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10 things you may not know about taekwondo

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that many people love practising across the world. This martial art can be used as a form of self-defence, a form of combat or simply as a form of exercise that works the whole body. Taekwondo uses punches, kicks, open handed strikes, throws and blocks. The literal translation of the word taekwondo is ‘way of the hand and foot’.

Taekwondo is the national sports of South Korea and it is hugely popular in that country. The sport is also part of the national military training programme in South Korea. Master practitioners of Taekwondo must be physically fit, have a good level of concentration and a strong understanding of self-defence and combat techniques.

Read on for 10 things you may not know about this ancient martial art.

The Olympics

  1. Taekwondo is one of only two martial arts to be included in the Olympics. The other one is judo. 1976 was the first year that taekwondo was allowed into the Olympics as an event. Taekwondo has four categories for competition for men and women, and the categories are decided by weight division.
  2. In the Olympics, only sparring technique is allowed in the taekwondo competition. However, in general competitions outside the Olympics, other techniques such as self-defence, breaking and patterns are allowed in addition to sparring. During the Olympic event the participants take part in an elimination tournament to win gold and silver medals, with the losers from each competing for the bronze medal.

Taekwondo Injuries

  1. Taekwondo uses powerful moves, but injuries from this sport are rare and usually only minor. The most common injuries from practising Taekwondo are bruises and strains to the legs. Taekwondo has a lower injury rate than mixed martial arts but a higher injury rate than hockey and football.

World Wide Popularity

  1. Taekwondo is practised in 188 countries around the world with 70 million people participating in the sport. Of all the taekwondo students in the world, 4 million are black belts.

Korean Commands

  1. When using taekwondo, the commands for the punches and blocks are given in Korean. For example, relax is ‘sho', commence is ‘sijack’, the training hall where students practice the sport is called the ‘do-jang’ and the uniform is the ‘dobok’.

The Belt System

  1. Students of taekwondo work their way through the belt system, each with its own colour. The colours in order of seniority are: white, yellow, green, blue, red and black. To become a taekwondo Master you have to be 7th degree black belt. You become a Grandmaster when you reach 9th degree black belt.

Grand Master

  1. The founder of taekwondo is General Choi-Hong Hi, who is a 9th degree Master.

Taekwondo in Films

  1. Taekwondo can be seen in many films. Some famous actors that use the sport in their films include Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. Other famous people who practice taekwondo include Jackie Chan, Dolph Lundgren and Ryan Philippe.

Tenets of Taewkondo

  1. The sport has many values that students learn as part of their practice. However, these values or tenets are not only applied in the sport, they are also values that students should incorporate into their daily lives.

Korean Origins

  1. Taekwondo originated in Korea around 2,000 years ago and there are mural paintings showing figures practising martial arts that date from 3 CE. Today, the biggest Taekwondo tournament organisation in the world is the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), which has its headquarters in South Korea.

How Long to Reach Black Belt?

For students practising taekwondo, many want to know how long it will take to reach a black belt. This is all dependent on how much practice you are prepared to put into your taekwondo studies. A dedicated student of taekwondo should be able to take the exam for first degree black belt in about 4 years. Just because you take the exam does not mean you will pass and many people do fail the exams, so it is important to be sure you are ready.


Taekwondo is a good sport for people wishing to improve their fitness, as well as learn a martial art. The sport is exhausting to practice as there are lots of moves to make and as you improve you will add more movement and more difficult punches, kicks, strikes and throws. Although there are many techniques in taekwondo that could be useful for self-defence, it is not ideal for this type of practice and something like krav maga would be more suitable for pure self-defence purposes as this technique is created as a self-defence form for the military.

Taekwondo is great for both children and adults to practice. If you are interested in learning more about this sport contact your local sports centre or martial arts group who will be able to point you in the right direction for finding somewhere to practice and find others who love taekwondo.