The primary focus at Hwarang Martial Arts is Olympic taekwondo. Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and an Olympic sport. Training in taekwondo encourages focus, discipline, perseverance, strength, stamina, and coordination. It is a fantastic workout and a great way to develop mental fortitude and physical skill for people of all ages. At HMA, we teach children as young as 4 and adults of any age, and we encourage families to train together.
Taekwondo translates roughly to “the way of hand and foot.” Tae means striking with the foot and kwon means striking with the fist. As the definitions suggest, taekwondo is a striking sport. That means that athletes make contact when sparring (fighting). During sparring matches, athletes wear protective gear to help keep competitors safe.
Taekwondo originated in Korea. Its current organized form is relatively modern, but versions of the martial art have been present in Korean culture for as long as 1,300 years. It has been an Olympic sport since 2000.
Taekwondo is governed by Kukkiwon, a Korean organization that regulates training and certifications of taekwondo practitioners. Outside Kukkiwon, there are two primary taekwondo organizations: WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) and ITF (International Taekwon-do Federation). There are some differences between WTF and ITF schools, including sparring rules and traditional poomse (forms). In addition, the WTF governs Olympic taekwondo. Hwarang Martial Arts is a WTF school.
There are three competitive aspects of taekwondo: forms, breaking, and sparring. Forms (or poomse) are patterns of martial movement that students memorize and perform with no opponent. There is a unique form for each belt level. Breaking means breaking a wooden board with a hand or a kicking technique. In competition, athletes may break several boards in a demonstration, the goal being to use the most challenging and impressive techniques with the most speed and accuracy.
Sparring is the dominant competitive part of taekwondo. It is a point-based game. Competitors wear chest and head protectors as well as shin, instep, and forearm protectors. Points are awarded for striking the chest protector (or hogu) or the headgear, although many youth divisions and even some adult colored belt divisions don’t allow head contact and only score body shots.
Sparring is both challenging and rewarding for students. Training to spar means improving the student’s strength, stamina, coordination, and reflexes. It also improves students’ mental skills as they learn to analyze and develop strategies, when to plan, and how to improvise if necessary.
The belt system in taekwondo helps to show what skills students have mastered. The colored belt levels sometimes differ from school to school; they are part of the kup system, and there are 9 kups leading up to black belt, but the color belt associated with each kup can vary. Black belts are standardized, however, and they are actually certified by Kukkiwon. As colored belt ranks are known as kups, black belt ranks are known as dans for adults and pooms for minors. A first degree black belt, then, is a first dan black belt for adults or a first poom black belt for minors.
Many people believe that once you receive your black belt in taekwondo, you are done. But the set up of the belt ranking system shows that this is not the case. Kukkiwon does not even officially recognize a taekwondo student until he or she earns a black belt, and that is when the real education begins. Taekwondo is a way of life. The colored belt rankings are there for students to progress through the basics, giving them a solid foundation to build upon once they become black belts. With the basics in place, they can work on improving their strategy and honing their skills toward mastery.