How Tongbei Influenced Karate
The two styles of Karate are Shorei and Shorin. One of the styles of Karate is for large people, and the other is for small people. Another way to look at it is one of the styles of karate is for heavy handed power, and the other is for quick, light people.
To be honest, the distinctions between these two martial arts variations have largely disappeared. This is because, in this writer’s opinion, there has been a lack of teacher ability, and a general obsession for power. This has resulted in a loss of the quick footed style, and a degradation of actual power in the heavy footed art.
I first began martial arts in Kenpo, back in the 60s, and the teacher (Rod Martin) was short and light footed. As Kenpo was more intent on hand motion, and less on stances, there was virtually no development of power. Speed, however, was there aplenty. The best teachers had a natural speed.
When I went to the Kang Duk Won I encountered tongbei speed and power. Tongbei refers to internal Kung Fu, much like Tai Chi Chuan, and it had been injected into the Kang Duk Won.
The teacher at this school (Bob Babich) was short and fast. He had the same natural speed, but there was a difference between the two teachers.
The Kenpo teacher was quick and fast, and when he hit you you knew you were hit. Fine and good, what everybody expected from Karate.
The Kang Duk Won teacher had the same quickness and speed, but everything was totally different.
When he moved there was a whiplike motion to him, and you could feel the very air crackle with power.
He was speedy and light, perfect for a light art, but he was injecting Tongbei power into it, internal power.
As I said, the air would crackle with his motion, and when he stomped his foot to emphasize a technique you could feel the floor shake…and the timbers in the building would actually shiver.
Further, he had a sixth sense in everything he did. He would anticipate and move before, seriously before, any attack. He had immaculate control, able to actually touch your eyeball with his finger in the middle of freestyle. Most important, and probably crucial to it all, he was polite.
I know, doesn’t seem to fit, but there it was, and it took me decades to figure out the significance here.
He was doing less for more.
He was exerting less and less effort, and getting more and more power.
And this made him not hungry for power, but polite.
When I explain this to people, even quoting The Tao to them (Do nothing until nothing is left undone, etc.), they don’t understand.
The large misfortune is that I am large person, over six feet.
I tapped into the tongbei power, but in a different manner than Bob. I can do things, but because of my frame I can’t do them the same as Bob, and I have different abilities. It makes it difficult to teach in the same manner as he.
Still, the Tongbei influence is alive and well, just manifesting differently in a different person with a different body.
The good news is that I wrote down many of the pertinent exercises we were doing at the Kang Duk Won.
Some of these had no names, we just did them.
Most of them I have never seen in any other school. They simply don’t seem to exist outside the Kang Duk Won of the 60s and 70s, nor in any style of Kung Fu I have seen.
I often wonder if they were a simple invention of the fellow who ‘invented’ the Kang Duk Won. A fellow name of Joon Byung In. He was at the crux, he learned Kung Fu, then twisted it into the style of Karate he learned.
Well, it is something to wonder about.
Anyway, I wrote down many of these exercises, put them in a book called ‘Amazing Fighting Drills.’ It is possible to get that tong bei power, which is no longer taught in any style of Karate I have seen, if one reads that book and does the drills listed in it.
The person would have to change his style of Karate, eliminate the obsession for (false) power that has become the hallmark of Karate, but it is possible.
I make no guarantees.
I put that book up for sale, and sold almost no copies.
The problem was probably in my marketing, maybe even in the title itself.
What if I had called it something like, ‘Tongbei Fighting Secrets of the Ancient Masters,’ or something else like that. Hmmm. I’ll have to think further on that.
And, if I was really good at marketing, maybe that would have helped.
I eventually took that book off the market, let it gather dust while I thought about it. Then I put in as a freebie on the course offered at KangDukWon.com.
That’s where you’ll find it. Three or four belt levels along, in the best online Karate course in the world.
This has been an article about two styles of Karate and the Tongbei Solution.