While resting from an injury and observing class, I had time to note how different a TKD performs its patterns compared to my previous karate school. In my former karate class, we did kata until it was perfect. The TKD class just did not seem crisp and seemed sloppy. Have you ever seen this before?
One of the problems that I find with some of the Japanese arts are that you are told that you need to embrace Zen concepts, meditation, etc. to gain any level of success. As a Christian, I have always had a problem with that. What is it about Taekwondo that makes it so popular?
What is it about the art that attracted you to it and keeps you interested? Why do so many karate practitioners seem to hold themselves as more superior to Taekwondo? It is funny that one complaint that other marital artists have with Taekwondo is that the techniques are so basic. Yet, these same people would not mess with a boxer, who has even more basic techniques than Taekwondo.
You bring up a lot of interesting points, ones that I have also considered. Here are some things I have found through research and experience.
As with a religion, where people tend to believe that which they were raised to believe, most martial artist tend to believe in the art in which they have been raised. If they are not directly exposed to other arts, they do not know how well their art compares to the other arts. When one has previously trained in traditional karate, Taekwondo does appear sloppy. Karate tends to concentrate on perfection of movement, while Taekwondo tends to concentrate on quickness and scoring points. In traditional karate ippon sparring, one point wins, but the technique used must have been perfectly executed. In the Taekwondo, it is the perfection of the technique that is important, it is merely whether or not the technique scores.
Taekwondo has been westernized more than the other martial arts. Most karate and Chinese styles cling to their Eastern religious roots. Even if they do not stress the religious aspects, they so retain some of the religious practices. This tends to drive many students away. I have never experienced any religious practices in Taekwondo, even in the old days. Taekwondo training has always been concerned with the physical aspects of the martial art; not with any spiritual aspects. This has helped make it more acceptable to the public.
As you have noticed, no matter how hard a Taekwondo class trains, it is not as hard as a traditional karate class trains. Today, Taekwondo is a business. To keep customers happy and coming back, you have to give them what they want. What they want is the prestige of earning a black belt, but they want to earn it with as little time and effort as possible. No matter what people say, people have more money than they have ever had in the past, and, to get the money, they are working longer hours than in the past. So, they are willing to pay more to get something quicker and easier—Taekwondo lets them do it this way.
I have found that beliefs in ki, meditation, and other supernatural things are just that—beliefs. All these things exist without being religious beliefs. Professional athletes use these same techniques in one form or another without any religious connotations. People tend to attracted to the strange and different. They see a race car driver sitting alone and concentrating before a race as clearing his mind for the race, while the see the martial artist doing the same thing before a fight as meditating to concentrate his ki. The later seems more exotic than the former.
I too have read, heard, and even been taught that one does not understand a form until it has been performed 1000 times or that it takes a lifetime to understand a punch. If one says it took him a lifetime to understand a low block, the person is either slow or has alterative motives behind the statement, such as self aggrandizement. The later is usually the case. People become world champions at many sports while in their teens or twenties’ it did not take them a lifetime to perfect their sports or understand their intricacies.
Martial arts are just that—martial arts. They seek physical and mental perfection at some type of fighting skill, but none is particularly adept at self-defense. Any type of fight, be it in the ring are in the street, is a mutually consented test of fighting skills. If you do not consent to a fight, it means you are being attacked and you must defend yourself. In self-defense, you do not want to fight, your want to stop the other person from attacking and hurting you any way you can. You don’t spar or grapple or anything else in particular, you just take the attacker out in anyway you can. Martial arts training may help, but as any law enforcement officer will tell you, an ordinary person can take out a group of attackers. When fighting in self-defense, the aftermath is nasty. Parts of ears and noses are bitten off, eyes are gouged out, skin is clawed off, fingers are broken, hair is pulled out, etc. People do not stand apart and use the perfect kicks and punches they have trained in; they just fight like trapped animals.
Any martial art operates under the rules of the martial art. Under the rules of another martial art, a martial art may not fare was well. In a karate tournament, a Taekwondo practitioner will be hampered, and vice versa. Baseball is not better or worse than basketball, it is just a different way of playing with a ball.