Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. It is one of the most popular form of martial art in the world today. In fact, taekwondo is currently one of the only two Asian martial art to be included in the Olympic Games, besides Judo.
The Korean term ‘Taekwondo’ is formed from the Korean words ‘Tae’, which means fist, ‘Kwon’, which means foot, and ‘do’ which means a way of life. So, Taekwondo is the weapon less art of fighting which includes the use of both hands and feet. Various kinds of sparring techniques are demonstrated in the sport. Techniques like impressive blocks, jabs, open-handed fist attacks, spinning kicks and high jump kicks are seen in taekwondo duels. Although all kinds of fist techniques are allowed and used, taekwondo specialises in impressive kicking techniques.
Kicking and using of the feet is more seen in taekwondo than any other popular martial art sport. In fact, the impressive spinning kicks and high jump kicks displayed in taekwondo have become the defining characteristics of the sport. In official taekwondo competitions, additional points are rewarded for making impressive kicks on an opponent.
Taekwondo matches are held in a circular ring. Players fight wearing a head guard, a body protector, forearm and shin guards, and a groin guard. Three rounds are held in a match. For women, each round is 2 minutes long, while for men, it’s 3. Competitors have to make as many kicks and hits as possible on their opponent in the designated time to earn points. Bonus points are awarded for impressive high jump kicks or spinning kicks. The kicks must be made with any part of the leg below the ankle, and the fist attacks must be made with the index and middle fingers only. Penalties are awarded for making fouls.
The modern sport of taekwondo is based on the ancient Korean martial arts of ‘Subakgi’ and ‘Taekkyon’. These arts were used by the ‘Hwarang’ warriors of the ‘Shilla’ dynasty in ancient Korea to defeat the rival kingdoms of ‘Koguryo’ and ‘Taekje’ and bring them under the rule of the ‘Shilla’ king. Besides being skilled in the fighting arts of ‘Subakgi’ and ‘Taekkyon’, the Hwarang also had a strict moral code.
The moral code included:
- Being loyal to one’s country
- Being loyal and faithful towards one’s spouse
- Being respectful towards parents and siblings etc.
These moral codes are still taught to taekwondo students today. So technically, taekwondo is more than just a fighting art. Like most martial arts, taekwondo teaches one to become a sound human being with good social and moral values besides being able to protect themselves from physical assaults.
Taekwondo is a fast-growing sport. It now has 50 million practitioners around the world and the number just keeps on growing.