TAEKWONDO: Martial Art or Martial Sport?

tae_kwon_do_trainer_by_scorpio_kempkeTaekwondo, a martial arts thousands of years old developed on the battlefields of Korea. Over the many centuries there has been different developments before it has developed into the modern Taekwondo we see today. But is Taekwondo a martial arts or a martial sports? This question may spring from the many of thousands of minds that may see Taekwondo matches at the Olympics. Olympic sparring obviously being the sport side of Taekwondo, but once again is Taekwondo a martial sport or martial arts?

Well the answer is quite easy to answer. Taekwondo is a korean martial arts that teaches self defense, physical and mental conditioning, spiritual development, and has a sports side to it. Olympic style sparring is a small aspect of the huge picture of Taekwondo. Taekwondo consist of hand and arm strikes, kicks, leg strikes, grabs, joint manipulations, joint locks and breaks, throws, sweeps, vital point striking, soft and hard blocking techniques, as well as the sparring techniques for sparring matches.

These techniques are taught, trained, and practiced through many training/practice methods:

  • striking heavy bags, bags, body shields, paddles, makiwaras, and etc,. to develop accuracy and power
  • practicing one step sparring; self defense techniques against punching and kicking techniques with a partner
  • practicing self defense techniques from various attacks from a partner using strikes, joint locks, sweeps, throw, and various other techniques
  • the use of patterns/poomse to practice series of attacks and defenses in a set form solo or as a group
  • the breaking of boards, concrete, and other hard material in order to test the power of your strikes and kicks once one has conditioned properly and has a high understanding of the techniques
  • through sparring matches to develop speed, power, accuracy, reflexes, conditioning of the mind, body, and spirit.

Taekwondo effectiveness as a martial arts is proven on the battlefields when the korean armed forces are taught Taekwondo. Since Korean has very strict gun laws their bodyguards trained in Taekwondo so they can protect their clients. The ability to break huge piles of hard concrete shows how easily a single well placed powerful strike can stop a fight. Watch a Taekwondo sparring match and try to keep up with the speed of the strikes and kicks. Knockouts seem to happen in a split second against highly trained opponents.

Now yes there is a sports side to taekwondo. Taekwondo has a few huge organizations that sanction sparring competitions between competitors from all over the world. Most of the time these competitions are called games and competitors referred to as players are competing in matches. They spar controlled to full contact depending on the tournament to gain points over their opponent by scoring with various taekwondo techniques. Mainly kicking, the trademark of taekwondo. There is set rules as to what techniques are allowed, time limits, and etc,. There is many rules enforced to ensure the safety of the players. So this makes Taekwondo a sport or game? No, just a small part of it.

The challenge lies that a large portion of the general public uneducated views of only seeing the olympic style and assuming that taekwondo practitioners only spar like that. It’s not the rules of our sparring that makes taekwondo so effective. It’s the effective of the self defense tools that we develop that makes taekwondo a great self defense art and martial arts with a sports side.

Master Jonathan Field

Cobourg Tae Kwon Do

3 comments on “TAEKWONDO: Martial Art or Martial Sport?

  1. Hi Master Jonathan, What size if boards does Michael need for Saturday? 8″ long, 3/4″ thick? And does he need 25 of them?




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