The whole "state of TKD" thing


white dragon

When I first joined this board, some time ago now, I my views on TKD were that it was a great art, I had come across it when I joined university. I wanted to start learning a martial art, and had done for some time, I thought I'd try out JKD as from what I'd read it sounded the most logical art and I thought it would suit me. I'd heard of taekwondo, but had read things like "oh you need to be able to kick like a ballet dancer to do that" etc, so didn't think it would be something I'd be good at. Not wanting to close any doors though (university's about experimenting, right?) I tried several martial arts and found TKD to be the most suited to me. It seemed the most un-restictive and logical of those being taught at the university. So I stuck with it.

This was pretty much the point I was at when I joined the board, and I saw a few posts questioning or flamming my beloved art and defended it. I soon formed the opinion after reading other peoples stories that in America it had a bad wrap thanks to too many McDojangs. At this point I only really had contact with 2 clubs, my university one, and my instructors other class he ran outside of the university.

By this point, some time had passed, I'd been training happily and felt confident what I was being taught would allow me defend myself in most situations. As it happened over time by myself and others from the club had cause to use what we had leant. And I'm very happy to say that in all (although a small amount of instance I'm happy to say!) instances everyone had been able to defend themselves and come away unhurt. This just filled me again with confidnce in the art of taekwondo, and that the bad schools were indeed in small number.

Then someting started to happen. My instructor started charging us way too much and... ok, only joking it's not one of those stories! :D But seriously, through national events I started to meet people at other universities and other clubs, not connected to universities. And I went to train at some of these places when visiting friends. I had a great time at all of them, and don't regret any of the training sessions, and I've always been greatful for the warm and friendly welcome I've had from not only the other pupils, but the instructors too. The thing was though, out of them all I'd say that only about one or two of them practiced anything that I wouldn't class as a "sport". Nothing wrong with that, if that's what you want, but in general it meant people fighting with hands down, no hand techniques, and taking power out of kicks to make them faster in order to score points. Basically everything I hated people saying TKD was. Returning back to university I started looking at other TKD clubs in the area (pretty much all WTF I might add) and they were all the same!

It didn't really dawn on me till a 3rd Dan friend from another club came and stayed over at mine one night before coming training at my regular club. I was sat there with my housemate (a 4th Dan I should add) and we watched the Hong Kong Legends DVD of Game of Death, as it has a seminar on JKD with Dan Inosanto. We were watching it and he was going through hand drills, comparing those from Win Chung and systems like Kali. My housemate said how it was pretty much the same as the drills we did in class and my friend laughed, I found out later he did this because he just assumed we were joking. The following night he came training and seemed to be struggling at certain points, fair enough,maybe he hadn't done them before, not every school's the same, right? But then just before the end he came over to me and said "This is a good class... but it's not Taekwondo!"

This really made me think, I've had this idea of what TKD was and should be about shaped for me by the class I train in, assuming people who said TKD was sport based had only been to a really bad school. However, from my own personal experiences and hearing a 3rd Dan tell me that he doesn't consider the way I train to be Taekwondo, has made me re-think the entire situation.

Could it be, that Taekwondo is actually a fairly useless martial art, and is in actual fact mainly just a sport??? I've since read people say on this very board (sure it was here) that TKD is great, but if you want to learn self-defence then TKD isn't the art you should do. And that from someone that practices taekwondo!!!

I thought Taekwondo had started as a form of fighting to be taught to the Korean army, and therefore would need to be something other than just a sport, how has it come about now that most schools only seem to teach it as nothing more than a sport?

I really want to know what the views are of other people from the board, even if you don't practice TKD. I still love my art, but I hate the fact that people look down on it so much, and most of all, that I can now understand why!
I hear you in many different ways. Traditional TKD as I know it has very little self-defense purpose. This comes from the sport atmosphere that it has been given. Look at the olympics. It's just another style of TKD sparring. Do you see any other styles in there? NO. Getting back on track. Since your 3rd dan friend had said you didn't do TKD, so what! If you love it do it. Don't let people stand in your way of training. Also, have you ever asked your instructor about where he got some of his "drills". You know the ones that aren't TKD? Maybe he found these "drills" useful then passed them onto his students. Please visit and read the kenpo forum on here. You will find much insight from many (I do mean many) people with various opinions. Don't second guess your gut feelings.
If you love it, do it. If you understand where it may have 'gaps', then you can begine to fill them in.

Good luck!
I was heavily involved in TKD from 1983- 1996. I found that it really improved my mechanics in kicking, and make for good solid basics.

But it seems that at the time, good, strong self defense was not pushed enough. (ITF) Much is placed on sport.

That is beginning to change however, as their curriculum has improved. One must consider what the main emphasis/philosophy is on, lots of kicking, blocks, punches.

As it was stated earlier in another posting (Which I totally agree on) it's based on the Instructor. Some have more knowledge to offer, than others. However, many Insrtuctors/organizations feel that you're "bastardizing the art" by adding things that are outside TKD. But in reality, many are adding anyway to futher strengthen their art.

I still like it, and practice it. I just don't like the politics. But that is another story.

Respects to all:asian:
Originally posted by white dragon
but I hate the fact that people look down on it so much, and most of all, that I can now understand why!
if u understand then why do u care? frankly i m tired of telling ppl that it's worth learning...
I thought Taekwondo had started as a form of fighting to be taught to the Korean army,
well i think the same but i guess the kind of TKD ppl do, the army will not even think about it.
said "This is a good class... but it's not Taekwondo!"
lol once i punched n hooked my freind(KF guy) n he claimed i m not doing TKD, it's another story that i still took him down doin flashy kicks
and taking power out of kicks to make them faster in order to score points.
umm if i m getting it rite then to me the faster n higher kicks can hav KO power in them
that TKD is great, but if you want to learn self-defence then TKD isn't the art you should do. And that from someone that practices taekwondo!!!
frankly speaking if someone is talking about SD then he is just BSing cuz MA doesn't teach SD, SD is much of an attitude rather than anything else..
, from my own personal experiences and hearing a 3rd Dan tell me that he doesn't consider the way I train to be Taekwondo, has made me re-think the entire situation.
frankly if u hav to re think the situation then probably u r screwed up ur faith already...
i hav tried it against JKD,judo,karate,aikido,boxing,Eagle Claw's ... n never had biiiiiig problems(the kind of ppl says after doing it for 10-15 yrs)...tho it takes time to adapt otherwise it's not that much problem..
I'm writing this now before I read any other replies. First- I'm truly very happy you found an art that suits you, has been effective and has benefitted you. And I'm more than happy to hear good things about another art.

My school is in a wierd political shoot-out due to the death of the Grandmater of the system, and I could puke hearing about who's right and who's doing it wrong. (I'm about an inch away from wailing "can't we all just get along? :lol: )

Anyway, I don't know what is "proper" or "traditional" TKD. In fact I have no point other than to be pleased you are on a good path. Enjoy.

I'll go read the responses now;)
I tried several martial arts and found TKD to be the most suited to me. It seemed the most un-restictive and logical of those being taught at the university. So I stuck with it

This is exactly why I study TKD as my primary art. It is unrestrictive. I can study to compete in competitions, or I can take a more self defense road. Whatever I decide to go out and learn I can always bring back to TKD concepts/ideology.

I have had no problem with understanding and learning self defense as a part of TKD, and I feel that it is formidable and will keep a person safe . . . as long as it's understood what the difference between competition and "for real" are.

If you're happy with your studies and know it's always helping you to improve upon yourself, then it doesn't matter what other people say. Self improvement is self improvement is self improvement, not matter how it got there.

Keep training.
If you are learning self defense in a TKD school, that is how it should be. The sport sparring in WTF style is to develop the leg skill AS WELL AS the hands. Too many sport Karate, TKD, TSD matches have turned into SLOPPY BOXING, with little skilled kicking, because a lot of people find the kicking to be HARD WORK. If you are in a WTF style school, that spars w/punches to the body only, it is NECESSITY to train the hands with self defense drills! If this is not done, the Instructor is at fault and it is a McDojang. I run a WTF style TKD school and I would not think of leaving good, sound hand training for self defense out of the curriculum. If gloves are worn during self defense drills, the alternative hand formations for attackng different spots around the head and body are curtailed and tossed aside. This is not good either. The emphasis on high kicking is to ENSURE proper leg skill development that normally would not take place, with a lot of people, if gloved punching to the head were to continue. Unfortunately the pendulum has swung too far the other way and people are fighting with their hands down. Mas Oyama's Karate is very similar to WTF sparring. They don't piss around! This is how it should be. This is how I train. I also teach HAND DRILLS! If you aren't being taught hands at all, you are asking for a rude awakening if attacked. I am sick of the McDojang crap being flaunted as real TKD. It is NOT real.

white belt
White Dragon,

An added barrage of technical info. for you. Look at my posts in the TKD forum. Specifically in these strings...1) Is TKD useful?...2) Tactics against a Flamingo sparrer...3) Front or back leg, which is better?...4)Sparring against a puncher...5)Won-Hyo technical question. The information I am trying to share, in my posts, in these strings, is pretty well diversified across the board. Fighting a superior puncher and how to tangle them up. Shoes and the effect they have when using kicks during self defense. Balancing your right/left side development. The Won-Hyo technical question addresses the hidden self defense and yoga type development that is in forms that a LOT of people aren't teaching or are unaware of. All the info. I am sharing is FROM TKD!

I am an average WTF TKD guy in my book. There are TKD people around that have alot more to offer than I do and my students aren't neglected. Don't take a perspective that is relative to the "McDojang equals TKD" myth. All arts have crap schools or extremist marketing to a certain extent. As suggested in an earlier post, if you like it then do it. Investigate and fill any gaps you come across with tips from other serious TKD practicioners. If a person isn't being taught self defense at THEIR SCHOOL, then OF COURSE THEY WON'T RECOMMEND TKD FOR SELF DEFENSE. That is THEIR school! It means they are at a McDojang. It is not logical to think then that all TKD schools are like that. If others report the same, they are part of the MINORITY too. Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, JKD, etc. all have their infighting and detractors too. The thing that is different about TKD than those other arts, in the last 10-15 years, is TKD is the most practiced MA WORLDWIDE. None of the other arts really come close in number of schools and practicioners. The per capita number of bad schools is no higher than the other arts. But, because there are so many more TKD schools total, there are more bad McDojang to come across than other styles may have presently.

I have a real naive Brother-in-law down in Fla. who got hooked up at a McDojang for some physical therapy stemming from an ankle injury. He boxed and wrestled a little in the past and he realized that what they (McDojang) were teaching was useless. When I went down to visit, he shot (and shot) his mouth off to me thinking I was a franchise of the B.S. he ran into. He pressed and pressed the issue and he made a complete JACKASS out of himself when I allowed him to present his TKD proof skills to me. He did this in front of an audience trying to prove a point. He doesn't press ANYTHING with me anymore. All schools/experiences are different. Hopefully Brother-in-laws are too. He is getting the heave ho soon. (numb**ts!). Sorry if I seem at a loss for words.:) I wanted to share a perspective you possibly haven't come across.

Best of luck,
white belt

My teachings come directly from a WTF 9th Dan Korean Grandmaster. No substitutes.

If I had to but a bet on it though, I would have to say their are alot more TKD McDojangs then any other art. Mostly because of the scope of TKD and how is the largest martial art in the world, practiced in just about every country. as well, Tae Kwon Do is a generic term now. It used to be, "is it under Karate, or Kung Fu? "Now it is, "Is it Tae Kwon Do, Karate, BJJ... ect ect?"
Because of this, it is easy for someone to get a certificate from (or where ever) and put it up on their wall saying they are so and so, with a 12th dan. The larger an art, the easier to hide ones true liniages. Kenpo is natoious for this. Does this knock Kempo down as a legitiamate art? Not at all! Does this knock down Tae Kwon Do as a legitamate art? Not at all. Just that it is something that the public should keep in mind when looking at ANY type of school, federation. Is legitamacy and quality. something the public does not often understand.

What I see happening alot on this is people bad mouthing TKD for bad ________(fill in blank). And I see some real Tae Kwon Do people Go on here and defend TKD. I say, some how find a term, or a way to destinquish, what type of TKD you are. Sport TKD and Combat TKD is not enough I believe. It has gone beyond that type of word seperation.


Train in which direction your heart pulls you. You cant train in something you dont believe in, it just wont work. Though, dont let others opinion of what you do, influence your training." It is not the man out side the arena " as Roosevelt would say.

Michael Tabone

Check out the post I just left at the TSD KICKS VS. TKD KICKS string. Thanks for the interaction. Yes, on the other post I agree with you about the numbers thing and I also bring up some other posers as well.
If you hop around on the DoJang floor as well as you hop around these frickin' forums, you can't have any fat sparring partners!:)

white belt
I am just glad someone is out there to hop along with me!!! ;)


frankly speaking if someone is talking about SD then he is just BSing cuz MA doesn't teach SD, SD is much of an attitude rather than anything else..

I could not disagree more TKD Warrior. MA does teach SD. It does have a lot to do with attitude and the individual but MA does teach SD. There is a reason why MA are a good way of learning how to fight. Otherwise any punk off the street would be beating Grandmasters. Could you explain that for me?
I'd have to agree that there are a lot of "McDojo" TKD schools around, but I've been practicing TKD for nigh on 8 years, now, and neither of the two styles I've been involved with (Youn Wha Ryu, an odd mix of TKD, Jiujitsu, and Chinese Temple Boxing, and American Kang Duk Won, which is almost Karate-like) have been what I would call "McDojos." Then again, neither style, as I just said, is purely TKD either. They are not ITF or WTF, the "official" TKD schools. They are not mainstream styles. That said, I still call them both TKD because of the emphasis on kicks, jumps, and sic, as well as the Korean descent of the two styles (both trace their lineage back through verifiable sources to the Hwarang). Whatever the history of the style or of TKD itself, both are legitimate if the techniques and emphasis of the style is on personal development as a martial artist, fighter, and (perhaps most important) as a person.

I defend TKD as both a sport and an art, but I myself practice it as an art. I find it kind of strange that we attack TKD for being too much of a sport, when at the same time sport styles like Boxing or Amateur Wrestling are lauded. Neither TKD, boxing, or wrestling are impractical, IF ONE USES THE TECHNIQUES PROPERLY. If you put emphasis in your training on learning the techniques in order to use them in practical situations, and heck, even if you learn the techniques for tournament sparring, you're going to develop techniques that are designed to inflict damage and are useful in a fight. TKD schools, if they are worth their salt (and as I said, they are several that either are or are not all that good, it just depends on the school), will teach their students to be effective martial artists. The other half of training, though, is in the student, and the student must learn the techniques, and try to examine how to utilize them in practical combat.

Then again, I'm also an advocate for looseness of style, and so if you find that TKD or any other style is too rigid in teaching you techniques that you feel do not work for you, or that you feel are impractical... well first, talk to your instructor, and ask if you're doing the technique right. Usually the move is designed to be useful, of course, and if the move is done right, it WILL be useful... but if it STILL doesn't work for you after that, seek out other techniques from other styles, or other techniques in your own style, to incorporate into your personal style. USE WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU, not what you are told works best for EVERYONE. What "works for everyone" typically DOESN'T work for everyone. I myself search out techniques from boxing, shoot fighting and grappling styles, and other kicking arts to incorporate into my own personal style. While TKD may have its flaws just like EVERY OTHER ART OUT THERE, it has many virtues in developing the power of the legs, your body's most powerful muscles, and training them for use in fighting. Seek out other styles, grow through techniques, but make sure that you know your own style's techniques first, and take those techniques that work best for you from every style you encounter into your own personal style.

That's just my opinion.


PS: Good points raised all around on this one, guys.
Excellent point! I personally have revisited my amatuer wrestling root to supplement my WTF TKD training. Would seem to be a good mix of skills, one close and one medium range covering multiple elevations. A training partner of mine started kickboxing and I do see that particular art improving overall skill of a TKD student.

Mountain Sage
I'd just like to express a heartfelt thankyou to all the replies given. I've been extremely busy lately and haven't had time to reply to anyone. But thanks for giving your opinions and views and as soon as I get some free time I'll get back to you all.

Thanks again.

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