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Evolution Of Tang Soo Do Fighting & Insturctional Vid on a Tornado Kick

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During that time, he’s educated more than 1,000 black belts and 40-plus masters, all while finding time to further his own training under some of the finest experts in America, Korea and Japan. Among them are the renowned J.C. Shin and Black Belt Hall of Fame member C.S. Kim (1995 Man of the Year).

From 1968 to 1978, Dominick Giacobbe reigned as a free-fighting champion on the East Coast. Fortunately for modern martial artists, he’s still eager to pass on the knowledge and experience that decade of competition gave him.

Some of his more recent tang soo do contemplations have involved the evolution of the art’s fighting method — from ancient times to the modern era. …

The Way It Was Then

The fighting art of tang soo do is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago during Korea’s Three Kingdoms period. Silla, the smallest and least populated region of the peninsula, was under constant attack from the larger and more powerful Paekje and Koguryo kingdoms. After a few centuries, the Silla rulers are believed to have allied themselves with a skilled fighting force created by the Tang dynasty monarchs of China (618-907). It was then that the tang soo warriors were born. For years, this elite group of combatants trained on the rocky beaches of southern Korea, where they honed themselves into a fierce fighting force.

Their combat system was a combination of a traditional Chinese art known as the “Tang method” and a set of powerful kicks native to Korea. It was during this time that tang soo — the “hand of Tang” — became respected and feared. The fighters garnered a reputation that was so intimidating that as recently as 30 years ago, Korean parents would discipline their children by threatening, “The tang soo man is going to get you!”

To propagate their morality, the tang soo warriors developed the Sesok Ogye, or Five-Point Code. Its tenets were the following:

  • Show loyalty to one’s king or master.
  • Be obedient to one’s parents and elders.
  • Honor friendships.
  • Never retreat in battle.
  • In killing, choose with sense and honor.

With the Five-Point Code as their philosophy, the warriors went on the offensive and eventually conquered Silla’s neighbors, unifying Korea for the first time. The consolidated dynasty lasted from 668 to 935 — cementing Korean solidarity through the Koryo dynasty (935-1392) and Yi dynasty (1392-1910). During the unification period, tang soo saw its greatest development.

At the time, the art consisted solely of fighting techniques; there were no forms. The traditional style of combat was swift, aggressive and relentless. Its guiding principle was, Don’t give the opponent an opportunity to attack.

The fighting strategy emphasized the fourth line of the Five-Point Code: Never retreat in battle. Quite simply, practitioners were taught to never move backward in combat, Dominick Giacobbe says. Instead, they were instructed to charge at their opponent, attacking with a punch and following up with a series of kicks, forcing the other person to retreat. Soon the adversary was rendered unable to defend or counterattack.The tactic was not unlike that of the elite fighting forces of our era: Overpower the enemy and kill him.

After peace was established, the word do, or “way,” was appended to tang soo. Tang soo do then came to refer to the peaceful pursuit of the warrior arts, and it remains that way to this day. To further drive home the transformation, the fifth line of the code saw the word “killing” replaced by “conflict.” The new term doesn’t refer to only physical confrontations; it also applies to mental, emotional and spiritual battles.

During the Yi dynasty, arts and crafts rose to a high level, and Koreans learned the necessity of protecting their hands and fingers. Consequently, tang soo do evolved into a system that focused 80 percent of its arsenal on leg techniques — especially those that relied on the more powerful and less-likely-to-be-anticipated rear leg.

The Middle Period

Dominick Giacobbe’s first experience with traditional tang soo do fighting came around 1970 when as a green belt he received his first opportunity to spar with J.C. Shin, his first instructor at the Burlington, New Jersey, school. J.C. Shin used a series of forward-moving punches and kicks, driving Dominick Giacobbe backward and leaving him unable to defend himself.

When C.S. Kim came from Korea in 1972 to assist J.C. Shin, Dominick Giacobbe experienced the traditional fighting method to an even greater degree. A sparring champ in Korea and Japan, C.S. Kim displayed an ultra-aggressive style that brought to life the true combat roots of the ancient art.

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