Friday, August 29, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions About Taekwondo

By Erik Albrechtson, 5th dan

Taekwondo is the Korean art of smashing with the bare feet and hands. It's the most commonly practiced martial art in the world, with active practicing students in over 200 countries. It is the only martial art, besides boxing, wrestling and judo, that is a medal sport in the Olympics. As an instructor of Moo Sul Kwan Taekwondo, I often get many questions related to Taekwondo and other martial arts. This article is sort of a F.A.Q. in an attempt to try and help the average person understand more about Taekwondo and martial arts in general.

What's the difference between Taekwondo and Karate?
Early people in every part of the world developed ways of defending themselves from wild animals and other people trying to harm them, from the Native Americans to the Aztecs to the ancient Koreans. Taekwondo is one of the martial arts that developed in Korea (along with Hapkido), Karate & Judo were developed in Japan, and Kung Fu & Tai Chi in China. Each martial art has its own characteristics. Taekwondo is commonly known for its strong kicks. 
But styles can vary between schools. Two Taekwondo schools can be as dissimilar as a Taekwondo school and a Karate school. The main thing a student or parent wants to look into when picking a martial arts school is the program being taught to the students and the quality of the instruction. Martial arts that have been around for thousands of years wouldn't have survived if they didn't protect their practitioners. So less of a focus should be on which martial art is being taught, but instead questions like "how experienced are the instructors?", "what benefits are being taught to students?", and "is the instructor a good role-model for what I'm looking for myself/child?"

How do you pronounce Taekwondo?
Hangul is the Korean written alphabet. When written in Korean, Taekwondo is 태권도. Hangul is a phonetic language (more about this in the next section) so each character makes a certain sound. 
The first grouping of characters (태) is pronounced "tae" or /tā/ (think "take" without the 'k'). It's common in the United States to hear it pronounced "tie" or /tī/, but this is incorrect and means something completely different in Korean. 
The second grouping of characters (권) is pronounced "kwon" or /kwɑːn/.
The third grouping of characters (도) is pronounced "do" or /dō/. 
A video of the pronunciation can be found below (source 4).  

How do you spell Taekwondo?
This one gets a bit more complicated. First you need to understand how Hangul works. Before 1443, people in Korea wrote using the Chinese alphabet, but it was very complicated and hard to learn. In 1443, King Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, put into works the creation of their own alphabet that was easy enough for the common person to learn. This effort brought forth Hungul, which the Koreans still use to this day.
Hangul is a completely phonetic alphabet. Each symbol makes a certain sound when read. One thing that is dissimilar that own English, is that the characters are grouped by each syllable instead of word. So for example, my name written in Hangul is 에릭. The first grouping is the "Eh" sound and the second is the "Rick" sound. 
Since Taekwondo consists of three syllables, it is written as 태권도. When translated to English we get three groupings of "Tae" "Kwon" and "Do". But since it's one word, we bring them together to Taekwondo (much like Erik is one word in English). You might often see it written "Tae Kwon Do" or "Taekwon-do", but generally Taekwondo is the accepted way of spelling it. 

Have more questions? Feel free to email me at or leave a comment below!


No comments:

Post a Comment