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What is Tae Kwon Do?


 Taekwondo is one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts, that teaches more than physical fighting skills. It is a discipline that shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind. Today, it has become a global sport that has gained an international reputation, and stands among the official games in the Olympics.


Let's take a closer look at the meaning of the word "Tae" "Kwon" "Do." It is composed of three parts as shown in the English spelling, though it is one word in Korean. "Tae" means "foot," "leg," or "to step on"; "Kwon" means "fist," or "fight"; and "Do" means the "way" or "discipline." If we put these three parts together, we can see two important concepts behind "Tae Kwon Do".
First, Taekwondo is the right way of using Tae and Kwon 'fists and feet,' or all the parts of the body that are represented by fists and feet. Second, it is a way to control or calm down fights and keep the peace. This concept comes from the meaning of Tae Kwon 'to put fists under control' [or 'to step on fists']. Thus Taekwondo means "the right way of using all parts of the body to stop fights and help to build a better and more peaceful world."
Taekwondo has been developing with the 5000-year long history of Korea, being called by several different names in the course. In Korea, Taekwondo began as a defense martial art called "Subak" or "Taekkyon," and developed as a way of training body and mind in the ancient kingdom of Koguryo, under the name of "Sunbae." In the Shilla period, it had become the backbone of Hwarangdo that aimed at producing leaders of the country.
Taekwondo today is similar to the martial arts in other Oriental countries and shares some features with them, because in the course of its evolution it has gained many different styles that existed in the martial arts of the countries surrounding Korea, like Japan and China.
But Taekwondo is very different from many such oriental martial arts. First, physically it is very dynamic with active movements that include a mirage of foot skills. Second, the principle physical movements are in simpatico with that of the mind and life as a whole. Third, it possesses dynamic poses from another perspective.
Taekwondo can be characterized by unity: the unity of body, mind, and life, and the unity of the pose ["poomsae"] and confrontation, and cracking down. When you do Taekwondo, you should make your mind peaceful and synchronize your mind with your movements, and extend this harmony to your life and society. This is how in Taekwondo the principle of physical movements, the principle of mind training, and the principle of life become one and the same. On the other hand, the right poomsae lead to the right confrontation, which will eventually produce great destructive power.
How come we reach such a unity in Taekwondo? Taekwondo is a way of life, much like having a job, raising a family, fighting for a cause, or any one of numerous raison d'etre. What makes Taekwondo different from these is that it is an activity for survival in extremely antagonistic situations. One must always overcome the enemy that is trying to cause harm. But simply winning a fight is not enough to guarantee one's safety, because the enemy may recuperate and attack again. Moreover, there may be many other enemies than the one that was just defeated. One cannot ever feel safe unless one gains permanent peace. To attain this permanent or lasting peace, one needs unity. This is what Taekwondo aim for. Otherwise Taekwondo would be no different from any other street-fighting skills.
Taekwondo pursues harmonious growth and improvements of life through its unique activities. This is why one could say Taekwondo is a way of life. To ultimately enable ourselves to lead more valuable lives, we would do well by finding the guiding principles deeply hidden in Taekwondo.


Click here for more on the history of Taekwondo from the WTF


Tae Kwon Do Tenets

1. Courtesy (Ye ee)
- to promote the spirit of mutual concessions.
- to be ashamed of one's vices, contempting those of others.
- to be polite to one another
- to encourage a sense of justice
- to distinguish instructor from student and senior from junior.

2. Integrity (Yom Chi)
- In Tae Kwon Do, integrity means being able to define right from wrong, and have the conscience if wrong, to feel guilt. Examples:
- the instructor who misrepresents himself and his art by presenting improper techniques to his students because of lack of knowledge, or because of apathy
- student who misrepresents himself by "fixing" breaking material.
- student who requests rank from an instructor, or attempts to purchase rank.
- student who gains rank for ego purposes or the feeling of power.
- instructor who promotes the art for materialistic gains.

3. Perserverance (In Nae)
There is an old Oriental saying, "Patience leads to virtue or merit". A serious student must learn not to be impatient; to continue steadfastily, to perservere.

4. Self Control (guk Gi)
This tenet is extremely important inside and outside of the Do Jang whether conducting ones' self in free-sparring or in ones' personal affairs. A loss of ones' self control can prove disastrous to both student and opponent. An inability to work within ones' capability is also lack of self control.

5. Indomitable Spirit (Baekjul Boolgool)
A serious student will at all times be modest and honest. If confronted with injustice, he will deal with the belligerent without fear or hesitation and, with an indomitable spirit, regardless of whomever or how many the number may be.


Tae Kwon Do Students Oath

I shall observe the tenets of Tae Kwon Do.

I shall respect instructors and seniors.

I shall never misuse Tae Kwon Do.

I will be champion of freedom and justice.

I will build a more peaceful world.

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