ITF’s Ju-Che, sine wave and disowning sons by Alex gillis

I’ve jumped into chat groups that are reviewing my book. Most martial artists who post are anonymous, and the talks are as energetic as a punch in the arm, but the comments are thoughtful. One instructor posted my writing about the International Taekwon-Do Federation’s (ITF’s) pattern called Ju-Che. This tul has always been a controversial pattern, because it’s the name of North Korea’s ideology.

The following paragraphs are from chapter 12 of A Killing Art, a chapter set in the late 1970s, when Choi Hong-Hi was sick of the South Korean dictatorship and turned to North Korea for money and manpower:

“One gift that Choi gave to North Koreans was a new pattern of moves that he called Ju-Che… He did this to jettison the Ko-Dang pattern, which had been the pseudonum of one of Choi’s heroes, Cho Man-Sik, a Christian educator and an early North Korean leader until communists imprisoned the hero in 1946. Now that Choi’s friends were those same communists, Ko-Dang had to go. Expunging it and creating Ju-Che was a sell-out to the communists, even though Choi argued that the change was not political.”

“The term Ju-Che is nearly untranslatable in English: it means self-reliance and independence and, deeper, everything that makes Koreans Korean… Today, in gyms and championships around the world, we yell Ju-Che after the final technique of this pattern, saluting North Korea’s ideology whether we like it or not.”

“A more important gift to the communists, however, was a change to “sine wave,” a series of subtle movements that applied to all techniques. Good martial artists had always slightly bent their knees and rotated their hips before launching a technique (thereby creating more power), but Choi now wanted everyone to lower then raise the entire body with no hip rotation, so that they could use gravity while driving downwards with a punch for example… The differences sounded subtle, but, when put into action, they gave Choi’s Tae Kwon Do patterns a distinct style — a slower, more rhythmic, bobbing-on-the-sea look that dramatically distinguised it from Karate and Kim Un-yong’s [WTF] Tae Kwon Do.”

“Just as dramatic were Choi’s sudden announcements that North Koreans were practicing “pure Tae Kwon Do” (because they were doing a big sine wave) and that all the other instructors on the planet were “fakes.” The majority of Choi’s pioneers had disassociated themselves from him and his missions to North Korea, and Choi’s reaction was swift. As my instructor explained, Choi inserted a three-dimensional signature on the martial art (sine wave), handed it to the North Koreans and, in one move, disowned his wayward disciples, men who Choi viewed as disobedient and unfilial. In fact, disowning those surrogate sons was perhaps Choi’s chief goal with the sine wave…”

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