Taekwondo: Korean Martial Art

Taekwondo exhibition in Seoul.

Taekwondo (태권도; "the way of the hand and the foot") is one of the most systematic and scientific of Korean traditional martial arts.

Taekwondo is a discipline that not only emphasizes physical expertise, but also enhances the practitioner's mental spirit and overall life through training body and mind.

Although developed throughout Korean history, Taekwondo is also a modern sport that has gained an international reputation and is now included among the official sports in the Olympic Games.

Taekwondo training.
Taekwondo kicks training.

Taekwondo Today

Contemporary Taekwondo emphasizes a variety of powerful high standing kicks and jump kicks as well as punches and is practiced worldwide for self-defense, sport and as a form of spiritual development. The student practices punching, kicking, and blocking in a unified series of techniques in traditional sets or hyung. Rank is determined by proficiency in these graded steps. Short, sharp, set sparring combinations of attack and counter - id-bo tueryon eventually lead to free sparring for the advanced practitioner.

Taekwondo throw.

Taekwondo has become one of the most popular martial arts, practiced by millions of people all over the world. Many have enjoyed exhibitions of experts flying through the air and breaking boards. But it goes far deeper than just physical attacking or self-defense. Taekwondo aims to combine the elements of body and mind with a result that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. If you have never seen an exhibition, you can arrange one through the T.O.P Taekwondo Demonstration Team.

The word taekwondo is composed of three parts - Tae means foot, leg, or to step on. Kwon means fist or fight. Do means the way or discipline. These three parts together form the two important concepts behind taekwondo.

Taekwondo bout.

First, taekwondo is the right way of using Tae and Kwon ('fists and feet'), or all the parts of the body represented by fists and feet. Second, taekwondo is a way to control or calm down fights and keep the peace. This concept comes from the meaning of Tae Kwon to put fists under control (literally 'to step on fists'). Thus the comprehensive meaning would be the right way of using all parts of the body to stop fights and help build a better and more peaceful world.

Taekwondo today is similar to the martial arts in other Oriental countries and shares many features with them. In the course of its evolution, it has gained from many different styles that existed in the martial arts of the countries surrounding Korea, like Japan and China.

Development of Modern Taekwondo

Modern Taekwondo was developed by Choi Hong Hi. As a student in Japan in the late 1930s he attained a karate first dan black belt and founded an academy of martial arts back in Korea in 1953 where he amalgamated the traditional Korean martial art form (tae kyon) and Japanese karate techniques.

Rival Taekwondo Associations

Taekwondo action.

As a professional soldier Choi Hong Hi rose to the rank of general and as President of the Korean Taekwondo Association was instrumental in introducing the technique into the South Korean military and police and spreading Taekwondo to the rest of the world.

However, Choi fell from grace during the political upheavals of the 1960s and left for Canada, where he established the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) in 1966.

For an authentic demonstration and exciting participation experience of Taekwondo it is possible to join a Taekwondo tour in Seoul.

The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) with its headquarters in Seoul was established as a rival organization in 1973 and despite several attempts at unification Taekwondo has not been a unified sport since then. The WTF places greater emphasis on sparring than the more traditional ITF and it is the WTF version that is practiced as an Olympic sport.

Both styles incorporate graceful kicking techniques and the breaking of wood as a test of both correct form and concentration, though the ITF observes the so-called 'semi-contact' style of Taekwondo, while the WTF practices the so-called 'full-contact' style.

The Korea Taekwondo Association
#607, Olympic Center
88-2 Oryun-dong, Songpa-gu
Seoul, Korea
Tel: +82 (02) 420 4271
Fax: +82 (02) 420 4274

The World Taekwondo Federation
635 Yuksam-dong, Kangnam-gu,
Seoul, Korea 135-080
Tel: +82 (02) 566 2505/ +82 (02) 557 5446
Fax: +82 (02) 533 4728

The International Taekwondo Federation (USA)
KoreAmerica Taekwondo Union
441 South Main Street, Unit 97
Manchester, Connecticut
USA 06040
Tel: +1 860-649-9696
Fax: +1 860-649-1231

Books on Korean Taekwondo