About Taekwondo

1. What is taekwondo?

2. How popular is it?

3. Modern development

4. Features

5. Ranks, belts and promotion

6. Korean commands

What is taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that is also the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, ˇ°taeˇ± means "to strike or break with foot"; ˇ°kwonˇ± means "to strike or break with fist"; and ˇ°doˇ± means "way," "method," or "art." So the closest English meaning of "taekwondo" is "the way of the foot and fist" or "the way of kicking and punching."



How popular is it?

There are more taekwondo practitioners around the world than for any other martial art, making it the world's most popular martial art. As with many other arts, taekwondo combines combat techniques, self-defense, sport, exercise, meditation and philosophy. Taekwondo is used by the South Korean military as part of its training and gyeorugi, a type of sparring, has been an Olympic event since 2000.


Modern development

Although its origins date back many centuries, modern taekwondo was primarily formed during the Japanese occupation of Korea during World War II. The Japanese banned all facets of Korean identity including many traditions, language and history, in an attempt to erase Korean culture. When the occupation ended, Korean martial arts schools began opening across the country, but there are varying opinions on how much of the Japanese arts of kung fu and karate influenced the development of taekwondo as it is known today.

Taekwondo is currently practiced in as many as 123 countries, with more than 30 million practitioners and 3 million individuals with black belts throughout the world. Also, it is now one of only two Asian martial arts that are included in the Olympic Games; taekwondo became a demonstration event starting with the 1988 games in Seoul, and became an official medal event starting with the 2000 games in Sydney.



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 therefore kicks have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. Historically, the Koreans thought that the hands were too valuable to be used in combat.

As a martial art, taekwondo is popular with people of both genders and all 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 breaking techniques and the concentration to focus one's strength.

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

At Taegeuk Taekwondo Canada, students will experience:

• The techniques and curriculum of taekwondo
• Both anaerobic and aerobic workouts, including stretching
• Self-defense techniques (called hosinsul)
• Patterns (also called forms or poomsae)
• Sparring techniques (called gyeorugi)
• Relaxation and meditation exercises
• Throwing and/or falling techniques
• Breaking (called gyeokpa) using techniques to break
boards for testing, training and martial arts
• Exams to progress to the next rank
• A focus on mental and ethical discipline, justice, etiquette,
respect, and self-confidence


Ranks, belts and promotion

Taekwondo ranks are typically separated into "junior" and "senior" sections. The junior section typically consists of ten ranks indicated by the Korean word ˇ°geup.ˇ± The junior ranks are usually identified by belts of various colors, depending on the school, so these ranks are sometimes called "color belts". Students begin at tenth geup (often indicated by a white belt) and advance toward first geup (often indicated by a red belt with a black stripe).

The senior section is typically made up of nine ranks. These ranks are called dan and are also referred to as "black belts" or "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.

To advance from one belt rank to the next, students participate in promotion tests in which they demonstrate their proficiency in the various aspects of the art before a panel of judges or their teacher. Promotion tests include such elements as the execution of patterns, which combine various techniques in specific sequences; breaking boards or bricks, to demonstrate the ability to use techniques with both power and control; and sparring and self-defense to demonstrate the practical application and control of techniques.


Korean commands

In taekwondo, many Korean language commands are used for instruction and students will often count in Korean during their class.

Korean Meaning in English

Charyot Attention

Gyeong rye Bow

Baro Return

Swieo At ease, relax

Kihap Yell

Junbi Ready

Sijak Begin, start

Gallyeo Break (separate)

Gyesok Continue

Guman Finish (stop)

Dwiro dora Turn around (about turn)

Haesan Dismiss

* Some content on this page excerpted from Wikipedia's article on Taekwondo.