What defines a martial artist? (Taekwondo)


White Belt
Mar 11, 2015
Reaction score
As a 4th degree Taekwondo blackbelt with over 15 years experience, I have experienced much of what Taekwondo has offered me. While I'm still climbing the mountain of my martial arts journey, i have recently had an eye opener to the martial art I spent alot of time on, just by simply asking myself the fundamental question, "What is a martial artist?" . My goal is to inform other traditionalists as well as the general public the true definition of a "martial artist".

This video is kind of long, but I hope you take into consideration what I have to say!
I stopped watching this when I realised you didn't understand the reasons for doing the very activities you were criticising, such as sparring and step drills. This is natural for people who began training at a young age. Maybe look deeper at some of the reasons why these disciplines exist. They are placeholders, formats, to be filled out by you, the practitioner. Any perceived weaknesses there are coming from you...'15 finishing moves against an opponent who is not resisting'...if that's what think you are doing, you have missed the point of the format and thereby made it weak.

I disagree with your assertion that a person must fight to be a martial artist.

A martial artist uses movements, principles and thoughts of a martial nature as a means to understand themselves, their environment and existence. That does not necessarily mean fighting.

The way you pronounce 窷 is very telling. Tae should be closer to rhyming with 'day' than it should with 'why'. I guess you haven't had much contact with Korean instructors?
If you include the obvious caveat that you are specifically referring to current day Sport Taekwondo, and in a system where 10 year old children can be blackbelts, where a limited understanding of the art and a mere fifteen years of training is enough for a 4th Dan, then you may have a point.

Know though, that TKD is an incredibly varied set of realated art forms and sports, from stuff that is incredibally close to the original Shotokan, to stuff like WTF sport schools, to stuff that has drifted closer to pre-Shotokhan Okinawan styles.

I mean, heck, my own TKD training is predominantly hand techniques, close in, with lots of grabbing. You assert that, for example, TKD can't deal with an underhook. Personally, as another 15 year TKD practitioner, I definitely feel more confident fighting in an upright grappling range than I do at head-kick range. Yeah, I've got some kicks, but no they are not the backbone of my style.

So before we do the whole "MMA sport is real fighting TKD is just a dexterity game" thing that young martial artists or those with limited understanding or experience have decided is vogue, let's remember that TKD is a vast array of arts, and that there may be more to it than you were taught or understood, especially among more traditional or unaffiliated schools.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like MMA, I think it's a great game. I love sparring with sport fighters. However, to think that a sport in which fights are expected to last 3 rounds is the closest you can get to real violence betrays an absolutely immense misunderstanding of what violence, especially the scary stuff, actually entails. (Hint, it's not sparring, and it's also not a typical bar fight.)

So yeah, train for MMA competition, and more power to you. Or, train BJJ, just realize that not training stand-up is every bit as much a gap in training as not training close fighting or ground. Or train older TKD and have fun with limited outfighting, extensive close striking and upright grappling, and limited ground work.

But don't mistake Olympic style TKD for it's early-mid-twentieth century roots. ;)
Just to be clear, I actually do agree with much of what you say regarding training and practice and testing and the rest. I also disagree with a lot.

However, since you posted this specifically in the TKD sub-forum, I thought it most relevant to point out that your particular experience as a 10 year old black-belt in a sport school might be slightly different from a few of the more serious TKDers on this forum.

On a side note, groundwork in the MMA rulesets is pretty far-removed from what you're describing in your section on Ground and Pound. If the "pound" is still continuing, it's because both fighters are still playing an active role and can sensibly defend themselves. It's not one guy as you say "already knocked out" and getting pummeled. Any borderline competent ref would stop the fight at that point...

So, long story short, it might be wise to really experience some more traditional TKD before you dismiss it based on your almost entirely unrelated sport experience where people swap kicks with their arms down; and it might be equally wise to listen to someone like Georges St. Pierre explain what he's doing, rather than rely solely on your own apparently lukewarm understanding of what occurs in MMA competition.
Last edited:
Ugh, I hate to keep posting, but I can't help it.

1. There is no "Real belt System" but I will tell you that whatever that giant mass of belts you held up is not even the TKD norm for many schools. My system has four belts. Five if you count black. If you want more history of the coloured belt system, start with the name "Kano" and see where your searching takes you. It's a modern thing, and there's no "one version."

2. Regarding 4th degree and being a "master." Again, you are talking about your experience in one school. There is a student with a fourth degree in my home school. He's the longest standing student of the founder of my school system, and he's been at it for several decades at this point. Remember that your particular sport-oriented TKD is not all of TKD.

3. If that's how you were taught to use those "blocks" than quite frankly, you were taught wrong. Those are multi-step movements, applicable in a variety of ways, and are not blocks in the way a cover is. The intent is entirely different. Those techniques were no even originally named anything, but with the systematization and introduction of Karate to school children became known, generally, as "uke", which implies that you are "receiving." But if, as a fourth degree, you're understanding of a "down block" is still that you are smashing your forearm into an oncoming attack, then I don't have to wonder why you reject "Gedan Barai Uke" as a valid technique. If you were to practice it as, say, a parry followed by arm control follwed by a low smahing strike; or perhaps as a standing hyper-extension, or perhaps as a takedown, your appreciation might shift. Dramatically.

4. Given your understanding that the Ennglish term "block" should be applied to the traditional karate movements classified as "uke", it doesn't surprise me that you have no appreciation for kata/forms. If I thought kata was about blocking punches from horse stance I'd probably dismiss it to. Look up Iain Abernathy. Look up Ryan Parker. Look up a hundred other guys and see if you can, in an afternoon, begin to better understand the art you supposedly devoted 15 years to and are a master of. (And yes, they both do karate, but non-sport TKD is nothing but karate with more kicking!)

But yes, if your understanding of kata is that it should be practiced "punching the air and imagining," then, very briefly, you have never actually studied kata. Kata practice requires a resisting, combative opponent. Kata is a tool to explore and record effective fighting techniques.

If you think the dancey air-punchy things you apparently did was legitimate kata practice, then, well, you're frankly just wrong. entirely wrong.

5. Most importantly. I'm glad you extend your condolences to those who might, "feel ignorant about this" or be angry that you're "hating on something [we've] spent our whole lives doing. However, I need to make two things clear.

Firstly, I don't think any devoted TKDer is going to watch all 40 minute of your video and worry that they are the ones with an ignorance of Taekwondo and its study. They may perceive some ignorance, but you might be surprised at where they attribute it...

Secondly, I don't think any of us would be offended that someone would hate on something we've spent our lives learning. The issue here is that you are "hating on" something that you have apparently not even begun to study. You dismiss forms training with apparently zero understanding of forms; you dismiss all TKD belt rankings based on a school system that thinks black belts are for children, and that 15 years makes one a 4th degree master; and most importantly you dismiss an immense variety of art forms and combat practices based on what you experienced in one school.

A school which, from your descriptions, sounds like it was run as a combination of practice for a specific sport and somewhat of a money-making belt mill where attendance and a healthy wallet play more into students' advancement than do dedication and comprehension.

Go study some actual traditional martial arts before you decide to deride it.

And lastly, really lastly, if you think there is any assumption that "Traditional" martial artists have some code of honor, (assuming we can call the TKD a traditional art), you are incredibly unversed in TKD history.

Spend ten minutes googling TKD history, and you'll find it's a combative, ugly, spiteful, political history of nasty, ego-driven infighting, backed by corrupt government and organized crime. Anyone who knows anything about Taekwondo should be aware that no one else who knows anything about Taekwondo thinks that being a Taekwondo practitioner equates being a good person.
Last edited:
Aaaaand, Chivalry had much more to do with the political power of the church than it did to any knights deciding that they just needed to use all their power for good.

But again, the short story is this:
People who intend to make condescending speeches should probably learn something about their subject matter before speaking. Otherwise they just look foolish.
Thank you Zack and Gnarlie, I was going to watch the video but I think you've saved me a looooong watch for nothing.
I do a traditional martial art and MMA and am really, really fed up with people from both sides going on about how good their respective styles are compared to the other and if they don't actually know about the other styles or even their own, even worse.
All fair comment over on MAP.

These guys need to get out more within the realm of TKD before continuing down this avenue of criticism.

15 years in a martial art is nothing, especially when they are in their twenties. Ten of those 15 years have been spent as kids doing kiddie martial arts. No wonder they are so clueless.
15 years in a martial art is nothing, especially when they are in their twenties.

As a guy in his twenties, with 15 years in a martial art, I am 100% in agreement with you. But then again, I have not yet achieved the glorious status of a "4th degree Master Black Belt," so I suppose I could be missing a lot of the mastery that this fine fellow has acquired.

But yay! Puppies!
I'm probably the only person you're ever going to hear from who sat through the full 39 minutes of your video and listened to what you had to say.

You're young, you still have time. But, fellas? You really neeed to consult with a grown up before posting things on youtube and several public Martial Arts forums.

I'm looking out for you here, honest.
I'm probably the only person you're ever going to hear from who sat through the full 39 minutes of your video and listened to what you had to say.

Hey, I watched the whole thing, and listened too! That, and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon is the explanation behind my four consecutive posts last night...

As I said before, these guys actually do have some valid points, and I don't even disagree with their analysis of one TKD school in one TKD style (how could I, I don't even know what school it is!). It'd just everything else that was questionable...

Latest Discussions