Taekwondo is seen as a Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks and very fast kicking techniques. It is one of the most systemic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts, that teaches more than physical fighting skills.
Taekwondo as a sport has over 60 million practitioners in 184 countries. It is said to be the art of self-defense that originated in Korea and remains one of the oldest forms of martial arts in the world.
Though, some of the history is turbid due to lack of documentation in early times and the longtime Japanese occupation of the area of Korea.
The name Tae Kwon Do is derived from the Korean words TAE (Foot), KWON (Fist) and DO (Way of). Literally therefore, Taekwondo can be succinctly said to mean the way of foot and fist. Taekwondo is the national sport of South Korea and is known for its striking and athletic kicks. It is also very popular worldwide. This is so as Taekwondo has the most practitioners, compared to other martial art styles.
The art Tae Kwon Do was named so on April 11, 1955, when nine schools of Karate or Kwans emerged and the then South Korean President Syngman Rhee declared that all nine schools must fall under one system and name.
Taekwondo is a stand-up or striking style of martial arts that offers a supreme focus on kicking techniques. It certainly does teach other forms of striking such as punches, knees and elbows and works on blocking techniques, footwork and stances.
The main goal of Taekwondo as an art is to render your rival unable to harm you by way of striking them. In this light, it is similar to Karate. There is a heavy emphasis on kicking techniques, as they are deemed to be the strongest area of the body to strike with.
There are more recent styles of the art such as Songham Tae Kwon Do, the style that emanates from the American Taekwondo Association and even further variations.
Taekwondo is emphasized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques. In fact, to facilitate fast, turning kicks, Taekwondo generally adopts stances that are narrower and taller than the broader, wide stances used by martial arts such as Karate and the likes. The tradeoff of reduced stability is believed to be worth the commensurate increase in agility, particularly in Kukkiwon-style Taekwondo.
The emphasis on speed and agility is a defining characteristic of Taekwondo and has its origins in analyses undertaken by Choi Hong Hi. Choi observed that the power of a strike increases quadratically with the speed of the strike, but increases only linearly with the mass of the striking object. That is to say, speed is more important than size in terms of generating power. This principle was incorporated into the early design of Taekwondo and is still used.
Taekwondo ranks vary from style to style and are not standardized. Typically, these ranks are separated into JUNIOR and SENIOR sections, colloquially referred to as colour belts and black belts.
All Taekwondo practitioners, whether competition or not are at all times expected to uphold the five tenets of Taekwondo. These are Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit.