Taekwondo has been used for about 2300 years and originated in Korea. The name however has only been used since 1955. Tae means kick, Kwon means punch and Do means method/art, therefore Taekwondo is literally the art of kicking and punching. General Choi Hong Hi was a South Korean Army General and martial artist who first founded Taekwondo.Taekwondo was created by using the techniques of Taekkyon, Shotokan Karate and Judo (Taekkyon is a Korean Martial art, Judo and Karate are Japanese.). Taekwondo is an influence of 4 preexisting Martial arts. Taekwondo spread around the world when the Americans went to the Korean War (1950 – 1953) and they stayed there for a while. Students then travelled back to America. Many Koreans travelled to America and taught Taekwondo there too. Taekwondo was also founded in the 1950s. Taekwondo teaches discipline, self defence, self respect and respect for others and fitness which makes it a great martial art to learn.
Training makes a serious component of mastering any martial art and makes no exception for Taekwondo. Being a martial art heavily relying on strong kicks, a high degree of flexibility is necessary to perform advanced kicks. Many black belts with a high dan can perform a full split with relative ease. Numerous stretches are also done before actually practicing kicks as the legs need to be very loose to perform the advanced and high difficulty kicks. In Taekwondo training paddles, punching bags and kicking shields are used to practise all kinds of kicks on. Punches are practiced on punching bags. Poomsae is a series of moves in a set. Each level has their own unique set of moves. Kyorugi is sparring which is a fight between 2 Taekwondo Practitioners. In Kyorugi you apply the blocks, punches, kicks and strikes to fight another person. Taekwondo is one of the most difficult martial arts so training is extremely crucial to master it. During training and grading, practitioners will wear a traditional dobok which is a clothing typically coloured white or black.
Grading and Belt System
Taekwondo is divided by belts and grading is necessary to move up to different belts. Each belt has their own unique pattern or Poomsae that needs to be practiced in order to move to the next belt. White is for a beginner and black is for a master. The belts are then further divided into sections: Junior, Senior, Master and Grandmaster. A certain degree of skill is necessary too. For example, a blue belt is expected to know front kicks, back kicks, roundhouse kicks and more. Each level is taught kicks and rises in difficulty throughout the belt system. During grading, students perform Poomsae, Kyorugi and individual kicks and are marked on how they are executed. A certain mark must be gained in order to pass and receive the next belt. Certain styles of Taekwondo vary in belt colours like some may include purple and orange. The one shown below is a typical Taekwondo belt system.
The main Taekwondo stance or starting position is a L shape with one foot back and one foot forward. It is positioned like this so the rear and front foot can perform brutal and devastating kicks quickly from start.
A typical Taekwondo Curriculum contains Poomsae, Kyorugi, Board Breaking, Stretching and Aerobics, Taekwondo basic and advanced techniques, Throwing and grappling techniques, Strong focus on discipline and respect, Relaxation and Meditation exercises, Examinations and Tests to ascend the belt levels and Breathing Control. Poomsae is forms and patterns that are required to be learnt in order to move up belt ranks. Poomsae contains a series of punches, blocks, kicks and strikes. Kyorugi is sparring, which tests your current skills against someone equal or better than you at the martial art in a fight using full contact. Board Breaking is for demonstrations at seminars and to work on power implemented through punches, kicks and strikes to break the board. The Taekwondo techniques are based on kicks, punches, blocks and strikes. Throwing and grappling techniques are the Judo and Aikido component of Taekwondo that practices on dropping and throwing the opponent. Discipline and respect are very important in every martial art and discipline is emphasised greatly in Taekwondo. Relaxation and meditation is crucial in Taekwondo because to perform the advanced attacks calmness and relaxation is necessary to master them while also supporting well being. Examination and Tests are used to grade students so they can move up belt ranks. Breathing Control is taught widely in the Eastern Martial arts as it supports calmness and well being.
- Straight Jab: The basic punch that just twists your fist and thrusts it for extra power forward.
- Uppercut: This punch simply thrusts your fist in an upwards direction. Ideal for hitting the jaw or any part of the head.
- Hook: Used in many martial arts, this punch just hooks your arm around to the side. Good for head attacks and the liver.
- Sucker Punch: A punch that just takes the target by surprise.
- Cross: Basically a hook but from the rear arm so that the turning movement of the hips will generate more power.
- C – Shape: A punch in a C shape to hit the opponent’s head and mid section.
- C Shape Punch
- Side Kick: A kick that is aimed at the hips or the side of the head. It uses the rear foot, twisting your hips.
- Turn Kick: Very similar to the side kick, but you turn with your hips, developing speed and power to hit your opponent.
- Axe Kick: You lift your foot up high and drop it on someone using your heel to hit the head or chest.
- Crescent Kick: You make a crescent motion by lifting your foot quickly up and forming a crescent motion by bringing your heel upon someone.
- Back Kick: You spin around and use the back of your foot to hit the opponent.
- Front Kick: Lifting your foot and knee to a desired position and pushing forward with power aimed at mid section and above.
- Hook Kick: Lifting your foot and hooking it to the side hitting your opponent’s head or waist with the ball of your heel.
- RoundHouse Kick: An advanced form of kicking where you spin around and kick with the rear foot. This can be done with jumping.
- Stomp Kick: Originating Kung Fu, this kick is performed by stomping on your opponent’s knee to shatter their balance and then finish them off on the ground.
- Kicks can be used simultaneously to create a combo.
- A Roundhouse Kick
- Knife Hand Blocks: Your hands resemble knives and use the outer ridge of your hand to block punches and strikes. Knife hand is used to block, parry, grab and deflect attacks.
- Closed Fist Blocks: Your fists are closed into fists and mainly just guard and deflect using your fists. You use your forearms to block punches and strikes.
- Outer Arm Block: This block is commonly performed in the mid section for punches and strikes. You hook your forearm out to block a punch or strike.
- Low Block: This block is used to defend against kicks coming upwards and low section attacks. It is performed by bringing your forearm down to deflect a hit. It is a snapping action directed down to deflect mainly low kicks.
- High Block (ITF Rising Block): This block is used for blocking incoming axe kicks and or front kicks aimed at the head. This block is mainly for blocking attacks coming from above. It is performed by bringing your arm upward above head height with the wrist centered above head height.
- Back fist: Spin around to gain momentum and strike your opponent with the back of your fist and knuckles creating a harsh blow to the head.
- Elbow Strike: The forearm is folded inwards towards the body and the strike is delivered with the outside of the forearm or elbow while stepping forwards. Taekwondo also makes use of reverse and front elbow strikes.
- Knife Hand Strike: Similar to a Karate Chop, the hand is shaped like a knife and is used to chop the throat and neck.
- Hammer Fist: Your hand is extended and your fist is closed. You strike using your fist in any direction to make contact with your fist and forearms against the mid section and head.
- Scissor Finger: Similar to a finger jab in Chinese Martial Art Wing Chun, the Scissor Finger is the closed fist with the middle and forefinger are extended outwards to jab the eyes. Severely it can cause blindness and is one of the most dangerous techniques which is why it is banned in many styles of martial art tournaments.
Taekwondo At The Olympics
Taekwondo made its first Olympic appearance in the year 1988 in the summer Olympics in Seoul, which is the capital of South Korea. Taekwondo then became an official Olympic Medal sport in the Sydney – Australia Olympics. It has been an Olympic sport since the year 2000. There are 2 events in Olympic Taekwondo which are Poomsae and Kyorugi. Poomsae is a competition where the contestant is required to perform a set of techniques, attacks and blocks. The winner is decided on who performs it best. Kyorugi is a sparring event between 2 contestants who fight against each other using Taekwondo while abiding by the rules. The winner is decided on who gets the most points in a series of matches. 1 point is scored for a legitimate kick to the body, 2 points for a kick to the head or face and 1 for a knockdown. Competitors are also required to wear protective headgear and chest protectors. Striking or kicking below the waist is not permitted. Punches are not allowed to hit the head. Kicks can hit the head and mid section.