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Taekwondo

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Taekwondo or Tae Kwon Do (Korean: Taegwondo (Hangul: 태권도; Hanja: 跆拳道)) is the Korean national sport martial art, and is also one of the world's most commonly practiced sports. In the Korean language, Tae (跆) means "kick or destroy with the foot", Kwon (拳) means "punch or smash with the hand or fist", and Do (道) means "way or art". Hence, Taekwondo is taken to mean "the way of the foot and the fist."

Taekwondo is popular throughout the world, and the World Taekwondo Federation's form of Taekwondo is currently an Olympic sport. While some forms of Taekwondo have received criticism for not teaching enough street-effective techniques, this has more to do with commercialization, rather than with any inherent flaw in the art itself: one of the reasons Taekwondo is so popular is because of its effectiveness as a form of self-defence.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Organizations
3 Features
4 External links

History

Korea, as a peninsula buffer state between the Empires of China and Japan, with incursions by the Mongols and Tatars, among other peoples, has quite a long history of unarmed and armed combat, absorbing various styles and making them more suitable for their own rugged and mountainous terrain and indigenous combat styles.

Probably the most influential period of development was during the Three Kingdom period (Koguryo, Paekche, Silla). Silla is believed to have established diplomatic relations with the Tang Empire in the 7th century, which led to military training of a class of tribal warriors known famously as the hwarang, whose strength crumbled in the next century.

However, the influence of Tang dynasty on the martial arts (as it was in almost every other cultural aspect throughout East Asia) was considerable both on Japan and Korea, which called their art tangsu, or Tang-hand, the exact same name as used in Okinawa. In this same period, in the kingdom of Koguryo, various carvings into the towers at Kumkongryksa and Kakcjuchung, and the statues of Kumkang Kwon at the entrance of Sokkul-Am at Mt. Toham depict basic stances, such as the nalchigi, of what is now known as taekwondo, but the words subak and kwonbeop to describe these traditions were not used until about the mid-Koryo period (about 990-1050 AD), and not standardized until King Injong.

Under various generals, kwonbeop began to be developed and made mandatory for training in the armed services. By the time of the Ming dynasty, two major schools of kwonbeop reigned -- the sorim temple school, and the songkae school. Sorim temple may have been influenced by the Northern Shaolin Temple, as it was practiced by monks who favored swift, evasive moves and jumping techniques; Songkae, attributed to Chang Songkae of the Ming Empire was clearly Chinese, with techniques divided into three divisions: stun, knock out, and kill. Under the Yi period, however, kwonbeop (as did other martial arts) saw a major decline as the official state policy was to discourage all manner of military affairs. Kwonbeop's center was moved northwest to central Korea and renamed taekwon, which continued in this form, probably largely as a sport or ceremonial art, or existed underground due to annexation, until Korea's independence from Japan in 1945.

Two other influential Korean unarmed arts are yusul (soft art) and cireum, which either are in part or whole derived from Chinese arts like shuai chiao and Mongolian wrestling. Yusul was popular between the Koryo and Yi dynasties. Striking arts such as keupso chirigi and pakchigi, which attack vital points, and headbutting, respectively, have been also popular in Korea. But most Korean martial arts disappeared during Yi dynasty.

After Yi dynasty, Korea was merged by Japan in 1910. As a result, young Koreans were exposed to Japanese sport arts such as jujutsu, kendo, judo, karate, sumo, et cetera. This annexation had far reaching effects in Korean martial arts, although after 1945 Korea Independence, clearly there was a concerted effort by martial arts masters to consolidate their resources and develop a uniquely Korean art.

Taekwondo was officially formed on April 11, 1955, when most Korean martial arts masters tried to unite all the various fighting styles (such as Gong Soo, Taekyon, Kwon Beop Soo Bahk Do Tang Soo Do etc.) under the name "Tae Soo Do" . Though not every art joined in the resulting organization, an organization was created with a many of the participants and the backing of the government. Its name was changed in 1957 by 9th degree black belt General Choi Hong Hi to Taekwondo.

It's hard to find similarity between Taekyon and Taekwondo. On the other hand, Taekwondo is strongly related to Karate. Choi Hong Hi was a 2nd degree black belt Karate of SHOTOKAI, so it's natural use karate techniques as a base of Taekwondo. To know more, read -External Link-Capener's writing.

Taekwondo most likely came to America in much the same way that karate and kung fu came to the US, by Korean immigrants, who were not as populous in the US until the 1970s and 1980s, and by American military personnel, who most likely learned the art stationed in Korea after the Korean War. Taekwondo is taught almost everywhere in the US and may be the most popular martial art in the country.

Organizations

Although there are many different federations and associations, Taekwondo can be broadly divided into two schools: International Taekwondo Federation (ITF, founded 1966), and World Taekwondo Federation (WTF, founded 1973). WTF was created in Korea when General Choi Hong Hi defected from Korea to Canada with the headquarters of ITF in 1973.

Apart from its history, one difference between ITF Taekwondo and WTF Taekwondo is the patterns (the pre-set, formal sequences of movements students learn). ITF has 24 patterns (called forms) which represent the 24 hours in a day, or the whole of a person's life, whilst WTF uses the Poomse forms (which originate from the Chinese book, I Ching). The main difference between these two styles of pattern is that ITF patterns use a "stepping motion" -- drawing on Newtonian physics -- for hand techniques, which include moving the body in a sinusoidal motion in order to use bodyweight to increase the effectiveness of the techniques. Many people consider the WTF style to be more of a sport, focussing on competition sparring, while ITF is considered a martial art which includes competition-style sparring. In practice, however, it is the the instructor that will have the most influence on what and how a student practices. WTF is the only Taekwondo body recognized by the South Korean government and its rules have been adopted by the International Olympic Committee. Only students whose training is recognised by the WTF can take part in the Olympic games, highlighting the consideration of the WTF form as a sport.

In addtion to the forms recognized for modern competition there are also a large number of traditional forms, associated with a rich lore and history. These are becoming relatively rare in competition yet are being kept alive by some traditional Korean masters and their students. Students trained in these traditional forms, which emphasise powerful kicks, punches, and blocks, pacing appropriate to the form, fierce concentration upon imaginary opponents, and accurate and stable stances, can do quite well when bringing these skills to performances of the pomse style form.

Preparing to break a blockEnlarge

Preparing to break a block

Features

Taekwondo is famed for its employment of leg and jumping techniques, which many believe distinguishes it from martial arts such as Karate or Kung Fu. The rationale behind this is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, and kicks thus have the greatest potential to strike without retaliation. Despite this, hand techniques, and at the higher levels, some grappling and anti-weapon techniques are taught and emphasized. Taekwondo was designed to be effectively employed regardless of a person's sex, height, weight or age, making it popular with people of both sexes and of all ages. The five tenets of Taekwondo (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit) show that, like any martial art, Taekwondo is a mental discipline as well as a physical one. (As a sidenote, the breaking of boards, concrete blocks, and other strong-looking objects are all exercises in mental discipline, with physical strength almost totally irrevelent.)

Although each Taekwondo club or school will be different, a Taekwondo student can typically expect to take part in most or all of the following:

External links