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Taekwondo History

Tae kwow do is a Korean martial art that emerged in the mid-twentieth century, and has subsequently become one of the most widely practiced martial arts in the world and is one form taught here at U.S. Martial Arts Academy. The art is characterized by powerful hand strikes and kicks, which are used for unarmed self-defense or combat, or in organized sports competitions such as the Olympic games.

Like many Asian martial arts, Tae kwon do emphasizes the unification of mind, body, and spirit: the perfection of human character: social responsibility : and the appropriate use of force.thus, the arts practice involves both mental and physical training.

From a technical standpoint, tae kwon do primarily focuses on fast, powerful, kicking and punching techniques, which are blended with sophisticated footwork, jumps, blocks, and avoiding actions. In recent years, some tae kwon do styles have begun to incorporate a limited number of joint locks, throws, and ground defenses into their curriculum, to keep pace with the needs of modern society and the reality of contemporary self-defense.

Internal-energy development is not emphasized to the degree it is in many soft -style martial arts, but is still a fundamental part of training, leading to increased health and greater efficiency in martial techniques.

Generally speaking , Tae kwon do’s core techniques have evolved based on modern scientific principles, and western anatomical and biomechanical concepts of the human body. Many of the more modern innovations have been driven by lessons learned in sports competitions.

In contemporary society, Taekwondo is practiced by men, women, and children of all ages, for reasons encompassing self-defense, physical fitness, sports competition, artistic expression, and character development. It is estimated that there are more than 50 million Taekwondo practitioners worldwide. Since 1988, Taekwondo has been included in the Olympic Games, which has contributed to its phenomenal growth and popularity.

Taekwondo’s Structure

Today there are many different styles of Taekwondo being practiced. Nonetheless, one finds certain core activities that are common to virtually all. While Taekwondo may be organized or articulated differently by different systems, most styles generally encompass five core activities,

-Practice of fundamentals
-Sport Sparring

These five core activities are intended to have both combat value and to help practitioners evolve physically, mentally, and spiritually. In actual training, all activities are interrelated.

None is more important than the other, and all are mutually interdependent, constituting an indivisible whole. For example, fundamental skills, such as punches, kicks, and blocks, are ingrained through constant repetition of basic motions. There skills are further refined by practicing prearranged patterns of movements and techniques ( called form) , against imaginary opponents. Speed and power are further refined and tested by attempting to break various materials. Lastly, techniques are further developed through various forms of sparring (self-defense or sport), in which the student must now interact with a real opponent. This builds improvisational skills, footwork, and a realistic sense of combat.

It is important to understand that these five activities are not related to one’s rank or experience, nor do they occur in any particular order or sequence. The training of the master and the novice will both be defined by these five activities throughout their training careers, although their focus is obviously quite different. For example, masters will constantly return to the practice of fundamentals to maintain and refine, and to practice an activity that they have come to love and enjoy; whereas the novice practices fundamentals to learn and ingrain basic skills.

The practice of Fundamentals ( Kibon Tllyon)

The practice of fundamentals involves mental and physical training in individual techniques, such as kicks, punches, foot work, and stances – The basic elements that compose Taekwondo. Training usually involves constant repetition of basic motions in order to ingrain skills and perfect technique. This can involve a range of activities, such as target kicking, repetitive drills to perfect specific strikes, breathing exercises, flexibility exercises, and meditation. The practice of fundamentals can be done individually or in unison with one’s classmates. Fundamental skills are further refined through sparring (self -defense or sport), breaking, and forms practice.

Self-defense( Hoshin)

This activity involves training in specific unarmed techniques designed to protect oneself of others. Fundamental skills are combined and refined in a realistic context that attempts to approximate actual combat. This can involve prearranged sparring, in which trainees perform predetermined actions; or free sparring , in which trainees must learn to spontaneously improvise based on the changing dynamics of combat. Generally, sparring is an essential activity for developing free-thinking skills, footwork, and a realistic sense of combat.

Sport Sparring ( kyorugi)

The purpose of competitive sport sparring is to:

1) hold a contest of skills based on specific rules in which the competitors and spectators can enjoy the act of winning and losing
2) provide a forum in which one can test and develop skills, with less risk of injury than real combat permits; and
3) provide an activity that promotes the cultivation of positive moral values and character qualities that are an essential part of other aspects of life- qualities such as inner strength, resiliency, confidence, assertiveness, and the ability to triumph over adversity, accept defeat graciously, and never give up. These are many different forms of sport sparring, ranging from full-contact Olympic-Style to no-contact point fighting. Like the previous prearranged or free sparring. Historically, self-defense and sport sparring were conceptualized as a single activity called “sparring”(kyorugi or taeryon). Today, these two activities are so vastly different, it is more helpful to consider them separately.

Breaking ( kyokpa)

In this activity, the Taekwondoist attempts to break different materials- such as wood, bricks, tiles, and granite- by using specific striking techniques. Breaking techniques, often noted for their spectacular effect, are not practice to impress people, but to perfect crucial aspects of striking, such as proper hand/foot formation, speed, power, penetration, timing, accuracy, concentration, breathing, and mind-body-spirit harmony. Breaking also provides a socially acceptable forum for practicing deadly, full - power blows.

Form (pumsae)

Forms are specific solo exercise in which the Taekwondoist practices a predetermined, continuous pattern of movements and techniques, against imaginary opponents. Forms are used to ingrain basic motions and combination; develop speed, fluidity, timing, power, endurance, and proper breathing; sharpen concentration; and build conditioned responses to various forms of attacks and counterattacks. One of the advantages of forms training is that it does not require a partner and can be practiced anywhere there is sufficient space. Forms are graded in terms of their difficulty and are usually selected based on one’s skill and rank. The specific sets of forms being practiced today vary widely. Many forms have historical or philosophical concepts associated with them.  

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