Literally translated, TAE means kick or to strike with the foot, KWON means fist or to strike with the hand, DO means discipline or art. It is much more than the image of the martial arts physical aspect. It is designed as a non-violent art and system of complete body exercises as well as being a way of life. It includes physical techniques, mental discipline, and a deep philosophy. By practicing Tae Kwon Do, one can benefit in these ways;
PHYSICALLY – One can develop good co-ordination, gain strength, increase flexibility, and improve cardiovascular conditioning. From all of these physical practices, one can have a strong body.
MENTALLY – One can build self-confidence, gain better judgement, and improve self-control. From all of these mental disciplines, one can have a sound mind.
PHILOSOPHICALLY – While developing a strong body and a sound mind, it is appropriate to learn the valuable philosophical tools and lessons in life offered by Tae Kwon Do philosophy. Among these lessons:
The way to be honest, always standing for justice.
How to respect and help others.
The meaning of loyalty and courtesy.
Incorporating these aspects into one’s life will build for them; the ability to be strong, to be humble, to be gentle, and to maintain self-respect.
Tae Kwon Do philosophy emphasizes good health, happiness, generosity, and a sense of value of freedom, justice, and peace. All of these inspire independence and coexistence.
Tae Kwon Do is an art of humanity. It is a guide for the formation of outstanding character. It is practiced as a modern world sport. It is useful as a contemporary universal philosophy.
Tae Kwon Do is practiced in 123 countries with over 30 million practitioners and 3 million individuals with black belts throughout the world.
How can I benefit from practicing Tae Kwon Do?
The most important aspect of Tae Kwon Do is that it is not only a superior art of self-defence, but of the mind as well. Tae Kwon Do students develop discipline, confidence, concentration, and respect. These benefits spill over into all facets of the students’ lives. With its practical means of self-defence, its complete regimen of physical conditioning, and its aid to improved mental performance, Tae Kwon Do offers a total fitness program integrating mind, body and spirit.
The Tae Kwon Do Patterns
There are 24 patterns in Tae Kwon Do, ranging from 19 move patterns to 72 move patterns. The initial patterns are very symmetrical & most combinations or movements are repeated with both sides of the body, in opposite directions. These first few patterns are reasonably basic & introduce the novice student to the most common stances, blocking techniques, strikes & kicks. The Tul (Korean for patterns) gradually increase in complexity providing the student with a comprehensive tool to help develop his or her martial skills. These obviously include the overall improvement of those individual techniques that are contained within the patterns, but perhaps not so obvious, the patterns also help to improve the students balance, co-ordination, fine motor control of the body’s muscles, concentration, control of the breath & control of the movement of the body.
The Reason for 24 Patterns
The TKD patterns were created over a period of years by Grandmaster Choi Hong Hi, who attached his personal philosophy to the total number of patterns that were to be the core of TKD.
(nb: It would be correct to give credit to Nam Tae Hi, who assisted GM Choi to set up the Oh-Do Kwan & the Chung-Do Kwan in 1954 where TKD was developed. The fore-mentioned Kwan’s were the military & the civilian martial art schools).
General Choi designated that the 24 patterns were to represent this philosophy:
“Here I leave Taekwondo for mankind as a trace of man of the late 20th century. The 24 patterns represent 24 hours, one day, or all my life”. What the General is trying to convey with this message is that compared to the life of the Earth or the Universe, mankind has existed for a very short space of time. Here, Choi represents his own existence lasting just one day, or 24 hours, compared the life of time itself. The first part of the message is Choi’s legacy to the world & to mankind. TKD was developed & has been promoted around the world to leave this legacy for the good of future generations.
The Interpretation of the Patterns
The name of the pattern, the number of movements, and the diagrammatic symbol of each pattern symbolizes either; important or heroic figures or instances relating to historical events that shaped the course of Korean history. The reason why the patterns were given specific meanings was to inspire the students of TKD when performing the patterns or when training & even in their daily lives. A great many of the patterns are named after people who lived by high morals, devoted their lives to the greater good, made sacrifices for their beliefs or achieved greatness through courage.