I could be waiting within a palace of the Choson dynasty in 1394 — I imagine the ancient warriors waiting for dynastic rulers, the floors heated in the old style (invisible and underground), and the Korean geisha girls ready to sing the p’ansori verses that praise Confucian values and sagacious leaders. The General and his men are extremely late, however. He is upstairs, talking and arguing with his son and the masters and grandmasters who will help during the seminar. These men once fought, parted, and threatened to kill one another over politics and, in some cases, over personal matters, but the masters and grandmasters know they owe their fortunes and reputations to the General, and everyone is trying to reconcile past threats with present ambitions.