May 21, 2024

What is Taekwondo?

Introduction to Taekwondo

Club Group Shot

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art (and National sport of South Korea). It is now formally recognised as the world’s most popular martial art (in terms of the number of practitioners). The sparring element has been an Olympic event since 2000.
In Korean, Tae means “to strike or break with foot”; Kwon means “to strike or break with fist”; and Do means “way” or “method”. So “Taekwondo” is loosely translated as “the way of the foot and fist”.

Taekwondo combines combat techniques, self-defence, sport, exercise, meditation and philosophy. Taekwondo is for everyone, regardless of age, sex or race – it has something to offer for everyone. Classes are designed to push people within their own limits, which increase as fitness and flexibility improves over time. There are separate clubs for young Children, Juniors and Adults that are specifically targeted to each age group.

Taekwondo is a military martial art, and is still used by the South Korean military as part of their training.

There are two main “styles” of Taekwondo. One comes from the Kukkiwon, the source of the sparring system which is now used at the Olympic games, and governed by the World Taekwondo Federation.

The other (of which we are affiliated) is the more common one in the UK – the International Taekwondo Federation.

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Health Benefits

Taekwondo can strengthen your body and improve your health through physical exercise and conditioning. Regular practice will help you develop your body, maintain your health, and give you more energy.  As well as physical activity, taekwondo also improves your mental health, thus developing the whole person (body, mind and spirit).

  • Increased muscle tone, strength and flexibility
  • Improved cardio-vascular fitness
  • Enhanced endurance and stamina
  • Increased metabolism allowing better weight control
  • Better balance, posture and coordination
  • Enhanced energy and vitality
  • Improved concentration and self-control
  • Improved self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Greater discipline, self-respect and respect for others
  • Increased study habits and work ethic
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced aggression

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As well as the benefits discussed in the Health Benefits section, there are many other benefits of Taekwondo which are particularly relevant to children. It helps them not only to develop strength and agility of the body, but also to develop strength of character and the mind. Children who suffer from low self-esteem, are shy or are bullied at school, can benefit greatly from the confidence and self-belief that Taekwondo provides them with.

Children who attend a Taekwondo class can also become much more socialised as the class environment allows them to learn to mix with a variety of other children of various ages, as well as adults.

  • Improved physical fitness
  • Reduces risk of childhood obesity
  • Increased discipline
  • Improved concentration and self-control
  • Improved self-confidence and self-esteem, reducing the risk of bullying
  • Teaches responsibility and respect for self and others
  • Improved social skills
  • Improved study habits
  • Self Defence skills

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Although Taekwondo is a defensive art, training by the practical application of techniques against a real adversary, or several, is very important.  Sparring tests the skills acquired and helps to teach the student to learn to recognize and, with practice, anticipate an opponent’s tactics. Sparring builds self-control, self-confidence, and courage. There are two types of sparring: step sparring and free sparring.


Step (or prearranged) sparring is planned by the players. They agree on the rules, such as the number of steps to be taken, the target to be attacked, the tool to be used, etc. There is no contact; the purpose is to develop control by stopping just short of the target.

There are three levels of step sparring: 3-step for beginners, 2-step or intermediate, and 1-step or advanced. The goal is to help the student understand the purpose of the movements, to master interaction with the opponent regarding stances and distances, to develop faster reflexes and instantaneous response in self-defence.

Free Sparring

Step (or prearranged) sparring is planned by the players. They agree on the rules, such as the number of steps to be taken, the target to be attacked, the tool to be used, etc. There is no contact; the purpose is to develop control by stopping just short of the target.

Points are awarded for the correct execution and landing (touch-contact) of techniques to valid areas of the body. The evaluation of free sparring is based on accuracy, speed, timing, distance, and quality of technique executed. Balance, blocking and dodging skills, and attitude are also very important.

Because each of the participants is free to move and attack, free sparring encourages the development of strategies for attack and defence, while improving speed and timing. Since free sparring is practised as a non-stop fight that may consist of one, two or three rounds, good physical fitness is very important.

There are distinct rules and a system for free sparring in tournaments. Both hand and foot techniques are allowed, and good fighters use combination and flying, jumping and spinning techniques. These fights can be really spectacular.

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Power Tests

To validate the correct application of technique, adults typically practice techniques against breakable boards (or wood). This demonstrates that the techniques are being performed correctly, and will generate sufficient force should the need arise to use a given technique in a self-defence situation.

Tenets of Taekwondo

Courtesy (Ye-Ui)

Taekwondo students should attempt to be polite to one another and to respect others. Students should address instructors as Sir and to bow to the instructors before and after classes. Turning up early or on time for classes is also an aspect of courtesy.

What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.
Confucius (Ancient Chinese thinker)

Courteous men learn courtesy from the discourteous.
Persian Proverb

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.
George Washington (Former President of the United States)

Integrity (Yom-Chi)

One who has integrity is able to define what is right or wrong and have the conscience, if wrong, to feel guilt. Taekwondo students should strive to be honest and to live by moral principles.

Rather fall with honor than succeed by fraud.
Sophocles (Ancient Greek philosopher)

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with the important matters.
Albert Einstein

Perseverance (In-Nae)

Perseverance means having patience. One of the most important secrets of becoming a leader in Taekwondo is to overcome every difficulty by perseverance.

One who is impatient in trivial matters can seldom achieve success in matters of great importance.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Confucius (Ancient Chinese thinker)

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
T.S. Eliot (Nobel Prize for Literature)

Self Control (Guk-Gi)

Without self-control, a Taekwondo student is just like any fighter in the street. Loss of self-control is disastrous both in sparring and personal affairs.

The term of stronger is the person who wins over oneself rather than someone else.
Lao Tzu (Chinese Philosopher)

Warriors take chances. Like everyone else, they fear failing, but they refuse to let fear control them.
Ancient Samurai Saying

Indomitable Spirit (Baekgool Boolgool)

A true student of Taekwondo will never give up, not even when faced with insurmountable odds. The most difficult goals can be achieved with an indomitable spirit.

The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.
Martin Luther King Jr. (One of the leaders of the American civil rights movement)

All things can be achieved through hard work and effort.
Menander (Greek dramatist)

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The Student Oath

I shall:

  • observe the tenets of Taekwondo.
  • respect the instructor and seniors.
  • never misuse Taekwondo.
  • be a champion of freedom and justice.
  • build a more peaceful world.

Principles of Taekwondo

1. Concentration (Jip Joong)

By applying the impact force onto the smallest target area, it will concentrate the force and therefore increase its effect. For example, the force of water coming out of a hose is greater if the nozzle is smaller. Conversely, the weight of a man spread out on snow shoes makes hardly any impression on the snow.

The blows in Taekwon-do are often concentrated onto the edge of the open palm or to the crook of the fingers.

It is very important that you should not unleash all your strength at the beginning but gradually, and particularly at the point of contact with your opponent’s body, the force must be so concentrated as to give a knock-out blow. That is to say, the shorter the time for the concentration, the greater will be the power of the blow. The utmost concentration is required in order to mobilize every muscle of the body onto the smallest target area simultaneously.

2. Reaction Force (Bandong Ryok)

According to Newton’s Law, every force has an equal and opposite force. If your opponent is rushing towards you at high speed, by the slightest blow at his head, the force with which you strike his head would be that of his own attack plus that of your blow.

The two forces combined, your opponent’s, which is large, and yours, which is small are quite impressive.
This then is the reaction force from the opponent.

Another reaction force is your own. For example, a punch with the right fist is aided by pulling back the left fist to the hip.

3. Equilibrium (Kyun Hyung)

Balance is of utmost importance in any type of athletics. In Taekwon-Do, it deserves special consideration. By keeping the body always in equilibrium, that is, well balanced, a blow is more effective and deadly. Conversely, the unbalanced one is easily toppled. The stance should always be stable yet flexible, for both offensive and defensive movements.

Equilibrium is classified into both dynamic and static stability. They are so closely inter-related that the maximum force can only be produced when the static stability is maintained through dynamic stability.

To maintain good equilibrium, the centre of gravity of the stance must fall on a straight line midway between both legs when the body weight is distributed equally on both legs, or in the centre of the foot if it is necessary to concentrate the bulk of body weight on one foot. The centre of gravity can be adjusted according to body weight. Flexibility and knee spring are also important in maintaining balance for both a quick attack and instant recovery. One additional point; the heel of the rear foot should never be off the ground at the point of impact. This is not only necessary for good balance but also to produce maximum power at the point of impact.

4. Breath Control (Hohip Jojul)

Controlled breathing not only affects one’s stamina and speed but can also condition a body to receive a blow and augment the power of a blow directed against an opponent. Through practice, breath stopped in the state of exhaling at the critical moment when a blow is landed against a pressure point on the body can prevent a loss of consciousness and stifle pain.

A sharp exhaling of breath at the moment of impact and stopping the breath during the execution of a movement tense the abdomen to concentrate maximum effort on the delivery of the motion, while a slow inhaling helps the preparation of the next movement. An important rule to remember; Never inhale while focusing a block or blow against an opponent. Not only will this impede movement but it will also result in a loss of power.

Students should also practice disguised breathing to conceal any outward signs of fatigue. An experienced fighter will certainly press an attack when he realizes his opponent is on the point of exhaustion. One breath is required for one movement with the exception of a continuous motion.

5. Mass (Zilyang)

Mathematically, the maximum kinetic energy or force is obtained from maximum body weight and speed and it is all important that the body weight be increased during the execution of a blow. No doubt the maximum body weight is applied with the motion of turning the hip. The large abdominal muscles are twisted to provide additional body momentum. Thus the hip rotates in the same direction as that of the attacking or blocking tool. Another way of increasing body weight is the utilization of a springing action of the knee joint. This is achieved by slightly raising the hip at the beginning of the motion and lowering the hip at the moment of impact to drop the body weight into the motion.

6. Speed (Sokdo)

Speed is the most essential factor of force or power. Scientifically, force equals mass multiplied by acceleration

(F = MA) or (P = MV2).

According to the theory of kinetic energy, every object increases its weight as well as speed in a downward movement. This very principle is applied to this particular art of self-defense. For this reason, at the moment of impact, the position of the hand normally becomes lower than the shoulder and the foot lower than the hip while the body is in the air.

Reaction force, breathing control, equilibrium, concentration, and relaxation of the muscles cannot be ignored. However, these are the factors that contribute to the speed and all these factors, together with flexible and rhythmic movements, must be well coordinated to produce the maximum power in Taekwon-Do.

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