Review: A Killing Art – The Untold History of Taekwondo by Alex Gillis

A Killing Art: The Untold History of Taekwondo

A Killing Art: The Untold History of Taekwondo

This review was originally posted on my old blog.

Wow… What can i say about this book other then wow!! Alex Gillis takes you on a roller-coaster of a ride through the dark and murky depths of Taekwondo. Gillis is himself a third degree black belt in the Korean martial art, having studied under some of the pioneers of the system.Through this 256 page book, Gillis takes a hard hitting look at the history, myths and outright lies that have plagued this art. A must read for any practitioner, either ITF/WT, or any of the many splinter organisations.

From backstabbing to espionage, from bribes to assassination plots and death squads, the history of Taekwondo seems like a daytime soap opera. Gillis starts in that dingy card game where tempers where lost and fates decided, and takes us through the seemingly opposing political ideologies between North and South Korea. Along with the expected stories of the communist regime, I learnt a lot about the heavy handed dictatorship that ran the south of the peninsula. 

General Choi is an enigma of a character who seemed to have lived and breathed Taekwondo. On one hand he sacrificed everything to help  its growth around the world, while on the other hand he hurt and pushed away anyone who couldn’t help him, including his own son. The book takes you on a emotional journey from anger to deep sadness as we see Choi fight against the corrupt South Korean dictatorship, who will do anything to stop his version from growing, and sell his soul to the evil that is the North.

The claims of cheating, and ‘Branch Pruning’, that have occurred in Olympic Taekwondo is shocking. As recently as London 2012 there has been claims that judge’s would influence who made it through the early rounds with favourable, scoring.

The differences in spelling and format of Taekwondo, although explained, is quite distracting and the same can be said for the way the Korean names are presented. I would of also have like to have seen more information since the death of Choi, maybe this could be included in a future update? Personally, i would love to have seen more information on some of the other offshoot organisations, such as my own TAGB, but i understand why its not in there.

Overall a great read and one that i would recommend to anyone.

4/5 stars.

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