Taekwondo is Korean martial art that dates back over 2,000 years. It takes root in man’s survival instincts to defend himself using bare hands and feet, and became systemized during the Korean peninsula three-kingdom era in the latter half of the 1st century B.C.
The name Taekwondo itself begins to describe the philosophy of the art. The literal translation of Taekwondo is the way of the hands and feet. “Tae” refers to the feet; Kwon refers to the hands; and Do is the way or means. Figuratively Tae encompasses more than just the feet, but rather the whole lower part of the body; while “Kwon” encompasses the upper regions, including the arms, hands and torso. Most importantly, “Do” figuratively pertains to the mind and its development.
Through the centuries, Taekwondo has synthesized into this modern day martial art that is characterized by its powerful, high speed movements and dynamic kicking techniques. The early 1960’s marked the beginning of a migration of Taekwondo masters to all corners of the world. The popularity of the art grew quickly, and in 1973 Korea hosted the first World Taekwondo Games. It was at this event that 19 countries formed the World Taekwondo Federation. The World Taekwondo Federation is now represented by 206 countries and has over 80 million participants. Through the strength of this organization and cooperation of its international members, Taekwondo has earned official sport status in the Olympic and Pan American Games.
Taekwondo training is based on the philosophy of harmonizing the mind and body to develop an indomitable spirit. This is accomplished by mentally focusing on each physical technical movement. Typical Taekwondo classes provide a total body workout. Repetitive practice of various hand and kicking techniques, Taekwondo poomse (patterns), and sparring provide a great cardiovascular workout. Taekwondo training also improves flexibility, coordination, motor reflexes and body speed. Together with proper diet, it promotes good mental and physical health and aids in weight control.
Students of the art generally range from ages 6 to 60+. The beauty of Taekwondo is that it offers something for participants of all ages. Younger practitioners may focus on sparring with goals to compete in the Pan American or the Olympic Games, while others may focus more intently on mind and body development through poomsae. The student’s focus and determination through continued training leads to self-improvement and improved self-confidence which they can apply in their everyday life.