Philosophy of Tang Soo Do

If you had to describe the overall philosophy of Tang Soo Do, how would you describe it? What does it mean to have an overall philosophy, anyway? Maybe an example will help.

My personal life philosophy is to defeat evil, in all forms, and create a new generation to continue this fight. That’s it – very simple. Evil, to me, comes in many forms. 1 prime form is laziness & mediocrity. That’s why I strive to achieve excellence in all forms. This fits with my life philosophy.

What is Tang Soo Do’s philosophy, then?

Surprisingly, if you search the Web for this, you’ll find many different answers. Here are a few of them.

  • Some believe the philosophy is of the constant pursuit of perfection, and that practitioners of the art can never reach perfection. This is seen in the midnight blue belt, instead of the black belt (source).
  • Some believe the philosophy is supplementing physical force & preparedness with mental awareness, thus rendering the physical powerless. This harkens back to the “yin & yang” concept of someone who appears to have conflicting characteristics (source).
  • Some believe the philosophy is the unification of mind, body, & spirit (source).

So in a way, it’s like anything else – it depends on the Tang Soo Do school in particular, although it seems like some things never change, like the basic forms. However, even 1 of our instructors has said that the basic forms from his former school were different from ours. So never mind that!

The question is still out there – what is the philosophy of Tang Soo Do?

I believe it is a blend of the concepts of continuous improvement and the concepts of focusing on 1 aspect doesn’t mean you are strengthening that aspect. From the outside, karate seems to be all about violence. Practitioners seem to be looking for a fight. That is the popular perception. But we all know that the focus on fighting & survival is for the exact opposite purpose – to avoid conflict & find peace.

A particular example can be when we are practicing escaping out of grabs. You may think that we are practicing this so that we can know how to get out of a bad situation. This is true. But the real lesson we are teaching is how to think about other ways to approach a problem. What if a body builder grabs you? You cannot simply brute-force your way out. You need to think about pressure points & weaknesses you can exploit. These are not obvious. We teach you how to get out of a grab, but we are actually teaching critical thinking.

Therefore – Tang Soo Do is about continuous improvement & seeking deeper meaning in surface parts of the art itself.

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