First, let me set the scene. I am not a Taekwondo Master. Nor even a Black Belt. In fact, I don’t have a belt at all. Indeed, I have never had a Taekwondo belt. So why, you are entitled to ask, am I writing an article about Taekwondo?
The reason is simple. In my day job at a leading UK team building company, a surprisingly large number of our wider event team members over the years are Taekwondo practitioners. Most of them are of black belt status and two of them have actually got on their martial arts CV that they have represented England. The reason for this is simple. One of the two is our Client Services Manager and she has roped in some of her Taekwondo friends. Basically, I feel qualified to write this through multiple third-party connections.
So here is what I have gleaned from them. In keeping with the majority if not all martial arts, Taekwondo offers a mixture of activity, self defence and approach to life in general – a philosophy if you will. One factor that mas made it so popular around the world and far from its Korean roots is that it is a very social activity, bringing together people from all walks of life and even generations. While it is an Olympic sport involving experts and watched by millions, it is also a very participative activity that can be enjoyed by all. The tenets of the art encourage camaraderie and even teamwork, so there’s a link to my day job there!
So what is it? Well, it is a martial art that originated in Korea. Its literal translation is “the way of the foot and the fist”, with Tae meaning to break with the foot, Kwon meaning the same but with the fist and Do supplying the way. Interestingly, it was born in the same year as me. 1955. It is certainly wearing its years better than me! Choi Hong Hi, a South Korean General and martial arts expert. I gather that Choi is something of a controversial figure within Taekwondo and not all factions view him as its creator, but I’m going with the local flow here.
When I say it was born in 1955, that isn’t strictly true. It gained its name then, but actually it has been around for well over a thousand years. Back in that day it was called Taek-Kyon. Basically, the people who unified Korea from the original three kingdoms that existed managed to do so largely by force and the force in question had Taek-Kyon at its disposal. The martial art helped the relatively young (by age of its members) army of the Hwarang-Do unify Korea. Once they had achieved this, they began to spread the word and get people across the kingdom engaged with the marital art.
It survived a near extinction event when the Japanese occupied Korea in Yi Dynasty times shortly after the turn of the 20th Century (1910 to be precise) and really took off once the occupation ended in the mid 1940s.
As I write, Taekwondo is enjoyed in an organised fashion by people in almost 70 different countries. Including this one, of course. And if the spirit and camaraderie of my colleagues here is anything to go by, it isn’t going away any time soon. So in answer to the question I raise in the title, it seems to me to be a martial art for all that engenders a great spirit among those who practice it together. Even those who have never taken a lesson in their lives can benefit from that if they know people who are already into it.