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A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do Hardcover – November 20, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (November 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550228250
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550228250
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Gillis, himself a tae kwon do black belt, succeeds in debunking the sport’s mythology . . . When he writes about corruption and backroom dealings, his voice is compelling and the depth of his research astounding . . . A Killing Art is fascinating, fast-paced, and reads more like a spy novel than a history. Beyond that, it evokes a certain voyeuristic pleasure that comes with unearthing the sordid past of something seemingly harmless.”  —Quill & Quire
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Alex Gillis is a university writing instructor and a professional journalist specializing in literary nonfiction and investigative research. He has trained in tae kwon do for 25 years and is a third-degree black belt. His instructors were some of the pioneers of the martial art, and he had rare access to these men and their families and disciples. He lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

'A Killing Art' is full of interesting and funny stories, while giving a very thorough recount of the trials and tribulation of Gen.
BlackBelt2025
One minor criticism of the book is that, I believe that the author ties the art itself to organizations and to the individuals at the top of the organizations.
Nick King
If you can do that, then you will truly realize the significance that this book has not only in the history of Tae Kwon Do, but also all of the martial arts.
Shawn Kovacich

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Kovacich VINE VOICE on November 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Well, I guess the best way to start off this particular review is to list what my particular qualifications are in relation to this particular review, and why that is relevant to writing a review about this particular book.

I am currently a 4th Dan black belt in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do and I am certified by the Kukkiwon out of Seoul, South Korea. I am also a 4th degree black belt in Japanese Karate (basically Shotokan/Kyokushin) and certified through one of my original instructors, Shihan Dennis Dallas.

Now before I go any further, I feel that I must emphatically state that I was fortunate enough to learn the actual martial art of Tae Kwon Do, and not the sport version which is so prevalent today, although in my original school we did often compete in numerous tournaments throughout the year. However, the primary emphasis on what we learned and practiced was the practical and realistic use of the techniques, not just how to "score a point" with a particular punch or kick. My original instructor, who was Japanese, taught me and numerous others the arts of Korean Tae Kwon Do and Japanese Karate, and if you know anything about the relationship between the Koreans and the Japanese, you can see the significance of this and how difficult things were at times, not only for my original instructor, but also his students.

And it is with this background and train of thought that I write the following review.

I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this book for quite some time now, and imagine my surprise when it arrived in the mail yesterday when the release date was listed as November 20th, 2008. I just couldn't wait to start reading it.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Cook on November 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not for the faint at heart, nor is it for those new to the martial arts. If you harbor any preconceived notions regarding the virtues of taekwondo, this work will quickly relieve you of them. However, this story must be told and Mr. Gillis does it well. His research is deep and heavily annotated. I have read this book several times with great enthusiasm since it contains many valuable details and reads like a novel. Yet, being personally familiar with several of the protaganists portrayed, I feel a more balanced treatment would have resulted in an even more accurate work. This is the only reason I rated the book four stars rather than five. I have written three books focusing on traditional taekwondo and, regardless of information within this book, continue to feel that there are those both locally and in Korea, the homeland of taekwondo, who support the true heart of traditional taekwondo. So...read with care and maintain an open mind.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark Lynn on November 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is not a how to do Tae Kown Do book, nor is it a book that protrays martial art grandmasters in a god like status. No this is a book that takes the founders of one of (if not) the fastest growing martial art across the globe down off of the pedestal and shows them for what they where/are very talented, driven, and often crooked men.

But along the way you are treated to a detailed account of how TKD developed, how it got it's name, it's use during war time, life as viewed by koreans, the creation of the ITF and the WTF, the creation of a olympic sport etc. etc. The sanitized version probably all TKD martial artists are semi aware of, but this isn't the sanatized version this is the untold story of the founding and development of TKD as is practiced today.

The story includes war, prisons, politics, bribes, personal vendettas, kidnappings, family struggles, dealings with North and South Korea, how high men can climb and how low they can fall, and the creation of a martial art that has spread around the whole today. Best of all it isn't a made up story but one based on current events. Very well documented.

This book sheds light on the creation of TKD and the persons involved who molded and formed the TKD that many students practice today. I recommend it for anyone studying TKD, karate, or anyone in the martial arts that is interested in reading about martial art history. It is well written and I found it interesting so I completed it in a couple of days.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Brown on January 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been doing TKD for over 20 years. My background is actually much like the authors and I could immediately relate to him as I read. What I was worried about was that this book would repeat so many of the foundation myths (ancient Hwarang warriors and the like) that have been dismissed long ago.

But this is a well researched and informative book. Most of it fit in with rumors I'd heard over the years, but instead of hearsay you had interviews, etc from the actual participants.

If you have an interest in TKD, particularly in the ITF variety, this is a must have. I recommend it to my students all the time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nick King on January 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Overall, this is a fascinating and informative book which reads more like a spy novel than a biography. It is well written and appears to be very well documented. I am making this mandatory reading for all of my black belts. I have been a Tae Kwon Do instructor (full time and part time) for over 30 years. I have been involved in schools affiliated with both ITF and WTF training. This book gave me a new understanding of and appreciation for the evolution of the major organizations and personalities which dominate the Korean martial art.
One minor criticism of the book is that, I believe that the author ties the art itself to organizations and to the individuals at the top of the organizations. I believe that the organizations provide a structure and context for study of the art, but the art is not dependent on the organizations. The most important thing that attracts practitioners to the Asian martial arts, and which keeps them training for decades, is the underlying Asian philosophy associated with the art. These include discipline, control, respect, balance and perfection. That mental and somewhat spiritual aspect of the art was not developed in the 20th century. It was not created by a handful of individuals. Instead, it evolved over millennia and is present to a greater or lessor degree in every school. Whether or not there is competition, it is the pursuit of the philosophical aspects of the art which truly distinguishes the "art" from the "sport". I believe that pursuit of the philosophical aspects occurs primarily at a personal level. Therefore, the question of whether someone is practicing an art or sport depends on the individual, not on the organization.
As the title of the book suggests, TKD is and should always be thought of as "A Killing Art.
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