There is much more to martial arts than just fighting. Tae Kwon Do provides and embraces all aspects of what any martial art should offer its students. This section provides a description of Tae Kwon Do. In another section, there is a brief history of the art of Tae Kwon Do.


Even after training for 18 years and experiencing Tae Kwon Do in many forms, including both the styles of the International and World Tae Kwon Do Federations, I still think it is important to occasionally take a step back to look at the overall picture of Tae Kwon Do, its many aspects and what it means to different people. Often, within a few months (or even weeks), an instructor will be able to discern whether a new student will have preferences for basics & patterns, instructing, demonstrations or tournaments. Those who are not interested in learning have nothing to give to Tae Kwon Do and quickly drop out.

Sidekicks in Korea Aside from any physical skills that a student may learn, the mental skills that are acquired through training at any of Tae Kwon Do's growing number of classes are of paramount importance. Students must accept, learn and understand the five basic tenets of Tae Kwon Do
  • Etiquette
  • Modesty
  • Perseverance
  • Self Control
  • Indomitable Spirit
EMPSI for short! These tenets embody what is at the heart of Tae Kwon Do.

Students of all grades often ask "What is the best test of my Tae Kwon Do abilities?". The common misconception being that one must be a tournament fighter to achieve any success and progress at Tae Kwon Do. However TKD does not solely revolve around tournament fighting. Indeed the tournament aspect, or to be more accurate, the sport aspect of TKD is only a small fraction of the martial art as a whole. A student may never compete in the "sport" side of TKD and will still become an excellent exponent of his or her art, with no discernible difference from the student who has competed in many tournaments. Furthermore, no instructor will ever look any differently on a student who has no wish to compete in tournaments but would prefer to focus their efforts on other aspects of Tae Kwon Do.

There are so many more aspects of Tae Kwon Do that the student, who is not interested in the sport side, can still excel at. To succeed at ANY aspect of any martial art, a student must acquire a competent grasp of the basic techniques. Just as only buildings built on the strongest foundations remain standing over time, a student who shuns basics and patterns from an early grade will come to deeply regret it at a later stage in their training. Central to TKD (and most other martial arts) is the grading system. Progress through the grades, measures one's proficiency at the basic techniques of Tae Kwon Do.

Although many students hope to excel at a grading examination and even walk away with a "double grade," etc. there are disadvantages. Apart from the obvious hardships of having to learn double the amount of techniques and patterns for the next grading, a student will also find themselves "leapfrogging" over the experiences of the grade that they have subsequently omitted. One should avoid 'rushing through' Tae Kwon Do without stopping to appreciate its many attributes and aspects. For example, a pattern should not be treated simply as a 'load of basics grouped together'. A student should attempt to flow with and appreciate the meaning of the pattern. Students who become instructors learn to look beyond the bare techniques and inquire deeper into their meaning.

Public demonstrations can be considered the pinnacle of Tae Kwon Do excellence, as these are the only occasions when we display our art to an impartial audience. It is at this 'interface' of TKD with the public that the most perfect and spectacular techniques are seen. In this respect, being included as a member of a demonstration team is just as important (and taxing!) as other aspects of TKD (such as tournaments) since such demonstrations greatly raise the profile of Tae Kwon Do as a whole.

Often a favourite at demonstrations (and also an integral part of grading examinations) are the destruction techniques. These require great precision and expertise and can be considered the ultimate test of a students technical ability as the accomplished TKD exponent requires little physical strength to break even an inch of wood.

Tournaments are a popular aspect of TKD for women, men and also at the junior level. The training is very hard but the team spirit (provided by everyone whether they are fighting in the tournament or not) helps in pulling everyone through.

Another lesser well known aspect of Tae Kwon Do is tournament refereeing. Such officiating requires a great deal of patience, stamina, skill and a balanced mind. Referees are an integral part of any tournament squad and on the day, a referee will work just as hard as any tournament fighter, often adjudicating on more than a dozen fights!

Of growing importance in all martial arts and fortunately (or predictably some may say) already strongly established in Tae Kwon Do is the teaching and influence of self defence (and self awareness). Such techniques (such as locks, holds and pressure points) are difficult and require much practice and above all, patience to master. However once acquired, these skills will significantly broaden a students knowledge of practical self defence and Tae Kwon Do in general.

So, ultimately Tae Kwon Do is not about how many trophies that one has amassed and how many adversaries one may or may not have overcome 'on the mat'. The only adversary that the dedicated TKD student seeks to overcome is inside themselves, a constant struggle to overcome your own targets. It is your own techniques, your own flexibility, that one seeks to better and not the student standing next to you!

To seek the greatest possible challenge is to look inside, at yourself and your own abilities.