Of the many different forms of martial arts being taught and practiced in the country today, Taekwondo classes remain one the most popular across all age ranges and levels of ability. Its emphasis on moral discipline and respect for authority makes it an ideal afterschool activity for children, while its focus on self-defense, in addition to exercise makes it a viable option for ordinary adults of average ability to feel better prepared to protect themselves in a weapons-free environment, should the need arise.
Unlike some forms of martial arts that emphasize an overall toughening of the body, one needn’t be thin as a picket fence or strong as an ox to reap a rich, rewarding experience from Taekwondo.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial arts discipline whose name translates to “The way of the hand and foot.” In its earliest form, it dates back to before the birth of the Christian Era. It vacillated between a form of recreation and a self-defense regimen through the ages, depending upon the whims of whichever leader ruled Korea at the time. Its current form evolved in the wake of WWII, when Korea was liberated from Japanese occupation, and has thrived since in spite of that country’s split into North and South Korea following the Korean War in 1953.
Wide interest in American Taekwondo took root in the mid-1950s, when Korean Taekwondo instructors and demonstration teams performed here to great acclaim. Today, there are many different, accredited Taekwondo organizations including the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), and the American Taekwondo Association (ATA).
As its name implies, the physical aspect of Taekwondo instruction emphasizes training the body as a weapon, as opposed to training a body to wield weapons. Even though weapons training is an integral part of the modern discipline, Taekwondo’s history and its philosophy are rooted in hands-on contact.
Perhaps even more important than the physical aspect, “The philosophy of Tae Kwon Do is to build a more peaceful world,” according to the International Taekwondo Association’s website. Taekwondo teaches its students the value of personal integrity and service to community as paths to inner peace, which inner peace is a necessary first step to achieving the goal of making the world itself a more peaceful place.
Integral to promotion within the order of the discipline, the belt system both identifies its wearer’s rank and level of accomplishment, and seeing that there is always a higher belt or rank within reach serves as a constant goal for which the student to strive.
Different schools and different organizations have their own specific order of rank and structure, usually dependent upon the governing body of the organization to which they belong. Generally, a white belt indicates a beginner in the martial arts, and a black belt identifies a student or instructor who has spent considerably longer studying and working on their chosen discipline. The rest of the color belts fall in between as individual academies’ regulations provide, the same holding true for exactly how advanced ranks are earned and labeled.
Every moment spent in Taekwondo training is a learning experience. The first discipline imparted, and one that runs throughout, is forms; a series of defending and attacking movements performed in a specific, defined order and pattern. Through practice of forms, students learn the various techniques of Taekwondo and develop coordination, balance, breath control and rhythm. Taekwondo also teaches students how to perform punches and strikes, kicks, and board-breaking safely and accurately.
While, as its name suggests, Taekwondo is traditionally a hands-on workout/self-defense regimen, the modern discipline has integrated weapons work from a variety of other martial arts, including the bo staff from China, song-ji-bongs (or nun-chucks) from Japan, even traditional Korean sword instruction.
Taekwondo’s complementary emphases on exercise, self-defense, service to community and respect for others make it appealing to a broad spectrum of the American public. There are literally thousands of Taekwondo schools and studios in the United States. In most suburban areas you will be able to find a mix of licensed academies available that teach the American Taekwondo Association, the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), to the International Taekwondo Association styles. Many of those schools are already listed on this website and you can find ones nearest to you by beginning a search for schools in your area now.
Almost every weekend, there is a Taekwondo tournament taking place somewhere in America where students of all ages, belt ranks and ability levels compete against their peers in sanctioned, regulated competitions that promote camaraderie, personal accomplishment and team spirit.
Safety is paramount in a Taekwondo academy, nowhere more so than in the children’s classes, and with the lower-ranked belts of any age. All sports or exercise activities carry with them the statistical possible of injury, but the structured environment of a Taekwondo school keeps that number far lower than other similar activities, with most of the injuries reported being bruises.
In addition to the strict supervision of the trained martial arts instructors, special padded combat gear is required with any activity that includes peer-to-peer physical contact. The required protective gear includes hand and foot protection, a chest plate, cup, mouth guard, and specially-fitted sparring helmet when appropriate.
Taekwondo academies offer a wide variety of classes, from beginning karate for kids, that tend to offer a generous instructor-to-student ratio for the one-on-one instruction necessary when dealing with the youngest future martial artists, to adult classes for everyone regardless of previous experience, age, background, personal challenges or individual goals for attending Taekwondo classes.
One needn’t be a trained athlete—or want your child to be one—in order to benefit from the physical and philosophical instruction that is at the heart of Taekwondo. If you are looking for a martial arts program to help instill self-confidence, strength not just of body but of character, and discipline in yourself or a loved one, Taekwondo offers a clear path from wherever you begin, to that honorable end goal. Find a Taekwondo school near you now.
Taekwondo, loosely meaning, “The way of the foot and the hand,” is a martial art form that focuses on kicking and striking techniques. It originated in Korea and was used by the military as a system of hand-to-hand combat and self-defense. Taekwondo, also known as Tae Kwon-Do, TaeKwonDo and Taekwon-Do, has become greatly popular in the west as a form of exercise and fitness. It was originally developed in the 1940’s via a collaborative effort between a number of martial art masters and features influences of Okinawan Karate, Subak and Taekkyeon.
Taekwondo has been an Olympic sport since 2000. In fact, Taekwondo is the only martial art other than Judo to be an Olympic Sport and for this reason, is a popular choice of training for martial art enthusiasts interested in competing professionally. As with any sport, however, Taekwondo begins with training and students will find themselves learning a suite of kicks, open-handed strikes, take-down moves, joint locks, throws, punches and grappling techniques.
Different colored belts signify the level of achievement and skill in Taekwondo. Many Taekwondo schools, classes and academies also make use of equipment to help train students.
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