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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Interview with Master Do Kihyun Part 2

Master Do Kihyun is the President of the Kyulyun Taekyun Association and a published author on taekyun.  He has trained in martial arts for over 40 years including taekwondo, kung fu, kendo, karate, aikido, hapkido, and others.  He started taekyun in 1982 and has trained in it continuously ever since.  He has a masters degree in Sports and Leisure and is working toward his PhD.  He now teaches taekyun in Seoul, Korea, at a small school where people (including myself) come from all over the world to train.

Despite his impressive resume, he insists that his most noteworthy accomplishment is having achieved confidence, happiness, and peace of mind through martial arts.  I sat down with Master Do to discuss taekyun and his experiences in the martial arts.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series.  Part 1 of the interview is here.

Martial Journeys:  What prompted you to switch from training in taekwondo to taekyun?

Master Do:  I read in taekwondo books that taekwondo came from taekyun, so I wanted to know what taekyun is.  I wasn't serious, I was just curious.  Fortunately, Master Song lived near my University.  I found him and I started to learn taekyun in 1982.

Martial Journeys:  How did you find him?  Did he run a school?

Master Do:  No, I found his address by luck.  I read about him in a magazine in a shop. The magazine mentioned the general area where he lived, but not the exact address.  So I went there and asked around at the village, "Do you know Master Song?"

Song Deokgi (left) was depicted in taekwondo magazines
well before 1982.

Martial Journeys:  Master Song is very famous in taekyun circles.  What was it like to train with him?

Master Do:  I was happy to learn a new style of martial art.  When I visited my master for the first time, I imagined that since taekyun is an old style martial art, taekyun's movement must be very slow and very graceful with deep stances.  But my teacher taught me that taekyun doesn't have that kind of technique.  When I saw what he showed me, I thought, "What is this?!"  I was very surprised the first time.  I was very happy to learn something so different.  Also, he never said, "practice taekyun."  He would just say, "play taekyun," or "enjoy taekyun."  Having fun was important.  I love that.  Also since he was born in 1893, he could tell me what Korea was like 100 years ago.  I often asked about the Joseon Dynasty, and he told me many things about that time.

A postcard depicting life in the Joseon Dynasty.  Thanks to koreanet for making the
image available for reuse.

Martial Journeys:  What was the most difficult thing about switching to taekyun?

Master Do:  Taekwondo is a very tense martial art with strong, hard movements.  I practiced taekwondo for a long time before starting taekyun, so my body was very tense. My taekyun master taught me soft movements.  He would tell me, "You're too tense. Relax."

Martial Journeys:  Have you ever learned something outside of martial arts that helped you improve at martial arts?

Master Do:  I lived in America from August of 1985 to May of 1988.  When I came back to Korea, my teacher, Master Song, had died.  At that time I had many questions because when I was in America I would demonstrate taekyun, and Americans often asked me, "Why do you move like that?"  I didn't know.  I was just doing it the way my teacher taught me.  I said when I got back to my country I would ask my teacher, but I was too late.  My challenge when I came back to Korea was figuring out how I could understand my movement.  I tried to find movement very similar to taekyun so I learned Korean mask dance.  I also wanted to have beautiful hand techniques so I learned Korean traditional dance.  Mask dance is very dynamic and powerful and Korean dance is beautiful.  I gained the confidence to perform a very beautiful martial art.  I can do very beautiful forms because I learned so much Korean mask dance and Korean traditional dance.  I adapted Korean traditional dance form to Korean martial arts.  My teacher didn't teach me these aesthetic details, but I still want to improve my forms' beauty, and I did it through Korean traditional dance.

Martial Journeys:  What's the most important thing you've learned in martial arts?

Master Do:  I've developed a sound body and sound mind through martial arts.  If you have those things you will be happy.  That's my entire purpose.  If you watch me, I am always very happy and always smiling.  I'm always thinking about how I can be happy. Why do I practice?  I want to be healthy and happy.  It's that simple.  I don't have a complicated philosophy.

Martial Journeys:  What advice do you have for someone who wants to be good at martial arts?

Master Do:  Two things.  First, practice very hard.  Very hard.  Second, you have to study and read a lot of books.  Read martial arts books, philosophical books, art books--anything.  The more knowledge you have, the better you can understand your martial art. So practice very hard and read.

I forgot to ask if reading blogs counts.

Martial Journeys:  How has taekyun changed over time?  How is it different today than in the past?

Master Do:  Taekyun hasn't changed very much, but there are some differences because of two things.  First, people are taller today than they were in the past.  Second, today we have too much information.  We're exposed to other styles of martial arts, so we can introduce various kicks and hand techniques that weren't originally part of taekyun.  This is happening all the time with other styles.  For example, even though similar kicks existed before, taekwondo invented the spin hook kick around 1970.  Now everybody uses it--Japanese martial artists, Chinese martial artists, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan...  Everyone can use it because we've seen it in movies and on the Internet.  In taekyun competition, young students incorporate other techniques to their fighting.  The rules allow it, so taekyun changes as fighters mix in techniques.  It goes both ways.  Taekwondo has incorporated some kicking techniques from taekyun.

Martial Journeys:  What do you think taekyun will be like in the future?

Master Do:  Taekyun techniques are very good, but other martial arts' techniques are just as good, so specific techniques are not important.  I just want to give to the other martial arts the philosophy of practicing for the sake of a sound body and a happy mind.  We practice taekyun not for fighting, but to be happy.  But if I want to be happy, I need the people around me to be happy.  So when I practice martial arts, I want everyone to enjoy themselves and be happy, to achieve a sound body and ultimately a happy community. Technique is not important.  Any style is okay--just choose for yourself which one you like. You asked me why I switched from taekwondo to taekyun.  It's just because I love these techniques!  I was happy, so I switched.  No special reason, no high-level philosophy, just pursuing happiness.

Sweaty, smiling taekyun students.


  1. Ah, so much respect for the responses to your questions about advice and the future of Taekyun. Reminds me of the community I'm able to be a part of in Madison :)

  2. OT: Pacquiao fans check this out! Check out Manny's training here. Watch some cool Pacman training and what not on the Manny Pacquiao Video Channel .