Korean Martial Arts
Historically, Korea has been in the middle of a tug-of-war campaign between China and Japan. Korea’s martial arts have thus arisen either because of Chinese and Japanese influences or from Korea’s need to develop military combative arts, which have then developed into combative sports. Therefore, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and militarism play key roles in the development of Korean martial arts philosophy.
Today’s South Korean flag reflects this variance. The country is predominantly Buddhist, but the flag’s symbols are Taoist—the yin-yang symbol—and Confucian—the I-Ching trigrams.
Although the basic moral philosophy of most Korean martial arts is more about self-improvement, self-discipline and philanthropy than killing or revenge, different schools, known as gwans, approach it in a multitude of ways. For example, the International Taekwon-Do Federation mandates that a practitioner should be a champion of justice and freedom and build a better and more peaceful world. In contrast, the Kukkiwon philosophy is based on the I-Ching in which the future results of a practitioner’s actions are a function of his personal virtues. At the same time, the military influence on these arts’ historical roots has manifested in a general attitude for defending the country and defeating its enemies.