Τaekwon-Do is the most popular Korean martial art and the Korean national sport. It is one of the most widely practiced martial arts worldwide, and since 2000 the competitive 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-defense. However, it is much more than just that.
It is the scientific use of the body in the method of self-defense; a body that learns, through intensive physical and mental training, to use its full potential.
It is a martial art that cannot be matched in either power or technique. Though it is a martial art, it requires high levels of discipline, technique and mental training that become the mortar for building a strong sense of justice, fortitude, humility and determination. It is this mental training that separates the true practitioner from the sensationalist.
It also implies a way of thinking and living, particularly centered in instilling a spirit of rigid self-imposed discipline and an ideal of a noble moral rearmament.
Translated literally, “Tae” stands for jumping or flying, kicking or hitting with the foot. “Kwon” denotes the fist—chiefly to punch or destroy a target with the hand or the fist. “Do” means the art or way—the right way built and paved by the saints and sages of the past.
Altogether, the term “Taekwon-Do” indicates the mental training and the techniques of unarmed combat that are suitable for self-defense as well as a healthy living, techniques that involve punches, kicks, blocks and dodges using bare hands and feet and aiming at the rapid destruction of the moving opponent(s).
Taekwon-Do definitely enables the weak to possess a fine weapon, along with the necessary confidence that will enable one to defend oneself and defeat any opponent. Of course, if falsely applied, Taekwon-Do can be a lethal weapon. Therefore mental training must always be of high importance in order to prevent the student from misusing his or her skills.
Continuous training is essential to keep oneself in top form and on optimum physical condition. In training, all the muscles of the human body are used harmoniously.
When using body’s muscles correctly, the practitioner can harness all available power that his muscular contractions can generate. It will then be necessary to direct this power towards the human target, especially towards the most vulnerable or vital spots of the target, even if the opponent is in motion.
Time spent on training should not be considered as wasted; for surely the practitioners will reap the rewards in the form of speedy reactions and deadly blows capable of knocking down an opponent or, if need be, even to save someone’s life.
Even if Taekwon-Do is practiced for the sake of exercise alone, the enjoyment derived will justify the time invested. As an exercise, it is equally suitable for all people, regardless of age and gender.
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 and was used for self-defense against robbers and wild animals; it was later used for military purposes by the states of the peninsula.
The official name of Taekwon-Do was given in 1955 by Master Choi Hong Hi. By 1965 it appeared in Europe by Master Kwon Jae Hwa and by 1969, one of his students, Master Stamatis Kassis, started teaching the art in Greece.
The degeneration of martial arts
In Greece and internationally Eastern martial arts appear in many cases to aim at objectives that are completely “out” of their original philosophy; often they are taught (if that word can be used) by people whose only goal is a commercial one, people who add up to martial arts’ bad reputation.
The same applies for the cinematic depiction of Eastern martial arts, as coarse movies of that genre lead any serious observer to reject these martial arts in their entirety and to equate them with a violent behavior. All this contributes to a degenerative representation of martial arts of the East and creates an image that does not reflect their original intentions.
At the same time though, one can also find several efforts that teach the martial arts of the East in a proper manner and honestly strive for their dissemination.
Who might be interested in Taekwon-Do
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 any special physical abilities topractice Taekwon-Do. Starting from scratch, even a completely untrained person can improve gradually with continuous effort and exercise.
The only requirement for someone to practice Taekwon-Do is to correctly prioritize one’s goals and to include within them (among other goals like economic prosperity and family) one more goal (perhaps the most important of all), the improvement of their mental and physical health. Everyday fatigue and lack of time should not be regarded as negative factors for exercising Taekwon-Do; on the contrary, through Taekwon-Do, the fatigue can be released and disappear, and time can be regained, leading to an improved quality of life.
The objectives of Taekwon-Do
Taekwon-Do is an old Korean martial art that develops mental and physical balance, improves the breathing patterns, increases self-control in movements, emotions and thinking, and reduces reaction time, while the constant self-observation that is cultivated and practiced helps in improving one’s character. Thus, self-confidence and mind tranquility gained after years of practice will result to self-restraint and serenity.
Taekwon-Do is a perfect psychosomatic exercise. And while it cannot change the facts, it can certainly change the attitude of the trainee towards them. This attitude change is critical for it can detox the body and mind from the poisons of anxiety, cruelty and fear, from a kind of ecological disaster that is happening within ourselves and that can be stopped if one makes the right decisions. With this understanding, freed from whatever it is that contaminates us, we can live and function in accordance with the cosmos.
Advantages of Taekwon-Do in children’s psychology
The children learn how to manage and how to externalize their anxiety, anger and other negative emotions by channeling their energy in a healthy way – energy that could otherwise be left astray, having negative consequences (e.g.. delinquent behavior, aggression, or violence). It also improves children’s emotional skills, their discipline and obedience, their courage, trust, and respect, and it can also increase the children’s self-esteem.
The children also learn to hold their temper, to behave with self-control, to abide by the rules of a group and of society. These are key elements for proper behavior and proper socialization of the children, while they can smoothly integrate them in social groups and structures such as school, family, friends, a sports team, etc.
It also increases the levels of concentration, the perceptive and critical thinking of the children, while also improving their problem-solving skills as well as their communicative skills (verbal or non-verbal). With Taekwon-Do, children receive stimuli and are asked to decode them in their own unique way; they are also asked to take action according to their own judgment. Generally, it exercises and improves children’s mental and cognitive abilities.
Furthermore, Taekwon-Do is a recreational, enjoyable and productive activity for children, which are characterized by their innate urge for movement and creative expression. Children come closer to their own selves, discover their weaknesses, limitations, capabilities and competencies. This means that they develop a sense of 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, tenets that should serve as a guide for all serious practitioners.
COURTESY (Ye Ui)
It can be said that courtesy is an unwritten rule that was regarded by ancient teachers of philosophy as a means of enlightening human beings and of maintaining a harmonious society. It can be further described as the ultimate quality required by a mortal.
Taekwon-Do students are encouraged to practice the following elements of courtesy that will help them develop their noble character and keep a proper training routine. Students should
- promote the spirit of mutual concessions
- feel ashamed of their own flaws and contemping those of others
- be polite to one another
- encourage the sense of justice and humane behavior
- distinguish between the instructor and the student, the senior and the junior, the elder and the younger
- behave according to etiquette
- respect other people’s possessions
- handle all matters with fairness and honesty
- refrain from giving or receiving any gift when in doubt of the motives.
INTEGRITY (Yom Chi)
In Taekwon-Do, the word integrity assumes a looser meaning compared to the usual definitions in dictionaries. One must be able to know right from wrong and be honest enough to feel guilt for one’s wrong deeds. Listed below are some examples where integrity is lacking:
- The instructor who misrepresents himself and his art by presenting improper techniques to his students due to his incomplete knowledge or due to his indifference..
- The student who misrepresents himself by “fixing” breaking materials before demonstrations.
- The instructor who masks his bad techniques with luxurious training halls and false flatteries to his students.
- The student who requests a rank from an instructor, or attempts to buy it off.
- The student who wants to obtain a rank just to feed his ego or his illusions of superiority,
- 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 ask the opinion ofpeople younger than him.
PERSEVENANCE (In Nae)
There is an old Oriental saying, “Patience leads to virtue or merit? One makes a peaceful living, if one has been patient for 100 times.” Certainly, happiness and prosperity are more likely to come for the patient person. To achieve something, whether it is a higher rank or the perfection of a technique, one must set his goal straight and then constantly persevere.
Robert Bruce learned his lesson of perseverance from the ceaseless efforts of a humble spider. It was the spider’s perseverance and tenacity that he took as an example and it was this example with which he finally managed to lead Scotland to freedom in the early fourteenth century. One of the most important secrets in becoming a leader in Taekwon-Do is to overcome every difficulty through perseverance.
Confucius said, “he who is impatient in trivial matters can seldom succeed in matters of great importance.”
SELF-CONTROL (Guk Gi)
This tenet is extremely important both inside and outside of the do jang, whether we are talking about one’s conduct in a friendly fight or about one’s personal affairs. A loss of one’s self-control in a spar can prove disastrous to both student and opponent. One’s inability to live and work within one’s capabilities is also an evidence of low self-control.
According to Lao-Tzu, “the correct definition of the stronger is designated by the person who wins over his own self, not over someone else.”
INDOMITABLE SPIRIT (Baekjul Boolgool)
“Herein lie the 300, who did their duty” –a simple epitaph for one of the greatest acts of courage that mankind has even known.
Despite facing the superior Persian forces led by Xerxes, Leonidas and his 300 Spartans of the Battle of Thermopylae showed the world the definition of the indomitable spirit, the spirit that appears when a brave person refuses to betray his principles and defends them against the offenders and overwhelming odds.
A serious Taekwon- Do trainee will at all times remain modest and honest. If confronted with injustice, he would respond with no fear or hesitation, with the indomitable spirit, regardless of the strength or the number of the opponent(s).
Confucius declared that “it is an act of cowardice to fail to speak out against injustice.” As history has proven, those who have pursued their dreams and values with honesty, strong will and indomitable spirit have never failed to achieve their goals.
The role of Master
In martial arts the role of the Master is crucial. This is because tremendous hidden forces can be developed through proper physical exercise, breathing and positioning, (especially younger students they could even seem to defy the very laws of gravity). These forces should be balanced with modesty, humility and self-restraint, qualities that can emerge only if the Master is able to provide the correct instructions and guidance, and lead the trainees with his own example.
Thus, a youngster who is practicing Taekwon-Do under the supervision of a gifted Master can only become a straightforward, calm, kind and sensitive practitioner, an agent of Taekwon-Do’s meaning in everyday life, a person that helps his friends escape the impasses of today’s world. The levels of self-control, mental clarity and confidence that each trainee acquires in Taekwon-Do can be the best self-defense against the problems of contemporary humanity.
The Teacher -Constantine Sgoumpopoulos
Constantine Sgoumpopoulos started practicing Tae Kwon Do in 1986 under Master Stamatis Kassis.He remained under his guidance until 2001, obtaining 3 Dan and teaching in his School.
He then continued in the Athletic Federation of Tae Kwon Do Greece (where he went through further evaluation tests), which represents the International Tae Kwon Do Federation. Today, he holds 6 Dan.
He is an International Tae Kwon Do Instructor since 2008 and has participated in several National Championships, managing to find his way to the medal zone in five of them. He has also taken part in European Championships, and he entered top-three ranking fifteen times; he also has a third place at the World Championship of 2012.
He also practices Zazen since 2001 and Satyananda Yoga since 2003; he also holds3 Dan in Iaido.
The Teacher – Babis Kalogeropoulos
He is a student of Tae Kwon Do Master Stamatis Kassis and has been active in the championship league from 1981 to 1991. He also participated in the National Men’s Team achieving international distinctions. He was Program Officer of the Army General Staff in the Special Forces Command (Parachute School) _ from 1983 to 1986 and taught at the “Athenian Association” from 1982 to 1992. In 1993 he founded the Atticos Tae Kwon Do Gymnasium which is based in Nea Makri since June 2007.