By: Kim Pyung Soo
Of Tae Kwon Do Hyung
by Kim Pyung Soo
(Ohara Publications, Inc., 1973, 144 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
Back in the early 1990s, after I’d been practicing Tai Chi for about ten years, I returned to college to finish my degree. During that time, I found that classes, my studies, and a part-time workload took up so much of my day that I didn’t have the time or the energy to practice my forms during the regular semesters. Instead, my Tai Chi practice was relegated to the summers and other long breaks. But because I was required to take a physical education course during one of the semesters, I found a temporary substitute in a karate class taught by Kim Pyung Soo.
Kim’s name had been quite familiar to me for two decades. In 1968, he moved from Korea to Houston, Texas, where he started one of the earliest martial arts schools in the city. The then-modest facility was located just off a freeway I drove every day to the university, so I saw it daily. Kim’s school is no longer located where I used to see it, but it is still operational and is the central facility of Kim’s organization, which has grown to be international in scope.
Kim’s list of accomplishments and awards is far too long to encompass in a book review, but those who are interested should check out the Wikipedia entry on him. For the purposes of this review, I need but name one of his accomplishments: His martial expertise has earned him a 10th degree black belt, making him one of the highest-ranking instructors in the world. I purchased Palgue 1•2•3, the book presently under review, when I took his class, and he is the author of two other books: Palgue 4•5•6 and Palgue 7–8.
Kim has been studying the martial arts since his childhood in Korea, and in 1970, he developed his own system, named Cha Yon Ryu, meaning “natural way.” This is from the hand-out I received in his class: “Cha Yon Ryu teaches natural body motion as the basis of all technique in order to promote power, safety, and health. The same normal body motions found in such ordinary activites as twisting, throwing, and running are employed in Cha Yon Ryu for the delivery of blocks, punches, and kicks.” Palgue 1•2•3, however, is strictly Taekwondo. It contains instructions for the first three sections of the Palgue Hyung, the required form of the first eight grades of Taekwondo instruction.
Kim opens the book with a short chapter that defines Taekwondo, then he moves into a longer chapter on the history of the art, from its origins in the Koguryo Dynasty, founded in 37 BC in the Manchurian province of Hwando, through its several incarnations, to the present day. A two-page chart of strike points come next, and this is followed by twelve pages devoted to hand and foot forms used in striking and other sorts of attacks. Warm-up exercises fill the next section, and these are good if fairly standard. Various stances follow. The next section shows various blocking techniques, often against an opponent. These are very much hard blocks rather than redirection or blending.
The three palgues fill the next chapter. Each one is demonstrated in photos accompanied by explanatory text and two charts. One chart, cleverly positioned directly below Kim’s figure in the photos, shows the immediate stepping pattern, including how the feet pivot and how the weight is distributed, while the other, much smaller chart shows the floor pattern traversed by the entire form and where the practitioner is located within that pattern. This is adds a helpful spatial dimension to the overall movement of the form.
A chapter detailing the match rules of Taekwondo at the time of publication comes next, and this is followed by a short chapter containing photos of sample attacks and defense. These are pretty basic. The last item in the book is a glossary of Taekwondo terms.
Palgue 1•2•3 is very much a manual for beginners. The movements are pretty basic, and the stepping charts clearly inform the student about how and where to move. We only learned the first plague and my recollection of it was that it was very hard and direct, and overall, women and smaller men did not fare well against larger opponents when practicing attacks and blocks. On the other hand, Master Kim is fairly short and slight, so obviously size and overt strength aren’t necessarily the important factors for more experienced practitioners.
I took Kim’s class out of curiosity about hard styles, and while it convinced me to keep on my soft-style track, I did pick up some material from the class that I found very useful and easily convertible to soft-style movement. I later incorporated those techniques into my form, and I still practice them today.