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.
For decades traditional taekwondo has been the perfect medium for cultivating inner strength, extraordinary endurance, and an effective arsenal of defensive skills. In its current iteration it can be thought of as a direct reflection of modern society’s desire for a ritualized discipline devoid of religious dogma, but complete with a physically and spiritually enhanced set of ethical principles by which to live. Consequently, motives for training in the martial arts today range anywhere from gaining proficiency in self-defense and physical fitness in adults, to propagating discipline and focus in children that might otherwise be glued to a television set or computer screen. There is little doubt that practitioners of all ages can profit greatly from a sincere study of traditional taekwondo.
While sport and all its trappings can provide an outlet for aggression and create social bonds by way of teambuilding, it is, by definition restricted to a set place and time. Likewise, while organized religion attempts to satisfy an innate desire for spiritual enlightenment, it does nothing to address the physical needs of the individual. Martial arts, on the other hand, if offered in a traditional manner, represent a way of life and a vehicle for self-enrichment through diligent training. Invariably, one may ask how a pursuit so resonant with aggressive overtones can benefit humanity. The solution to this paradox can be found in the realization that the more frequently one trains and becomes proficient in the martial arts, the more one discovers that they have less to defend against. Confidence begins to replace fear. Defensive skills become internalized resulting in one’s ability to walk life’s path appreciating its simple pleasures rather than being blinded by its daily perils. Now more than ever, these benefits reflect the true worth of taekwondo training.
With roots dating back to antiquity, the robust philosophical foundation that acted as a code of honor for the Hwarang-do of ancient Silla, one of three ancient Korean dynasties, continues to support traditional taekwondo and remains as valid today as it was in the seventh century when these noble warriors sought ethical wisdom beyond the field of battle. The Five Tenets, originally fashioned by General Choi Hong-hi, are recited at the completion of each class and act as a roadmap to nobility.
Furthermore, children attending our Youth Training Class recite the Student Creed or the Ten Mental Educations before being dismissed. These principles are directly related to the Code of Honor as practiced by the Hwarang-do of ancient Korea.