Summary: A Good Introduction to Jae Chul Shin's World Tang Soo Do Association
Comment: This is a review of the first volume, subtitled "The Essence", in what is (so far) a Five-volume series on Tang Soo Do of the Moo Duk Kwan Line. The other Five volumes are: "Basics", "Dae Ryun", "Advanced Forms", and "Instructor's Manual".
This first volume is essentially an introduction to the Tang Soo Do (pronounced Tong Soo Doh) of Jae Chul Shin's World Tang Soo Do Association. Personally I wouldn't say this book is a must-have for the general practitioner of Tang Soo Do or Moo Duk Kwan. I would only recommend this book to people directly in Jae Chul Shin's lineage, including members of the World Tang Soo Do Association (WTSDA).
This first volume, titled "Essence", is an extended introduction to Shin's version of Tang Soo Do history and tradition which will be of most use to beginning students looking to belong to a modern Korean martial arts tradition--specifically, Shin's lineage. It is a well executed if basic student manual. In this regard, I must say it is the best introductory manual I have seen for a specific school, as most others are booklets of about 60 pages.
The volume is divided into two sections. In Part I, Chapters include Introduction (including history), Philosophy, Principles, General Rules & Proceedure of the Dojang (rules, bowing, how to fold do-bahk, etc.), Belt System and Philosophy, and Heirarchical Structure of the Belt System (true meaning of black belt, a chart showing Shin's comparison between different dan ranks with educational degrees, company positions, military ranks, etc).
Part II includes chapters concerning Concepts of Physical Force (hip twist, flexibility, breathing ki-hap etc), Vital Points, Meditation, Warm Up & Stretching (theory of--not instrcutional), Terminology, Certification and Anthem (requirements specific to Shin's WTSDA), Tang Soo Do Parables (6 stories from Shin), About the Author section & Bibliography.
I was somewhat disappointed that there weren't more stories or photographs of Shin from his early days of training--most of the photographs are recent and show him with a stern pursed mouth and folded arms. I would have enjoyed seeing Shin during his early days of training and teaching! He has been one of the pivotal figures in the dissemination of Tang Soo Do (Moo Duk Kwan) lineage in the United States. Forgiving asthetics (and hoping we have a decent autobiography from Shin to look forward to some day:)), I have to take issue with the watered-down and plain misleading version of history offered in this book, including a number of common (and growingly tiresome) myths the author has perpetuated. Becuase GM. Shin's own chart compared high dan rank holders with College level Doctorates (page 84), some doctorate-like criticism couldn't hurt.
Page 7 shows one of the Qin Tomb terra cotta warriors in what Shin refers to as "...martial arts movements" (page 7). In fact despite its similar appearence to many of the modern Asian martial arts of today, the stance shown on page 7 in Shin's book is described in the book "Terra Cotta Figures and Bronze Chariots and Horses at Qin Mausoleum" as an archer holding his crossbow--the wooden crossbow long ago having rotted away. (1986: 48) Yes, it may look similar to Ha Dan Soo Do (low knife hand strike/block)--but similarity doesn't make it fact.
As with many other books about modern Korean martial arts, there are no fewer than 14 pages devoted to the mention of hand-to-hand fighting in ancient Korean documents, including Shin's fanciful interpretation of tomb paintings showing figures whom Korean and Chinese anthropologists have widely agreed are wrestlers (the loin cloths are a hint!) or dancers (long sleeves--another hint). In this book, these ceremonial figures are strangely labled as "martial artists". Shin certainly isn't the first to mislable and freely interpret like this. I believe Moo Duk Kwan founder Hwang Kee made some similar assumptions. But then again maybe modern Korean martial artists have some great knowledge that college-educated anthroplogists and archeologists do not.
There is also a brief page on Karate coming to Japan from Okinawa, where Shin astonishingly posits that "No detailed record is available as to the starting point of Japanese karate". (page 10). Shin refers to Funakoshi bringing karate from Okinawa to Japan as a "theory"--then Shin quotes from Funakoshi's autobiography, "Karate-Do: My Way of Life" how Funakoshi came to Tokyo in 1922 to teach karate! While there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that other Okinawan men may have demonstrated or taught karate to individuals or small groups on the Japanese mainland prior to Funakoshi's arrival, it seems daft to question the many photographs and documents which show Funakoshi (and some others) teaching in Japan during the 1920's, '30's, '40's and beyond--including old films and books where Funakoshi demonstrated Hyung (forms or kata) which later became the backbone of Shotokan, Shotokai, part of Shiito-Ryu, Wado-Ryu and other styles--and also of early Tang Soo Do/Tae Kwon Do! Why mention Japanese karate, but not that the major kwan heads (including Hwang Kee's Moo Duk Kwan, which Shin studied) either studied karate in Japan, or learned it from books (as Hwang admits in the "History of the Moo Duk Kwan")? In avoiding the obvious relationship between Japanese karate and Korean Tang Soo Do, Shin once again makes the topic the Great Pink Elephant sitting in the middle of the tea party that everyone pretends not to notice while complementing the host on the lovely taste of the tea and the beauty of the doilies.
The only other confusing point is Shin's insistant emphasis on "tradition". Moo Duk Kwan was started in 1945. Shin discusses the importance of respect for seniors, yet fails to mention what he learned directly from his Senior teacher/mentor (Oh Sea-Jun). Although Moo Duk Kwan Kwan Jang Hwang Kee is mentioned (page 24), Shin doesn't discuss why he decided to break away from Hwang's tradition, the Moo Duk Kwan and the Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation in 1982 and begin his own style/organization, including creating three unique new staff (bong) patterns with the assistance of the WTSDA Committee (Bong Hyung Il, Ee, and Sam Bu) and altering the Moo Duk Kwan ranking system (adding an intermediate brown belt, using Black belt for dan ranks instead of the dark blue belts worn by Hwang's Tang Soo Do practitioners, or the Japanese-style white-red block belt he wears). This would have been worth including, as it is so much at the heart of what makes Shin's WTSDA style unique.
Of course, anyone can create a new tradition, there is nothing wrong with Shin or anyone else doing this. Certainly every custom and tradition started somewhere, and is continued by people who wish to feel a connection with others in a similar spirit. There just isn't a lot of elucudation of what makes Shin's WTSDA style unique over other Moo Duk Kwan lineage Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, or Soo Bahk Do styles. This is why I would suggest this only Members of the WTSDA.
For non-WTSDA members, I would recommend Hwang Kee's "Tang Soo Do" over this book, despite its earlier publication date (1974), it is clearer on matters of history, and includes a complete reprint (w/out translation) of the Yi Dynasty "Moo Yea Do Bo Tong Ji". WTSDA members should read Hwang's book in addition to GM Shin's. For technical purposes, the four volume technical series by the United States Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation is also worth looking into. For those just wanting a brief but affordable book on Tang Soo Do including a good lineage graph and the practice of Hyung (forms) to about 3rd Dan, try Kang Uk Lee's "Tang Soo Do: The Ultimate Guide to the Korean Martial Art". If you actually want to read a decent translation of the book that inspired Hwang Kee, the "Moo Yea Do Bo Tong Ji" for yourself, get "Muye Dobo Tongji: The Comprehensive Illustrated Martial Arts of Ancient Korea" translated by Sang H. Kim (2000: Turtle Press)