Korean martial art

About Taekwondo

We have often been asked to define what TaeKwonDo is, to encapsulate in a few words for which is a vague and elusive concept. When answering such a question, the first thing we try to impress upon is that TaeKwonDo is more than simple physical conditioning, mental training and philosophical study. It has to do with the development of the TaeKwonDo spirit, which carries over into all aspects of a student’s life.

In English, the literal translation of TaeKwonDo is the art of kicking and punching. “Tae” means to kick. “Kwon” means to punch, and “Do” means art. But this is only a superficial translation. That which is truly the essence of TaeKwonDo can not be seen, touched, smelled, tasted, or heard. It can only be experienced.

You may have noticed that we still have not answered the question of what TaeKwonDo is. Our answer is to invite the questioner to experience TaeKwonDo by studying with us. We now extend that same invitation to you. Come study and experience the many benefits of TaeKwonDo.

Explore and discover your true capabilities in an environment where honor and respect is a way of life.

People of all ages, men, women and children, can gain valuable self-esteem, confidence, and the discipline necessary to become successful in all aspects of life.

TAE – Kicking or Jumping Feet

KWON – Punching or Hand Strike

DO – Method, Path, or Art of

       Tae Kwon Do as it was spelled in the mid 50’s by the Korean Kwan (martial art school system) leaders has separated into several large bodies over time with varying priorities and method. Despite these differences the family root cannot be denied and the original value system has persevered in common with all. It should be stated these values may be worded in slightly different fashion, but universal concepts such as Respect, Integrity and Indomitable Spirit are the core philosophy.

     It is the responsibility of each school head to ensure these values remain in focus.

     Taekwondo is a martial art of Korean origin. “Taekwondo” is a Korean term in which “Tae” means legs for kicking and smashing, “Kwon” means hands for blocking and punching and “Do” means the way (i.e the way of the martial art; the way of life).

     Taekwondo is exercise. Taekwondo provides a good exercise for children and adults to increase physical endurance. It tones and develops the practitioner’s body and muscles and gives good cardiovascular workout. Taekwondo’s movements requires extensive use of the joints, which increases the limberness of one’s body. Taekwondo is also a great way to relive stress from the kicking, jabbing and shouting involved during training.

     Taekwondo is a bare handed martial arts form. Taekwondo forms uses bare hands and legs for attacking the opponent. It has become a worldwide martial art due to it’s distinguished powerful and various leg movements that sets it apart from other martial arts. Attacks are agressive but at the same time it also focuses more on the defense aspects. This can act positively for modern people wanting to learn Taekwondo as a way of self defense.

     Taekwondo is a sport. It is now the official competitive sport in major world sporting events such as the Olympic Games, Panam Games, All American Games, South American Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Sea Games etc. Competitive Taekwondo involves safety gear and set attack and defenses, to limit the amount of damage possible. In this way, competitors can enjoy the thrill of competing with lesser risks.

     Taekwondo is discipline and moral. To master Taekwondo techniques is not a walk in the clouds. It is a discipline of the body and mind. It not only trains the body but also develops the mind. The objective of learning Taekwondo is to foster the growth in both areas in order to become a more mature human being. The repeated discipline and moral lessons together with the attacks and defense skills builds the character, as one perseveres through training to master acquired skills. As such, discipline, moral and hard work plays a very important role to become an excellent Taekwondo practitioner.

     Taekwondo is life. A Taekwondo practitioner cannot disregard the fact that what is learned, disciplined and mastered through Taekwondo training can be adopted in real life. This is the true teaching of Taekwondo. Taekwondo is the way of life for those who understand the true meaning of the “Do”.

  • What is the difference between taekwondo and karate?
  • What is the difference between karate, kung fu and Taekwondo?
  • What is the difference between Karate and Taekwondo?
  • What is the difference between what you do and Taekwondo/Japanese Karate/Kempo/Kung Fu?
  • What is the difference between Taekwondo and Hapkido?
  • What’s the difference between Taekwondo, Tae Kwon Do, Taekwon-do, Tang Soo Do, Tae Soo Do, Kong
  • Soo Do, Soo Bahk Do, Su Do, and Korean Karate?
  • So Taekwondo isn’t 2000 years old or older?
  • Who founded Taekwondo?
  • Why ‘supposedly’ on the name?
  • Why ‘supposedly’ on the forms?
  • What is this ‘sine wave’?
  • How is Taekwondo different from Japanese Shotokan Karate
  • What about Tae Kyon?
  • What’s the difference between CHOI’s ITF Taekwon-do and WTF Taekwondo?

What is the difference between taekwondo and karate?

Taekwondo is a Korean art, while karate is a Japanese art. Taekwondo uses most of the same hand techniques as karate but emphasizes the kicks more. Taekwondo is well known for its flashy, high, aerial and/or spinning kicks. However, all martial arts have benefits. We believe that it is more important to be comfortable with the academy’s overall goals, the instructor’s teaching skills, and the learning atmosphere than to choose a school based only on the style of martial art.

What is the difference between karate, kung fu and Taekwondo?

The primary difference between traditional martial systems is country of origin. Traditional karate comes from Okinawa and Japan, kung fu originated in China and Taekwondo began in Korea.

All martial systems share commonalities in the basic science of self-defense. Differences are often a matter of emphasis. Some styles work close and emphasize grappling. Others work further away and emphasize kicking. Traditional karate begins at a middle distance (punching) and then works further away or closer as the student advances.

What is the difference between Karate and Taekwondo?

There are several different styles of Karate. The general public tends to think anyone who wears a white outfit and throws a few kicks and punches is practicing Karate. Saying you practice karate is like saying you drive a car. What make, model, features etc?

Karate is a Japanese martial art. Traditional karate stylists are heavy into kata. Karate-ka (karate students) are known for their powerful reverse punches, back fists, deep stances & low sweep techniques. They utilize basically four different kicks (front snap kick, side kick, roundhouse kick and back kick) and rarely throw any kicks higher than stomach level. The mental mindset is one strike-one kill attitude (put your opponent down with one strike).

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. Taekwondoists (students of TKD) are known for their many varied styles of kicking techniques. Jumping, spinning, flying. two stepping, thrusting over snapping, multiple kicking, high kicking etc. If you have seen kicking techniques on tv (Chuck Norris – Walker Texas Ranger) or in a movie, then chances are those are Korean kicking techniques because they are flashy, fun and dynamic. But don’t think they are not realistic. If you can kick high then think how much faster, natural and more powerful your kick to a persons knee would be if you had to defend yourself in a self defense situation. The dynamic kicking often overshadows the powerful hand techniques of Taekwondo but Taekwondo has the same hand techniques of karate. Why? Because the founder of Taekwondo, General Choi, was a 2nd degree black belt in Japanese karate and incorporated those hand techniques into the martial art we know as Taekwondo today Taekwondo fighters are often more mobile and their stances are often higher than their karate counterparts, allowing them to move & respond faster.

Taekwondo is also known for its stunning breaking demonstrations often breaking and smashing several boards or bricks with their hands or feet. Another difference is that TKD students spend more time stretching their legs than a lot of other styles of martial arts to improve speed, flexibility & power. The mental & moral code of a Taekwondo student is based on the Five Tenets of Taekwondo – Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control & Indomitable Spirit. The Taekwondo student will never quit until the goal is achieved.

What is the difference between what you do and Taekwondo/Japanese Karate/Kempo/Kung Fu?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions of our students so I thought I’d give you a brief description of the above and how we are different.

Taekwondo is of Korean origin. It came out of a blend of Japanese Karate and Tae Kyon, a Korean kicking art. The blend occurred around 1945 under the direction of General Choi Hong Hi and sponsored by the Korean government. It is what I call Long Range fighting art, one which operates at a full arm and leg extensions distance away from the opponent. Taekwondo stresses a lot of kicking, very little punching and very little defense. Sport Taekwondo is almost all kicks and no punches. The main techniques they use is a back leg angle kick, spin back kick and ax kick.

Karate was introduced to Japan by Gichin Funakoshi in the early 1900’s. From that point over 100 styles have come into existence. The best known styles are Shotokan, Goju, Shorinryu, Wado, Shito and Kyokushin. These are also predominantly Long Range styles of fighting. They are fast, aggressive styles which use mostly the back leg front or angle kick and rear punch as their offensive weapons. Defensively they’ll use either block and hit back or back up and then hit back.

Okinawan Karate uses smaller stances and shorter techniques. By this I mean they don’t extend techniques as far out as either Japanese Karate or Taekwondo do and they hit from a closer range. Most Okinawan styles are what I’d call Medium Range styles. Okinawan Karate also tends to use a bit more grappling and pressure point hitting than either Karate or Taekwondo. The main styles are Shorinryu, Isshinryu, Gojuryu and Uechiryu.

Kenpo (or Kempo) is a style introduced to the mainland U.S. from Hawaii by Ed Parker. This is a fast hands, few kicks, close range street oriented style. Ed Parker had taught since the 1950’s and most of all the Kenpo taught in the U.S. are either directly influenced by or are off shoots of him.

Kung Fu (or Gung Fu) is a generic term for Chinese martial arts. There are as many different styles of Kung Fu as there are types of people so it’s hard to pigeon hole Kung Fu into any one type of category. Most traditional styles of Kung Fu use forms practice as the main method of learning and performing their techniques. In their sparing, most traditional Kung Fu uses one side predominantly, i.e. right hand right leg.

So, where does American Freestyle Karate differ from all of these? First, the idea is in the term “Freestyle.” In, freestyle wrestling one can use all sorts of techniques. In Judo (a type of Japanese wrestling) one begins with a grip on the jacket. In Greco-Roman wrestling you can use only standing types of throws. A freestyle wrestler would have the advantage because he wouldn’t be so limited. A freestyle approach is an inclusive one. Each style mentioned has its own strengths and weaknesses. American Freestyle Karate works to maximize and expand the strengths to their fullest potential.

The main points which make American Freestyle Karate different are:

  • Ambidexterity – training of both sides of the body and equality of both hand and leg skills.
  • An effective blocking system.
  • An ability to work from all ranges, not just one.

Training in all aspects of Karate; street defense, art form, competition and personal enhancement.

How do you describe American Freestyle Karate to someone who trains in another Karate style? Simple. It’s an American style founded by Dan Anderson which stresses ambidexterity and effective defense, relies heavily on partner training and stresses both street and sparring application.

American Freestyle Karate is NOT a “best of all styles” approach (example: taking Taekwondo kicks and mixing them with Karate punches, etc.). All the kicks and punches from all different styles are pretty much the same. The difference is in the stress of application. How close, how far, singly or in combinations, block first or wade right in? Those types of considerations are what makes a style.

American Freestyle Karate is inclusive in terms of approach and covers all kinds of attacks and defense. A kicker is in trouble if a wrestler grabs his leg. A long range puncher will get creamed if he’s cornered by a good in-fighter. A boxer will be hurt if a good kicker breaks his legs and so on. American Freestyle Karate includes all of this so that if you ever come up against someone, he won’t have a move or approach that you’ve never seen before and that can make the difference between winning or losing a fight.

This is an overview of American Freestyle Karate and it’s relationship to the other kinds of unarmed combat styles. I personally like to think of it as the next step in it’s evolutionary growth. The main thing to remember about American Freestyle Karate is that it is an inclusive rather than limited style of Karate, which aims to teach a student to be prepared for anything.

What is the difference between Taekwondo and Hapkido?

Sometimes not all that much; there has been a LOT of cross-pollinization.

Virtually everyone in Korea gets some Taekwondo training (it’s their national sport – ever know an American boy who’d NEVER played baseball?). The specialty jumping spinning kicks of Hapkido proved very useful for demonstration and breaking purposes and got adopted into Taekwondo. Any Hosinsool (self-defense) techniques you see in Taekwondo got adopted from out of Hapkido. Any HKDists that want to spar tend to do so under TKD rules and adapt their techniques accordingly. There’s a lot of mixed versions out there. Who originated what techniques? Who cares? But in general if its sport oriented, it’s Taekwondo; and if it’s self-defense oriented, it’s Hapkido.

What’s the difference between Taekwondo, Tae Kwon Do, Taekwon-do, Tang Soo Do, Tae Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, Soo Bahk Do, Su Do, and Korean Karate?

Essentially politics, what set of forms are done, and what rules of sparring are followed. Really all these arts come from the same background, the Koreans that studied Japanese/Okinawin Karate and opened schools (Kwans) after World War II that (mostly) cooperated with each other to achieve more success.

Kong Soo Do = Korean pronounciation for karate-do. Tang Soo Do = Korean pronounciation for way of the Tang hand. Karate Do = Okinawin way of the Kara (Tang dynasty Chinese) hand.

Of the arts pronounced ‘tie kwahn doe’, if they’re spelled: Taekwondo – probably WTF, with the kind of sparring you’ll see in the Olympics, the largest organization.

Taekwon-do – probably ITF, following Hong Hi Choi

Tae Kwon Do – probably with one of the small federations, an independent, probably calling themselves ‘traditional’ with little changes in the last 50 years.

All of these are kicking/punching arts that have placed more stress on the kicking aspects than did their forebears. How much stress is placed on competition, sparring, forms, etc in a particular school varies much more with the particular instructor than with what it’s called or what organization the school is affiliated with.

So Taekwondo isn’t 2000 years old or older?

No. It’s true people have always been fighting, and some have always been better at it, and some taught others passing down techniques from generation to generation. There are cave murals in Korea from ~50 BC showing men in poses that *MIGHT* be from a martial art, although to an unbiased observer they look more like they are dancing. There are historical references to the Hwarang – a group of young Silla noblemen – practicing a kicking punching art called ‘soo bakh’ during the 3 kingdoms (Koguro, Paekje, Silla) period of Korean history, well before the trip in 520 AD of the famous Buddist monk Bodhitsuharma from India to the Shaolin temple that began the development of kung fu. And the Paekje royalty (the losing side) moved to Japan when the Korean peninsula was conquered by Silla in 668, possibly becoming the Japanese culture. (Japan means ‘land of the rising sun’, which is how it’d be seen from Korea.) So it’s *conceivable* that systematic martial arts arose first in Korea. But the evidence is pretty scant.

In any case, the Yi dynasty (1392-1910) strongly discouraged any sort of martial art during the time that kung fu was spreading through China and becoming karate in Okinawa. Between that and the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1909-1945, indiginous Korean arts were lost. It is conceivable that some were practiced in secret, and many historical records *were* lost in the Korean War, but realistically, *all* the founders of the Kwans that cooperated to form Taekwondo had studied Japanese/Okinawin martial arts, and that’s what they taught. Claims of having studied Soo Bakh, Korean royal court martial arts, Tae Kyon, or with some monk up in the hills in secret with techniques passed down through 50+ generations came later; after WW II was long over and it was politically expedient to sever any hint of Japanese influence.

The 5 original kwans:

Chung Do Kwan

founded in 1944 by Won Kyuk LEE who’d studied Shotokan karate and called his art Tang Soo Do.

Moo Duk Kwan –

founded in 1945 by Hwang KEE. Kee had studied Tai Chi and some types of Kung Fu with Kuk Jin YANG in China and opened a school . His first two attempts were unsuccessful, he then met with Won Kyuk Lee and visited the Chung Do Kwon periodically. Lee claims Kee was his student, Kee says no, Kuk Jin Yang was his only teacher. Kee says he learned the Shotokan forms from Gichin Funakoshi’s books. Kee started teaching the Shotokan forms and his school became successful. Kee was close friends with some noted Japanese karate people as well. Regardless of the source of his skills, what Kee taught was obviously very influenced by Japanese karate. Kee originally called his art Hwa Soo Do, then Tang Soo Do, then Soo Bakh Do.

Song Moo Kwan

Founded in 1946 by Byung Jick RO, who’d studied Shotokan karate and called his art Tang Soo Do.

Kwon Bop Bu/Chang Moo Kwan –

founded in 1947 by Byung in YOON who had studied Chinese kung fu (chu’an-fa, or ‘fist law’) in Manchuria and Shudokan karate with Kanken Toyama in Japan, originally called Kwon Bop Kong Soo Do (meaning fist method of karate). Yoon disappeared during the Korean War. Yoon’s teachings were carried on by his top student Nam Suk LEE, who changed the name of the school to Chang Moo Kwan.

Yun Moo Kwan –

founded in 1946 by Kyung Suk LEE (judo) and Sang Sup CHUN (karate), called originally Choson Yun Moo Kwan (The Choson Yun Moo Kwan had been the original Japanese Judo school in Korea for over 30 years previously). Lee became missing and Chun died during the Korean War, and this kwan essentially became the Ji Do Kwan.

Later important kwans:

Ji Do Kwan/Chi Do Kwan –

Founded in 1953 by Dr. Kwa-Byung YUN, who had studied Shito-Ryu karate in Japan. Yun became the head of the Chosun Yun Moo Kwan after its leaders were lost and renamed it.

O Do Kwan –

Founded in 1954 by Hong Hi CHOI, offshoot from Chung Do Kwan

Jung Do Kwan –

Founded in 1954 by Yong Woo LEE, offshoot from Chung Do Kwan

Han Moo Kwan –

Founded by Kyo Yoon LEE in 1956, offshoot from Yun Moo Kwan

Kang Duk Kwan –

Founded in 1956 by Chul Hee PARK offshoot from the Kwan Bop Bu Kwan.

Hong Moo Kwan –

founded by Jong Pyo HONG, offshoot from the Kwan Bop Bu.

Again, *every* founder of the original kwans had studied or been heavily influenced by some sort of karate.

It is no disservice to TKD to admit that it is not 2000 years old and came primarily from karate. Karate came from kung fu. Kung fu came from whatever Indian art Bodhitsuharma studied before travelling to the Shaolin temple. All have developed into something quite different from their source.

Who founded Taekwondo?

There is no single person who deserves credit as the founder. (Major) General Hong Hi CHOI claimed to be. But in reality taekwondo is the result of many people working together to resolve their differences, develop and promote a unified Korean martial art.

Why would CHOI be considered the founder?

Because he (supposedly) came up with the name, was the head of the Korea Taekwondo Association (which later became the World Taekwondo Federation), did much to spread the art throughout the Korean military and the world, and (supposedly) created the Chang Hon forms used in many of the TKD organizations.

I would say that Choi deserves a certain amount of credit for spreading the art, and that he could legitimately call himself the founder of the Oh Do Kwan and of arts that spell themselves as Taekwon-do and belong to the ITF, but he was not the only person involved even in his own kwan, and he certainly was NOT the founder of the majority of arts that call themselves ‘tie kwan doe’. He was given an HONORARY 4th Dan ranking by Duk Song SON, the 2nd head of the Chung Do Kwan in 1955 at the request of Tae Hi NAM, which was rescinded by Son in a statement published on 6/15/59 in the Seoul Shinmoon newspaper (yes, an actual document you can look up!).

Why ‘supposedly’ on the name?

Bear with me, this gets confusing. The founders of the first five kwans had tried and failed to form an association between World War II and the Korean War. On April 11, 1955 Choi presided at a naming committee meeting at which ‘tae kwon do’ was first proposed. Duk Sung SON says that he passed a piece of paper to Choi suggesting it and Choi took credit for it. No one other than those two would really know. Regardless, although the committee accepted the name, the kwans did not, because only the Chung Do Kwan and Oh Do Kwan (a Chung Do Kwan offshoot) were represented at the meeting. Most of the other kwans wanted to use the name Kong Soo Do. During the war a Korea Kong Soo Do Association was formed by most of the kwan heads. But Hwang Kee (Moo Duk Kwan founder) left and formed his own Korea Tang Soo Do Association, later renaming it Korea Soo Bakh Do Association. Choi in 1959 created a Korea Taekwondo Association but again there was lots of political infighting (there were 14 kwans by this time), and despite the desire to unify all the kwans were basically doing their own thing. The Ministry of Defense requested that a single organization be formed, and finally in September 1961 a series of unification meetings were held. The compromise name ‘tae soo do’ was agreed on (tae from taekwondo, soo from kong soo do), and the Korea Tae Soo Do Association was created. This time the unification took, despite Hwang Kee again leaving after a while to do his own thing. (So you have Moo Duk Kwan TKD and Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do and Moo Duk Kwan Soo Bakh Do organizations depending on who stayed or split along with Hwang Kee and when.) Finally TKD had the organization it needed to become the national sport of Korea.

During all this time Choi was in charge of teaching for the entire military (ie EVERY able-bodied male) and grew a lot in political power. When Choi became president of the KTA in 1965, he was able to get its name changed to the Korean Taekwondo Association (NOT the same as Choi’s Korea Taekwondo Association.) So you had 3 different KTAs, none existing at the same time!

Circa 1966 Choi formed the International Taekwon-Do Federation and left Korea and the KTA, and eventually in 1973 the KTA changed its format, essentially becoming the World Taekwondo Federation. (Actually the Korean TKD Association still exists as a national governing body for TKD in Korea; the World TKD Federation is the worldwide parent organization and each country has its own national governing body. In the U.S. this is the United States TKD Union.)

So, whether he originated the term or not, Choi’s political muscle *is* the reason we call it ‘tie kwan do’ instead of Kong Soo Do or Tae Soo Do.

Why ‘supposedly’ on the forms?

The Chang Hon set of forms the ITF does *may* have come from Choi, but more likely come from Tae Hi NAM, who had much more experience and training in the martial arts than Choi, his commanding officer. Nam is the person that performed the break of 13 roofing tiles that so impressed President Syngman Rhee in 1952 that he ordered the study of Tae Kwon Do by all Korean military personell. With Choi in charge of the TKD training in the military, that set of forms spread widely, and they are seen in many of today’s TKD organizations. Choi’s introduction of the ‘sine wave’ type of movement into the ITF forms circa 1980 is particular to the ITF.

What is this ‘sine wave’?

In their forms the ITF practice a little up and down motion that adds power to their punching techniques. Generally it doesn’t carry over to their sparring because adding the upward motion slows the technique and telegraphs what’s coming. The downward motion is the same kind of ‘sinking’ technique many Chinese styles do, the idea being rooting to the ground and letting gravity help you add power. It’s not a new idea, but the emphasis they place on it is not seen in any other versions of Taekwondo.

How is Taekwondo different from Japanese Shotokan Karate?

When it started it was basically the same. As the years have passed, it has placed more and more stress on developing kicking and sparring skills and sporting aspects of the art, the forms have changed, teaching methods have changed… The most obvious difference is that modern TKD has a greater variety of kicks.

What about Tae Kyon?

Tae-kyon is a native Korean kicking based martial art in which contests were held by common people in the same way that boxing matches were held at English country fairs. But it was associated with uneducated peasants and undesirable activities such as revenge fights, and was made illegal during the Japanese occupation. It almost died out completely, being reduced to a single known master in the 1950’s, Duk Ki SON. Its existance made the name Taekwondo more attractive than some of the other names such as Tang Soo Do or Kong Soo Do because of anti-Japanese feeling. Currently there has been a resurgence of Tae-kyon in Korea all coming from Song, who’s been declared a cultural asset by the government. Many TKD ‘histories’ now claim that the kwan founders had all studied Tae Kyon or use it as a different name for soo bakh. But they’re almost certainly revisionist; from the examples I’ve seen most of the techniques are sweeps, reaps, kicks to unbalance, and throat strikes. They techniques differ from those in TKD.

What’s the difference between CHOI’s ITF Taekwon-do and WTF Taekwondo?

Technically, there tends to be more kicking and competition emphasis in WTF Taekwondo, and more forms emphasis in ITF Taekwon-do.

In size, the World Taekwondo Federation is much bigger, with many more people involved worldwide all committed to spreading the art. WTF schools vary widely in what forms are practiced, how much stress is given to self-defense versus competition, testing requirements, etc. Its history is that of tolerating differences and sharing credit. The ITF is a small (although worldwide) organization driven by one man, who makes sure the entire organization does the same forms in the same way.

Politically, Choi has received much criticism for his trips to North Korea and support of the Communist dictator Il Jung KIM. In particular Choi’s creation and use of the ‘Juche’ form is onerous, because Kim’s political ideal of ‘juche (self-reliance)’ has been blamed for the starvation deaths of millions in North Korea, which refused all humanitarian aid for years.