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What taekwondo is IS NOT


Before explaining what taekwondo is, let’s examine what taekwondo is not. There is nothing mystical or magical about taekwondo, it is only one of many martial arts. Any claims made by taekwondo are probably also made by other martial arts and vice versa. Some martial art styles claim to be the best, but when examined closely, all the empty hand martial arts are basically the same. Some may concentrate on different areas, such as throwing or grappling, but underlying all martial arts are the same basic principles.

Taekwondo is not a fad

Oriental style martial arts have not always been popular in the United States. They were relatively rare until after World War II when military personnel began returning after being stationed in Japan during the post-war occupation. While stationed in Japan and later in Korea after the Korean War, they learned about the local cultures, which included learning each country's martial arts. In the 1950s, Japanese jujutsu and judo were popular in the United States. In the 1960s, karate gained popularity with taekwondo starting its foothold, due in part to Japanese (karate) and Korean (taekwondo) instructors who were immigrating to the country.

In the 1970s, President Nixon's opening of relations with China led to kung-fu being the "in" martial art. James Bond movies and Bruce Lee in the television show Longstreet caused increased interest in the martial arts. Hong Kong kung-fu movies began invading theaters.

In the 1980s, the high kicks and clever marketing of taekwondo made it the dominant art, while the mystique and weapons of the Teenage Ninja Turtles drew more children to the martial arts in general.

In the 1990s, the eclectic or freestyle martial arts gained favor; kickboxing, muay-thai, shoot-fighting, and mixed martial arts came into favor, along with aerobic exercise programs, such as boxercise, kickboxing, taebo, and body combat.

In the 2000s, taekwondo's popularity exploded due to its being made an Olympic sport.

In the 2000s and 2010s, "realistic" fighting arts gained popularity and the mixed martial arts become mainstream due to pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fights.

Through all of this, karate and taekwondo maintained their hold as the most popular of the martial arts. Karate has so many variations that no one style was able to gain a stronghold. Gradually, taekwondo took over and has become the most popular martial art in the United States and most of the world.

Fads usually do not require physical or mental disciple; they only require physical action. With no discipline or commitment required, fads tend to get boring after a while, so people move to the next thing in vogue.

Taekwondo has demonstrated that it is not a fad. It has been around for decades and has been popular in the United States for over 60 years.  In taekwondo, one does not just perform a movement; the movement must be performed with power in a precise way at a precise time. To achieve this, taekwondo students must commit themselves to strict physical and mental disciple for a long period. Students who stay with taekwondo long enough to develop this disciple will probably stay committed to taekwondo for the rest of their lives.

Taekwondo is not the best martial art?

Students of a martial art tend to defend it and think it is the best martial art in the world. Just as college, students defend the college they attend; martial students tend to defend the style in which they first started training. Taekwondo students are no different.

Like other martial arts, taekwondo is a physical and mental discipline. There are many other physical endeavors that require physical and mental discipline, such as bodybuilding, distance running, golf, auto racing, and even bowling. Some are more physical than mental and vice versa. Therefore, taekwondo is not unique in what it does.

Some sports are practiced for pure sport, while others, such as taekwondo have an underlying purpose. The underlying purpose of taekwondo is combat. Taekwondo may be practiced as a pure sport, as a pure fighting art, or as a combination of both.

Taekwondo is not ancient

Modern taekwondo has only existed since 1955, but it is based on shotokan karate, another 20th-century martial art, and ancient Korean martial arts, such as taekkyon and subak, that have lost favor in modern times. Therefore, while taekwondo is not an ancient martial, it does have some ancient influences.

Is taekwondo a sport or an art?

Taekwondo has developed into two separate martial arts, one a traditional martial art and the other a martial sport, so confusion is understandable. Traditional taekwondo is a martial art with all the characteristics of other classical martial arts; as such, it considers sparring competition to be only one aspect of the overall art. However, in sport taekwondo, sparring competition is its primary concern.

The two types of taekwondo differ in their approaches to teaching and in some of their basic theories. As is explained in other topics, the two types are in constant conflict with each other. Don't get caught up in the hype surrounding taekwondo or its organizations. Don't let power hungry instructors or the power struggles between taekwondo organizations interfere with your study of taekwondo.

Taekwondo does not have weapons

Taekwondo is an empty hand fighting art. For a hand to be empty, it cannot be holding a weapon. In addition, taekwondo has a history of not training in weapons.


Enjoy taekwondo for what it is, an empty hand fighting art that concentrates on kicking techniques and requires intense physical training and strict mental discipline, while also being fun to perform.

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