Loosely translated, Taekwondo means “Foot, fist art.” It was originally used by the Korean people as a military styled exercise for physical and mental development. These principals are still in place.
It is a very good tool for self development and self control. In a self defence sense, its explosive kicks and key blocking techniques prove very useful in a confrontation. Although any age can practice Taekwondo, it is especially practical for children’s growth especially motor skill development, balance, fitness, self control and discipline.
Student ages can range from 4 years upward. Currently the eldest student in Australia is 6th dan Master who turns 79 in 2005. The class formats may differ from class to class but all revolve around a syllabus for Grading promotion to the next belt. Generally there is a 3 month waiting period between Gradings. However, from 1st dan to 2nd dan there is a 1 year probationary period. From 2nd dan to 3rd dan this moves to 2 years and so on. Minimum examiner grade is 4th dan which can promote colour belts ONLY. 5th dan can promote to 2nd dan and so on.
Taekwondo today has transformed into more of an international and Olympic sport than a martial art as such. The major component of the sport is “Kyureugi” or full contact sparring. Although there are other divisions of competition such as “Poomse” or pattern performance, patterns to music, free style patterns, tile breaking (power demonstration), specialised kicking/ timber breaking and demonstration performances. Major international competition is generally restricted to free sparring.
Throughout the world there are many individual Taekwondo groups. They have evolved mainly through individual instructors creating their own school name. Internationally however, the main office or dojan is the Korea Taekwondo Kukkiwon and is recognised by the South Korean Government as such. The Kukkiwon is responsible for the general rules and international register for all black belts. Each black belt receives their individual registration number. At the beginning of 2005, the register was up to 5 224 439. There is also the World Taekwondo Federation which conducts/ organises competition and initiates the progress of the international competition rules.