Τaekwon-Do is the most popular Korean martial art and the national sport of Korea. It is one of the most common martial arts worldwide and since 2000 the fighting part of the art became an official Olympic sport.
In Korean “Tae” means “foot technique», “Kwon” means “hand technique” and “Do” means “Way”.
Taekwon-Do is a version of unarmed combat designed for the purpose of self-defence. It is more than just that, however.
It is the scientific use of the body in the method of self-defence; a body that has gained the ultimate use of its facilities through intensive physical and mental training.
It is a martial art that has no equal in either power or technique. Though it is a martial art, its’ discipline, technique and mental training are the mortar for building a strong sense of justice, fortitude, humility and resolve. It is this mental training that separates the true practitioner from the sensationalist.
It also implies a way of thinking and life, particularly in instilling a concept and spirit of strict self-imposed discipline and an ideal of noble moral rearmament.
Translated literally “Tae” stands for jumping or flying, to kick or smash with the foot. “Kwon” denotes the fist—chiefly to punch or destroy with the hand or fist. “Do” means an art or way—the right way built and paved by the saints and sages in the past.
Thus taken collectively “Taekwon-Do” indicates the mental training and the techniques of unarmed combat for self-defence as well as health, involving the skilled application of punches, kicks, blocks and dodges with bare hands and feet to the rapid destruction of the moving opponent or opponents.
Taekwon-Do definitely enables the weak to possess a fine weapon together with a confidence to defend him or herself and defeat the opponent as well. Of course, if wrongly applied, Taekwon-Do can be a lethal weapon. Therefore mental training must always be stressed to prevent the student from misusing it.
Incessant training is essential to keep oneself in top form and physical condition. In training, all the muscles of the human body will be used.
From the use of one’s muscles, it will be possible to harness all available power generated by every muscular contraction. It will then be necessary to deliver such power to the human target especially to where the most vulnerable points or vital spots of one’s opponent are located, in particular when the opponent is in motion.
Hours spent on training will not be wasted; for surely you will reap a rich reward in the form of speedy reactions and deadly blows to rain down upon your enemy or in any case to save life if and when a need arises.
Even if Taekwon-Do is practiced for the sake of exercise alone, the enjoyment derived will justify the time invested and spent. As an exercise, it is equally suitable for the old and young, male and female.
Taekwon-Do first appeared under different names in Korea, around the 6th century BC. The art of TaeKwon-Do was developed originally by Buddhist monks for self-defense against robbers and wild animals and later used for military purposes by the provinces of Korea.
The official name of Taekwon-Do was given in 1955 by Master Choi Hong Hi. In 1965 it appeared in Europe by Master Kwon Jae Hwa and in 1969 in Greece by his disciple, Master Stamatis Kassis, with the aim of teaching Taekwon-Do.
The degeneration of martial arts
In Greece, but also abroad, in many cases, the martial arts of the East appear to be aiming at objectives that are completely “out” of their original philosophy and in many cases they are taught (if we can use that word) by people aiming to commercialize them, while creating a bad reputation around the object.
This is also due to cinematic exploitation, as coarse movies of that genre lead any serious thinking person to reject in their entirety these martial arts and to equate them simply with a violent behavior. All this contributes to a degenerative presentation of martial arts of the East and creates an image that does not reflect their true identity.
At the same time, one also observes separate efforts for proper teaching and dissemination of the martial arts of the East.
To whom is Taekwon-Do addressed
The teaching of Taekwon-Do as a physical and mental exercise is aimed at people of all ages. One does not need previous experience in other sports or special physical abilities to be engaged in Taekwon-Do. Starting from scratch, even a completely untrained person improves slowly with continuous effort and exercise.
The only requirement for someone to practice Taekwon-Do is to correctly prioritize and to include within their designated objectives (economic prosperity, family, consumerism) another target (perhaps the most important of all) which is to improve their mental and physical health. Daily fatigue and lack of time, are not negative factors for exercise in Taekwon-Do, on the contrary, through this exercise, fatigue is released and disappears, and time is regained through improved quality of life.
The objectives of Taekwon-Do
Taekwon-Do apart from being an old Korean martial art, develops mental and physical balance, improves the breathing pattern, increases self-control in movements, emotions and thinking, reduces reaction time and the constant self-observation, which is cultivated and practiced, helps to improve the character. Thus, confidence and peace of mind gained after years of practice have resulted in restraint and serenity.
Taekwon-Do is a perfect mental and physical exercise. And if it cannot change the facts, what it can definitely change is the attitude of trainees towards them. This change of attitude acts catalytically by detoxifying the body from the poisons of anxiety, cruelty and fear. So an ecological disaster on our world level, stops. And with this understanding, free from our personal contaminants, we can operate universally.
Advantages of Taekwon-Do in children’s psychology
The child learns how to handle and externalize the anxiety, anger and other negative emotions, thus channeling his energy in a healthy way – energy that could otherwise lead astray with negative consequences (eg . delinquent behavior, aggression, violence). It also improves the emotional skills, discipline, obedience, courage, trust, respect, and increases the child’s confidence.
The child learns to hold his temper and to have self-control, to abide by and conform to the rules of the group and the majority. These are key elements for proper behavior, proper socialization of the child and the smooth integration of other social groups such as school, family, friends, a sports team, etc.
It also increases the levels of concentration, perception and judgment of the child, and problem solving skills as well as communication skills (verbal or non-verbal). Through Taekwon-Do, the child receives stimuli and is called to decode them in his own unique way and take action according to his/her own judgment. Generally, it exercises and improves the mental and cognitive abilities of the child.
Furthermore, Taekwon-Do is a recreational, enjoyable and productive activity for children, which are characterized by their innate need for movement and creative expression. Children come into contact with themselves, know their weaknesses, limitations and capabilities as well as competencies. That means that they develop self-awareness.
Explanation of tenets
Needless to say, the success or failure of Taekwon-Do training depends largely on how one observes and implements the tenets of Taekwon-Do which should serve as a guide for all serious students of the art.
COURTESY (Ye Ui)
It can be said that courtesy is an unwritten regulation prescribed by ancient teachers of philosophy as a means to enlighten human being while maintaining a harmonious society. It can further be described as an ultimate criterion required of a mortal.
Taekwon-Do students should attempt to practise the following elements of courtesy to build up their noble character and to conduct the training in an orderly manner as well.
- To promote the spirit of mutual concessions
- To be ashamed of one’s vices, contempting those of others
- To be polite to one another
- To encourage the sense of justice and humanity
- To distinguish instructor from student, senior from junior, and elder from younger
- To behave oneself according to etiquette
- To respect others’ possesions
- To handle matters with fairness and sincerity
- To refrain from giving or accepting any gift when in doubt
INTEGRITY (Yom Chi)
In Taekwon-Do, the word integrity assumes a looser definition than the one usually presented in Webster’s dictionary. One must be able to define right and wrong and have the conscience, if wrong, to feel guilt. Listed are some examples, where integrity is lacking:
- The instructor who misrepresents himself and his art by presenting improper techniques to his students because of a lack of knowledge or apathy.
- The student who misrepresents himself by “fixing” breaking materials before demonstrations.
- The instructor who camouflages bad techniques with luxurious training halls and false flattery to his students.
- The student who requests rank from an instructor, or attempts to purchase it.
- The student who gains rank for ego purposes or the feeling of power,
- The instructor who teaches and promotes his art for materialistic gains.
- The student whose actions do not live up to his words.
- The student who feels ashamed to seek opinions from his juniors.
PERSEVENANCE (In Nae)
There is an old Oriental saying, “Patience leads to virtue or merit? “One can make a peaceful home by being patient for 100 times.” Certainly, happiness and prosperity are most likely brought to the patient person. To achieve something, whether it is a higher degree or the perfection of a technique, one must set his goal, then constantly persevere.
Robert Bruce learned his lesson of perseverance from the persistant efforts of a lowly spider. It was this perseverance and tenacity that finally enabled him to free Scotland in the fourteenth century. One of the most important secrets in becoming a leader of Taekwon-Do is to overcome every difficulty by perseverance.
Confucius said; “one who is impatient in trivial matters can seldom achieve success in matters of great importance.”
SELF-CONTROL (Guk Gi)
This tenet is extremely important inside and outside the do jang, whether conducting oneself in free sparring or in one’s personal affairs. A loss of self-control in free sparring can prove disasterous to both student and opponent. An inability to live and work within one’s capability or sphere is also a lack of self-control.
According to Lao-Tzu “the term of stronger is the person who wins over oneself rather than someone else.”
INDOMITABLE SPIRIT (Baekjul Boolgool)
“Here lie 300, who did their duty,” a simple epitaph for one of the greatest acts of courage known to mankind.
Although facing the superior forces of Xerxes, Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae showed the world the meaning of indomitable spirit. It is shown when a courageous person and his principles are pitted against overwhelming odds.
A serious student of Taekwon- Do will at all times be modest and honest. If confronted with injustice, he will deal with the belligerent without any fear or hesitation at all, with indomitable spirit, regardless of whosoever and however many the number may be.
Confucius declared; “it is an act of cowardice to fail to speak out against injustice.” As history has proven, those who have pursued their dreams earnestly and strenuously with indomitable spirit have never failed to achieve their goals.
“Seek your goals”
The role of Master
In martial arts the role of the Master is crucial. This is because the huge hidden forces that evolve especially in young people (sometimes one would think that they repeal even the law of gravity) with proper physical exercise, breathing and positioning in space, should be balanced with modesty, humility and restraint, formed while under the correct instruction, guidance, and example of the Master himself.
Thus, the young person practicing Taekwon-Do under the supervision of a gifted Master, is addicted to being straight, calm, kind and sensitive and becomes a carrier of these messages with his lifestyle and helping his friends escape from the impasses created by our current era. Self-control, mental clarity and confidence that each trainee acquires in Taekwon-Do is the best self-defense for the problems of contemporary man.
Constantine Sgoumpopoulos got involved with Tae Kwon Do in 1986 with Master Stamatis Kassis and remained with him until 2001 having 3 Dan and teaching in his School.
Afterwards, he continued in the Athletic Federation of Tae Kwon Do Greece (sitting more exams) which represents the International Tae Kwon Do Federation and at present is holder of 6 Dan.
He is an International Tae Kwon Do Instructor since 2008 and has participated in National Championships having won five times a place in the top three placements. He has also taken part in European Championships having won fifteen places in the top three placements and a third place at the World Championships in 2012.
He also practices Zazen since 2001 and Satyananda Yoga since 2003 and he is holder of 3 Dan in Iaido.