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So wrote Choi Hong Hi, the man credited with founding this dynamic martial art.
In the last line of the Taekwon-do Student Oath, students pledge “to build a more peaceful world.”
That sounds like a lot to ask from a martial art that teaches devastating strikes and kicks and originated as combat training for the Korean army. Yet it turns out to be true.
A traditional martial art is not simply about fighting. Nor is it merely a sport. The underlying premise of a sound martial art is that by practicing rigorous physical exercises, not only is one’s body improved, but also one’s mind and spirit. Further, in the give and take of regulated physical conflict—accompanied by a strict code of conduct—a person learns how to control aggression.
There are many styles of Taekwon-do and some are totally different from what is practiced at Traditional Taekwon-do in Portland. Among the most popular styles are those that devote most class activity to training for full-contact sparring competition, with two students in helmets and pads bashing each other.
While we believe competition is a valid part of martial arts, it is not the end in itself. For one thing, sport competition does not prepare the average person for personal self defense, since the rules for a sport do not apply to a street situation. A well rounded martial art includes elements of cooperation as well as competition—and requires a lot of individual work on one’s own.
We take both words in the term “martial art” very seriously. The martial aspect means we prepare our students to defend themselves. As training in Taekwon-do progresses, one recognizes this training is not only good for defense against physical aggression, but also verbal and psychological abuse and intimidation.
But Taekwon-do also is an art—a highly physical art. The central element of our Taekwon-do curriculum is the practice of forms—patterns of movements that depict one person defending against the attacks of invisible assailants from all directions. Each move in the pattern must be powerful and the transition between moves must be graceful. It challenges both mind and body. And the forms get ever more difficult as one rises in belt rank. Yet elegance in forms is possible to students who work diligently.
There also is artistry in the flow of free sparring, the ingenuity of joint locks and throws, and the creative force of board breaking. It’s part of what makes Taekwon-do fun.
Perfection is never possible, but the constant striving for perfection via Taekwon-do is rewarding in itself. Many students begin Taekwon-do marveling at the ease at which advanced students perform complicated skills, thinking they will never be able to do those moves. And then in a few years, other new students are marveling at them.
To decide whether Taekwon-do is the right martial art for you, come in and observe a class and talk to an instructor. Visitors are always welcome at Traditional Taekwon-do.