More "Fun With Numbers" (U.S. TKD Demographics)

Discussion in 'Tae-Kwon-Do' started by TrueJim, Jan 16, 2018.

  1. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    tl;dr...

    I suspect the relative popularity of the different styles of taekwondo in the U.S. are something like:

    72% practicing WT/Kukkiwon-style
    10% practicing ITF-style
    10% practicing ATA-style
    8% practicing some other style

    ===================================================

    Analysis

    I know this is completely non-scientific, but…

    Out of curiosity, I spent a few bucks to “boost” a Facebook ad for two weeks to everybody in the U.S. who Facebook thinks shows an interest in keyword “taekwondo”. The ad was a poll which asked which style of taekwondo people practiced.

    Facebook claims my ad reached only a surprisingly low 785 people. Of those 785 people, only 29 responded.
    • 21 people responded that they practice KKW/WT-style
    • 3 people responded that they practice ITF-style
    • 3 people responded that they practice ATA-style
    • 2 people responded that they practice some other style
    If this data is directionally accurate, then Kukkiwon-style is much more dominant in the U.S. than I realized. About 7-times as popular as ITF or ATA.



    Meanwhile, I’ve amassed an Excel spreadsheet of 369 taekwondo tournaments in the U.S. in 2017 and planned so-far for 2018, mostly by scouring Facebook for events that have the keywords “taekwondo” and “tournament” in them.
    • 275 tournaments are WT-style
    • only 17 tournaments are ITF-style (!)
    • 54 tournaments are ATA-style
    • For 26 tournaments the entry was not explicit about the style
    If this data is a directionally accurate representation of the relative popularity of each style of taekwondo in the U.S., then it appears that
    • WT-style is about 5 times as popular as ATA
    • WT-style is about 20 times as popular as ITF (!)
    I’m inclined to suspect that I’m grossly underestimating the number of ITF-style tournaments. That number seems very suspect to me.



    That having been said, at least it’s a hint of further evidence overall that:
    • WT/Kukkiwon-style is more practiced than ATA, by a factor of somewhere between 5ish and 7ish
    • WT/Kukkiwon-style is more practiced than ITF, probably by a factor of at least 7ish as well, but possibly more
    • WT/Kukkiwon-style is more practiced than independent styles, probably by a factor of 10ish.
    --------

    In conclusion...

    I’ve previously guesstimated based on (see sources at the bottom of this posting) that there’s probably about 2.3 million Americans who’ve practiced taekwondo within the last year. So based on my newest scruffy data, my new best guesses are:
    • 1,665K practicing WT/Kukkiwon-style in the U.S. within the last year
    • 238K practicing ITF-style
    • 238K practicing ATA-style
    • 159K practicing some other style
    Or:
    • 72% practicing WT/Kukkiwon-style
    • 10% practicing ITF-style
    • 10% practicing ATA-style
    • 8% practicing some other style
    Before this rough-and-dirty analysis I would not have suspected that the WT/Kukkiwon percentage would be so high. I'm surprised.

    —---
    Other sources of information:

    1. Martial Arts Clubs Industry Snap Shot - 2016 - Sports Club Advisors, Inc.

    2. Martial Arts Business Statistics: Where Did 13,014 Martial Arts Schools Go? – Martial Arts Teachers' Association

    3. K.M.S Unifying the world with Taekwondo We are the KUKKIWON family

    4 American Taekwondo Association | Martial Arts, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Tae-Kwon-Do

    5 https://ataonline.com/schools/

    6 WT / ITF demographics

     
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  2. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    I think that on sites like this you'll find normalization of the numbers, because people who have a passion for martial arts might be pickier about their organization than someone who says "I want to train Taekwondo" and goes to the nearest Taekwondo school. That's not to say WT/KKW style is not for the passionate (I mean, I'm here, and that's what I train), but your average martial artist is someone who found a school and started training there, whereas your average person here is probably someone who wants to do their research and might prefer something different about ITF or ATA.
     
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  3. Michele123

    Michele123 Green Belt

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    The only thing available near me is WT/KKW and some sort of blended TKD/karate mix the school calls “westernized Tae Kwan Do.” I’m not even fully familiar with the different types of Tae Kwan Do.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  4. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    Here's a synopsis of styles: Taekwondo
     
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  5. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    Hmm. I wonder.... Did you ask "what TKD style do YOU do", or "what TKD style does your KID do"? I do wonder if the breakdown would be the same with adult vs child students, or how many parents even pay attention to know that. We have a kid whose dad still calls it "karate", and they've been with us for 3 years :rolleyes:. I think adults pay more attention to details like that when it comes to something they do, or if their kid is very dedicated, doing tournaments etc. Parents who just want their kid to "do karate" as a thing to keep them busy may not be aware that there are different kinds of TKD, they just know that little Billy has fun kicking stuff twice a week at the place in the shopping center.
     
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  6. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    The style my son does originated from the Chung Do Kwan and Jhoon Rhee.

    And members of that lineage use both terms Korean Karate and TKD.
     
  7. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    I used to assume that these comparatively "independent" schools were fairly common in the U.S., especially in the smaller rural towns where I've noticed it's often difficult to find an ITF or KKW/WT-type school. Now after trying to find some actual data, I'm thinking maybe the independent schools really do represent just 10%ish of the population. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
     
  8. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    I agree. taekwondodemo.com is run by a local TigerDen dojang her in Northern Virginia, and it was they who prompted me to try to start keeping track of "all tournaments". They try to keep track of all tournaments that have demo-team competitions, regardless of country. Seeing that, I reasoned...how hard would it be to keep track of all taekwondo tournaments just in the U.S.? And I'm not saying I have listed them all, but I do think a sample size of about 370 tournaments (and growing) ought to be statistically significant. So arguably, it's my tournament data that's more compelling than my survey data. And it seems to more-or-less agree with the survey data (other than what seems must be a woeful undercounting of ITF tournaments).

    If anybody is interested, here's how I do tournament searches: How to find taekwondo tournaments
     
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  9. granfire

    granfire Sr. Grandmaster

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    well, there were a lot of 'independent' schools that got suckered into franchises over the years.

    But I think most people don't care, or don't know.
    and most of those who care are either vehemently against Olympic TKD, or hope to compete one time.
    And for the latter, I do believe the kukkiwon is indispensable.
     
  10. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't know how reliable or accurate your numbers are. I did not see your Facebook ad, despite being fairly heavily involved in TKD, if that's any indication.
    Note that I'm not saying they're inaccurate. I'm only saying I wonder if the sample size was actually large enough to really tell us anything.
     
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  11. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    I agree. It makes me really wonder about Facebook "boosting". I put an adequate budget on the boost, I chose only a single location (USA), and only a single keyword (taekwondo); and I ran the ad for two weeks. It couldn't have been any more straightforward. I've experimented with Facebook boosting before and likewise come away thinking it's not very effective.

    I feel more confident about the number-of-tournaments data since I really scoured the internet for those. Most of the tournaments have Facebook "events", but for those that don't I did a lot of Google searching (using a wide variety of keywords) and checking the websites of various associations. That having been said, there must be a pocket of ITF tournaments that are hiding from me? Or are there really that few ITF open tournaments in the U.S.?
     
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  12. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    I would have to agree with that. I never saw your ad, but I do see lots of ads. Most of which have nothing to do with anything I'm the least bit interested in.

    Good question. I wish I had a good answer. I don't even have a poorly informed opinion, since our school is neither ITF nor sport oriented.
    I can say that when I was a kid and studying in ITF schools, there seemed to be no shortage of tournaments. However, that was in the 70's and 80's. And a lot of that was in Europe, not the US.
     
  13. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    Facebook advertising is tricky. If you select that your post should show to people interested in taekwondo, then you're probably only getting (some small percentage of) users that have convinced Facebook that they're specifically interested in taekwondo. My hunch is that that might not catch a lot of parents whose kid do some flavor of Taekwondo, but the parents aren't involved enough to grasp the details of organizations.

    For whatever it's worth.... I had no idea how many weird little independent organizations and styles were out there in the US until I joined Century's FB group for school owners. Every other day I see somebody posting photos of their custom Century gis with, like, "Master Smith's US Christian Taekwon-Kenpo Federation" printed on them over a logo of a tiger punching a snake in front of a pyramid being hit by lightning or whatever. :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:
     
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  14. granfire

    granfire Sr. Grandmaster

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    not to mention if you only tag it TKD, you will get even less hits, as most people - still, after over 50 years - consider it 'karate;'
     
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  15. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    What's the name of that Century Facebook group?

    On the taekwondo wiki I encourage contributors to adopt an encyclopedic writing style. So for example, "Choi" gets introduced by his credentials, and then becomes simply "Choi" for the rest of the article (not "Grandmaster Choi" every time his name is mentioned) -- just as any encyclopedia would do. Where I sometimes have problems is the "Master Smith's US Christian Taekwon-Kenpo Federation" articles where contributors (often Master Smith himself I suspect) insist on referring to Smith by his full title every time his name appears. Nobody feels the need to lean on titles for the more prominent taekwondoins...it's always just the niche styles. I'll add that I often check the Master Smith-type Yelp reviews out of curiosity, and they've often very good -- apparently Master Smith's students are often having a positive experience.

    It seems to me the niche styles are also often located in very rural areas where there are few (if any) competing schools. I don't know if that's because there was nobody nearby to teach Master Smith a more mainstream style in the first place, or if the more populated areas eventually drive the niche styles out of business. I suspect the latter plays a big part: I think it'd be hard to attract new students in a suburb or city crowded with ITF, ATA, or WT/KKW competitors.

    tiger punching a snake in front of a pyramid being hit by lightning - I desperately want this patch on my dobok!!!! Can we make this the official logo of martialtalk/taekwondo?
     
  16. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    I disagree

    My son’s school belongs to a lineage and independent organization that does not belong to any of those groups yet aren’t being pushed out by any of them. It has numerous member dojos in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Shreveport, Ruston, and New Orleans areas.

    The lineage just doesn’t see the need to be ruled or controlled by a large parent organization.
     
  17. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    Interesting! Does your son's school practice a completely independent style? For instance, I know a lot of schools practice ITF-style, but aren't actually associated with an ITF. In other words, I didn't mean to refer to schools that are merely independent from an association; I meant schools that practice a style that's not based on any of the main associations. For example, I have a friend who practices at a taekwondo school in rural Georgia, and the instructor there made up his own poomsae for his curriculum. (He didn't feel that ITF, ATA, or KKW poomsae were sufficiently self-defense focused.) So that instructor is not only independent of any association, he's actually developed his own style.

    I could very well be wrong. It's just been my observation that when I find references to schools with their own niche style, they're often in very rural locations. It was merely a conjecture on my part that niche style would have a difficult time attracting students in an area that's got a lot of mainstream styles nearby.
     
  18. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    As was told to us at the last black belt seminar:

    The founder (Atlee Chittim) was a black belt in Judo and after WWI trained in Korea (I believe the Chung Do Kwan) and returned to the US a brown belt.

    He wanted to open a school in the US and was advised by his friend Robert Trias he should sponsor a black belt from Korea to finish his training under.

    In 1955, He sponsored Jhoon Rhee to come to America and earned his black belt. Rhee and he begin training students in the San Antonio area.

    Rhee would go on to do his thing while Chittim would stay in Texas and become involved in the USKA with Trias.

    Over the years, Chittim along with other head instructors adopted and created forms, techniques, and variations from different styles (TKD and Karate) that they liked and felt improved their style. Even adding weapon training (Bo, Nunchaku, and Sai).
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
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  19. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    After typing all that....:I now kinda agree with you.

    What seems to be important is that you are affiliated with some type of large organization that allows competition.

    For my son’s school it is the USKA.
     
  20. TrueJim

    TrueJim Master Black Belt

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    I think that's the real downside of styles that are completely niche (like my friend's school down in Georgia) -- I think it'd be very difficult to compete in tournaments.

    When taekwondoins compete in a USKA tournament, how does that work? Do they have to practice karate-style sparring in their dojangs in order to prepare? How are forms judged, when everybody's drawing from a completely different pool of forms?
     

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