Taekwondo is the name of the martial art turned modern international sport which has been independently developed over about 20 centuries in Korea. The Main feature of Taekwondo is that it is a free-fighting combat sports using bare hands and feet to repel an opponent. All of its activities are based on defensive spirit since Taekwondo was developed as a defence against enemy attacks. Taekwondo also serves to improve health, physical fitness and poise of the people practicing it.
Taekwondo-trained people are self-confident, not only in physical aspects but also in their mental discipline, because they have developed superior techniques for personal defenceby using their entire bodies. For a Taekwondo person, his or her entire body is a weapon and is easily able to attack and beat off an aggressor with hands, fists, elbows, knees, feet,or any other part of his/her body.
The most important fact about Taekwondo as a martial art sport is that it is not only a superior art of self-defence, but it adds remarkable bon sense to its practitioners. Self-confidence makes people generous in their attitude toward weaker people. They can stand equally against any opponent, but their code forbids unfair assaults or unnecessary use of force. The practice of Taekwondo gives an individual the mental attitude of modesty. the virtues of modesty and generosity are fundamentally based onself-confidence.
It is obvious that healthy bodies make people active and powerful. Mental and physical self-confidence is beneficial to the mental life of individuals as well as to their families, friends, neighbours, and their nation.
A Taekwondo ‘Poomse’ comprises various stances, each with its peculiar nature but each blending into the other. A ‘Poomse’ consists of about two dozen stances interconnected. Blocking, punching, striking, thrusting and kicking are among Taekwondo Poomse and these are properly carried out with hands, fists, and feet to the vital spot of the body or target at which they are aimed and the stances accordingly change forward stance, back stance, cat stance and horse-riding stance, etc. as the situation requires. Most typical ‘Poomse’ are Palgye 1-8, Taeguk 1-8, Koryo, Kumgang, Taeback, Pyongwon, Shipjin, Jitae, Chunkwon, Hansoo and Ilyeo.
Taekwondo training is comprised of basic training, Poomse (basic form) and Kyoruki (sparring). Kyukpa (breaking) is for demonstration and for the test of power and technique. Taekwondo requires great mental concentration and it produces almost incredible power.
It is impossible to exercise the developed power against people except at the risk of inflicting serious injury. Therefore, in the past a method was sought to test such formidable power against non-living things like wooden planks, roof tiles or bricks. We call this this Kyukpa. We must realize that anyone can become proficient in this sport because in Taekwondo anyone can properly develop and control their latent power. No special place is needed to practice Taekwondo. During any free time, individuals can practice and develop Taekwondo techniques.
In modern times, Taekwondo has become an amateur sport. It has become a modern world sport with the tradition and spirit of the martial science maintained. The WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) was officially admitted into General Association of the International Sports federations (GAISF) in October 1975. Taekwondo was officially accepted by CISM as its 23rd official sport at its Executive Council Meeting in April 1976. The World Games under GAISF auspices included Taekwondo as its official program. The WTF was granted recognition by the International Olympic Committee at its 83rd General session in Moscow on 17 July 1980. International Council of Sports & Physical Education admitted WTF in 1981. General Assembly Meeting of Pan American Sports Organization (OPEPA) on August 12, 1983 adopted Taekwondo as its official sport in the Pan American Games program. The IAKS, an international organization of sports and leisure facilities, accepted WTF as its affiliated member on October 30, 1983. Propagation of unified rules and regulations is rapidly implemented through international referee seminars, instructor seminars and exchange visits and booklets under the auspices of the WTF and member national federations.
In 1996, member countries of the WTF totalled 144 and the global Taekwondo population is estimated at
30 million people. Spurred by the recognition of Taekwondo by the IOC at its 83rd General Session in 1980, Taekwondo has been rapidly developing an international sport. It was adopted as a demonstration sport of the 24th Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the 25th Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Taekwondo was adopted as an official sport of 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the 103rd Session of the IOC held in Paris, France on September 4, 1994. Taekwondo has consolidated its position in the world sport as fast as any other martial art. Continental championships are hosted by four member regional unions of the WTF.
There is World and Women’s World Championships, World Cup Taekwondo, CISM Taekwondo Championships and FISU World University Championships. Taekwondo is being played as an official sport in most international multi-sport games such as World Games, Pan American Games, All Africa Games, Southeast Asian Games, and Central American Games.
The Taekwondo uniform is neither expensive nor luxurious. It is designed to fit for free body action. It is believed that the white colour of the uniform signifies the purity and origin as well as convergence. There are belts, i.e.: black, red/black, red, blue, yellow, and white. Each colour designating the degree of graded proficiency possesses by the one wearing the belt. A white/yellow belt is for the beginner, a blue belt is worn by persons of the 6th to the 4th grades of Gup (blue signifies youth and ambition). The red belt is for trainees graded 3rd to 1st Gup and the black belt (signifying dignity) is for the Taekwondo expert who holds the 1st grade of Dan or higher. Red/black belt (Cho Dan Bo) is for those before black belt (preliminary black belt). The Kukkiwon is authorized to conduct promotional tests and issues certificates for 1st Dan or Poom and higher in accordance with the Rules & Regulations of the World Taekwondo federation.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF TAEKWONDO
The origin of Taekwondo in Korea can be traced back to the Koguryo dynasty, founded 37 B.C. since mural paintings found in the ruins of the royal tombs built by that dynasty show scenes of Taekwondo practice. Taekwondo was also practiced during the Silla dynasty. Korean culture and Taekwondo of the period were strongly influenced and enriched by the Hwarangdo, a military, educational and social organisation, and noble youths of the Silla dynasty. The code of honour on which the Hwarang was based was loyalty to the nation, respect and obedience to one’s ‘parents, faithfulness to one’s friends, courage in battle and avoidance of unnecessary violence and killing.
Archaeological findings such as mural paintings on the royal tombs of the Koguryo dynasty, the stone sculptures of pagodas of temples produced during the Silla period, and scattered descriptions in written documents show that many fighting stances, skills, and formalized movements closely resemble the present stances and forms of Taekwondo. Therefore, it can be inferred that people in the three kingdoms practiced an art very like the one we study today.
In the history of Koryo, Taekwondo which was then termed “Subak” was practiced not only as a skill to improve health and as a sport activity but it was also encouraged as a martial art of considerably high value. Subak is believed to have gained its highest popularity during the reign of King Uijong, between 1,147 and 1,170 A.D. This period roughly corresponds to the era that includes part of the Chinese Song and Ming dynasties, during which the Chinese “Kungfu” became widely popular. This is worth noticing as it further shows that Taekwondo is not only of a pure Korean origin but it has achieved independent development throughout the long history of Korea.
What is very important about Subak in the Yi dynasty is that there was a book published to teach the game as a martial art and that it became more popular among the general public whereas earlier it had been to a certain degree monopolized by the military in the preceding Koryo dynasty. King Chongjo published “MuyeDoboTongji,” an illustrated textbook on Taekwondo, which included Taekwondo as one of the major chapters. It is obvious, therefore, that Subak became an important national sport and attracted much attention from both the royal court and the general public during the Yi dynasty.
However, in the latter half of the Yi dynasty, the importance of Subak as a martial art began to decline due to negligence of the royal court, which was constantly disturbed by strife between feuding political factions. Thus, Subak remained merely as a recreational activity for ordinary people.
Taekwondo in the first half of the 20th century:
Along with the deterioration of national fortunes, the dismantling of the army accelerated the fall of the military; finally,Japanese imperialists colonized Korea through an oppressive forceful invasion. The oppression of the Korean people by the Japanese imperialists worsened, and the practicing of Taekwondo, which could have been used as a means of revolt, was forbidden.
However, Taekwondo persisted in the spirit of the Korean people as a physical and spiritual training method of anti-Japanese organizations such as the Independence Army and the Liberation Army, and as a legacy which had to pass on to the younger generation.
After liberation from the Japanese invasion on August 15, 1945, those with an aspiration to revitalize the traditional art of Taekwondo taught their followers, and at last, on September 16, 1961, the Korea Taekwondo Association was established. On February 25, 1962, the Korea Taekwondo Association became the 27th affiliate to join the Korea Amateur Sports Association. On October 9, 1963, Taekwondo became an official event for the first time in the 44th National Athletic Meet. Its great leaps in the development of competition rules and protective equipment started with that meet.
Korean instructors began going abroad to teach Taekwondo in the 1960s, which could be called a turning point in the history of Taekwondo. Taekwondo made its way to the world sport through the 1st World Taekwondo Championships held in Seoul, Korea in May 1973 with participation of 19 countries. At the Seoul meet held on May 28, 1973 on the occasion of the championships, representatives of those countries established the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF).
In 1996, member countries of the WTF totalled 144 and the global Taekwondo population is estimated at 30 million people. Spurred by the recognition of Taekwondo by the IOC at its 83rd General Session in 1980, Taekwondo has been rapidly developing an international sport. It was adopted as a demonstration sport of the 24th Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the 25th Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
Taekwondo was adopted as an official sport of 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the 103rd Session of the IOC held in Paris, France on September 4, 1994. Taekwondo has consolidated its position in the world sport as fast as any other martial art. Continental championships are hosted by four member regional unions of the WTF. There is World and Women’s World Championships, World Cup Taekwondo, CISM Taekwondo Championships and FISU World University Championships. Taekwondo is being played as an official sport in most international multi-sport games such as World Games, Pan American Games, All Africa Games, Southeast Asian Games and Central American Games.
Some people believe that Korean Taekwondo was originated from Kungfu, the Chinese self-defenceart. According to a Chinese document, the Chinese art of self-defenceis believed to have been initiated as a sort of physical exercise when the Bodhi Dharma taught the monks of Hsiaolin Temple in Tungpung County, Honan Province, China. Bodhi Dharma, a great Indian Buddhist Zen master, came to China in 520 A.D. and spent nine years at Hsiaolin Temple where he introduced the art of self-defence. However, if we recall that the mural paintings of Taekwondo in the ancient tombs of Koguryo belong to the period 3 A.D. to 427 A.D., it cannot be said that the Korean Taekwondo owes its origin to the Chinese Kungfu.
No detailed record is available when Karate, the Japanese self-defenceart equivalent to Taekwondo, was initiated. There are twofold explanations about it. One explanation is that a Chinese named Chen Yuanpin, who lived in the late Ming dynasty, was naturalized as a Japanese and imparted the Chinese “Kungfu” to the Japanese people. The other explanation says that Karate is a developed form of “Okinawate,” a self-defenceart indigenous to Okinawa.
However, when the Okinawate itself began is not known either. To trace the origin of Okinawate, we might rely on “The Historical Record of Chosun(another name for the Yi dynasty)” which only says that envoys from the Ryukyu Island made frequent visits to bring tribute to the Kings of Chosun.
At that time in Korea, “Subak”, an old name of Taekwondo, has gained great popularity among the people, and therefore it is likely that the envoys from Okinawa learned that game and introduced to their people. This speculation is not too absurd when we recall the fact that “Nul”, the Korean seesaw, was also adopted by the people of Okinawa from Korea. It may be concluded that the Japanese Karate, in turn, derives from Taekyon or Subak, the primitive form of Taekwondo.
PHILOSOPHY OF TAEKWONDO
TAEKWONDO, the Korean Martial Art, has evolved through time and has been a means of an individual’s freedom and expression. It purifies the spirit as it trains the muscles and mind. Taekwondo has been described as a state of mind as well asa way of life. It seeks control of the mind over the body through strict discipline and development of a positive moral character. Taekwondo demands sacrifices, self-restraint, kindness, forgiveness,and a love of one’s fellow human beings. Reverence for all forms of life is one of the most important principles of Taekwondo. The power that is learned is tremendous and therefore, it is the power over life and death.
The task of learning Taekwondo may be a difficult one that will make great demands on the body and spirit. Union of mind and body in harmony is the essence of the art of Taekwondo and concentration and physical discipline are the two major components of success to a concerned martial artist. Dedication to Taekwondo takes a certain understanding of the basic principles and from this primary comprehension, one can expound ideas and determine the more intricate meaning of the art.
In training the mind’s insecurities, doubts and apprehension must be abolished. Of course,this comes over a period of time. As one becomes proficient physically, many mental blocks due to insecurity disappear. A clear, open mind is the only kind which can get the true meaning of Taekwondo.
With good intention and a clear mind, one will be able to link body and mind in order to make the best of both physical and psychological space and to deal with an opponent properly whether the opponent be another person or an insecurity. Because death or the fear of dying is a major obstacle, one must encounter this in the study of Taekwondo. Facing the fact that in defending one’s self, one also risks his/her life. Once this fact is accepted the mind can think more clearly and the body reacts more quickly, thus protecting one’s life more effectively.
Reaction, more so than thought process, is the essence of self-defence. Anticipation rather than reaction can be dangerous. One might anticipate a move incorrectly. However, one can train the body to react without wasting time to think or risk guessing the next move of the opponent incorrectly. Through the development of security, self-assurance,and knowledge, one can learn to focus one’s energy. This is the development of the focal point, the centre of mind, and body, the focal point of energy. Because energy can be so concentrated, far greater power both mentally (endurance of emotional stress) and physically (the ability to endure pain and optimize the use of one’s physical strength) is possible.
Comprehension of principles and acceptance of them is necessary. Understanding that the young sapling tree can withstand a snow storm far better than a strong sturdy older tree, one realizes that giving way is as important as blocking or an offensive move. As the tree gives under the weight of the snow, so does every other living thing canprotect itself. Although birds do not run well, we cannot ignore the fact that they can fly and we cannot, when judging their awkwardness on ground.
We too have a good deal of awkwardness, although in the instance of Taekwondo much of this can be changed. Years of practice and meditation enables the Taekwondo practitioner to be in harmony with his/her body and mind. Only with harmony can one successfully practice the art of Taekwondo as it’s very essence is the union of the two.
Taekwondo Poomse is meant by a “Form” in which a self-practice is devised to be performed in following the lines of movement in a systematic and consecutive way against an imaginary opponent or multi-opponents by using various Taekwondo techniques of hand and foot.
Through practicing Taekwondo Poomse, we can apply the techniques of hand and foot and the changes of stance learned from the basic techniques adaptable to actual fighting. It also provides us with the effects on improving flexibility of body and being skilled in strength control, balance control, breath control, eye control and concentration of spirit, as well as cultivating a martial art spirit through its mental discipline.
MEANING OF EACH POOMSE
- TAEGUK: This represents the most profound oriental philosophy from which philosophical views on the world, cosmos and life are derived. The Taeguk Poomseconsists of different movements in sequence. the vital points of the Poomse are to make exact the speed of breath and action and move the body weight properly while executing speedy actions. Thus, we can fully realize the main thought of Taeguk.
- PALGYE: Supplementary Training. The thought of Palgye, another concept of the ancient oriental philosophy, implies symbolically all the phenomena of man and universe.