What is Taekwondo?

Condition and perseverance
Reaction und Action
Sense of responsibility

Taekwondo is a method of self-protection from Korea that uses instead of weapons all parts of the body to stopf a fight. You may think “One more technique among so many martial arts with no future!” Here is a little story from the Far East:

One day somebody was standing by the edge of the precipice looking at the sea for the first time. He said at this breath-taking view:  How nice this is! What a wonderful sight! And his friend answered: Just think that you only see the surface!  


Taekwondo is a Martial Art, an entire philosophy, a way of life and since the Olympic games in Sydney in the year 2000 an Olympic sport.

In its 5000 years of history  there existed in Korea various forms of self-defence (Subak, Taekyon, Sunbae and Hwarangdo). Their development has lead us to the current form of Taekwondo.

The name Taekwondo consists of 3 parts:

  • Tae (foot, leg, step on)
  • Kwon (fist, fight) and
  • Do (the Way, the teachings, the discipline).

Taekwondo is a technique that uses hands and legs. With their right and dynamic application the student practices body and mind in a very positive way. The ultimate objective is however not to allow the fight to begin in the first place in order to assure peace. Practising a martial Art helps to strengthen the character and the personality.  Consequently it  contains educational elements. The regular practice of Taekwondo aims at the achievement of harmony between body and mind. The internal harmony affects all aspects of life. Therefore, it is essential to practice regularly, to cultivate patience and to exceed oneself. This requires resistance, love for the challenge and a strong character.

Taekwondo is way of life. Day after day one should try to overcome all challenges in one's life. Physical movements, intellectual exercises and whatever else encountered in  daily life are united with one another in a unique discipline. Above all, the student learns modesty and respect of the other.


No matter what makes one's daily life, nothing lasts forever. That is why one should do his best in every single action. At training it means to remain modest and to respect every human being.  Whoever cannot observe this rule cannot consequently follow the Way of the Warrior where one has to face the enemy who resides in one's "self".

The colour of the belt does not show only one's level in the team, it is also a sign of recognition for the personal inner development and it should be worn with respect.

The Essence of Taekwondo

I. The meaning of "Practising a Martial Art"

All Martial Arts used as combat techniques have developed in more recent years as form of sport. This can be observed in films as well as in the rising number of sports' clubs. Physical fitness and improved well-being as a way of life contribute in the popularity of Martial Arts in general. The development of Martial Arts outside Asia is very much connected with the rejection of the philosophical background for the sake of Sport. Behind the techniques however one can discover the deep nature of the combat art itself.


When observing the sea one may see the surface only. But in reality there is also an underworld, which lives according to its own rules. With human being as well as in Martial Arts it works likewise too. There is a deeper sense to be discovered beyond the numerous techniques. This leads to the true sense of life. This can be discovered gradually only when one attends training on a regular basis, is perseverant and shows patience, two valuable characteristics, that are needed, if one wants to grow up with the Martial Art.

In Asia all Martial Arts are spiritually oriented. The Buddhist and Taoist teachings gave to the combat arts a philosophical aspect and moral principles, which were the basis for the physical and mental requirements to the combat art. A Martial Art is the art of the self-realization, which combines strength and wisdom.

II. BUSHIDO - or the Way of the Warrior and respectively of the fight without weapons

In Taekwondo the basic techniques and positions learned at the beginning prepared the body for more complicated techniques later. If the interested student expected to reach an achievement as in well-known Eastern, then the training hour will disappoint him. The reason why many think likewise is to be found in the business made with fear and uncertainty of people.

The initial difficulties are only one step to overcome on the way of positively transforming oneself.  The body is strengthened and the self-assurance increases. The Taekwondoin (the Taekwondo student) changes gradually, becomes more aware and learns self-criticism.

The essence of Taekwondo is to recognize that the enemy lies deep inside. Not το master his own fear means to be confronted with the own vulnerability. In practicing Taekwondo one learns to control the body, its strength and to handle one's own aggression.  To help training conflict situations attack and counter techniques are used. To keep a calm attitude in moment of danger can only be attained with relying on inner strength. Therefore in learning specific forms and techniques allow the student to develop determination and accuracy.

III. From Martial Art to Self-Defense

A part of Taekwondo is to learn attack and counter techniques. Those are trained in sparring exercises where the student learns how to protect himself successfully. In state of emergency, however, no doubt is allowed about the effectiveness of the technique, but the moment of surprise and the own determination play a major part. Training contributes to sharpen awareness in everyday life and help recognize danger situations. Only then  learning self-defense techniques is meaningful. Without this preliminary work each self-defense technique remains ineffective. The first step is to have inner strength.

In everyday life there are situations, where one reaches one's limits. The wrong attitude often leads to an aggravation of the situation. A natural component of the human nature is the need to resist. No matter if the attack takes place verbally or physically, the reaction is similar. Self-defense is necessary, when to a threatening attack there is no way back. The appropriate reaction must be free from doubts and fears.


Therefore each training unit is a constant new fight against one’s self and the inability to do something in a specific moment wholeheartedly. The state of mind at that moment when an attack has to be repelled is very important. Each unnecessary thought that crosses one’s mind can be decisive.

The ultimate goal of the training is to sharpen the own perception: by controlling the technique the student develops an inner feeling for the form itself. He becomes one with the situation.

While being under attack one must bring itself into a stable and strategically favorable position. Mechanisms to safe one’s own position are trained to be used automatically if the situation demands it.

It is necessary to integrate the attack of the opponent in one’s own movement in order to expand strength in such a way that will bring the opponent out of action. In other words: If the opponent does not move, I remain calm. If he begins to move again I react to his movement accordingly. Developing a tactic means to carefully observe the opponent and locate his weak points. Then act quickly. To remain calm gives security and makes the aggressor uncertain.


In Taekwondo it is very important to breathe out before as well as with the attack. This specific action is connected with a loud combat sound (Kihap) that sets free the whole energy (GI). By exactly looking in the opponent’s eyes one can recognize the right moment to attack. This sort of gap becomes visible as the opponent breathes in again while waiting. This is the moment to attack. Likewise by observing one’s own breath, internal unrest can be calmed and keep under control.

In Taekwondo the right respiration is trained by using the combat sound (Kihap = Kiai (jap.)). In order to perform this Kihap, it is necessary to breathe out from deep inside and the air while passing the vocal cords creates the sound. It is also possible to train the right respiration through meditative exercises at the end of the training unit. This strengthens the energy flow. Performing Kihap means to deploy all inner energy (GI). Hard training makes possible to develop a calm spirit that will be in harmony with the body. According to the philosophy of Yin (Um) and Yang, it is said that in Martial Arts for instance while the body is active (Yang), the spirit remains watchful (Um), and in Meditation, while the spirit is very active (Yang), the body in this peaceful environment remains motionless (Um). Apparent contrasts create entireness, the basis of our inner harmony.

The way one breathes says a lot about one’s mental condition. For ex.: If one cries, is sad or fearful, the respiration takes place mostly in the chest. This creates instability and uncertainty. If one laughs and is happy, the respiration moves directly below the navel. This is the energy center (Dan Djon = Dantien (chin.) = Hara (jap.)). This kind of respiration releases energy (GI). Therefore respiration of the upper chest refers to impatient persons. A respiration at throat level shows that death is close. GI cannot flow any longer.

In order to set free this energy (GI) located in the center of the body, an upright position of the body is necessary.  Injuries tell that the body needs more consideration. All  self-defense techniques leads in a further step to a new approach to the body.


The disciplines of Taekwondo

The competition aspect (Kyorugi) is the most popular discipline; it is represented on numerous tournaments. In competition all techniques learned in basic training are used fast and precisely. The goal is to recognize the opponent’s strategy by skillfully avoiding, using blocks or counter techniques right at the beginning. The fighter has also the possibility to use his own impact techniques in order to attain points during the competition. The free fight demands above all ability, a very good condition and mobility, an outstanding reactivity and naturally a controlling of the competition rules. With sufficient training - and presupposing some talent –, a student may reach an appropriate level for taking part in tournaments.


In order to perform a Form (Poomse) the student must be able to work against one or more imaginary opponents. All forms contain strictly specified movements and techniques. The student learns 8 different forms until the black belt. Each contains all combat elements that the student learns and trains during the course of the training and whose degree of difficulty increases gradually. This requires a sense of balance and the will to perform all given movements with strength, determination and precision. In this discipline tournaments take place too.


However, Taekwondo is first well-known as art of unarmed self-defense. The Self-Defense Techniques (Hosinsul) consist of all elements trained in Taekwondo and are thereby the result of this regular practice at the same time. They strengthen the self-confidence, so that in case of an attack on one’s self, this will be faced with the necessary courage and will for victory. The regular training of highly effective defense techniques in connection with a psychological preparation are  the best investment into one’s own security.


Another discipline in Taekwondo consists of testing the learned techniques on their effectiveness: the Breaking test (Kyokpa). The Taekwondoin uses among other things wood boards. The breaking shows the physical and mental level of the student. In less than a second the whole intention to smash (i.e. the board) must be concentrated on only one point, whose control is the basis of the “DO” or philosophy. In order to attain this level of maturity it is necessary to train conscientiously over a   long time. However, this Alone is not the goal of the DO, but the way to the DO is the most important thing.