Nearly forgotten, dance-like martial art now getting its due

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Nearly forgotten, dance-like martial art now getting its due

Don’t confuse taekkyon - a traditional bare-hand style of martial arts - with the popular video game Tekken or the country’s national sport taekwondo, which has a separate history and different technical principles and competition rules.

But you’d be forgiven if you did, as taekkyon isn’t very well-known outside of Korea despite the fact that it dates back to the early days of the Three Kingdoms period (1st century - 9th century).

That might be about to change.

The book “Taekkyon” - written by Kim joo-hyung, master of the Gangnam Training Center and the public relations and international director of the World Taekkyon Headquarters - provides a glimpse into this fluid, dance-like martial art. While Korean writers have explored the topic before, this book is written in English, offering not only Koreans but also foreigners a rundown of taekkyon.

Taekkyon was widely practiced by governing classes during the Three Kingdom era, and even the king himself practiced with people from all classes.

During the Japanese colonial period in the early 20th century, however, taekkyon was banned. Taekkyon almost completely vanished until Song Duck-gi of the Joseon Dynasty helped revive it. In 1983, it was designated as “Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76.”

Although most foreigners haven’t heard about taekkyon, it’s starting to gain some traction abroad. This book should help further that push, giving readers a deeper sense of the history of taekkyon. For those who want to try their hand at taekkyon, the book also features a section explaining some of the moves and procedures, illustrated with photographs. It also covers fighting styles and the sport’s spirit and includes a training guide for enthusiasts.



By Yim Seung-hye Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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