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General Choi Hong-Hi developed Taekwon-Do to train the body and mind to use feet and hands for the purpose of self-defense. Fighting techniques are taught to martial artists while simultaneously learning to control their use through mental discipline and building good character. Although mental discipline is an implicit component of all martial arts, Taekwon-Do is unique in having a 15-volume Encyclopaedia of Taekwon-Do compiled by its founder, General Choi Hong- Hi to provide an incredibly detailed description of the entire physical and mental components of the martial arts program.

The basic ideals of Taekwon-Do in Volume 1, pg. 40 of the 15 volume encyclopedia are:

  • 1. By developing an upright mind and a strong body, we will acquire the self-confidence to stand on the side of justice at all times,
  • 2. We shall unite with all men in a common brotherhood, without regard to religion, race, national or ideological boundaries.
  • 3. We shall dedicate ourselves to building a peaceful human society in which justice, morality, trust and humanism prevail.

The Encyclopaedia also comes in a condensed version containing most of the text from the 15 volumes, but does not have as many illustrations for each pattern. The value of the 15 volumes is in the detailed description of every movement for all 24 patterns and depictions along with its application. It also shows common misconceptions or errors in performing movements and provides a rationale for performing the technique in a specific manner. In addition to being an essential reference source for serious students, it is a thorough manual for how to instruct the art of Taekwon-Do, including: how to run classes, developing training programs for a range of circumstances, and for running tournaments. There are also instructions on how to fold a dobok, how to tie your belt, how to equip a dojang, or how to build your own training equipment (punching bags, forging posts, etc...). Interspersed with these practical details are sections on theory and moral culture and the instructor / student relationship.

The depth and the many layers within Taekwon-Do that General Choi formally articulated with the 15 volume encyclopedia sets this martial art apart. There is a strong relationship between the structured curriculum for learning the physical aspects of Taekwon-Do and the moral culture.

The curriculum of Taekwon-Do is based around military training. It comprises:

  • 1. Fundamental movements (individual soldiers basic training)
  • 2. Dallyon (maintenance of equipment)
  • 3. Patterns (platoon tactics)
  • 4. Sparring (field exercises in simulated combat conditions)
  • 5. Self-defense (actual combat)

Fundamental Movements (basic words or vocabulary of Taekwon-Do):

There are over 1000 hand techniques and as many foot techniques comprising the fundamental movements in Taekwon-Do, allowing an infinite array of combinations of these basic building blocks. In learning fundamental movements, we learn balance, coordination, motor patterns, and how to string together motor patterns into sequences.

Dallyon (spelling / diction / grammatical exercises of Taekwon-Do):

Dallyon (or “maintenance of equipment”) refers to developing and maintaining appropriate strength and flexibility in the body and mind.

The exact methods of building physical strength and flexibility of the body for Taekwon-Do match currently emerging scientific models of motor learning and skill acquisition by emphasizing fitness for a purpose (specific fitness) rather than general fitness. The concept of specific fitness incorporates correct technique as a critical aspect of performance. Fitness for Taekwon-Do requires balance, breath control, understanding the trade-off between speed and mass, and strength throughout the range of flexibility. Strength and flexibility in Taekwon-Do are to provide precise control over an entire movement rather than to develop extreme flexibility for its own sake.

The maintenance of strength and flexibility of mind is also critical to Taekwon-Do. It is a soft, respectful, ethical way of living based on freedom, justice and peace among people of the world. Embracing moral culture in all aspects of our personal and professional lives is a crucial part of “dallyon” - the "maintenance of our mental and spiritual equipment”.

Patterns (poems of Taekwon-Do):

There are 24 patterns in Taekwon-Do comprising various fixed, logical sequences of fundamental movements. In each pattern, the student is fighting a number of imaginary opponents under various assumptions, using a variety of offensive and defensive tools in all directions. Patterns allow students to put together sequences of movements, to develop sparring techniques, to master body shifting and rhythmic movement, to use breath control and build muscle strength, and to develop precision and accuracy in execution of techniques.

Each pattern relates symbolically to historic figures or specific occasions in Korean history, and all patterns are to be performed in a manner reflecting the pattern’s meaning. Students of Taekwon-Do learn a story associated with each pattern to give an understanding of the history and culture of Korea. The aesthetic of each pattern is a choreographed visual expression of the physical and spiritual dimensions of Taekwon-Do.

Sparring (structured conversations and debates in Taekwon-Do):

Taekwon-Do introduces sparring through step sparring (3-step, 2-step, 1-step) before moving to prearranged sparring, model sparring, and free sparring.

3-step sparring help students learn sequences of attacking movements, matching sequences of defensive movements, followed by a counter-attack. These are then put together in two-way 3-step sparring, where partners accurately measure their distance from each other at the start, perform their practiced sequences stepping in a particular way that ensures maintenance of the measured distance, and continue over time so that correct distance will only be maintained by accurate stances and coordination of movement between partners.

In 2-step sparring, distance is no longer explicitly measured, but is judged “by eye” and coordination by the partners relies on their own adjustments of position and stance. In 1-step sparring, the mental agility of the students is tested as there is not much coordination between the partners. What is required is a quick response and counter-attack from the defender and it has to be realistic (i.e. speedy, spontaneous, and powerful).

The building of confidence and ability in free sparring through attention to detail in step sparring cannot be over-emphasized, as it is the correct technical performance in step sparring that forms the technical foundation for understanding distance in sparring. The combination of movements in patterns and step sparring give the vocabulary of techniques to be used in free sparring, but step sparring is critical for learning correct distance and for coordinating movements with an opponent.

Self-defense (free flowing language of Taekwon-Do):

Self-defense is the pinnacle of Taekwon-Do in that it involves producing the correct defense and counter-attack to disable an opponent in an unprovoked attack that occurs without warning. The whole structured curriculum of Taekwon-Do aims to teach a student how to defend themselves.

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