What is Taekwondo?


Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that primarily focuses on kicking techniques, though it also incorporates hand strikes and blocks. The word “Tae” means foot or to kick, “Kwon” means fist or to strike with the hand, and “Do” translates to the way or the path. Therefore, Taekwondo can be interpreted as “the way of the foot and fist.”

Taekwondo is known for its dynamic and powerful kicks, often involving high, jumping, and spinning kicks. It places a strong emphasis on both physical and mental discipline, promoting qualities such as respect, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, and self-control. It is not only a sport but also a form of self-defence and a way of developing one’s character.

The practice typically involves a combination of patterns, sparring, and breaking techniques. Students progress through different ranks, indicated by coloured belts, as they advance in their training and demonstrate proficiency in various techniques.

The history of Taekwondo

The origins of Taekwondo can be traced back to ancient Korean martial arts, which were influenced by Chinese martial arts and indigenous Korean fighting styles. Here is a brief overview of the historical development of Taekwondo:

  1. Ancient Korean Martial Arts: Korea has a long history of martial arts, with evidence suggesting that various forms of unarmed combat were practiced in the region as early as the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE).
  2. Silla Dynasty (57 BCE – 935 CE): During the Silla Dynasty, a martial arts elite group known as the Hwarang was formed. The Hwarang were young noblemen who received training in martial arts, ethics, and various academic subjects. They played a significant role in the development and preservation of Korean martial arts.
  3. Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392): Martial arts continued to evolve during the Goryeo Dynasty, with influences from Chinese martial arts and the indigenous Korean traditions.
  4. Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897): The Joseon Dynasty saw further development of martial arts, and military training was an integral part of the education for the ruling class.
  5. Japanese Occupation (1910–1945): During the Japanese occupation of Korea, the practice of Korean martial arts was restricted. However, some martial arts practitioners continued to train in secret. This period of oppression fostered a sense of national identity and contributed to the later development of Taekwondo as a symbol of Korean culture and resistance.
  6. Post-World War II and Korean War: After the liberation of Korea in 1945, martial arts schools were reopened, and efforts were made to revitalize traditional Korean martial arts. The Korean War (1950–1953) also played a role in the development of martial arts as soldiers drew upon their training for self-defence.
  7. 1955 and the Formation of Taekwondo: The term “Taekwondo” was officially coined in 1955 by martial artists who sought to unify various Korean martial arts schools under a single system. The leading figures in the establishment of Taekwondo were General Choi Hong Hi and a group of martial artists who worked together to create a standardized curriculum.
  8. International Recognition and Olympic Inclusion: Taekwondo gained international recognition in the following decades and became an official Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Games. This elevated the martial art’s profile globally and contributed to its widespread popularity.

Today, Taekwondo is practiced worldwide, with millions of practitioners learning and promoting the values of this Korean martial art.

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