Taekwondo is the traditional martial art and Olympic sport of Korea; an Asian discipline with over ninety-million practitioners worldwide. What is it about this unique way of life targeted at cultivating the mind, body, and spirit that has captured the hearts and minds of so many? Could it be that taekwondo contains over 3200 empty-hand combat techniques with proven effectiveness on the field of battle establishing it as an authentic means of self-defense? Or is it the metaphysical and philosophical aspects of the art that attract those seeking more than a simple, physical workout. Perhaps, it is the fact that taekwondo shares the spotlight, along with judo, as being the only two martial arts in a constellation of many, recognized by the International Olympic Committee with the exclusive privilege of participating in the Olympic Games. Either way, it is clear that taekwondo has taken its place as the fastest growing, most popular martial art in the world today.
Without a doubt, the current popularity enjoyed by taekwondo, literally translated as “foot-fist-way”, or “the way of punching and kicking with hands and feet”, is largely due to an ingenious process of standardization introduced during its formative years by the Korea Taekwondo Association, and not long after, by the International Taekwon-do Federation and the World Taekwondo Federation. This development required the core infrastructure of taekwondo to become unified and, therefore, transferable wherever it is taught, eventually leading to Olympic fame. Likewise, mirroring its success as a competitive entity, the martial art of taekwondo, with roots that date back to antiquity, in contrast to the martial sport bearing the same name, has maintained its technical skills and combat integrity through the efforts of several institutions such as the Kukkiwon - the center of taekwondo operations worldwide - the United States Taekwondo Association, and similar organizations given to the perpetuation of taekwondo as a traditional method of self-defense.
Yet, it is important to note that taekwondo is not merely about kicking and punching. Rather, it is an action philosophy that seeks to enrich the lives of those who diligently apply its ethical principles to their daily routine. While on the surface it represents a system of self-defense coupled with a means of attaining physical fitness, the art rests on a virtuous foundation influenced by the three Asian philosophical paradigms of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. For the sincere martial artist, the doctrines borrowed from these systems act as a moral compass in pointing the way towards self-improvement.