Taekwondo is a martial art form and sport that that uses the hands and feet
for attack and defense. The focus of Taekwondo is on training and disciplining the mind along with the body. For those learning the martial art it plays four different roles.
Taekwondo is a good exercise for children who are still growing as well as a good way for grown-ups to increase their physical endurance. Taekwondo's movements require extensive use of the joints, which increases the limberness of one's body. Since there is kicking, jabbing and shouting involved, it's also a great way to relieve stress and get a good workout.
Second, Taekwondo as a Bare Handed Martial Arts Form
Taekwondo learners attack the opponent with their bare hands and feet. What sets this apart from other martial arts forms are the powerful and various leg movements involved, and which have enabled it to become a worldwide martial art. Taekwondo's attack is aggressive, but at the same time the focus is more on the defense aspect. This can act positively for those wanting to learn Taekwondo as a way of self defense for practical purposes, even in modern times.
Third, Taekwondo as a Sport
Taekwondo is an official competitive category in major world sporting events such as the Olympics, Panam Games, Asian Games, All American Games, and South American Games. Competitive Taekwondo involves safety gear and set attacks and defenses as to limit the amount of damage possible. This way, competitive martial artists can enjoy the thrill of competing with less risk.
Fourth, Taekwondo as an Educational Method
Taekwondo trains the body, but does as much to develop the mind as well. The objective of learning Taekwondo is to foster growth in both areas in order to become a more mature human being. Taekwondo learners receive repeated etiquette lessons along with the attack and defense skills to build and strengthen their character.
Taekkyeon (The art of kicking and tripping) Together with Taekwondo, Taekkyeon is a well-known traditional martial art in Korea. This method of self-defense includes numerous foot motions and fluid arm movements with the hands unclenched. Unlike other martial arts forms, there is no abrupt kicking or punching. There is more emphasis on low kicks and leg sweeps to make the opponent lose balance and knock him/her to the ground.
While some people see certain similarities between Taekkyeon and the motions of Taekwondo and Chinese Kung Fu, the techniques and principles clearly differ. While Taekwondo movements are rather rigid, straight, and restrained, those of Taekkyeon are curved; and while Kung Fu movements are long and stretched, those of Taekkyeon are short and springy. Also, Taekkyeon relies on the pushing strength in the palm of the hand as compared to the use of the fist in Kung Fu. Beneath light and gentle movements reminiscent of a masked dance, lies tremendous strength which can deliver a debilitating blow or even death to an opponent.
Nowadays, Taekkyeon is widely used in gymnastics and fitness sports, especially because of the flexibility and spontaneity of the movements. Recently, it has become popular with women because it is less intense than other martial arts.
History of Taekkyeon
The history of Taekkyeon can be traced back to the ancient tombs of Muyongchong and Samsilchong of the Goguryeo Dynasty. Tomb wall paintings believed to portray Taekkyeon, show figures paired in a combative stance with hands reaching forward. Evidence has been found dating back to the Goguryeo era, when martial art techniques were highly advanced. At that time, a large number of military men practiced Taekkyeon. During the Joseon era, Taekkyeon matches were quite popular, even among the common people. Recently, however, most Taekkyeon masters have died or retired, and there are few left to carry on the tradition. Thus, in 1983, the government designated the martial art as an Important Intangible Cultural Property for its preservation and popularization.
Techniques and Principles of Taekkyeon
Taekkyeon relies more on defense than on offense. Fluid, spontaneous movements of the hands, feet, and body move consistently with the muscles. Another notable characteristic is its lyrical, dance-like rhythm, which characterizes it as a highly artistic martial art.
A few of the major Taekkyeon techniques include the basic pose wonpum (standing with feet at shoulder width) and its variation pumbalgi, which is a stepping sequence in a triangular motion. The movement involves taking a step and shifting the weight to that step, and then to the previous step; this is done back and forth, side to side. Foot techniques include the following: front kicks with the top of the foot; spinning the body and kicking with the arch of the foot; kicking outside in; jumping and kicking; spinning the body and kicking with both hands on the floor; and slapping the opponent’s face with the sole of the foot. Some hand techniques are: pushing the opponent by the neck; jabbing the opponent with the wrist on his/her chest or neck; pulling the opponent by the leg after getting him/her down on the floor by a kick; striking the opponent's neck using the heel of the hand; and thrusting one’s fingers into the opponent’s eyes. The hwalgaejeotgi technique, which consists of waving both arms to confuse the opponent's vision or pre-empt an attack, and the yelling of ikkeu, eikkeu are also Taekkyeon techniques.