What is Taekwondo

Taekwondo is the national sport of Korea and one of only two Asian martial arts (the other being Judo) to be included in the Olympic Games so far. Taekwondo may be practised for fun, to improve general fitness, as a means of learning self-defence, as a way to self-improvement, as a competitive sport or more commonly all of the above.

The meaning of Taekwondo
The word Taekwondo is actually an agglomeration of three separate words and they can be translated into English in a number of ways. Firstly, Tae can mean ‘to attack with the feet’. Kwon can mean ‘to strike with the hand’ and Do means ‘the way’, or ‘the path’. Taekwondo therefore can be translated as ‘The way of the smashing hands and feet’. Indeed, Taekwondo is most noted for its high balletic kicks, requiring incredible leg speed and flexibility. The art of breaking, smashing through multiple wooden boards or stone slabs, is another of the most impressive physical feats in Taekwondo. Therefore ‘the way of smashing’ would seem appropriate for such a deadly martial art.

However, feats of sheer physical strength and skill do not aptly sum up a martial art as dignified as Taekwondo. There is another interpretation of the word espoused by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). The WTF state that Tae means ‘leg’, ‘foot’, or ‘to step on’. Kwon means ‘fist’ or ‘fight’ and Do remains the same as ‘the way of’. Therefore Taekwondo can be interpreted as the way of stepping on fights, i.e. the way of controlling ones own urges to engage in violence, coupled with the ability to neutralise brawls involving other people in a disciplined manner. The truth of the matter is that both interpretations are correct. An accomplished Taekwondo practitioner will easily outmatch a normal person or possibly even multiple normal people in a fist fight but, as a martial artist, is bound to use his skills sparingly.