Taekwondo is the most popular Korean martial art and Korea’s national sport. It is one of the most popular martial arts in the world and in 2000 it became an official Olympic sport.
In Korean “Tae” means “kicking and destroying with my leg”, “Kwon” means “punching” and “Do” means “art”. In free translation, Taekwondo means “The art of kicking and punching”.
The basic principle of Taekwondo is discipline and concentration, which can help an individual perform physically, and that’s why they are constantly being cultivated in training by those who practice the sport and Taekwondo teaches the use of arms in combat, both as a means of defense and offence, and is therefore a martial art based on kicking and that’s why it’s ideal for those who are more flexible than strong.
The principles of Taekwondo, as recorded by the founder of the sport, Master CHOI HONG HI in the Taekwondo Encyclopedia he wrote, are as follows:
- Nobility (YeUi)
- Integrity (YomChi)
- Persistence (InNae)
- Self-control (GukGi)
- Indomitable Spirit (Baekjul Boolgool)
EXPLANATION OF THE PRINCIPLES
Needless to say, that the success and failure of Taekwondo education depends largely on how one adheres to and applies the principles of Taekwondo, which should be the guiding lines for everyone who is seriously practicing this art.
It can be said that nobility is an unwritten rule we inherited by the ancient masters of philosophy as a means of enlightening human beings, while maintaining society in harmony.
INTEGRITY (Yom Chi)
In Taekwondo, the definition of the word integrity is looser than the one we usually find in dictionaries. One should be able to define right and wrong and be conscious enough to feel guilty, in case of wrong doing.
PERSISTENCE (In Nae)
Surely, happiness and prosperity are most likely to come to those who are patient. To achieve something, whether it’s a higher degree or the perfection of a technique, we have to set our goal and then persist.
SELF-CONTROL (Guk Gi)
This principle is extremely important in how one behaves both in a friendly match and in their personal life. Losing self-control in a friendly match can be proven disastrous both for the student and the opponent. According to Lao-Tzu “the term “stronger” refers more to one who defeats themselves rather than someone else”.
INDOMITABLE SPIRIT (Baekjul Boolgool)
A serious Taekwondo student behaves in all circumstances with humility and sincerity. When they encounter injustice, they treat those who are fond of war with no fear or hesitation, with indomitable spirit, regardless of who the opponent is or how large they are in number.
The two main types of Taekwondo are the one by the ITF International Federation which represents the traditional aspect of martial arts and the one by the WTF World Federation which is considered the more athletic and progressive form of the sport with the Olympics as the main goal and top priority.
In Taekwondo, just like it is in other martial arts, uses a hierarchical belt system, which defines the level of technique and experience of the athlete. There are 10 points in total, which in Korean are called Gups. The lowest point is the 10th, which corresponds to the white belt and the highest the 1 st which corresponds to the black belt.
Specifically, the assignment of points to the color of the belt is as follows:
- 10th Gup (White Belt): It symbolizes purity as the beginner student has no previous knowledge of Taekwondo.
- 9th Gup (Half yellow Belt)
- 8th Gup (Yellow Belt): It symbolizes the land where the plant sprout grows and the stage where the Taekwondo principles are founded.
- 7th Gup (Half green Belt)
- 6th Gup (Green Belt): It symbolizes the growth of the plant and in Taekwondo that’s where the development of the student’s abilities begins.
- 5th Gup (Half blue Belt)
- 4th Gup (Blue Belt): It symbolizes the sky towards which the plant grows into a tree just like the Taekwondo training grows as well.
- 3rd Gup (Half red Belt)
- 2nd Gup (Red Belt): It symbolizes the danger and draws the student’s attention to have self-restrain and warn their opponent.
- 1st Gup ((Half black Belt)
- 1st Dan (Black Belt): The opposite of white, and hence the symbolism of maturity and advanced knowledge. It also symbolizes the courage and nerve of those who wear it.
In order to acquire a new belt, the athlete has to pass a test, where they mainly apply techniques against fantastic opponents (tul), in the presence of the teacher and other judges. As long as an athlete is below the black belt, he or she is in the grade of Gups. With the white belt, they have 10 Gups. Every time they change belt, the Gups go down by one until they have 1 Gup with the half black belt. Once they acquire the black belt, they have one Dan. Then, they can keep taking tests with their country’s Taekwondo National Federation to get more Dan’s. The maximum number of Dan’s is 9.
Taekwondo is characterized by spectacular high and low kicks (up to the height of the belt and not lower). Kick boxing has borrowed many of Taekwondo’s kicks, but also has some very low kicks.
During a match, hitting under the belt, hitting someone at the back and punching in the face (at World Taekwondo), as well as locks are prohibited. The two opponents wear a hogu, head protector, shin pads, hand gloves and a groin cup and each match consists of three two-minute rounds (the number of rounds depends on the competition). Depending on how and where one kicks (2 points for a kick to the chest, 3 points for a kick to the head, 4 points for a kick that involves turning or spinning, 1 point for a punch) they get points.
Violations, on the other hand, deduct points. The match is being closely watched by a referee and from a distance by the judges. At the end of the match, the winner is the competitor with the most points.