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Taekwondo (태권도; Template:IPAEng) is a Korean martial art. Taekwondo is the national sport of South Korea. It is also regarded as the world's most popular martial art in terms of number of practitioners,[1] and sparring, or kyeorugi, is an official Olympic sporting event. In Korean, tae 태 跆 means "foot"; kwon 권 拳 means "fist"; and do 도 道 means "way"; so taekwondo is loosely translated as "the way of the fist and foot".

Taekwondo's popularity has resulted in the varied evolution of the martial art into several domains: as with many other arts, it combines combat techniques, self-defense, sport, exercise, meditation and philosophy.

There are two main systems of taekwondo as well as traditional tae-kwon-do, which is not competition oriented and focuses only on the self-defence and traditional value of the art. One comes from the Kukkiwon, the source of the sparring system "Shihap Kyorugi" which is an event at the summer Olympics and which is governed by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF); the other comes from the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), which was founded by General Choi Hong Hi, the father of taekwondo. Although there are doctrinal and technical differences among the two taekwondo styles and the various organizations, the art in general emphasizes kicks thrown from a mobile stance, employing the leg's greater reach and power (compared to the arm). Circular motions that generate power are of central importance. Also important to the generation of power is the movement of the hips while performing a punch or a block. Taekwondo training generally includes a system of blocks, punches, and open-handed strikes and may also include various take-downs or sweeps, throws, and joint locks.


Template:See also The history of taekwondo has been a matter of contention. Some believe that it was entirely derived from earlier Korean martial arts, or that it is a native Korean martial art with influences from neighboring countries. Others believe that it was primarily derived from Japanese arts learned by Koreans during the Japanese occupation, and that only later did taekwondo gain its own identity separate from karate.

The oldest Korean martial art was an amalgamation of unarmed combat styles developed by the three rival Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje.[2] Young men were trained in unarmed combat techniques to develop strength, speed, and survival skills. The most popular of these techniques was subak, with taekkyeon being the most popular of the segments of subak.


Taekwondo practitioners demonstrating their techniques.

Those who demonstrated strong natural aptitude were selected as trainees in the new special warrior corps, called the Hwarang. It was believed that young men with a talent for the liberal arts may have the grace to become competent warriors. These warriors were instructed in academics as well as martial arts, learning philosophy, history, a code of ethics, and equestrian sports. Their military training included an extensive weapons program involving swordsmanship and archery, both on horseback and on foot, as well as lessons in military tactics and unarmed combat using subak. Although subak was a leg-oriented art in Goguryeo, Silla's influence added hand techniques to the practice of subak.

During this time a few select Sillan warriors were given training in Taek Kyon by the early masters from Koguryo. The Taek Kyon trained warriors then became known as the Hwarang. The Hwarang set up a military academy for the sons of royalty in Silla called Hwarang-do, which means "The way of flowering manhood." The Hwarang studied Taek Kyon, history, Confucian Philosophy, ethics, Buddhist Morality, and military tactics. The guiding principles of the Hwarang warriors were loyalty, filial duty, trustworthiness, valor, and justice. The makeup of the Hwarang-do education was based on the Five Codes of Human Conduct written by a Buddhist scholar, fundamental education, Taek Kyon and social skills. Taek Kyon was spread throughout Korea because the Hwarang traveled all around the peninsula to learn about the other regions and people.

In spite of Korea's rich history of ancient and traditional martial arts, Korean martial arts faded into obscurity during the Joseon Dynasty. Korean society became highly centralized under Korean Confucianism and martial arts were lowly regarded in a society whose ideals were epitomized by its scholar-kings.[3] Formal practices of traditional martial arts such as subak and taekkyeon were reserved for sanctioned military uses. However folk practice of taekkyeon as a kicking game still persisted into the 19th century.[2]

Modern Taekwondo[]

During the Japanese occupation (1910-1945), the practice of tae-kyon was banned.[4] 'taekkyeon' survived through underground teaching and folk custom.[5] some others claim that the art essentially vanished.Template:Fact A few of the earlier martial arts styles that contributed to Taekwondo are: T'ang-su, Taek Kyon, also known as Subak, Tae Kwon, Kwonpup and Tae Kwonpup. There are also influences from Judo, Karate, and Kung-fu. 1910 the Japanese invaded Korea and occupied the country for 36 years. To control Korea's patriotism, the Japanese banned the practice of all military arts, Korean language and even burned all books written in Korea. This ban was responsible for renewed interest in Subak. Many Koreans organized themselves into underground groups and practiced the martial arts in remote Buddhist temples. the few Koreans who were able to attend Japanese universities were exposed to Okinawan and Japanese martial arts, and some received black belts in these arts. Koreans in China were also exposed to Chinese martial arts.

After World War II and the liberation of Korea, The first Taekwondo school (Kwan) was started in Yong Chun, Seoul, Korea in 1945. Many different school were opened from 1945 through 1960. Each school claimed to teach the traditional Korean martial art, but each school emphasized a different aspect of Taek Kyon/Subak. This caused different names to emerge from each system, some of them were: Soo Bahk Do, Kwon Bop, Kong Soo Do, Tae Soo Do and Kang Soo Do, Chung Do Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, Jidokwan (or Yun Moo Kwan), Chang Moo Kwan, Han Moo Kwan, Oh Do Kwan, Jung Do Kwan, Kang Duk Won,and Song Moo Kwan.

According to Academic journal of the Taekwondo,
The papers regarding Takwondo(TKD) history have been written in two directions; One, emphasizing its root is coming from andent martial arts in the Three Kingdom era. Two, describing it`s derived from Karate only. Some of grand masters of 5 do-jang(道場, Taekwondo Gymnasium)s, which is unified as TKD afterwards, trained Karate during their stay in Japan as students. And the others trained martial arts in Manchuria Therefore it can`t be described as TKD is developed by influence of Karate only. And considering the fact that the main curriculum of those five do-jangs was centered on Kicking technique originate from Korean folk, so we know that the current TKD seems to be affected by Korean traditional martial arts. In conclusion, it would be objective view that TKD had been shaped by Karate mainly and by Manchurian and Korean traditional martial art. --A Study on Shaping of the Taekwondo[6]

In addition, another driving force behind the changing nature of Tae Kwon Do from Karate to a truly Korean art was the desire to create a national competitive sport. [7][8] In this regard Tae Kwon Do has been a huge success.

The opposing view is that upon liberation, the Korean people began recovering their patriotic self-reliance and the traditional folkloric arts resumed their popularity. Song Duk-ki, a master of Taekkyondo, presented a demonstration before the first Republic of Korea President Syngman Rhee on the occasion of the latter's birthday anniversary, thus clearly distinguishing his art from Japanese karate.[5] Holders of this view state that Korean led to the development of a new art, influenced by memories of past Korean martial arts.

In 1952, at the height of the Korean War, there was a martial arts display in which all the Kwans of Korea displayed their skills. Nam Tae Hi impressed the crowd when he smashed 13 roof tiles with a forefist punch. Following the demonstration, Syngman Rhee instructed General Choi to introduce the martial arts to the Korean army.[9]

By the end of the Korean War, nine schools of martial arts had emerged, and South Korean President Syngman Rhee ordered that the various schools unify under a single system. A governmental body selected a naming committee's submission of "tae-kwon-do". Following the submission of the name "taekwondo" on April 11 1955 by General Choi Hong Hi, the name was unanimously accepted.[10] The Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed in 1959 to facilitate the unification.[11] Shortly thereafter, taekwondo made its debut worldwide. Standardization efforts in South Korea stalled, as the kwans continued to teach differing styles. Another request from the Korean government for unification resulted in the formation of the Korea Tae Soo Do Association, which changed its name back to the Korean Taekwondo Association in 1965 following a change of leadership.

General Choi is also known to be the author of the first English taekwondo syllabus book, entitled "Taekwon-Do" published by Daeha Publication Company in 1965. Choi later founded the ITF on March 22nd 1966 in Seoul, South Korea. He claimed to have studied Korean martial arts when young and earned a black belt in Shotokan karate in Japan from Kim Hyun-soo. Subsequently, Choi fell out of favor with the authorities in South Korea and moved his organization to Canada in 1972. It is also worth noting that he is regarded by ITF taekwondo practitioners as the founder of taekwondo and equally worth noting that all the major Kwan leaders disagree and state that taekwondo was founded by many men, not one.

In 1972, the Korea Taekwondo Association Central Dojang was opened. A few months later, the name was changed to the Kukkiwon. The following year, the WTF was formed. The International Olympic Committee recognized the WTF and taekwondo sparring in 1980, and the sport was accepted as a demonstration event at the 1988 Seoul and the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games. It became an official medal event as of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Taekwondo is one of two Asian martial arts (judo being the other) in the Olympic Games.

Both the ITF and WTF operate internationally, and taekwondo is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. Although competition is a significant feature of taekwondo, many practitioners study taekwondo for personal development, to learn self-defense, or for a combination of reasons.


The two different systems of taekwondo are named after their respective organizations, the ITF and the WTF (Kukkiwon). The ITF was founded in 1966 by General Choi Hong Hi. After his death in 2002, a number of succession disputes splintered the ITF into three different groups, all claiming to be the original. Two of the three are located in Austria, with the third in Canada. The unofficial training headquarters of the International Taekwondo Federation are located at the Taekwondo Palace located in Pyongyang, North Korea and was founded in the mid-1990s.

File:Breaking concrete.jpg

Four concrete paving bricks broken with a knife-hand strike. Breaking techniques are often practiced in taekwondo.

The Kukkiwon is headquartered in South Korea and was founded in 1972 by a group of Kwan leaders from the KTA.

Although the terms "WTF" and "Kukkiwon" are often mistakenly used interchangeably, the Kukkiwon is a completely different organization which trains and certifies instructors and issues official dan and pum certificates worldwide. The Kukkiwon has its own unique physical building that contains the administrative offices of Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters) in Seoul, South Korea and is the system of taekwondo. The WTF is just a tournament committee and is not a style or a system.

The three ITF's are private organizations. There are many other private organizations like the ATF, ATA, CTF, ITU, ITW, ATFF, ITO, ITAF, ITFA, IAT, USSTA, OTA, FOTA, PTFOA, and so on. Events and competitions held by private organizations are mostly closed to other taekwondo students. However, the WTF-sanctioned events allow any person, regardless of school affiliation or martial arts style, to compete in WTF events as long as he or she is a member of the WTF Member National Association in his or her nation, which is open to anyone to join, and holds a Dan certificate issued by Kukkiwon. The major technical differences among these many organizations revolve around the patterns, called hyeong 형, pumsae 품새, or teul 틀, sets of prescribed formal sequences of movements that demonstrate mastery of posture, positioning, and technique, sparring rules for competition (e.g. ITF light-contact versus WTF full-contact), and philosophy.

In addition to these private organizations, the original schools (kwans) that formed the organization that would eventually become the Kukkiwon continue to exist as independent fraternal membership organizations that support the WTF and the Kukkiwon. The official curriculum of the kwans is that of the Kukkiwon. The kwans also function as a channel for the issuing of Kukkiwon dan and pum certification (black belt ranks) for their members. Each kwan has its own individual pledge of tenets and manners that describes the organization's goals for personal improvement. For example, the tenets of Oh Do Kwan and the ITF are: courtesy (ye-ui 예의), integrity (yom-chi 염치), perseverance (in-nae 인내), self-control (geuk-gi 극기), and indomitable spirit (baek-jeol-bul-gul 백절불굴). The Jidokwan manners are: view, feel, think, speak, order, contribute, have ability, and conduct rightly.

Some organizations also recognize one or two additional tenets beyond the five original Oh Do Kwan tenets; these are community service (sa-hui-bong-sa 사회봉사) and love (sa-rang 사랑).



Stretching to increase flexibility is an important aspect of taekwondo training.

Template:See also

Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on kicking techniques, which distinguishes it from martial arts such as karate or southern styles of kung fu. The rationale is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, and kicks thus have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. One defining kick of taekwondo is the back kick.

Taekwondo as a sport and exercise is popular with people of both sexes and of many ages. Physically, taekwondo develops strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina. An example of the union of mental and physical discipline is the breaking of boards, which requires both physical mastery of the technique and the concentration to focus one's strength.

A taekwondo student typically wears a uniform (dobok 도복), often white but sometimes black or other colors, with a belt (tti 띠) tied around the waist. The belt indicates the student's rank. The school or place where instruction is given is called the dojang.

Although each taekwondo club or school will be different, a taekwondo student can typically expect to take part in most or all of the following:

  • Learning the techniques and curriculum of taekwondo
  • Both anaerobic and aerobic workout, including stretching
  • Self-defense techniques (hosinsul 호신술)
  • Patterns (also called forms, pumsae 품새, teul 틀, hyeong 형)
  • Sparring (called kyeorugi 겨루기, or matseogi 맞서기 in the ITF), which may include 3-, 2- and 1-step sparring, free-style, arranged, and point sparring, and other types
  • Relaxation and meditation exercises
  • Throwing and/or Falling techniques (dunjigi and torojigi)
  • Breaking (also called destruction; gyokpa). Using techniques to break boards for testing, training and martial arts demonstrations. Demonstrations often also incorporate bricks, tiles, blocks of ice or other materials. Can be separated into two types:
    • Power breaking - using straightforward techniques to break as many boards etc as possible.
    • Special techniques - breaking fewer boards but using jumping or flying techniques to attain greater heights, distances, or to clear obstacles.
  • Exams to progress to the next rank
  • A focus on mental and ethical discipline, justice, etiquette, respect, and self-confidence

Some taekwondo instructors also incorporate the use of pressure points, known as ji ap sul as well as grabbing self-defense techniques borrowed from other martial arts, such as Hapkido and Judo.

Ranks, belts and promotion[]

Taekwondo ranks are separated into "junior" and "senior" or "student" and "instructor" sections. The junior section typically consists of ten ranks indicated by the Korean word geup 급 (also Romanized as gup or kup). The junior ranks are usually identified by belts of various colors, depending on the school, so these ranks are sometimes called "color belts". Geup rank may be indicated by stripes on belts rather than by colored belts. Students begin at tenth geup (usually indicated by a white belt) and advance toward first geup (usually indicated by a red belt with a black stripe as 1st Guep).

The senior section is made up of nine full ranks of black belt. These ranks are called dan 단, also referred to as "black belts" and "degrees" (as in "third dan" or "third-degree black belt"). Black belts begin at first degree and advance to second, third, and so on. The degree is often indicated on the belt itself with stripes, Roman numerals, or other methods; but sometimes black belts are plain and unadorned regardless of rank.

To advance from one rank to the next, students typically complete promotion tests in which they demonstrate their proficiency in the various aspects of the art before a panel of judges. Promotion tests vary from school to school, but may include such elements as the execution of patterns, which combine various techniques in specific sequences; the breaking of boards, to demonstrate the ability to use techniques with both power and control; sparring and self-defense, to demonstrate the practical application and control of techniques; and answering questions on terminology, concepts, history, and so on, to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the art. For higher dan tests, students are sometimes required to take a written test or to submit a research paper in addition to taking the practical test.

Promotion from one geup to the next can proceed fairly rapidly, since schools often allow geup promotions every two, three, or four months. Students of geup rank learn the most basic techniques first, then move on to more advanced techniques as they approach first dan.

In contrast, promotion from one dan to the next can take years. The general rule is that a black belt may advance from one rank to the next only after the number of years equivalent to the rank. For example, a newly-promoted third-degree black belt may not be allowed to promote to fourth-degree until three years have passed. Some organizations also have age requirements related to dan promotions, and may grant younger students pum 품 (junior black belt) ranks rather than dan ranks until they reach a certain age. Dan ranks usually have titles associated with them, such as "master" and "instructor". At some schools it doesn't matter whether a student is a pum or a dan – the same titles and respect are associated with the rank. However, these titles and their associations with specific ranks vary among schools and organizations. Example: According to the Kukkiwon and the World Taekwondo Federation Master is 5th degree (dan or pum), and Grandmaster is 7th degree and up. Neither dan has anything to do with the title of instructor or sabumnim. To be a sabumnim, one must take the course at Kukkiwon and become certified as such. Rules may differ from system to system. To learn more about them, check with the specific organizations.

The two main taekwondo organizations have their own rules and standards when it comes to ranks and the titles that go with them; for details, see Kukkiwon and International Taekwondo Federation.


Since taekwondo developed in several different kwans, there are several different expressions of taekwondo philosophy. Two are detailed in the articles for the International Taekwondo Federation and Jidokwan.


Taekwondo competition typically involves sparring, breaking, patterns, and self-defense (hosinsul). However, in Olympic taekwondo competition, only sparring is contested; and in Olympic sparring WTF competition rules are used.[12]

Campeonato absoluto promocion taekwondo enh

Taekwondo sparring match in Madrid (Spain).

Taekwondo Fight

Rachel Marcial of the US Armed Forces team (blue) competing in a taekwondo match.


Under WTF and Olympic rules, sparring is a full-contact event and takes place between two competitors in an area measuring 10 meters square. Each match or bout consists of three non-stop rounds of contact with rest between rounds. Junior fighters fight in 2-minute rounds with a 30-second break, while senior fighters fight in 3-minute rounds with 30-second breaks. Points are awarded for permitted, accurate, and powerful techniques to the legal scoring areas; light contact to a scoring area does not score any points. A kick or punch that makes contact with the opponent's hogu (a trunk protector that functions as a scoring target) scores one point; a kick to the head scores two points. Punches to the head are not allowed. If a competitor is knocked down by a scoring technique and the referee counts, then an additional point is awarded to the opponent.

At the end of three rounds, the competitor with the most points wins the match. If, during the match, one competitor gains a 7-point lead over the other, or if one competitor reaches a total of 12 points, then that competitor is immediately declared the winner and the match ends. In the event of a tie at the end of three rounds, a fourth "sudden death" overtime round will be held to determine the winner, after a 30-second rest period.


The ITF sparring rules are similar, but differ from the WTF rules in several respects. Hand attacks to the head are allowed; flying techniques score more points than grounded techniques; the competition area is slightly smaller (9 meters square instead of 10 meters); and competitors do not wear the hogu used in Olympic-style sparring (although they are required to wear approved foot and hand protection equipment). The ITF competition rules and regulations are available at the ITF information website.[13]

File:ITF TaeKwon-Do Sparring Gear.JPG

Common styles of ITF Sparring Gear

ITF competitions also feature performances of patterns, breaking and "special techniques", a category where competitors preform prescribed board breaks at great heights.

AAU Competitions are very similar, except that different styles of pads and gear are allowed. Any gear that has the Olympic symbol and not the WTF logo on it is approved.

  • Olympic Games
  • Asian Games
  • South East Asian Games
  • South Asian Games

Korean commands[]


Official WTF trunk protector (hogu), forearm guards and shin guards

In taekwondo, Korean language commands are often used. For words used in counting, see Korean numerals.

Word Hangeul Meaning
Charyeot 차렷 Attention
Gyeongnye 경례 Bow
Baro 바로 Return
Swieo 쉬어 At ease, relax
Kihap 기합 Spirit Yell
Junbi 준비 Ready
Sijak 시작 Begin
Kalyo 갈려 Break (separate)
Gyesok 계속 Continue
Geuman 그만 Finish (stop)
Dwiro dora 뒤로 돌아 Turn around (about turn)
Haesan 해산 Dismiss
  1. Tae Kwon Do: The Ultimate Reference Guide to the World's Most Popular Martial Art, by Park Yeon Hee et al. (New York: 1989)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite book
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  5. 5.0 5.1 TKD history information Template:Ref
  6. A Study on Shaping of the Taekwondo, In Uk Heo, 2004
  7. Template:Cite paper
  8. Template:Cite paper
  9. Template:Cite web
  10. Template:Cite book
  11. Template:Cite web
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. Template:Cite web