Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques. Taekwondo was developed during the 1940s and 1950s by Korean martial artists with experience in martial arts such as taekwondo, Chinese martial arts, and indigenous Korean martial arts traditions such as Taekkyeon, Subak, and Gwonbeop. The oldest governing body for taekwondo is the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), formed in 1959 through a collaborative effort by representatives from the nine original kwans, or martial arts schools, in Korea.
Here are the most common colours and the ranks they correspond to.
A test is not required for the white belt, but in order to move on to the next rank, one first has to achieve the white belt with yellow stripes. The test requires the individual to carry out a predetermined pattern, as well as go through the three-step and one-step sparring process with another taekwondo practitioner. He also has to be able to defend himself against holds and be able to successfully break free using either kicks or blows. It typically takes around two to three months for an individual to proceed to the white with yellow stripe belt.
The test for promotion to a yellow belt is similar to the test mentioned above, but with a different pattern, and the breaking of boards with both hands and feet. It takes roughly two to three months of training before one can take the test.
From yellow, you can proceed to the yellow with green stripe belt. While all the promotion tests are largely the same, the test from yellow to yellow with green requires one to go through a different pattern from the previous tests, as well as breaking a two-inch board with the hand and one-inch board with the feet. Additionally, one-step sparring is required.
From yellow with green stripes to a solid green belt, the player has to do a test with another pattern, along with a one-step spar and a freestyle spar. In addition, he also has to break through two-inch boards with both his hands and feet, as well as demonstrate an ability to defend himself.
To earn the green with blue stripes belt, you must practice another pattern, and defend yourself against both holds and clubs. In addition, the player has to break a two-inch board with his hands and a one-inch board using a jump kick. As with the other tests, he has to undertake the one-step sparring and free sparring. The move from green to green with stripes requires around four months of training before a test can be taken.
The test to attain the blue belt is similar to that of the green with blue stripes, except for the induction of a different pattern and an addition of two-step sparring. Besides that, one must demonstrate the breaking of a two-inch board with a punch and a one-inch board with a turning kick. All of this typically takes four months to achieve.
To achieve the blue with red stripes belt requires finesse, as the individual needs to defend against holds, clubs and knives as well as multiple unarmed opponents. He also has to break two-inch boards with a punch and a turning kick. It takes five months from the blue belt to achieve this.
Along with a different pattern, the test for the red belt replaces the two-step sparring with multiple free sparring. He also has to break a three-inch board with any kick, while other elements of the test remains the same.
From red, there is the red and black stripe belt. The test is identical to the red belt, except with a different pattern and the need to break two three-inch boards. It takes five months to train for this.
The highest rank achievable, the black belt test requires a lot of work: one pattern, one-step sparring, two-step sparring, free sparring and multiple free sparring. You must also be able to defend against holds, clubs, knives and unarmed opponents, as well as break two three-inch boards with any kick or blow. To get to this stage, it requires at least nine months of training after one has completed the red and black stripe belt test.
A largely individual sport, taekwondo requires a few types of personal equipment for competition.
The uniform worn by a participant is known as a dobok, and is usually white in colour, but some uniforms may also be black. A black dobok is usually worn by instructors or special teams such as demonstration teams.
The dobok is tied around the waist with a coloured belt, and also features a matching set of trousers.
One of the most distinguishing features of taekwondo is the belt. Participants have to wear a belt that reflects their rank and level they are at, with the darker colours usually indicating a higher rank. Beginners typically wear a white belt, and switch it for darker colours once they have passed their promotion tests.
While not commonly used in training, protective padding is required during a sparring competition. The different forms of padding include shin and forearm guards, trunk protectors and head protectors.
Much like a padded helmet, the head protector resembles the ones used in water polo. It covers both ears to protect the competitor from sustaining any serious ear and head injury during the competition.
The trunk protectors, also known as hogu, are wrapped around an individual’s chest to protect his torso and is considered one of the most important protective equipment in the sport. This is because the chest is one of the areas that endures the most impact during competition, with opponents frequently kicking and hitting the chest with the fists.
Less important but still required are the shin and forearm guards, which protects the participant from sustaining any injuries caused by kicks and hits to these areas. Male competitors also usually wear a protective groin guard, to prevent their groin from sustaining any serious injuries during the competition.
Taekwondo is frequently practiced barefooted, but some competitions and trainings require footwear. Taekwondo shoes are the most commonly worn as a form of protection while kicking at an opponent’s hogu, which can cause injuries. However, most taekwondo practitioners prefer to train barefooted as it improves their posture during competition, conditions their feet and strengthens the muscles to provide a stronger kick.
Breaking is easily the most recognisable move in taekwondo, and it involves practitioners kicking a wooden board with their feet or striking it with their hands.
There are several ways to break a board using kicks in taekwondo, with the most common being the side kick. The side kick impacts the board at the heel of the foot, and should be done with a straight leg being thrust towards the board. Before attempting to break the board, you should have your legs wide apart and slightly bent at the knee, with your dominant leg closer to the board. Aim towards the middle of the board when executing the kick.
Another common kick employed in breaking is the front kick. Unlike the side kick, the point of impact should be the ball of your feet. Get into the joon-bi stance – legs shoulder width apart, clenched fists at the hips – so that your weight is evenly distributed. Next, raise your dominant leg with your knee bent, before releasing your knees so that your feet goes up and in contact with the board. As with side kick, aim towards the middle of the board.
By hand blows
The front elbow strike is one of the best ways of board breaking, as the forearms provide a great amount of power. However, contrary to what the name suggests, the point of impact is not the elbow, but the forearm region several inches above the elbow. Start by keeping the arms close to the body while moving the elbow upwards. At the same time, twist your hand inwards so that your elbow is is brought to the front of your chest.
Chopping is also a very popular move to use in breaking, with most breaking demonstrations involving this method. Keep your palm open, with your fingers at a slight bend and arms outstretched. Unlike karate, chop strikes in taekwondo are not completely vertical movements, but done at a downward angle. One tip to ensure you don’t get injured while chopping is to make certain that the little finger does not go over the edge of the board.
Another method to break boards is to simply punch it. The front fist is one great method of punching and breaking. Make sure to hold your dominant arm out in front of you and clench your fist. Next, align the index and middle knuckle with your shoulder. Return to the joon-bi stance, with your clenched fist at your hips knuckles-down. Bring your arm outwards and thrust your fist forward, aiming for the middle of the board.
There are several different kinds of sparring formats, which require a range of attacks from players.
Step sparring, also known as pre-arranged sparring, means that both the attacker and defender agree on a predetermined sequence of attacks and blocks. This is the most frequently used format.
One Step Sparring
The one step sparring is one of the easier formats in taekwondo, as it only requires the individual to take one step forward and extend his fist toward the opponent However, the individual has to make a split second decision on how to attack and defend, or risk losing the match.
The most common tactic for one step sparring is for the player to establish a step, attack and defend, and to repeat this set of motions using the other side of his body once the first sequence has been completed. This ensures that both participants will be using the sequence twice.
Before attacking, the starting player has to shout kihap – which means to gather energy –, and wait for his opponent to reply the same, signifying that he is ready to start the match. The rules differ accordingly in various clubs and federations, but for most cases, both participants have to stand at a parallel stance.
Unlike two and three step sparring, one step sparring has no pre-determined attack. Due to the fact that there is largely no agreed techniques and moves, one step sparring is frequently thought to be the most advanced form of pre-arranged sparring.
Two Step Sparring
Two step sparring involves the attacker attempting to attack his opponent twice, with pre-determined moves. Similarly, the opponent will also have to attempt to defend himself, often with pre-arranged blocks. The opponent, upon defending himself, will then have the opportunity to counter-attack once with a previously agreed upon counter-attack move.
Three Step Sparring
Similar to the two step sparring, this form of sparring simply refers to the fact that the attacker has to attack his opponent three times with moves that both parties have agreed upon, at which his opponent will defend himself three times with pre-determined blocks. As with two step sparring, the defender gets to counter attack once.
Called kyorugi by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), free sparring differs from step sparring as it does not inculcate any pre-arranged moves. Unlike step sparring, free sparring is the type of sparring used during matches, while step sparring is commonly employed during promotion test for ranks.
WTF-sanctioned free sparring is typically dominated by kicks. Free sparring matches usually lasts two minutes, and requires three matches to determine a winner. The player with the highest points at the end of the three matches will be declared victorious.
keep in mind the theory of power while sparring in a match.
Also known as zilyang in taekwondo, this element states that in order to reach full impact, an individual has to use his entire body mass behind a move, not just his arms and legs. As points are only awarded if the judge deems that the kick or strike is forceful enough, this is one very important way of ensuring you score.
One way of throwing your full mass behind a technique is to twist your hip backwards before striking. Another way is to step forward before kicking or striking a blow, as it acts as a pivot for the strength behind the move. Lastly, one can also bend his knees before moving, since it allows for the body to spring forward and thus bring more force behind a move.
Called bandong ryok, it is similar to Newton’s action and reaction law. For instance, in taekwondo, if you strike an opponent that is running towards you, the impact of the strike will be a combination of the force of your opponent’s speed as well as that of your blow. Hence, timing your attack is a very important aspect to reaching maximum impact.
Another way of applying this theory is to put both sides of the body into use. For instance, when striking with the left arm, the individual should pull his right arm backwards in order to channel more force into the strike from his left arm.
Breath control is known as ho heup in taekwondo. When striking a blow or receiving one from your opponent, it is useful to take a sharp exhale as it causes your muscles to tense up, thus giving your strikes more force and reducing the impact of the blow on yourself.
Known as kyun hyung, this highlights the importance of balance in the sport. This refers to keeping balance both when moving and stationary, in order to conserve energy that might otherwise be lost while one attempts to regain his balance after a blow.
Concentration is known as jip joong in taekwondo, and refers to the act of concentrating your blows on a small target area, so that the force of the blow will be greater as compared to striking a larger area. This can also mean that the point of impact should be smaller. For instance, in taekwondo, punches are thrown using the knuckles of the index and middle finger, compared to boxing punches which uses the whole fist.
The most important aspect of the Theory of Power, speed (or sokdo) greatly affects the power behind a move. For instance, throwing a bullet at someone will not cause any damage, whereas a bullet traveling at great speed from a gun can pierce the flesh and hurt someone. In competition, one has to keep in mind to accelerate quickly, and to ensure that the speed is maximum at the moment of impact.
As with all contact sports, injuries can be common in Taekwondo. Here are some of the ways you can prevent yourself from getting injured and stay safe during a match.
The most important step towards preventing injuries is to adhere to the rules regarding protective gear. Requirements for protective padding differ depending on the form of taekwondo practiced, due to the fact that there is a varying intensity of contact. Make sure to follow the requirements stated for each match and style to prevent injuries.
The most important form of protective gear is definitely the head guard, as impact to the head can cause severe damage. Studies have found that head injuries are also the most common form of injuries sustained in taekwondo, followed by foot and thigh injuries. Mouth guards are not compulsory, but you should wear one during sparring matches, especially in ITF matches as the head is an approved target area. Additionally, male participants should also wear the groin guard, even though it is optional.
Avoiding injuries inflicted during attacks
Self-inflicted injuries happen when participants hurt themselves while attempting to attack their opponents. These includes sprains and strained muscles, as well as more serious injuries such as broken fingers and toes.
A way to prevent less serious injuries like sprains is to ensure you warm up and stretch properly. This allows blood to flow to your muscles and prevent any stiffness, hence preventing strained muscles. It is also important to relax during matches or promotion tests, as being too tense can cause delayed reaction and over-straining.
While sportsmen try to push themselves as much as possible to gain an edge over their opponents, it is also important to know when to stop. For instance, if you have never attempted to break a three-inch board prior to a match or test, do not force yourself to attempt it as it can cause more harm than good. While there is a chance that you might be able to execute the break properly, there is a higher likelihood that you will injure yourself. Board breaking is a big source of serious injuries like broken toes and fingers.
It might be logical for a sportsman to train more in order to work their muscles and improve their stamina, but training too much can also be detrimental. Excessive training, especially before a match, can cause exhaustion. This means that they are less likely to be alert, and their muscles are overworked before the match even begins, which slows down their actions and puts them at a disadvantage.