Before explaining what Taekwondo is, lets us examine what Taekwondo is not. There is nothing mystical or magical about Taekwondo, it is only one of many martial arts. Any claims made by Taekwondo are probably also made by other martial arts and vice versa. Some martial art styles claim to be the best, but when examined closely, all the empty hand martial arts are basically the same. Some may concentrate on different areas, such as arm locks or grappling, but underlying all martial arts are the same basic principles.
Taekwondo is not a fad
Oriental style martial arts have not always been popular in the United States. They were relatively rare until after World War II when military personnel began returning after being stationed in Japan during the post-war occupation. In the 1950's, Japanese Jujutsu and Judo were popular. In the 1960's, Karate gained popularity with Taekwondo starting its foothold, again due to being brought back by retuning military personnel, and also by Japanese (karate) and Korean (Taekwondo) instructors who were immigrating into the country. In the 1970's, President Nixon's opening of relations with China led to Kung-fu being the "in" martial art. James Bond movies and Bruce Lee in the television show Longstreet caused increased interest in the martial arts. The Hong Kong Kung-fu movies began invading theaters. In the 1980's, the high kicks and clever marketing of Taekwondo made it the dominant art, while the mystique and weapons of the Teenage Ninja Turtles drew more children to the martial arts in general. In the 1990's, the eclectic or freestyle martial arts gained favor. In the 1990's Kickboxing, Muay-thai, Shot-fighting, and Mixed Martial Arts came into favor, along with aerobic exercise programs, such as Boxercise, Kickbox, and Taebo. Through all of this, karate and Taekwondo maintained their hold as the most popular of the martial arts. However, karate has so many variations that no one style was able to gain a stronghold, while Taekwondo took over and has maintained its popularity until it has become the most popular martial art in the United States and most of the world.
Taekwondo has demonstrated that it is not a fad. It has been around for decades and has been popular in the United States for over 45 years. Fads usually do not require physical or mental disciple; they only require physical action. With no discipline required, fads tend to get boring after a while, so people move to the next thing in vogue. Taebo, Chibo, Boxing Aerobics, etc., are in style now, but they will be replaced with a new fad at some point. Since they do not require any disciple, only physical action, there is no commitment. In Taekwondo, one does not just perform a movement; the movement must be performed with power in a precise way at a precise time. To achieve this, Taekwondo students must commitment themselves to strict physical and mental disciple for a long period. Students who stay with Taekwondo long enough to develop this disciple will probably stay committed to Taekwondo for the rest of their lives.
Taekwondo is not the best martial art?
Students of a particular martial art tend to defend it and think it is the best martial art in the world. Just as college, students defend the college they attend; martial students tend to defend the style in which they first started training. Taekwondo students are no different. Like other martial arts, Taekwondo is a physical and mental discipline. There are many other physical endeavors that require physical and mental discipline, such as bodybuilding, distance running, golf, auto racing, and even bowling. Some are more physical than mental and vice versa. Therefore, Taekwondo is not unique in what it does. Some sports are practiced for pure sport, while others, such as Taekwondo have an underlying purpose. The underlying purpose of Taekwondo is combat. Taekwondo may be practiced as a pure sport, as a pure fighting art, or as a combination of both.
Taekwondo is not an ancient Korean marital art?
Although modern Taekwondo has actually only existed for about 50 years, it is based upon Shotokan Karate, another 20th century martial art, and ancient Korea martial arts, such as Taekkyon and Subak, that have lost favor in modern times. Is it a sport or art?
Taekwondo is actually two separate martial arts, one a traditional martial art and the other martial sport, so confusion is understandable. Traditional Taekwondo is a martial art with all the characteristics of other classical martial arts; as such, it considers sparring competition to be only one aspect of the overall art. In sport Taekwondo, sparring competition is its primary concern. The two types of Taekwondo differ in their approaches to teaching and in some of their basic theories. As is explained in other topics in TKDTutor.com, the two types are in constant conflict with each other.
Do not get caught up in the hype surrounding Taekwondo or its organizations. Do not let power hungry instructors or the power struggles between Taekwondo organizations interfere with your study of Taekwondo. Enjoy Taekwondo for what it is, a fighting art that require intense physical training and strict mental discipline, while also being fun to perform.