First, a note for the sake of full disclosure. As the author worked on finalizing this book, I shared with him a similar report I had written as my thesis when testing for 1st degree black belt. We Battleshipped back and forth about various factual and stylistic questions after he had read my report. He was even so kind to include me in the acknowledgements and bibliography.
While I consider Mr. Anslow a friend, and I might have contributed in this book in some small way, I am not obligated to give the book a positive review. Just as I would expect him to provide constructive criticism of my writing or taekwon-do technique, I will do the same for this book. I certainly can’t be critical of his taekwon-do technique since he outranks me. 🙂
That said, let’s get to the brass tacks of this review.
Taekwon-do practitioners who perform the Ch’ang Hon patterns or, as is the case with my school, a derivation of them due to various splits over the years will be familiar with the pattern set that goes from Chon-Ji through Tong-Il. As students, we are expected to learn the meanings as put forth by General Choi Hong-Hi in the ITF Encyclopedia. Often after a student gives a correct meaning during class or testing, I will ask them, “Correct, but what does that mean?” This is my way of telling the students they need to do more than just rote memorization of the meanings. It’s no different than learning how to perform a pattern correctly but not understand the applications of the various techniques.
As noted at the outset, when I tested for 1st degree black belt in 2002, my thesis was a 97 page (what, you complain about a two page report for your belt testings? :)) history of the patterns from Chon-Ji through Kwang-Gae (at that time the highest pattern I knew). I had started at blue belt with Joong-Gun, as I found his life and patriotism fascinating. It continued until black belt, when I went back and did histories for the patterns prior to blue belt.
That said, I might have more insight than the average person when it comes to analyzing this book my Mr. Anslow. And, without a doubt, I was not disappointed.
He provides detailed information about each of the 25 patterns from the ITF curriculum (including both Juche and Ko-Dang, for those expecting 24) as well as the six GTF patterns created by Grandmaster Park Jung-Tae prior to his death in 2002. Included as part of of each pattern is a listing of the definition as put forth by Gen. Choi, even if it is incorrect (such as the birth year of Do-San Ahn Chang-Ho), then Mr. Anslow proceeds to dissect and analyze the meaning, determining, if possible, the reason behind the number of moves in the pattern.
Mr. Anslow also provides much detail about the history behind the person or concept for which the pattern was named, supplying many pictures about the people involved and giving very detail footnotes. These footnotes naturally tie to an extensive bibliography at the end of the book.
The author is also not shy about pointing out errors in the original meanings, not in an effort to discredit or demean Gen. Choi, but rather point out that Gen. Choi was first and foremost a solider and martial artist, not a historian. Consequently, it’s not unheard of that some facts may not be as accurate as at first glance.
Overall, I am very impressed with this book. Mr. Anslow has been doing research on this for decades, and it shows. I can also know from personal interactions with him that if he was not able to validate as factual something he ran across, he excluded it from the book rather than risking the integrity of the book. There are some stylistic things that annoyed me, but those have no bearing on the overall quality of the book. Naturally, I did find a couple of items that I believe are factually incorrect, which is inevitable in a first edition. If those due bear out to be inaccuracies, I have no doubt the author will make every effort to correct them prior to the next edition.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)