Taekwondo is a hard-style martial art which was founded in Korea (Korean martial arts). It is considered to be a defense-style martial art, combative technique, a sport, philosophy and exercise. Although this martial art is a native art of Korea, it has been influenced by the martial arts of China, Japan and traditional Korean fighting arts. Taekwondo is also the national sport in South Korea.
A loose translation of “taekwondo” means “the way of the foot and the fist.” This is quite an appropriate translation because most of the martial art’s techniques include powerful kicks, jumps, spins, hand-strikes and blocks. While sparring is acceptable for all practitioners, grappling is only performed by the higher practiced individuals with ‘higher’ belt levels.
At the end of the Korean War, ten Taekwondo schools existed in Korea. Shortly after this, the martial art made its appearance in North America. Some of the first teachings took place in the state of Texas by instructor Jhoon Rhee. At that time, the martial art was labeled Karate and the name “Taekwondo” was relatively known to the West.
Taekwondo comes in two major styles including Kukkiwon, which incorporates the sparring system called Gyeorugi. This system has become one of the games in the summer Olympics since 2000 and is rules by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). Modern teachings of this martial art are also supported by the World Taekwondo Federation, which is an association that supports the idea that anyone can learn the martial art, regardless of sex, size and age. The other major style is governed by the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). Because it is so widespread internationally, many students partake in this martial art because it helps strengthen and tone muscles, develop stamina, flexibility and speed.
Although many people think of this martial art as a sport, there are many valuable self-defense techniques that can be learned. The aerobic-like work-out includes many different types of kicks including roundhouse kicks, front kicks, side kicks, hook kicks, axe kicks, jump kicks and spin kicks. Taekwondo students wear white uniforms with a belt around the waist that indicates rank.