Taekwondo martial arts have been around for over 2,000 years, though it is only in the last 50 years or so that they have been widely practiced in the Western world. Now Taekwondo is becoming increasingly popular among people of all ages, from 4 to 84. In fact, since 2000 it has been an Olympic sport.
Taekwondo is a physical and mental self-defense discipline that is thought to have originated in Korea in around 50 BC. The term is derived from three Korean words: tae “foot,” kwon, “fist” or “hand,” and do, meaning “way of” or “art of.” Taekwondo therefore basically means way of foot and hand.”
Up till the middle of the 20th century, there had been many different forms of martial arts in Korea, but in about 1955, the Korean president ordered that they should be unified, and in 1961 the different styles were unified as the Korean Taekwondo Association. Shortly after this the sport arrived in the US, and in 1963 the US Taekwondo Association was formed, replaced in 1974 by the US Taekwondo Foundation. Meanwhile the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) was established in 1966, and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) in 1973.
Taekwondo was originally conceived as a way to ensure the overall physical and mental health, not only of the individuals practicing it, but of their family and circle of friends as well. It is primarily practiced as a means of self-defense, and of developing the psychological confidence of being able to protect yourself should the need arise. Programs are designed to keep the body well conditioned, and the mind alert and clear.
The basic movements of Taekwondo are known as forms or patterns, a translation of the Korean word poomse. The forms are a series of defending and attacking movements, performed in a set pattern against an imaginary opponent. Both the physical and mental aspects of the forms are equally important — the mental aspect being the state of mind in which the movements are performed, while the physical aspect includes the speed, strength, endurance and balance required for the movements.
There are two main sets of forms, one established by the ITF and one by the WTF. The ITF style consists of 24 patterns, one for each hour of the day. The WTF set up eight forms, collectively known as Taegeuk or unity. Each form is more complex than the previous one, and to obtain a Taekwondo Black Belt the student has to perform all eight consecutively, from memory. Most forms begin with a defensive movement, symbolizing the non-aggressive nature of the sport, and this is followed up with a counter-attack.
The immense growth in popularity of Taekwondo martial arts is largely due to the measurable benefits people experience from practicing the sport. Of course it is often learned as a means of self-defense, and its effectiveness is based largely on kicks, including the front, back, side and roundhouse kicks. Learning these develops strength and speed.
However, most people find the benefits go far beyond this, as the physical demands of Taekwondo require a firm control of mind over body. As you progress, your body becomes a physical manifestation of your mind. Most people find that the clarity of thought, strength of will, and positive mindset engendered by Taekwondo spill over into their day-to-day lives.
Apart from the clear physical and mental benefits, most people simply enjoy Taekwondo martial arts for their own sake. The sport is exciting and challenging, brings a lot of fun and helps in making friends. Whatever your age or level of fitness, there is absolutely nothing to stop you enrolling and making progress in this unique pastime.
Incoming search terms:
- tae kwon do