Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of Korea. In Korean, the term Taekwondo may be loosely translated as “the art of the foot and fist” or “the art of kicking and punching.”

TaekwondoIn 1989, Taekwondo was the world’s most popular martial art, as measured by the number of practitioners. Its popularity has resulted in the varied development of the martial art by combining combat techniques, self-defense, sport, exercise, meditation, and philosophy. Taekwondo is also used by the South Korean military as part of its training.

Separate from the various Taekwondo organizations, there have been two general branches of Taekwondo development: traditional and sport. The term “traditional Taekwondo” typically refers to the martial art as it was established in the 1950s and 1960s; in particular, the names and symbolism of the traditional patterns often refer to elements of Korean history. Sport Taekwondo has evolved in the decades since then and has a somewhat different focus, especially in terms of its emphasis on speed and competition (as in Olympic sparring). The two are not mutually exclusive, and the distinctions between them are often blurred.

Although there are doctrinal and technical differences between the two main styles and among the various organizations, the art in general emphasizes kicks thrown from a mobile stance, employing the leg’s greater reach and power (compared to the arm). Taekwondo training generally includes a system of blocks, kicks, punches, and open-handed strikes and may also include various take-downs or sweeps, throws, and joint locks. Some Taekwondo instructors also incorporate the use of pressure points, known as jiapsul, as well as grabbing self-defense techniques borrowed from other martial arts, such as hapkido and judo.