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Tae Kwon - Do (태권도; 跆拳道) is the Korean military martial art, and is also one of the world's most commonly-practiced martial arts. In the Korean language, Tae (跆) means "foot", Kwon (拳) means "hand" or "fist", and Do (道) means "way". Hence, Taekwondo may be taken to mean "A way of life, to jump and smash with the foot, to break with the hand or fist".

Taekwondo was formed on April 11, 1955, when most Korean martial arts masters decided to unite all the various fighting styles (such as Gong Soo[?], Taekyeon[?], Kwon Beop[?] soo bak do[?] Tang Soo Do etc.) under the name "Tae Soo Do" . This name was changed in 1957 by General Choi Hong Hi to Taekwondo.

Although seemingly a "new" martial art, the roots of Taekwondo stretch far back in time. Taekwondo was formed by analysing both Japanese Karate and the ancient Korean martial art Taekyeon[?] (which has existed in Korea for over 2,000 years). In combining these two martial arts, the principles behind Newtonian physics were used to try and optimise the effectiveness of the techniques.

Taekwondo is famed for its employment of leg techniques, which many believe distinguishes it from other martial arts such as Karate or Kung Fu. Hand techniques are also used a great deal, and so Taekwondo should not be considered to be confined to leg-work. Taekwondo was designed to be effectively employed by people regardless of their sex, height, weight or age, and so Taekwondo is popular with people of both sexes and of all ages.

Although there are many different federations and associations, Taekwondo can be broadly divided into two schools: International Taekwondo Federation (ITF, founded 1966), and World Taekwondo Federation (WTF, founded 1973). Again, broadly speaking, the difference between ITF Taekwondo and WTF Taekwondo is the patterns (the pre-set, formal sequences of movements students learn). ITF has 24 patterns (which represent the 24 hours in a day, or the whole of a person's life), whilst WTF uses the Poomses form of patterns (which originate from the Chinese book, I Ching). The main difference between these two styles of pattern is that ITF patterns use a "stepping motion" for hand techniques, which include moving the body in a sinusoidal[?] motion in order to use bodyweight to increase the effectiveness of the techniques.

Although each Taekwondo club or school will be different in some ways, a Taekwondo student can typically expect to take part in most or all of the following:

  • Learning the techniques of Taekwondo
  • Exercise!
  • Self-defence techniques for the world we live in today
  • Sparring (free-style controlled fighting in a safe environment, usually using safety gear, with either no-, light- or, more-rarely, full-contact)
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Breaking (using the techniques to break boards etc. to gain knowledge of how you are developing and to improve confidence)
  • Regular gradings (tests to progress to the next grade/belt and to gain confidence with your development)
  • A friendly and mutually-respectful atmosphere
  • Learning the theory and history behind Taekwondo

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