Saturday Dec 15

Basics and Principles

Taekwondo 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.

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

A taekwondo student typically wears a uniform (dobok), often white but sometimes black (or other colors), with a belt (tti) tied around the waist. There are at least three major styles of dobok, with the most obvious differences being in the style of jacket: (1) the cross-over front jacket that resembles traditional Asian clothing, (2) the V-neck jacket (no cross-over) typically worn by WTF practitioners, and (3) the vertical-closing front jacket (no cross-over) typically worn by ITF practitioners. The belt colour and any insignia thereon (if any) indicate the student's rank. In general, the darker the colour, the higher the rank. The school or place where instruction is given is called the dojang.

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

Although each taekwondo club or school will be different, a taekwondo student can typically expect to take part in most or all of the following:

  • Learning the techniques and curriculum of taekwondo
  • Both anaerobic and aerobic workout, including stretching
  • Self-defense techniques (hosinsul)
  • Patterns (also called forms, pumsae, teul, hyeong)
  • Sparring (called gyeorugi, or matseogi in the ITF), which may include 7-, 3-, 2- and 1-step sparring, free-style sparring, arranged sparring, point sparring, and other types
  • Relaxation and meditation exercises
  • Throwing and/or falling techniques (deonjigi and tteoreojigi)
  • Breaking (gyeokpa or weerok), using techniques to break boards for testing, training and martial arts demonstrations. Demonstrations often also incorporate bricks, tiles, blocks of ice or other materials. Can be separated into three types:
    • Power breaking using straightforward techniques to break as many boards as possible
    • Speed breaking boards are held loosely by one edge, putting special focus on the speed required to perform the break
    • 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

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