What is Tae Kwon Do?

The Art

Tae Kwon Do is derived from several martial arts, with its main influence being Korean 'Tae-Kyon Kick Fighting' and Japanese Karate. Literally translated , 'Tae' is to kick or smash with the feet, 'Kwon' means to intercept or strike with the hand and 'Do' is the way or the art. Thus, Tae Kwon Do is the use of the hands and feet to swiftly overcome an attacker. Tae Kwon Do is generally recognised as one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts, which teaches more than mere physical fighting skills. It is a discipline which shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind. It is also a modern sport that has gained an international reputation, and stands among the official games in the Olympics.

The tenets of Tae Kwon-Do

Taekwon-Do aims to achieve

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

These tenets form the basis of the ethical roots of Tae Kwon do, and are based on an ancient honour-code practised by the Hwarang. See the History section for more on the Hwarang.

You and Tae Kwon-Do - total fitness in body and mind

In Tae Kwon Do you'll learn to stretch and exercise nearly every muscle group in your body. That aspect alone distinguishes the sport from most others. But emphasis on improved concentration, stamina and self-control is what really sets Tae Kwon Do apart from other disciplines. To develop those skills, you'll exercise your mind at least as much as your body. Naturally, the positive effects of that exercise will carry over into other areas of your life too. From another perspective, Tae Kwon Do can be characterized by unity: the unity of body, mind, and life. When you do Tae Kwon Do, you should clear and focus your mind, and synchronise it with your movements, and extend this harmony to your life and society. This is how in Tae Kwon Do the principle of physical movements, the principle of mind training, and the principle of life become one and the same.


Tae Kwon Do will improve your fitness, flexibility and most of all, your confidence. It will help to control or channel your aggression - should the need arise. Right from the first lesson you will start developing a whole new range of skills and capabilities with the opportunity to realise self-achievement.


In these days of increasing violent attacks on women, it has now, more than ever, become necessary for women to be prepared to protect themselves. More and more women are turning to the martial arts for protection and Tae Kwon Do can certainly provide this. It is a superb form of self-defence and also a great way to keep fit and trim. Tae Kwon Do is safe, practical and most of all - enjoyable, so why not give it a try ?


Children who acquire self-confidence at an early age are far more likely to succeed in their adult ambitions. Tae Kwon Do is arguably the best method of instilling confidence in children and at the same emphasises the importance of respect and discipline. As a result of the fast and exciting nature of Tae Kwon Do there are thousands of children participating throughout the U.K.,and there are millions worldwide.


The Tae Kwon Do Association of Great Britain (TAGB) is a nationally recognised Tae Kwon Do organisation in this country. It was formed in 1983 and has since become the founding member of the British Tae Kwon Do Council (BTC) which is recognised by UK Sport.

The T.A.G.B. is the world's largest single martial arts organisation. With nearly 20,000 members and over 450 clubs you are guaranteed certificated, experienced instructors, a carefully worked-out teaching syllabus and the high standards Tae Kwon Do students all over the country have come to expect.

Most towns throughout Great Britain have their own T.A.G.B. Club, so if you move away you can be sure of receiving the same quality of instruction. After several years of training, all T.A.G.B. instructors undergo both written examinations and extensive practical assessments to gain their qualifications. With clubs throughout the country the TAGB is the ideal organisation for learning a martial art that has evolved through a 3,000 year history to become the newest Olympic sport.

The Sport

(note: Competition Tae Kwon Do is purely optional). Competition Tae Kwon Do is split into two sections:


All matches are semi-contact with full safety equipment worn to avoid any risk of injury. The pace is fast and furious. It has been described as the most visually breath-taking sport since Chariot Racing! Winners are decided from a point system with referees constantly monitoring the bout to keep strict control on contact.

Free sparring (club-based)

Free sparring involves the unprogrammed exchange of techniques between two partners. Each person is expected to control the impact of their techniques at all times. Full, approved safety equipment must be worn - this is there to guard against accidents. Free sparring is carried out with courtesy, and often in club sparring you are encouraged to provide openings and acknowledge an effective technique.


Concentration, technique, skill, balance, dynamics and elegance are just a few requirements needed to perform these sequences of prearranged movements against imaginary opponents

A pattern is a set of fundamental movements, mainly defence and attack, in a logical sequence, to deal with one or more imaginary opponents. Patterns help to develop sparring techniques, improve movement, co-ordination, master body shifting, direction changing, develop muscles, balance, breath control and the use and application of new stances and techniques.

Many of these techniques cannot be obtained from other forms of training. There are 24 patterns to match the number of hours in a day, where a day represents the whole life of a person; most patterns are named after figures in Korean mythology or history.

To perform a pattern, a student must begin and end on the same spot, to show accuracy, and have correct posture and facing at all times. Their muscles need to be tensed and relaxed at proper critical moments in the exercise.

The pattern needs to be performed with rhythmic movement, not stiffly, with acceleration and deceleration at appropriate times. A student should know the purpose of each movement, and perform each one with realism. Each pattern needs to be perfected before moving on.

Other parts of the Tae kwon Do syllabus:


In line work students move forwards or backwards, performing and repeating a set of moves which may be taken from a pattern, or put together in a combination ( hands or legs or both ).


Students use hand - held pads as targets for their hand and foot techniques.

3 Step sparring

These are basic beginner techniques. Students can practice techniques safely, while judging focus, distance and timing. A students also learns & develops correct facing, forearm conditioning, correct blocks and stances and counter attacks.

3 step semi - free sparring

This is a development of 3 step sparring, where the student can use kicks as well. The attacker carries out three attacks; the defender performs three blocks or evasions and then counter - attacks. This type of sparring should not be hurried - one needs good reaction force and quick, smart moves - it is a good way to learn the true art of sparring.

2 step sparring

These are more advanced techniques than 3 step, for the intermediate student. The same focus, timing and distance skills are needed as before, but the attacks are more varied, so the attacker can try different combinations.

One step sparring

This is between free sparring and pre-arranged set sparring. It is the most realistic of the set sparring, since the defender cannot see the attack, and so must have fast reflexes. At and above black belt level, a student can use take downs, arm locks, joint breaking techniques, etc.

One - for - one sparring

This is useful for stamina training. As soon as one technique is over, the other one starts. Techniques should be crisp and well executed.


Tae Kwon do has always tested the effectiveness of many of its techniques by destruction or 'breaking'. The aim of destruction is to test a student's technique, accuracy and power, as well as mental attitude. In order to carry out destruction, you need to be over 16 and have achieved Black Belt status. The objects to be broken are usually one or more breakable plastic boards or pieces of wood, hand-held or mounted in a special frame called a 'horse'. More adventurous people have used breeze blocks, bricks etc!

Korean terminology & Tae Kwon-Do history

Students need knowledge of the origins of Tae Kwon Do, as well as Korean terms as relating to the martial art. Knowing the terminology, you can train in any club in the world and still understand what to do!


There is also time devoted to general & specific fitness exercises, stretching, etc.Occasionally higher grades may be required to assist lower grades.