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Taekwon-Do

TKD Plaque

Literally means 'The Art of Hand and Foot'

Taekwon-Do is a Korean martial art and the national sport of Korea. In Korean, Tae means "to strike or break with foot"; Kwon means "to strike or break with fist"; and Do means "way", "method", or "path". Thus, Taekwon-Do may be loosely translated as "the way of the hand and the foot."

Taekwon-Do combines combat techniques, self-defense, sport, exercise, and in some cases meditation and philosophy. In recent years, Taekwon-Do has become one of the world's most popular martial arts in terms of number of practitioners.

Taekwon-Do 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. Historically, the Koreans thought that the hands were too valuable to be used in combat.

Taekwon-Do as a martial art is popular with people of both genders and of many ages. Physically, Taekwon-Do develops strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina. An example of the union of mental and physical discipline is the breaking of wooden boards, bricks or tiles, which requires both physical mastery of the technique and the concentration to focus one's power.

Taekwon-Do, along with many other martial arts, is traditionally performed in bare feet, though there are specialist training shoes that can sometimes be worn.

Each student can expect to take part in most or all of the following:
Learning the techniques and curriculum of Taekwon-Do
Both anaerobic and aerobic workout, including stretching
Self-defense techniques (hosinsool)
Patterns (tul)
Sparring (matsogi), which may include step sparring, free-style sparring, prearranged sparring
Relaxation and meditation exercises
Throwing and/or falling techniques (deoreojigi)
Breaking (weerok), using techniques to break boards for testing, training and martial arts demonstrations. 3 styles of which are used.
  1. Power breaking - using straightforward techniques to break as many boards as possible
  2. Speed breaking - boards are held loosely by one edge, putting special focus on the speed required to perform the break
  3. 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
ITF schools teach "sine wave" techniques when performing fundimental movements. This involves raising one's center of gravity between techniques, then lowering it as the technique is performed, producing the up-and-down movement from which the term "sine wave" is derived.

There are two main branches of Taekwon-Do development, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive:
Traditional Taekwon-Do typically refers to the martial art as it was established in the 1950s in the South Korean military, and in various civilian organisations, including schools and universities. In particular, the names and symbolism of the traditional patterns often refer to elements of Korean history, culture and religious philosophy.
Sport Taekwon-Do has developed in the decades since the 1950s and may have a somewhat different focus, especially in terms of its emphasis on speed and competition (as in Olympic sparring).


There are two main bodies for International Taekwon-Do, One derives from Kukkiwon, the source of the sparring system sihap gyeorugi which is now an event at the summer Olympic Games and which is governed by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) this groups was formed in 1973. The other is the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) formed in 1966 was the original international body for Taekwon-Do. The ITF follow the exact sylabus for training as written by Taekwon-Do Founder General Choi Hong Hi. Although competiton sparring also plays a strong role in ITF Schools, the majority place greater emphasis on teaching a wider range of techniques to develope better Self Defence skills aswell as fun and fitness

Taekwondo training generally includes a system of blocks, kicks, punches, and open-handed strikes and may also include various take-downs or sweeps, throws, and joint locks. ITF Taekwon-Do also incorporate the use of pressure points, known as jiapsul, as well as grabbing self-defense techniques.

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Taekwon-Do History

The oldest Korean martial art was an amalgamation of unarmed combat styles developed by the three rival Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje, where 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. 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 Silla warriors were given training in taekkyeon by the early masters from Koguryo. These 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 taekkyeon, history, Confucian philosophy, ethics, Buddhist morality, social skills and military tactics. The guiding principles of the Hwarang warriors were based on Won Gwang's five codes of human conduct and included loyalty, filial duty, trustworthiness, valor and justice. Taekkyeon 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 poorly regarded in a society whose ideals were epitomized by its scholar-kings. Formal practices of traditional martial arts such as subak and taekkyeon were reserved for sanctioned military uses. Civilian folk practice of taekkyeon persisted into the 19th century.

During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), all facets of ethnic Korean identity were banned or suppressed. Traditional Korean martial arts such as taekkyeon or subak were banned during this time. During the occupation, Koreans who were able to study and receive rankings in Japan were exposed to Japanese martial arts. Others were exposed to martial arts in China and Manchuria.

When the occupation ended in 1945, Korean martial arts schools (kwans) began to open in Korea under various influences. There are differing views on the origins of the arts taught in these schools. Some believe that they taught martial arts that were based primarily upon the traditional Korean martial arts taekkyon and subak, or that Taekwon-Do was derived from native Korean martial arts with influences from neighboring countries. Still others believe that these schools taught arts that were almost entirely based upon karate.

In 1952, at the height of the Korean War, there was a martial arts exhibition in which the kwans displayed their skills. In one demonstration, Nam Tae Hi smashed 13 roof tiles with a punch. Following this demonstration, South Korean President Syngman Rhee instructed Choi Hong Hi to introduce the martial arts to the Korean army. By the mid-1950s, nine kwans had emerged. Syngman Rhee ordered that the various schools unify under a single system. The name 'Taekwon-Do' was submitted by now Genaral Choi Hong Hi (of the Oh Do Kwan), and was accepted on April 11, 1955. The Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed in 1959/1961 to facilitate the unification.
TKD/ITF Founder General Choi Hong Hi
In the early 1960s, Taekwon-Do made its debut worldwide with assignment of the original masters of Taekwon-Do to various countries. Standardization efforts in South Korea stalled, as the kwans continued to teach differing styles. Following an exhibition trip by General Choi Hong Hi then president of the KTA to North Korea, the South Korean government formed of the Korea Tae Soo Do Association, as they saw General Choi's whillingness to teach Taekwon-Do to 'Anyone' as a betrayal. General Choi's expulsion from South Korea lead him to resigning his position from the KTA and seeking asylum in Canada. This is where he formed the International Taekwon-Do Federation (1966). Following the formation of the ITF a 4th Dan Instructor who had been teaching Taekwon-Do to the Royal Airforce in Singapore travelled to the UK to showcase this martial art to a new ordiance, his name was Rhee Ki Ha.

Rhee Ki Ha is known as a Pioneer and The Founder of UK Taekwon-Do, setting up home in the UK and founding the United Kingdom Taekwon-Do Association. He is officially known as First Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha, as he was the first person to be promoted to 9th Dan within the ITF by Genaral Choi Hong. In his speech at the presentation in Russia(1997), General Choi explained that Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha had been, not only his most loyal student, but was the personification of Taekwon-Do.

General Choi's steadfast belief that Taekwon-Do should benifit everyone regardless of nationality, religion, age or sex remains true in most true ITF Schools.

On seeing the growth of Taekwon-Do Worldwide South Korea began to see this Korea martial art slipping away from their control so formed the World Taekwondo Federation in 1973.

In 1988 at the Seoul Olympics, South Korea took advantage of the opportunity to showcase WTF Taekwon-Do by offering it up as a demonstration event. lt later became an official medal event starting with the 2000 games in Sydney. In 2010, Taekwondo was accepted as a Commonwealth Games sport.

One source has estimated that, Taekwon-Do is now practiced in over 150 countries, with over 40 million practitioners and 4 million individuals with black belts throughout the world.

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