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What is Taekwondo?


Thanks to Pak’s Academy Prime Taekwondo for the image.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that teaches self-defense techniques and the philosophy of how to live a non-violent life. If you think about it, these two things go very well together. It’s important to be able to protect yourself if attacked, and it’s important to have the discipline to only use your self-defense skills in those situations. With both of these skills in balance, you become an enforcer of peace.


To understand the meaning of taekwondo, it’s important to understand that you may see this word broken out as Tae Kwon Do. In fact, when you dissect the word to learn its meaning, this is what you will want to do. According to an article by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), Tae means “foot, leg, or to step on.” Kwon means “fist or fight.” Do means “the way or discipline.” The WTF asserts that taekwondo fully translates to “the right way of using all parts of the body to stop fights and help to build a better and more peaceful world.”

Taekwondo Class

So, we can see that based on the meaning of taekwondo, it is similar to karate. Both sports are self-defense training that incorporates a non-violence and non-harming philosophy. Both sports contain prearranged sequences of movements called forms. In taekwondo, these are called poomsae, and in karate, these are called kata.

Naturally, there are differences between the two sports. First, taekwondo is primarily known for its kicks and karate for its hand strikes.

Second, some taekwondo schools incorporate weapons training with their program. Weapons include: swords, staffs, sticks, nunchuku, and knives. For more information on these weapons, check out this article.

Finally, taekwondo is an Olympic sport. This, of course, affords it a certain level of prestige. More importantly, this means that the sport is highly monitored and regulated. The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is the governing body, and it has 120 countries as members. This assures quality and consistency throughout the world.

The Attire

Much like karate, in taekwondo, you wear loose-fitting white pants and a white jacket. The jacket is tied with a belt, and the color of your belt reflects your skill level. It seems that the belt color chart is not as straightforward in taekwondo as it is in karate.

Generically, the colors are (from least experience to most experience): white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black. Aside from white and black belts, the other belts may (or may not) have an intermediate level where the color includes a stripe. This all depends on where you practice. For example, one school may have a yellow stripe belt come before the yellow belt, and another school may have a yellow belt with a green stripe come after the yellow belt. It all depends on where you practice.

History of Taekwondo

Taekwondo is one of the oldest martial arts. It has been in practice for over 2,000 years. The earliest recording of taekwondo is a mural on a tomb in Korea that was built between 37 BC and 66 AD. Many kingdoms in Korea used this defense technique against attackers.

According to,

“The introduction of Tae  Kwon  Do in the United States began during the 1950’s when a handful of pioneering master instructors travelled to America to spread the art. Throughout the next few decades Tae  Kwon  Do grew in popularity, not only as a martial art, but as an international sport.

In 1973, Korea hosted the first  Tae  Kwon  Do  World Championships. In that same year, the  World Tae Kwon Do Federation was established as the international governing body for  the sport aspects of Tae  Kwon  Do. Today the WTF counts 120 separate countries as its members, representing 20 million practitioners. These numbers earn Tae  Kwon  Do the distinction of being the most practiced martial art in the world.

Tae Kwon Do first gained acceptance as an Olympic sport when it appeared as a demonstration event in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Tae Kwon Do became a full medal sport competition beginning in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics.”

Find Taekwondo Near You

With its extreme popularity, it’s extremely easy to locate nearby taekwondo schools. As always, I suggest you consult Google first. Watch out, though, because Google will sometimes list all martial arts schools together. If you are specifically wanting taekwondo, make sure to go to the business website.

Next, I suggest you check with your friends. If your friends are like mine, they have opinions and are more than willing to share them. You want to make sure that your school has a good reputation for safely teaching and appropriately advancing students.

Have you practiced Taekwondo? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.

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