What is Taekwon-Do?

ITF Taekwon-Do is a Korean martial art created on April 11th 1955 by General Choi Hong Hi. The ITF (International Taekwon-Do Federation) was formed on March 22nd 1966, the nine founding members were Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, United States, Turkey, Italy, Egypt and Korea.

Facets of Taekwon-Do

There are four aspects or facets to ITF Taekwon-Do, they are as follows:

  • A competitive activity i.e. a sport
  • A form of self-defense i.e. a martial art
  • A means of imoroving one’s behaviour i.e. a way of life
  • A tool for social development

Composition of Taekwon-Do

The composition of Taekwon-D0 is comprised of five elements:

  • Fundamental Movements (Gibon Yonsup)
  • Patterns (Tul)
  • Sparring (Matsogi)
  • Conditioning (Dallyon)
  • Self-Defense (Hosinsul)

Fundamental Movements

There are more than 3,000 fundamental movements in Taekwon-Do, these movements are basic elements which form the foundation for the rest of the composition. The student will practice these movements regularly with the goal of mastering each one of them, defensive and attack movements alike, so that they will be available when needed.

When practicing fundamental movements, the student must strive to use good technique, demonstrating balance, co-ordination, and good finishing (carrying through to complete the movement).

General Choi noticed that, as they progressed, students tend to neglect the practice of the fundamental movements. He encouraged all Taekwon-Do practitioners to continue practicing, to build their own storehouse of fundamental movements.


General Choi developed twenty-four Taekwon-Do patterns. He chose the number 24 to correspond to the 24 hours in the day, a continuously repeated cycle that represents eternity. Each pattern (except Chon-Ji) is named after an important person in Korean history.

A Taekwon-Do pattern is a choreographed sequence of fundamental movements in an imaginary fight against one attacker or several.

The twenty-four patterns are introduced gradually as the student progresses with his training and are beneficial for Taekwon-Do students of all ages and levels of training. The patterns must be performed precisely and smoothly; the overall effect should be one of harmonious, perfectly-controlled movement.

By practicing the patterns diligently, students can improve their memory skills, ability to concentrate, muscular development, physical coordination, and sense of balance. Each student should strive to perform the patterns to the best of his or her ability.


Although Taekwon-Do is a defensive art, training by the practical application of techniques against a real adversary, or several, is very important. In fact, it is an excellent way to check what a student has learned.

Sparring is indispensable for the student who wants to progress. During sparring, he or she will test skills acquired, learn to recognize and, with practice, anticipate the opponent tactics; sparring builds self-control, self-confidence, and courage.

There are two types of sparring: step sparring and free sparring:

Step (or prearranged) sparring is planned by the players. They agree on the rules, such as the number of steps to be taken, the target to be attacked, the tool to be used, etc. There is no contact; the purpose is to develop control by stopping just short of the target. There are three levels of step sparring: 3-step for beginners, 2-step or intermediate, and 1-step or advanced. The goal is to help the student understand the purpose of the movements, to master interaction with the opponent regarding stances and distances, to develop faster reflexes and instantaneous response in self-defense.

Free sparring is essentially open combat with controlled attacks using all available means and methods. In order to prevent injury, protective equipment is worn. The teaching of free sparing is in the program starting at the yellow belt level.


Conditioning in Taekwon-Do involves training and improving strength, flexibility, stamina, resillience as well as mental toughness. Strength training is done largely through calisthenics and bodyweight exercises making it suitable for people of all ages. Flexibility is imporoved through stretching which is practised during class and students are also encouraged to practise at home.


All Taekwon-Do techniques are to be used only for self-defence. They are not to be used for aggression, except in cases of grave immediate danger for the practitioner or someone he must protect. Any other use would be considered assault.

Because of safety concerns, the rules of competition prohibit the use of techniques using the elbow, knee, or head as well as attacks below the belt. However, these additional techniques may be needed in special circumstances, for example when defending against armed opponents, or from a sitting or prone position. Therefore, these techniques are practiced in training. Once mastered, the techniques will be available for use in genuinely dangerous situations.

Taekwon-Do offers realistic, practical, and efficient techniques for good self-defence.