A new possibility for Hallyu
In the Western world, martial arts are often considered to be from Eastern countries, including Korea, China and Japan. Among Korean martial arts, taekwondo, hapkido, ssireum and taekgyeon, the country’s 76th cultural asset, are widely known. As a practitioner, Korean martial arts have helped me develop my own philosophy.
In the West, martial arts are understood to involve a heavy dose of spirituality, because popular media frequently depicts it as such. Many consider martial arts to be a kind of religion, and many practice martial arts for meditation. There are also many people trying to understand martial arts through a philosophical lens.
I certainly tried to do so - at first.
When I began learning martial arts, I was attracted to its technical beauty. But as I read more books and reports, I began to ask more questions. I continued my search for the larger meaning inherent in martial arts, but I could not find an answer easily.
After I came to Korea, I was surprised by the way people here interpreted martial arts. I was surprised to see many Koreans treat martial arts as simply a form of physical exercise. Many of the members of the gyms were children who wanted to build up their basic physical strength.
There were also many people who practiced martial arts as a kind of performance.
I learned what it means to practice martial arts and how to practice properly through my teacher, the master of my gym.
According to him, martial arts have no religious or philosophical basis. They started from the desire to protect one’s own body, family and country. They developed into a process of nurturing character development through practice.
As I practiced martial arts, I came to wonder about the proper way to use the skills I was learning. Exercising only the physical techniques can cause damage to others and damage society. So I determined that it is important to practice morality alongside the techniques. In martial arts, there is no strict definition of “good” or “bad.” The value changes depending on how techniques are used.
Those practicing martial arts can learn virtues such as respect for life, humility, perseverance and courage through constant practice. Martial arts can aid in the pursuit of a moral life, and offer powers that individuals can use to do good things. From this perspective, martial arts are a kind of pedagogical system.
I hope the people who practice martial arts can gain more respect from others around the world, and that martial arts can be used as a system for us to live a better life, in addition to strengthening our physical power. I hope Korea’s attractive traditional martial arts can be maintained and developed further, so that more people can learn from them. I see a new possibility of a “Korean wave” in Korea’s martial arts.
The author is a TV personality from Germany who appears on JTBC talk show Non-Summit.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 9, Page 28
by DANIEL LINDEMANN