Tufts University Tae Kwon Do

About Tae Kwon Do

The Tenets of Tae Kwon Do

Courtesy · Integrity · Perseverance · Self-Control · Indomitable Spirit

It is important that students know these are not merely words but the characteristics one must possess if they are to ever become a true student of the art.

The tenets of Tae Kwon Do go to the very roots of the art, that of the positive development of the total individual: a person who is both a positive influence on those around him/her and the community.


Tae Kwon Do as a Martial Art

Tae kwon do is a "hard style" of martial arts, meaning it focuses on punches, kicks, and blocks instead of joint locks, grabs, and throws. It is distinctive among hard styles because of its high, powerful, elegant kicks. Tae kwon do is a Korean martial art and has a long and intricate history.

The first evidence of regularly practiced martial arts in Korea date back to 3 BC. Mural paintings from the Koguryo dynasty show people sparring. In the Silla kingdom during roughly the same time period, Taekkyon (an ancestor of Taekwondo) was a part of Hwarangdo, the education of the male youth of the nobility. During the Koryo period (starting in 918 AD), Subak (another ancestor of Taekwondo) was very popular and was a spectator sport in addition to being a martial art. Subak reached the zenith of its popularity during the reign of King Uijong (1147-1170 AD).

During the Japanese occupation in the first half of the 20th century, martial arts training was forbidden in Korea. Practitioners still continued training in secret, though, preserving the distinctive style of Korean martial arts.

In the years following the liberation of Korea at the end of WWII, a schism developed that would eventually lead to the two major Taekwondo organizations we now see in the world: the International Taekwondo Federation and the World Taekwondo Federation.

The ITF views General Choi Hong Hi as the founder of modern tae kwon do. When he was young, Choi was taught Taekkyon by his calligraphy teacher. In 1937, he went to Japan. While he was there, he studied Karate and achieved the rank of first-degree black belt. In January of 1946, he became a second lieutenant in the Korean Army, and used that as a gateway to spread his mixture of Taekkyon and Karate. By the end of the Korean War, Choi had climbed the ranks until he was in command of the entire 5th infantry division. In 1955, Taekwondo was formally recognized by the Korean government. In 1961, Gen. Choi made Taekwondo required study for all soldiers and police officers in Korea. Since then, the International Taekwondo Federation has spread Gen. Choi’s style of Taekwondo worldwide.

In 1961, the Korean Taekwondo Association was formed. The KTA does not view Gen. Choi as the creator of Taekwondo, instead presenting the martial art as the result of a long progression of Korean martial arts. In 1973, the KTA formed the World Taekwondo Federation. The WTF was instrumental in the worldwide spread of the popularity of the sport element of Taekwondo. In 1988, WTF Taekwondo was a demonstration event in at the Seoul Olympic Games. It was once again a demonstration sport in 1992 in Barcelona. In 1994, the International Olympic Committee approved WTF Taekwondo as a full medal sport for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Nowadays, both ITF and WTF Taekwondo are popular martial arts. Generally speaking, the ITF has more intricate forms and the WTF has a greater focus on sparring. At Tufts Taekwondo, we do not get involved in the politics of Taekwondo. We practice the ITF forms, but also place an emphasis on WTF-rules sparring.

All historical information is from the Korean Taekwondo Association (www.koreataekwondo.org) and the International Taekwondo Federation (www.itf-taekwondo.com).