What Is Tae Kwon Do (Taekwondo)?


Originating in Korea over 2,000 years ago, this form of martial arts focuses on the art of self-defense. Taekwondo has been recognizes as one of the oldest types of martial arts in the world. The name was chosen due to its appropriateness to fit the description of this martial art form, with the following breakdown of the word “taekwondo:”

  • “Tae” refers to the foot
  • “Kwan” refers to the hands
  • “Do” refers to “the way” or mind

“Tae” has to do with more than just the feet and actually references the entire lower torso. It is also this area of the body that is responsible for the development of the center of balance required with taekwondo. Learning the proper techniques of balance is essential in order to have the force necessary to do the famous flying kicks, jumping, and hopping associated with Tae Kwon Do.

Just like “Tae,” “Kwon” has to do more than with the striking and hitting of the hands. This term refers to the entire upper body, arms, elbows, fingers, fists, wrists, and finger tips. These other body parts are also used to hit and strike with, so are aptly included with the term “Kwon.”

In addition, another inherit meaning of “Kwon,” which relates well with striking and hitting, is defense. Defense is necessary in taekwondo as it is the complement of an attack or strike. In order to learn the proper balance between form and technique, striking, hitting, and defense must be fully explored and learned.

“Do” has to do with the synergy between the mind and the body. For this reason, this is why it means “the way.” It is never sufficient enough to simply learn the physical aspects of “Tae” and “Kwon.” Rather, a devout student must develop perfect harmony between the body and mind by also learning the mind aspects of the art and gaining an understanding of how they are meant to work together, and embodying the spirit of “oneness” to create harmony.

As you can see, taekwondo requires the development of both the physical and mental. When a student can create the perfect balance between mind and body, they feel a sense of emotional well-being, with a freedom from fear and stress. This results in a fully developed system of self-defense that further extends beyond the sport of taekwondo to create a unique and enhanced lifestyle.

The taekwondo form of martial arts falls into two main branches depending on the school. There is the World Taekwondo Federation (WFT) branch and the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) branch.

Of the two forms of Asian martial arts recognized by the Olympics, the WTF branch is the one used in the Olympics. This form of martial arts first appeared in the Seoul Games in South Korea in 1988 as a demonstration sport. Due to high interest in taekwondo, it eventually became an official Olympic sport where participants earned medals during the Sydney Games in Australia in 2000.

Initially, judges had to tally scores on paper. However, as taekwondo has continued to evolve, scores are now tracked by a fully electronic impact scoring system. This new scoring system helps make the regulations and rules easier to adhere to, gives all athletes a fair opportunity, and removes the potential for discrimination.

Just like the evolution of Taekwondo in the Olympics, this form of martial arts still continues to evolve today.