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What is taekwondo? An introduction

Discover this South Korean martial art filled with fantastic kicks! Discover the basics of taekwondo, the equipment needed, and the benefits for body and mind!

What is taekwondo? An introduction

Taekwondo is a South Korean martial art suitable for adults and children. Read on to discover the basics, essential equipment and benefits. 

Taekwondo basics

Taekwondo is a martial art based on strikes (instead of grapples), where you learn punching techniques but focus on kicking techniques.

During a taekwondo lesson, poomse (form, imaginary combat against one or more adversaries) and combat against a partner help develop your techniques. Learning taekwondo involves learning basic techniques, combat (traditional combat between an attacker and a defender) and self-defence techniques.

Two main forms are exhibited in competition: combat and technique.

Taekwondo in its most well-known format, combat, has been an Olympic sport since 2000. It requires the wearing of suitable protection. Strikes are only allowed above the waist and the points a combatant receives are allocated based on the level of difficulty of the technique (punch, kick or hook kick) and level (chest or head).

The technique competition is based on the individual performance of poomse in front of a jury. A maximum score of 10 points is awarded by the judges according to the precision of the techniques and performance given (speed, rhythm, power, etc.).

What is taekwondo? An introduction

Dobok and belts

The taekwondo uniform is known as a dobok. Unlike a karate, judo, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu uniform, the dobok is put on over the head. The dobok is always white, which symbolises the unity and origin of the universe.

The colour of your belt changes as you progress: you begin with a white belt, moving up to the red belt for the gup grades, then black for the dan grades. Children begin at the 15th gup grade, and adults begin at the 10th gup grade. As you progress, the number of gups decreases until you reach the 1st gup. To obtain the black belt and your first dan and the following belts, taekwondo participants must present themselves in front of an official federation jury to prove their level.

The hem on the neck of the dobok also changes according to level: white for the gups, then black from 1st dan onwards.

Doboks range in size from 110 to 150cm for children and 160 to 200cm for an adult. Doboks, like most uniforms, have a natural tendency to shrink a few centimetres during the first 3 washes, as they have a high percentage of cotton. We thus recommend choosing a dobok that is 5 to 10cm larger than your size. For example, for a child measuring 133cm, choose a 140cm dobok, and for an adult measuring 175cm, choose a 180cm dobok.

The benefits of taekwondo

As taekwondo focuses on often spectacular kicks, it's a way to improve your flexibility and energy due to the speed of the kicks. 

This physical activity also helps your cardio, burns calories and fat. It's also a great sport for relaxing and releasing endorphins (the "happy hormone").

And finally, as with all martial arts, taekwondo teaches good values which stay with you in your life beyond the sport. Taekwondo emphasises courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and combativeness, known as the "indomitable spirit" by taekwondo practitioners.