Tae Kwon-Do: A History and Heritage
Tae Kwon-Do is a martial art that originated from Korea. Its roots can be traced back to more than 2000 years ago during Korea's dynamstic period. In Korean, tae means to kick or strike with the foot; kwon means “fist or to strike with the hand”; and do means “way.” In this manner,Tae Kwon-Do is can be loosely translated as “the way of the foot and hand.”
On the physical side, Tae Kwon-Do is a training system for the body that provides excellent health benefits. Through practice of the Taekwondo, the student increases flexibility, speed, power, and reflexes. Tae Kwon-Do is first and foremost a martial art that teaches its practitioners self-defense. The student learns strikes, blocks, punches, and kicks in order to prevent harm and injury from occurring to himself and others.
The internal nature of Tae Kwon-Do focuses on developing our inner strength. Through strenuous training the student reaches inwards to develop a strong sense of determination, self-control, and responsibility. Tae Kwon-Do differs from fighting in that the latter focuses on the external nature and does not benefit the fighter mentally and spiritually. Whereas Tae Kwon-Do sharpens the mind and body in order to develop a strong individual inside and out.
Together, these elements provide wholesome benefits for the dedicated Tae Kwon-Do practitioner. A student that embraces the external and internal aspects of Tae Kwon-Do can thus become a truly constructive member of society.
Taekwondo: A Definition
A way of life.
What exactly is the meaning of Taekwon-Do?
- Choi, General Hong Hi
To put it simply Taekwon-Do is a version of unarmed combat designed for the purpose of self-defence. It is more than just that, however. It is the scientific use of the body in the method of self-defence; a body that has gained the ultimate use of its facilities through intensive physical and mental training.
It is a martial art that has no equal in either power or technique. Though it is a martial art, its discipline, technique and mental training are the mortar for building a strong sense of justice, fortitude, humility and resolve. It is this mental conditioning that separates the true practitioner from the sensationalist, content with mastering only the fighting aspects of the art.
This is one of the reasons that Taekwon-Do is called an art of self-defence. It also implies a way of thinking and life, particularly in instilling a concept and spirit of strict self-imposed discipline and an ideal of noble moral rearmament. The nearest description of it is almost a cult.
Translated literally “Tae” stands for jumping or flying, to kick or smash with the foot. “Kwon” denotes the fist-chiefly to punch or destroy with the hand or fist. “Do” means an art or way – the right way built and paved by the saints and sages in the past.
Thus taken collectively “Taekwon-Do” indicates the mental training and the techniques of unarmed combat for self-defence as well as health, involving the skilled application of punches, kicks, blocks and dodges with bare hands and feet to the rapid destruction of the moving opponent or opponents.
Taekwon-Do definitely enables the weak to possess a fine weapon together with confidence to defend him or herself and defeat the opponent as well. Of course, wrongly applied, Taekwon-Do can be a lethal weapon. Therefore mental training must always be stressed to prevent the student from misusing it.
As for women , they will undoubtedly find Taekwon-Do an invaluable asset in tackling and driving away “wolves”, so to speak. When one is informed of the many instances where frail women effectively protected themselves, they may sound unbelievable. But really, they have been able to do so because they are well versed in the art of self-defence.
The feats of Taekwon-Do are great in number. To mention a few is probably pertinent: for instance, flying over a mounted motorcycle or eleven persons in line to attack a target with the foot; breaking an inch thick pine board placed at a height of ten or eleven feet with the foot; breaking two pieces of red brick with an open hand or knife-hand; smashing seven or eight pieces of two inch thick pine board at a single blow with the fist; attacking two targets with the same foot in succession while flying and so on. To the layman in the street, such feats may sound impossible, but to the serious students of Taekwon-Do and the exponents of this art, it is quite ordinary. Of course, by mastering this art it does not mean that you will be asked to do acts of impossibility. Particularly if someone should challenge you to kill a wild bull with your bare hands. Therefore it is clear that equivalent demonstrations of such effective use of pure somatic force is not to be seen in other forms of physical combat technique.
Incessant training is essential to keep oneself in top form and physical condition. In training, all the muscles of the human body will be used. From the use of one's muscles, it will be possible to harness all available power generated by every muscular contraction. It will then be necessary to deliver such power to the human target especially to where the most vulnerable points or vital spots of one's opponent are located, in particular when the opponent is in motion. At this point it is necessary to remind the students of Taekwon-Do that this art of self-defence is specially designed for swift retaliation against the moving aggressor.
Most of the devastating maneuvers in Taekwon-Do are based specially on the initial impact of a blow plus the consequential additional force provided by the rebound of the opponent's moving part of the body. Similarly by using the attacker's force of momentum, the slightest push is all that is needed to upset his or her equilibrium and to topple him or her.
In the case of the students of Taekwon-Do who have been in constant practice or the experts themselves, they spend no time thinking, as such an action comes automatically to them. Their actions, in short, have become conditioned reflexes.Therefore, throughout this Encyclopedia, the readers will notice that repeated emphasis is placed on regular training, in order to master the techniques of attack and defence.
Hours spent on training will not be wasted; for surely you will reap a rich reward in the form of speedy reactions and deadly blows to rain down upon your enemy or in any case to save life if and when a need arises. Even if Taekwon-Do is practiced for the sake of exercise alone, the enjoyment derived will justify the time invested and spent. As an exercise, it is equally suitable for the old and young, male and female.
Reproduced, with permission, from “Taekwon-Do” (The Korean Art of Self Defense) also known as The Condensed Encyclopedia.
Fifth Edition 1999, All rights reserved
Copyright 1988, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1999 General Choi, Hong Hi.