Language and Taekwon-Do

I have been thinking about a range of relationships between taekwon-do and my own discipline area of psychology. Today’s thoughts are built around the idea that fundamental movements are the words of taekwon-do, sequences of fundamental movements form phrases and sentences (e.g step sparring, where there are small structured conversations through to free sparring where there is an ongoing dialogue) and patterns are exemplar formal writing – the sonnets of taekwon-do, where choice of movements, the way they are put together, the underlying symbolic structure, the philosophical tone, the grace and coreography are all part of a carefully crafted and deeply meaningful story.

In considering fundamental movements as words, it occurs to me that the movements within fundamental movements are like phonemes and syllables – so that the way we turn our foot at the execution of a turning kick or side kick, or the way that we move our hips through various hand techniques are like pronunciation of individual syllables or sounds. If I lisp, it will affect the way I say certain words, how I put together certain sentences, and whether or not I am able to speak in a way that is correct or easily understood. If I don’t turn my foot properly on executing certain taekwon-do techniques, it will permeate through all my taekwon-do movements.

Another parallel with language relates to the concpet of universal generative grammar.

Reinforcement – can only say things that have been said before
Generative grammar, abstract rules – can say an infinite variety of things that are understandable by other native speakers who have the same ruleset.

Syntax – the way things are put together – applications can lead on or can be sterile

In understanding foreign languages – the difficult part is to identify word boundaries. When you speak word-by-word, it is very stilted and often doesn’t make sense. When you speak fluently, the words flow together so that the boundaries between words are indistinct. If you look at the sound spectrum of spoken speech it is still the greatest challenge in speech recognition software to recognise word boundaries. Speaking to a speech recognition system requires you to calibrate the system very very closely to your own speech and to use a very closed vocabulary.

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