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About Taekwon-Do

A new art with 2,000 year old origins

Taekwon-Do is a version of an ancient form of unarmed combat practised for many centuries in the Orient. Taekwon-Do became perfected in its present form in Korea.

Taekwon-Do was officially founded in Seoul, South Korea by Major General Choi Hong Hi 9th DAN in 1955. Although a relatively new martial art, modern Taekwon-Do is based on the Korean arts of Soo-Bak and Taek Kyon, and these arts date back over 2000 years.

The best hand techniques from Japanese and Okinawan systems were also added to the spectacular foot techniques of the indigenous Korean arts to make one of the most effective and dynamic martial arts in the world.

Consisting of around 3,200 individual techniques, Taekwon-Do teaches the student to employ the hands and feet as tools of personal protection.

ITF Taekwon-Do teaches scientific principles allowing the students to develop tremendous power with minimum effort, thus allowing a small person to defend themselves against a larger, stronger aggressor.

Master Kessler outside Taekwon-Do Palace, Korea, 2013

The Tenets of Taekwon-Do

Taekwon-Do places equal emphasis on the importance of spiritual as well as physical training. All the years of hard training would mean nothing without the proper adherence to modesty and propriety – which are the very essence of oriental philosophy.

Students are encouraged to go beyond the technical aspects of the art and establish a lifestyle based on a solid and traditional code of morality.

Taekwon-Do is more than just the effective use of attacking and defensive techniques. True martial arts also enrich the spirit, calm the ego and create a strong sense of morality that will benefit the student, their friends and family for the rest of their lives.

Taekwon-Do History

On April 11th, 1955, the name “Taekwon-Do” was officially adopted. Its founder, General Choi Hong Hi developed the art using elements of the ancient Korean martial art of ‘Taek Kyon’ and of ‘Shotokan karate’, a martial art which he had learned while studying in Japan.

The philosophical values and the goals of Taekwon-Do are firmly rooted in the traditional moral culture of the Orient. On the technical side, defensive and offensive tactics are based on principles of physics, particularly Newton’s Law, which explains how to generate maximum force by increasing speed and mass during the execution of a movement.

Wanting to share the results of his philosophical reflections and his technical experiments, General Choi planned and wrote a unique reference work, the Encyclopaedia of Taekwon-Do. In its fifteen volumes, he explained in detail the rules and practices of this art.

General Choi Hong Hi, Founder of Taekwon-Do
Master Kessler outside Ahn Joong-Gun museum, Seoul, S Korea

Philosophy of Taekwon-Do

The philosophy of Taekwon-Do can be summed up by the last two phrases in the ITF Student Oath:

“I shall be a champion of freedom and justice.”
“I shall build a more peaceful world.”

By practicing Taekwon-Do and living in accordance with its fundamental values, we will become good citizens and be able to create a better world.

The development of the Taekwon-Do philosophy by our founder General Choi Hong Hi was influenced by oriental philosophers such as Confucius and Lao Tzu, by Buddhism, and by the philosophy of martial arts. However, the fundamental values, as expressed in the tenets of Taekwon-Do, are universal.

In the Encyclopaedia of Taekwon-Do, General Choi showed us how to find a harmonious balance between the physical and the mental. 

The utmost purpose of Taekwon-Do is to eliminate fighting by discouraging the stronger’s oppression of the weaker with a power that must be based on humility, justice, morality, wisdom and faith; thus, helping to build a better and more peaceful world.

System of rank

The promotional scale is divided into nineteen ranks: 10 coloured belt grades (“Gup”) and nine black belt degrees (“DAN”). 

The former begins with 10th grade (Gup) the lowest and ends at first grade. Degrees begin with the first degree (DAN) and end with the ultimate ninth degree.

In Taekwon-Do, character development, fortitude, tenacity, and technique are graded as well as individual capacity. 

ITF Taekwon-Do Belt colours

There are six belts colours in ITF Taekwon-Do. 

The belt colours were not chosen arbitrarily. They are, in fact, steeped in tradition. The colours of black, red and blue denote the various levels of hierarchy during the Koguryo and Silla Dynasties of ancient Korea.

Master Kessler, 7th Dan, with some white belt (10th Gup) students

White is given to beginners. White signifies “innocence” as the student has no previous knowledge of Taekwon-Do.

Yellow signifies the “earth” on which the Taekwon-Do foundation is laid.

Green represents “growth” like the growth of a plant, which begins to sprout as Taekwon-Do skills begin to develop.

Blue represents the “heaven” towards which the plant grows up into a towering tree, as Taekwon-Do training progresses.

Red signifies “danger” cautioning the advanced student to exercise control (both emotionally and physically) as they have developed many of the skills of a black belt, but do not yet have the maturity associated with the black belt grade. It is also to warn the opponent to stay away!

Black is the opposite of white, therefore signifies “maturity and proficiency in Taekwon-Do”. It also indicates the wearer’s imperviousness to “darkness and fear”.

In addition to these, we also have foundation grades using the colour purple. These foundation grades allow instructors to quickly identify the minimum skill level of a beginner, while at the same time allowing a new student to chart their own early stages of progression in the foundation level techniques.

patterns

Patterns are various fundamental movements, set in a fixed and logical sequence, against one or more imaginary opponents. When performing patterns, students must observe the following points:

  • Patterns must begin and end on the same spot (this will indicate the performer’s accuracy)
  • Correct posture and facing (full, half or side) should be considered at all times. This will ensure the student delivers each technique with maximum power
  • The muscles of the body should be tensed or relaxed at the appropriate moment
  • Patterns should be performed in a rhythmic motion, and with an absence of stiffness
  • All movements are performed at “normal motion” unless special instruction is given
  • Students should learn the purpose of each technique
  • Each pattern should be perfected before moving on to the next

"Here I leave Taekwon-Do for mankind as a trace of man of the late 20th century. The 24 patterns represent 24 hours, one day, or all my life. The name of the pattern, the number of movements, and the diagrammatic symbol of each pattern symbolizes either heroic figures in Korean history or instances relating to historical events."

General Choi Hong Hi - Founder of Taekwon-Do

Sparring

Pre-Arranged Sparring (Yaksok Matsogi)

This is practiced under pre-arranged modes, with various assumptions. For example: the number of steps to be taken, the target to be attacked and the attacking tool are to be agreed beforehand by the students. The primary emphasis should be on correct form.

Pre-arranged sparring is divided into the following categories:

Students will be assessed on their ability to form correct distance, timing and focus, using the correct blocking tools.

As 3-step but a combination of hand and foot attack techniques are used.

This sparring is considered the most important from the view that the ultimate goal of Taekwon-Do in real combat is to win victory with just a single blow.

Students will be assessed on their ability to deliver accurate, speedy and decisive blows at the opponent’s vital spots at the right time and with the right weapon while defending against the opponent’s attack effectively.

For Black Belt gradings, students may be asked to perform the basic attack or any hand attack.

This is chiefly used for demonstration purposes but it is also very useful for students to see how techniques should be used, and if the techniques are actually the correct ones for the particular situation. 

Model sparring is performed between two people, the moves will be agreed previously. The attacker and defender perform the demonstration in slow motion first then repeat the demonstration at normal speed.

Semi-free, Free and Foot Sparring

This can per performed in numerous ways, i.e. one student making a series of attacks while the other defends and then counters. The number and type of attacking technique should be pre-arranged prior to commencing semi-free sparring. Students should defend using guarding, dodging, and checking and parrying techniques.

Students will be required to spar in a predetermined number of rounds. The number of rounds may vary slightly at the examiner’s discretion (e.g. an older adult with injuries may not physically be able to go as many rounds a 19-year-old with no injuries). Sparring is an individual thing and each person spars differently to the next. The examiner gets to see what techniques a student favours and their ability to execute and score a technique. They can also judge a student’s fitness level and determination.

This is used to improve techniques by forcing the students to use their feet for both attack and defence. By limiting techniques to the feet, students are able to perfect the use.

self-defence applications

Every aspect of Taekwon-Do training is ultimately designed to allow the student to defend themselves. With this in mind, “self-defence” should not be singled out as a separate aspect, or an add on module (as is often the case in many martial art schools).

Applications allow the student to practice Taekwon-Do techniques against an opponent who is grabbing or holding them in a fashion otherwise precluded in other forms of Taekwon-Do training or sparring.

Students are permitted to use strikes, chokes, strangles, throws, sweeps and joint manipulation techniques to defend themselves in a practical and logical manner, without superfluous movements or wasted energy.

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