What is Taekwondo?
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. Tae means “to strike or break with foot”, Kwon means “to strike or break with hand”, and Do means “way” or “method”. Thus, Taekwondo may be translated as “the way of the hand and the foot.”
Taekwondo combines contact techniques, self-defense, sport and exercise together to create a fantastic overall workout. Taekwondo is great for those who want to get in shape, learn self-defense techniques, or for the serious athlete that wants to improve their reflexes for other sports, or to compete in the actual Olympic sport of Taekwondo.
There are two main branches of Taekwondo development:
“Traditional Taekwondo” typically refers to the martial art as it was established in the 1950’s and 1960’s in the South Korean Military, and in various civilian organizations, including schools and universities. In particular, the names and symbolisms of the traditional patterns often refers to elements of Korean history, culture and philosophy.
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. Some instructors also incorporate the use of pressure points, as well as grabbing self-defense techniques borrowed from other martial arts, such as Judo and Jiu Jitsu.
Today, the sport has blossomed and is now an Olympic event.
“Sport Taekwondo” has developed in the decades since the 1950’s and may have a somewhat different focus, especially in terms of the emphasis on speed and competition (as in Olympic sparring). Olympic Sparring comes from the Kukkiwon who oversees Taekwondo worldwide, and sets the requirements for Taekwondo competition. Sport/Olympic Taekwondo is very fast, and has a formal circuit of competition.