Taekwondo (태권도) Korean martial art and the national sport of Korea. In Korean, tae (태) means “to strike or break with foot”; kwon (권) means “to strike or break with fist”; and do (도) means “way,” “method,” or “art.” Thus, taekwondo may be loosely translated as “the art of the foot and fist” or “the art of kicking and punching.”
In 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 into several domains: as with many other arts, it combines combat techniques, self-defense, sport, exercise, meditation, and philosophy. Taekwondo is also used by the South Korean military as part of its training. Gyeorugi, a type of sparring, has been an Olympic event since 2000.
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 the South Korean military forces; 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), whereas traditional taekwondo tends to emphasize power and self-defense. Both methods of training are taught at UCTA.
The art in general emphasizes kicks thrown from a mobile stance, employing the leg’s greater reach and power (compared to the arm). The greatest difference between various styles, or at least the most obvious, is generally accepted to be the differing styles and rules of sport and competition. 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.
Through disciplined training, Tae Kwon Do improves both the mind and body, placing great emphasis on the development of personal character. Students are taught that self control, self discipline, kindness and humility must accompany their increased physical strength and ability.