The Five Foundations of Taekwondo

You’re probably thinking: “I don’t know what that is” or “How do I pronounce that?”

Taekwondo is the national sport of South Korea.

A martial art characterized by kicking and punching movements, the word Taekwondo is split into three Korean words. “Tae” means “feet” or “to strike with the feet."“Kwon” translates to “hand” or “to strike with the hand," and “Do” means “the way of”. So, the word itself literally translates into “The way of kicking and punching.”

Though the term "Taekwondo" has been in use fairly recently, the history of this martial art has been developing over the last 2,300 years or so.

As a student of this martial art, I’ll be the first to say that my opinion is biased, but if you look at the history of the sport and how it’s gained popularity over the years, I’m sure you’ll agree that it deserves more recognition.

There are many components of Taekwondo that are similar to other martial arts, but the way Taekwondo is formulated and organized makes it a unique and meaningful art form.

1. Endurance

The emphasis on endurance is obviously a very important aspect of any athletic event, but Taekwondo competitors need to be in top physical shape in order to perform their best.

In class, we always stretch properly to ensure no injury and to bring blood to the muscles. Stretching is followed by a series of cardio exercises to warm up the entire body for working out. This is particularly important for sparring, as you can get exhausted easily because of the fast paced movements.

Quickfire moves, rapid reactions, and strong kicks are needed in order to gain points against your partner. I've always found the combination of mind and body power to be fascinating and important in this sport. You could be in the top physical shape, but if your mind isn't set and focused, you won't find success.

2. Respect

Respect is an integral part of not only Taekwondo, but martial arts as a whole.

We refer to our teacher as “Master” followed by their last name, “Sir” or “Ma'am”. After instructions are given, "Yes, Sir" or "Yes, Ma'am" have to be followed immediately as a sign of respect to your elders and those who are higher than you.

I personally think that nothing but respect and admiration can be given to those who dedicate their lives to teaching the martial art they have grown to love and appreciate. Respect not only for your Masters, but also your parents, elders, teachers, and family members are key components.

3. Patience

To be successful in anything, patience is key.

Patience comes into play time and time again in Taekwondo because without it, you wouldn't progress. You have to be patient when you can't perfect your kicks. You have to be patient when you can't seem to get your form right.You have to be patient when it seems like your sparring patterns are messy and uncontained. You have to be patient on the road to getting your black belt, and even more patient after that as the ranks of success in Taekwondo progress and get more complicated.

Without patience, it would seem as if you were stuck in the same space that you began. I've noticed a difference in myself after I began going to classes more regularly as I've been freaking out about little things less and less.

4. Respect to the Homeland

As Taekwondo is a Korean sport, emphasis on knowing Korean terms and phrases is present, at least in my school. Students have to know how to count in Korean as well as know specific terms for blocks, kicks, and stances.

Giving respect to the country where the art was born is important because you are maintaining a connection with the roots. Though this might differ with various schools, I'm glad that my specific school placed an emphasis on maintaining Korean identity.

5. Practice

Verily, any form of art would not be effective if it weren't for practice and repetition.

Practice in Taekwondo means repeating your form over and over until you get it right, practicing your kicks to make sure you're doing everything correctly, and practicing different sparring techniques so that you don't repeat your usual pattern.

The best Taekwondo competitors instill a combination of all of the aforementioned qualities to perfect the art that has captured the hearts and bodies of millions of people, including myself.

I’d love to see more recognition for Taekwondo in the states, not only because of the endurance that it takes to be successful in this sport, but because of the underlying themes of respect, patience, and hard work, it takes to become successful.

A very special shout out to Master Choi, Master Rin, Master Cho at Taekwon Maru for being the best teachers ever!