Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. Tae means "kick", kwon means "fist" and do means "art". Put together, taekwondo is the "art of kicking and punching". There are two styles of taekwondo, ITF (International Taekwondo Federation) and WTF (World Taekwondo Federation). ITF is headquartered in North Korea and WTF is headquartered in South Korea. Currently, WTF has gained more popularity due to its acceptance as an olympic sport. Overall, taekwondo claims to be the fastest growing martial art in North America. Please note that I currently study WTF style; therefore, my comments about taekwondo on this site are based on experience in that style alone.
In WTF style taekwondo, there are ten levels (gups) prior to attaining black belt and there are ten levels (dan) of black. The curriculum of taekwondo is intense. It requires one to be highly conditioned physically. At the beginning levels, training is focused primarily on getting the student into good physical condition and teaching basic skills necessary for martial arts (i.e., simple footwork, body coordination, agility, flexibility, and strength). Training also requires mental discipline. Patterns (poomse, pronounced "poom-say") are taught in order to develop spatial perception. An ability to focus mentally aids in learning the poomses. A test is given at each belt level to determine promotion to the next belt. As part of the tests, students are required to break pine boards. In order to get black belt, the student is required to break concrete. Sparring is also required at the advanced levels as the student by that time should have attained a certain level of control over her skills. Sparring in taekwondo has a system of honour and etiquette and is consequently about skill level rather than strength and force.
As part of my training for a black belt in taekwondo, I was required to write an essay on why I decided to take taekwondo, how it has changed my life, and the meaning of the belt levels (white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black).
Copyright C.J. Chow September 2004