The Invention of Taekwondo Tradition – University of Copenhagen

The Invention of Taekwondo Tradition

Korean Studies Seminar with Udo Monig, Department of Taekwondo, Youngsan University, Pusan, South Korea.

Dr. Udo Moenig was born in, Peißenberg, near Munich, Germany. As a young man, he studied various martial arts, and began taekwondo in 1979. During the 1980s, he was once a competition member of the German national taekwondo team, and trained professionally for four years as a member of the German, national military team, headquartered at the Sportschule in Sonthofen.

In 1988, after finishing military service, he traveled extensively in Asia and, in 1990, settled for further studies and training in Korea. A B.A. in Asian Studies (University of Maryland) was soon followed, by three terms of North Korean Studies (Graduate School for North Korean Studies), culminating in Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Physical Education (Keimyung University, ROK), with concentrations in taekwondo, history, and philosophy.

In 2005, professor Moenig was appointed by the Youngsan University Department of Taekwondo, in Yangsan, as the first foreigner in Korea to teach taekwondo at the university level. He researched, lectured, and published extensively in the field of Asian Studies, martial arts, and sports. He has authored (or co-authored) a variety articles about taekwondo and martial arts, published in various journals like Korea Journal, Archiv Orientalni, Acta Koreana. His latest publication is a groundbreaking work titled, Taekwondo – From a martial art to a martial sport (London: Routledge, 2015).

This paper investigates the invention of Taekwondo tradition using Eric Hobsbawn’s notion of invented traditions. The paper is based on Dr Moenig’s book Taekwondo – From a martial art to a martial sport (London: Routledge, 2015). It investigates the notion of martial arts and explains key fundamental divisions within the concept, such as ‘traditional’ and ‘sports’ based martial arts. The paper examines the connections between Korean Taekkyŏn and Taekwondo, as well as the historical links between Japanese Karate and Taewondo. It analyses the place of activities like Taekkyŏn in Korean martial arts history and questions the claims of a Korean indigenous development of Taekwondo.

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