For about 2 1/2 years, I studied and practiced Taekwondo. I currently hold a first-Degree Black Belt, and will be working on my 2nd degree soon after graduating college. I was on the Demonstration team as well as the leadership team. This especially is something I love and strive to be great at. So here's some information about it that you may find interesting.
What is Taekwondo?
is a Korean traditional and national Martial Art with its origin’s in the martial arts of China and Karate (which also originated in China though it's Japanese). It can be described as “the world's most widely practice martial art, an Olympic sport, an artistic discipline, a system of self-defense, and a way of life.”
- One of its distinguishing characteristics is its heavy use of kicking techniques.
- The word Taekwondo can be split up into Tae – foot or kicking, kwon-hand or punching, do-art or way.
- Developed over the 5000 year Korean history- started out as "Subak" or "Taekkyon," ancient forms of taekwondo.
- Combines physical technique with mental training and discipline.
"Through Tae Kwon Do training, practitioners should develop many physical attributes including flexibility, strength, speed, balance and coordination. Also through training, practitioners should improve their character, attitude and manners. Practitioners should also develop integrity and self-discipline, and should become considerate, helpful and respectful people, therefore should become assets to their communities and should help to develop a more peaceful world."
Courtesy: To be thoughtful and considerate of others. Students and instructors should be polite, and show consideration for others.
Integrity: To be honest and good. Practitioners should live by a code of moral values and principles
Perseverance: To never give up in the pursuit of one's goals. Students should welcome challenges, because challenges cause us to grow and improve.
Self-Control: To have control of your body and mind. Practitioners should intend to control actions and reactions in all situations.
Indomitable Spirit: To have courage in the face of adversity. Practitioners should never be dominated by, or have his spirit broken by another.
Terminology and Techniques
There are many techniques a student of Taekwondo learns, as well as the terminology, most of which is Korean, to go along with them.
These are practiced to use in sparing, tournaments, breaking techniques, forms, and self-defense. At many schools the first couple of kicks learned would be the Front kick and Axe kick, which help to lay the foundation for many of the other techniques. Many of the following are the most basic and commonly used techniques.
- Axe Kick - Naeryeo Chagi(kick that focuses on hitting from above with the bottom of the foot
- Back Kick - Dwi Chagi ("D-we-cha-gee") (similar to side kick)
- Crescent Kick - Bandal Chagi( An axe kick that makes a curve before coming down, so impact is horizontal)
- Flying Back Kick - Twi-myo Dwi Chagi (jumping into a back kick)
- Flying Side Kick - Twi-myo Yeop Chagi (jumping side kick “mulan-kick”)
- Front Kick - Ap Chagi ("Ap-cha-gee")
- Hook Kick - Huryeo Chagi(spinning kick where the leg hooks after impact)
- Jumping Front Kick - Eedan Ap Chagi(employs a switch of the knees to propel higher )
- Kick - Chagi ("Cha-gee")
- Knee Strike - Moreup Chigi… FYI - Use chigi which means strike and not chagi which means kick.
- Push Kick - Meereo Chagi
- Roundhouse Kick - Dollyo Chagi ("Dole-ya-cha-gee")( kick with top of the foot, turning hip to kick with horizontal motion)
- Scissor Kick - Kawi Chagi
- Side Kick - Yeop Chagi ("Yup-cha-gee")(kicks with knife of the foot with hip twisting to give power)
- Spinning Hook Kick - Dwi Huryeo Chagi
- Tornado Kick- Doolgae Chagi- (kick especially belonging to Taekwondo, Spinning 180 degrees to then do a round house in midair creates and extremely powerful and versatile kick)
While kicks are extensively used and focused on, blocks are essential to self-defense. There are normally 2 parts to a block practiced in forms to create second nature motions. First is the “chamber” or place your hand is coming from in preparation, and second, the actual block is the motion and “snap” from the chamber to what one is blocking.
Basic Blocks - Knife Hand Blocks and Closed Fist Blocks
- Low block - Bring the outside of your forearm down (with fist closed) below your waist in order to protect against leg & lower body strikes.
- High block - Bring the outside of your forearm over your head to protect against high attacks (i.e. axe kicks).
- Inside block - Bring the outside of your forearm "inside" across your face in order to protect your head from opposite side attacks.
- Outside block - Bring the outside of your forearm level with your shoulders or head in order to protect your head & upper body. More natural than an inside block as you are bringing your arm "outside" to defend against an attack. See the videos below for an example.
- Outside forearm block
- Knife hand block - Rather than a closed fist, you used an "open" hand to block. Useful in order to block and grab an opponent's leg or a wrist.
- Inside palm block - An almost instinctive block as you try to protect your face, etc. Do an inside block with an open fist (versus a closed fist).
- Downward palm block - Another instinctive block where you try to block a kick with your palm (an open hand). However, if you do this block incorrectly, your fingers might bend "backwards". Ouch!
- Double outside block - Protect yourself on two sides.
- Double low block - Protect yourself from a kick to the groin. Cross your arms into an "X".
- Double high block - Stronger protection against high attacks. Cross your arms into an "X".
- Double knife hand block - Used in many forms.
Blocks Using Kicking Techniques
- Push Kick - Bring your leg up to block an opponent's forward momentum.
- Cut Kick - Use this kick to block an opponent's kick. Then quickly turn into a jumping back kick.
Forms are patterns of repetitive movements consisting of various stances, attacks, and blocks that train and develop muscle memory for self-defense and striking techniques. They focus on developing and perfecting technique
. Schools related to the World Taekwondo Federation use Taeguk forms, of which there are 8, along with 3 basic (kibon) forms for the very beginning belts. Once Black belt is reached, forms are more advanced starting with Koryo.
Each form represents something symbolic and focuses on particular attacks and blocks. My personal favorite is Taegeuk chil jang because it represents the mountain with it’s steady firm movements as well as its portrayal of interesting techniques. I actually won second place out of four at a Young-in University tournament, losing only to someone performing Taegeuk pal-jang(number 8).
Below lists the forms up until the 8th Taegeuk. These are learned and practiced in the levels leading up to black belt. Of course different schools have differing belt systems, so the belt level each is learned at varies with the school. As stated above, first-degree black belts learn Koryo, while higher degrees learn even more advanced forms. There are many tutorials and videos
to help the everyday student practice and can supliment learning.
- Taegeuk 1 (IL JANG) - A series of actions expressing the KEON principle of Palgwe. KEON represents heaven and light, which is the beginning of everything.
- Taegeuk 2 (YI JANG) - A series of actions expressing the TAE principle of Palgwe. TAE represents joyfulness so this should be performed gently but firmly. This principle teaches us that mind must remain firm, but outwardly we must appear gentle.
- Taegeuk 3 (SAM JANG) - A series of actions expressing the RI principle of Palgwe. RI represents fire and the sun. Fire gives us warmth and the sun gives us light, and both represent hope. It should be performed rhythmically, with some outbursts of energy and with passion.
- Taegeuk 4 (SA JANG) - A series of actions expressing the JIN principle of Palgwe. JIN represents thunder. Thunder and lightning are sources of fear and danger. This principle teaches us that we must remain calm and brave when faced with danger and fear.
- Taegeuk 5 (OH JANG) - A series of actions expressing the SEON principle of Palgwe. SEON represents the wind. While wind can be terrible as in a tornado, the nature of wind is gentle. This principle teaches us that we must remain humble in mind, and only act forcefully when we must.
- Taegeuk 6 (YOOK JANG) - A series of actions expressing the GAM principle of Palgwe. GAM represents water and the principle teaches us that we must proceed with confidence when facing difficulty and hardship if we are to overcome them.
- Taegeuk 7 (CHIL JANG) - A series of actions expressing the GAN principle of Palgwe. GAN represents the Mountain. It teaches us that we must attain the stability of the mountain. We must not act in a hasty manner and should know when to proceed and when to stop.
- Taegeuk 8 (PAL JANG) - A series of actions expressing the GON principle of Palgwe, which is defined as the quality of being receptive. GON represents the earth, which is the cradle of life. It is the earth that embodies the creative forces of heaven.
- Taekwondo students learn many different Korean terms, and use many of them in class, to show respect, or for other various reasons
- Anunghasimnika – How are you? Formal (said at the beginning of class to Master)
- Kamisamnida- Thank You (said at end of class to Master and instructors, also used at various times)
- Kungye- bow (common act of respect in Korean culture- in TKD class, Students bow to the flags, more experienced students, masters, instructors, when they enter or leave the dojang, and at sparring)
- Dojang – Korean equivilant to Dojo, or school
- Joonbii- ready (used to denote readiness or give a command to be ready)
- Chariot – Attention(used to call to attention all students)
- shiJak- Start(usually used to declare a starting point like ready..set.. Go
- Kiyup- Yelling, yelling helps with breath, muscle control, and readiness, not just to scare people.
Tournaments and Demonstration Teams-
One great thing about taekwondo is that it not only does it teach self-defense, it gives the opportunity for competition with others across the world. Tournaments are the perfect setting to meet other Taekwondo students from around the state, country, and even the world. They are also a great way to encourage extra training. It was once said that it should be required for all students to participate at least once in a tournament before they can test for black belt. This is because competition drives students to train and perfect everything they’ve learned, which could be worth as much as 3 months of normal practice. I can say this from experience.
What can you do at tournaments?
One can compete in-
- Poomsae (forms)
- Students perform their level of poomsae with 1-3 others
- Sparring consists of one-on-one or two-on-one short “fights.” Chest gear, arm/shin guards, helmet, and mouth guards required. Point system usually consists of 1 point per hit (kick and maybe a really strong punch, punching is normally used to push away, or catch off guard) to the abdomen, 3 point per kick to the head (black belt level only), and 2 points per spinning kick (that actually hit).
- Board Breaking
- Here one is required to break a reasonable amount of boards. One is scored usually based on the techniques used, boards broken, and spirit (yelling, ready stance, etc.)
- Spirit(usually for 5 and younger)
- Demonstration (see below)
What are Demonstration teams???
One of the categories usually held at tournaments was Demonstration. It is common that a Taekwondo School would take many of its best students and create a demonstration team. This team would go and perform for entertainment, cultural exposure, and recruitment. They perform different techniques, unique “musical forms” (basically dances), and self-defense skits to “demonstrate” different Taekwondo aspects. Students who participate in demonstration teams often train much harder and learn many more advanced techniques than regular student. While normally older students may participate in a demonstration team, a tournament would most likely require all participants to be under 18. There are also professional demonstration teams, such as the__ k-tigers
from South Korea, that preform at various high class events.
I personally was on the Demonstration team
for my school named (10) Majest Martial Arts at the time.
Black belts and belt testing
There have been many times where if I even briefly mention that I have a black belt, I usually get one of two reactions. – There’s no way, and “omg you can break me in half!”
Attaining a first degree black belt in any martial art is an arduous task that can take many years. However, that doesn’t mean that someone with a black belt knows everything and is a master. I know some black belts where it’s obvious they didn’t take any of their training seriously. This can happen because, people struggling to advance in belt level can just “get by” on testing, and eventually pass black belt testing. This is why I find the statement “you could break me in half,” interesting. A first-degree black belt is more like a
“trained student”, one who has learned most of the basics, and is ready to learn more advanced techniques. Dan – the term for black belt (So I would be 1st Dan) actually means level. So it does not denote mastery. One is not considered a master (Sabunim) until they are 4th Dan. At 6th and above one could be called Grand-Master.
There are 9 possible degrees of black belts in Taekwondo. The 8th and 9th being reserved for special people who have advanced taekwondo, extremely honorable, etc. thus while skill is necessary up until 7th, later degrees focus especially on character. There is also an elusive extremely rare 10th degree.