In 1952, Masutatsu Oyama, traveled across the United States giving demonstrations of intricate karate katas/forms. Few Americans were able to appreciate his skill, so his demonstrations were met with boos and hisses, until he began his board and brick breaking. This was something Americans could appreciate, so the boos changed to applause. Unfortunately, this preoccupation with breaking implanted a false notion of what martial arts were all about in the minds of most Americans, which has continued to this day.
The spiritual side of Taekwondo and its relationship to meditation and the Buddhist principles of non-violence is still neglected by many American students. According to Master Kiel Soon Park, President of the International Council on Martial Arts Education:
"Taekwondo is a way of life. Its purpose is to enable men and women to realize their full potential both mentally and physically. If the mental aspect is ignored, its physical aspect is meaningless."
When karate was first introduced into the United States, Americans, who already had a long tradition of competitive sports, were initially more interested in its mystic, non-competitive aspects. They perceived karate as a mystical short cut to wisdom and power that was not found in Western culture. Korean instructors were quick to perceive this and they exploited this perception when teaching Taekwondo to Westerners. They espoused hard training and actual application of techniques against an opponent while also stressing the need to avoid violence. This allowed them to teach supposedly deadly techniques and expound profound philosophies that would likely never be tested.
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