Taekwondo is a unique martial art. With its roots in traditional Korean rituals and fighting styles going back over 2000 years it could be called one of the oldest martial arts, and with its modern reorganization and revamp it could also be called one of the youngest.
In 1961, the Korean Taekwondo Association formed to unite the various
styles of Korean martial art into what is now known as Taekwondo, and
to move this art away from the influence of Japanese Karate.
However, in the early 1970s, Taekwondo split into two competing styles
– the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), which focuses on
traditional aspects of the martial art, and the World Taekwondo
Federation (WTF), which also focuses on sport applications.
sport focus has allowed evolution into the otherwise somewhat static
world of martial arts: new techniques are continually being developed
in sport Taekwondo, as well as new variations on old methods. This is
evolution is shaped by Taekwondo¡¯s traditional focus on kicking
techniques and its modern desire to be a contact sport in which anyone
This evolution has pushed Taekwondo to be the most popular martial art
in the world and a medal sport at the Olympics. It also has some of the
most popular demonstration techniques – the Korean Flying Tigers are
world famous. This is at least partially because of Taekwondo masters
who work hard to maintain this martial art¡¯s ties to its roots (so it
doesn¡¯t end up as Ultimate Fighting or Mixed Martial Arts) while not
stifling modern evolution.
One of these masters is Bill Pottle, 27, of Aurora, Colorado. Part of a
new generation of Taekwondo enthusiasts, Master Pottle has a rich
martial arts and career history. After a Masters degree in Biological
Engineering from Cornell University and a brief stint as a researcher
for the University of Pennsylvania, he decided his calling was in the
Dojang, not the science lab. Though Taekwondo is his passion and his
day job, Master Pottle also practices Judo, Kendo, Hapkido, and
Submission Grappling, is a published author (he has written a book on
Taekwondo and a fantasy novel for young adults, both available on www.amazon.com), and still remains a scientist as well.
This varied background helps him think about Taekwondo from a
progressive viewpoint. He is like any traditional master in his
emphasis on forms, basic techniques, discipline, and philosophy; he is
also an active competitor, coach, and demonstration team leader. And
when training for a tournament or a demo, he does whatever works the
best, traditional or not. Master Pottle tells students that scoring is
the point of sparring techniques and looking cool is the point of
demonstration techniques – so if they can think of a better way to do
that, he wants to hear it.
This kind of attitude is increasingly common in Taekwondo schools
around the country, as martial artists push to develop new techniques,
better variations, and new training methods. The newest Taekwondo
schools are now equipped with digital recording and video equipment,
projection screens, and other technology to help students see exactly
what they need to do.
This is, in part, because of a push by the Lopez family, modern
Taekwondo¡¯s royal family; oldest brother Jean is the Olympic coach,
middle brother Steven is a two time Olympic Gold Medalist, and younger
siblings Mark and Diana are both World Champions. A strong evolutionary
force, they want to push sport Taekwondo into the new millennium by
increasing competitors¡¯ use of scientific training methods – like
professional athletes in other sports have been doing for years. To do
this, they recently started the Worldwide Taekwondo Institute
(www.worldwidetkd.com), which offers schools access to the latest
training technology, methods, drills, and techniques.
Pottle, with his Bioengineering Masters, couldn¡¯t agree with this
progressive sentiment more. That is why he recently began teaching his
students more than traditional and sport Taekwondo – he now teaches
them a little bit of physics too. His elite competition and demo team,
of all ages, learn about momentum, moment of inertia, rotational
velocity, force, and most importantly energy transference.
(To see what the demo team learned, check out their promo video at www.kattaekwondo.com/downloads.htm.
For a quick physics lesson, click on ¡®Taekwondo¡¯ then Biomechanical Research)
That means Master Pottle¡¯s students can tell you exactly what angle
they need their bodies at and why, when they jump, kick, and spin to
achieve whatever he asks of them – whether it¡¯s a in traditional form,
in a sparring ring, or on a demo stage.
By Evan B. Delahanty