What is Tae Kwon Do?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

Tae Kwon Do, also spelled Taekwondo or T'aegwondo, is one of the most widely known and practiced combat sport and martial art in the world. This sport originated in Korea and has been used and practiced ever since. This sport accentuates kicks thrown from a mobile stance, so by using the greater power of the leg, it can damage an opponent from a distance. It also involves a series of turns, blocks, punches, and even joint locks.

Tae Kwon Do begin during the Koguryo Dynasty, in present day Korea. Early evidence of this martial art was found in tombs of warriors', dating as far back as the year 3 AD. Taekkyon, which was a antecessor of Tae Kwon Do, spread from the Koguryo Kingdom all the way to the Silla Kingdom. Warriors' of this particular era practiced the martial art as a part of their regular regimen. These warriors even made certain commitments that they had to live by. That basic way of life for them is still practiced by Tae Kwon Do students today. Even in 1910, when Japan invaded Korea, the Japanese government outlawed all forms of Tae Kwon Do, and Koreans had to practice in secret. At the end of World War II, many Kwans(martial arts schools) formed. Some of these Kwans were known as "Chung Do Kwan", "Chang Moo Kwan", and "Chi Do Kwan". In 1957, all the Kwans united under one name-- Tae Kwon Do.

In Korean, tae means to "kick or strike with the foot"; kwon mean "fist or strike with the hand"; and do means "way". All together, it means something like "the way of the foot and the hand". Tae Kwon Do is famed for its kicking techniques, which classifies it from karate or some southern styles of kung fu. The account for this sport is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon any martial artist has, which means kicks has the largest potential to perform powerful strikes without backfire.

This sport establishes strength, balance, flexibility, speed and stamina. It is also a sport for males and females, and for people of all ages. Like most martial arts, Taw Kwon Do has ten student ranks(known as gup), and about ten black belt ranks(known as dan). New students first begin at the 10th gup, and work their way to the 1st gup. After this happens, a student then advances into a rank called dan bo, meaning "black belt candidate." When a certain time has passed, the student can then take a dan test, and then can become a 1st dan. In dan rank, the student can then work to get to the 10th dan.

Tae Kwon Do is actually one of the most popular martial arts seen on film, because of all the impressive kicking techniques used. It's even more shown than Japanese and Chinese martial arts. It can also be seen in Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Other than that, video games like Mortal Kombat consist of characters using Tae Kwon Do as their fighting style.

submitted by L. Chapman