Perhaps you’ve seen these people on stage during the school festivals. White costumes, the clear ringing Korean traditional music and the graceful moves? The members of Wonhwa Taekkyon (WT) are the main actors of these spectacular performances! However, Taekkyon is an unfamiliar and a not well-known sport to many. Here is the head of WT, Park Minsun, here to show us the beauty and philosophy of our Korean sport.
SMT Please tell us about the sport Taekkyon and the club Wonhwa Taekkyon.
WT Taekkyon is one of Korea’s important intangible cultural assets (there are 121 in total), and has been designated the sole martial arts amongst the UNESCO World Heritage. Its history starts from before the period of the three Kingdoms, and has since been a sport of strong yet smooth body movements. We WT members gather as a group to master such movements. Wonhwa was a female leader who ruled Hwarang in the Silla era. WT was established in 1992 and upholds a proud 20-year history up to this day. I personally regard friendship between fellow members as an important factor, so we sustain a very warm friendly atmosphere here, and treat each other not as seniors to juniors, but as sisters. We listen to each others’ worries and help each other out as much as we can. Other than that, we learn the movements and traditional culture within the realms of Taekkyon. I want our club to not only be skillful in the exercises but also possess a deep understanding of the actual sport. We have an official meeting each Monday, and an informal meeting every Wednesday where we get to know each other and to just hang out.
SMT You say that Taekkyon is a type of martial arts. Are there any difficulties in practicing the sport as a woman?
WT It is true that there are some exercises a little hard to practice, but it is only in the sense that men use echniques that are a bit fancier in style. Other than that, it definitely isn’t too difficult to learn Taekkyon as a woman. Actually, I think that the soft elaborate curves of the moves are much more beautifully expressed by women. It may be a little demanding, but you can also learn moves that can help your self-defense techniques like Nakbub. Taekkyon is a martial art that is gentle in appearance, but tough in spirit. It would mean much for a woman to learn this sport in these senses.
SMT Could you tell us about the future plans of WT?
WT First of all, we will continue to study Korean traditional culture and continue to cultivate our interests towards Taekkyon. During the winter vacation of 2011, we WT members got the chance to visit Chungju, the home of Taekkyon, and we are currently planning a sports camp to visit again during the upcoming vacation. Also, we are preparing some demonstrations for future school festivals. Furthermore, we are planning to open up a bar and play our Taekkyon UCC video there. We have regular homecoming events, an opportunity to meet the numerous seniors of the past. Lastly, we won’t stop our steady practice of exercises and studies.
SMT Is there anything you would like to say for those who may be interested in Taekkyon?
WT I hope people don’t think of it as a difficult sport. I also wish that they don’t confuse it with Taekwondo. You don’t necessarily have to think of it as a sport, but perhaps as a learning process to obtain more knowledge about a tradition that contains our pure Korean spirit and mind. You can lose weight, and also learn how to protect yourself. Don’t you think that women learning martial arts itself is attractive? I hope that there will be more lovely Sookmyungians learning Taekkyon in the near future.