Proof That Taekwondo Was Meant To Punch You In The Face

*Authored by White Dragon 

It is often said that Taekwondo practitioners suck at punching and if they ever do punch, they never punch the face. This would make Taekwondo very boring. Well, here is some video evidence of early Taekwondo in its foundational period (1950’s) showing people punching and hand attacking to the face!

Taekwondo face punching:

The best part of this video is the free sparring. Notice how they are constantly attacking the head with their hands, and even throw low strikes to the body. This shows the heavy influence of Japanese Karate in Taekwondo’s foundational period. There are plenty of hand techniques that many Taekwondo instructors are not teaching which is sad. 

More exciting oldschool footage. Some of the same footage but other footage as well. Notice that even doing basics they have some hand techniques that are rarely taught today to students. Some of the hand techniques and stances look somewhat Kung Fu in style. This shows some of the Chinese influence on Taekwondo. Also, it is great to know that even in the early days they were practicing flying kicks, but it seems way more practical and useful flying kicks and without the boring gymnastics that demo teams do today. 


This is some glorious footage! Don’t you just love old Martial Arts video footage like these? Notice their doboks are in the pure, white Karate gi fashion. This was before they instituted the v-neck style and the black v-neck for black belts.

Here is more footage of interesting things:

Back in the day when Martial Artists actually cared to collaborate with other stylists and learn useful things. This is Mas Oyama the founder of Kyokushin Karate collaborating with Korean Taekwondo students. 

Here is some more modern footage showing proof that Kukki-Teakwondo does have face punching and it should be trained. 

Another modern Kukki-Taekwondo video showing various hand and arm strikes. He has some epic kiaps and overdramatic students! Awesome techniques!

And even another Kukki-Taekwondo master showing various face punching technique!


And just for fun here is an early Taekwondo master in the 1960’s showing some badass self defense techniques. Here you can see the influence Judo had on Taekwondo for self defense and that Taekwondo is a self defense art useful for combat and not just a boring sport of foot tag.

        Taekwondo is a deep Martial Art with all kinds of techniques. Ignoring most of them in order to be good at a sport that disallows pretty much 95% of the techniques makes you less effective for self defense. It also makes Taekwondo very boring. Taekwondo should not be boring as it is actually an exciting and useful fighting method. If you are not a Martial Artist and you want to attack a Taekwondo fighter then you deserve to get a punch to your face! If you are a Taekwondo fighter and you just read this article then…Get back to training and start punching people in the face and throwing people, along with your kicks!


White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

  1. MesYang88 says:

    You didn’t do any analysis of poomsae??? Palgwe forms are full of hand strikes to the head, neck, and throat! And that’s just at the surface level, let alone when you dig deeper into applications of techniques. Any TKD instructor worth their stripes should teach their students a whole slew of hand and elbow strikes: Ridge Hands, Knife Hand Chops, Back Fists, Hammer Firsts, Eye Gouges, Palm Strikes, Spear Hands, Elbows, Forearm Strikes, and there are multiple variation for all of these! And almost all of these are housed in the poomsae.

    When I joined the TKD club at college all the TKD people there were always surprised when I hit them with hands and elbows during sparing… as if it never even occurred to them to use their arms for something other than blocking. Then we pulled in a couple karate students and we would do hand contact to the sides of the headgear, which really threw the TKD peeps for a loop.

    However we have to remember that martial arts are taught for 3 main reasons: Self Defense, Exercise, and Character Development. So when self defense is neglected, you can’t expect instructors to do something potentially dangerous in training. If you say punch to the face, I say side kick to the knee. I personally don’t want to get punched in the face and I wouldn’t expect the average student to be able to do it with control.

    If you think about it the no. 1 reason someone shatters a fist is because they punch someone in the head. (or a wall… I don’t know why people like punching walls) Making fist-to-head contact is a dumb choice in a self defense scenario UNLESS you’ve gone that extra mile to condition the bones in your hand. Most people don’t do that, so you telling them to punch to the head is somewhat irresponsible. Your average student would be better off palm striking to the head than they would punching to it.

    That being said putting a hand in someone’s face is a great distractionary tactic which should always be followed up by multiple attacks, or grappling maneuvers. ; )

    • White Dragon says:

      Poomsae was not the point of this article.

      • MesYang88 says:

        But the poomsae is all the proof you need. Both poomsae and sparing are designed to get you ready for a real life confrontation. Poomsae teaches techniques; sparing helps you learn concepts for fighting, how to apply techniques on a live opponent, and something of what it’s like to actually get hit.

        Though I’d hold that punches to the face WON’T be allowed by the WTF where the only legal targets are those covered in pads. As I said with control they aren’t a problem, but that can’t be assured and not very many people wants to risk their nose for the sake of realism.

      • White Dragon says:

        It is well known to Taekwondo people or anyone observing the poomsae of Taekwondo that they have face punching and many hand to face strikes. But people really only think about the sport sparring. This article was not to analyze poomsae but just allow all the current TKD people as well as critics who think TKD sucks know that early Taekwondo was hitting to the face since its inception. I mean, why would you not?

        It is a given that any Taekwondo practitioner who is serious will condition his hands to hit targets, and this is a basic mode of training since white belt. But if you havn’t conditioned your fists that is your own fault and not my problem. If anything this article should motivate people to start doing this.

        I have punched enough people in the face with a bare fist to know there is really no problem and nothing so much as made my wrist sore. Also board breaking is another motivator for conditioning your fist and many of the sport and poomsae only people still break boards.

        I dont need to write all about poomsae to show the video evidence. I think it is self evidence the poomsae have those techniques just by watching. basically this article is a reminder to people to get back to the roots of self defense and train for it and not only do sport and demos.

        If you are mcdojang trained and you punch a guy in the face and break your hand that is your instructors fault, as well as your own fault, and certainly not mine.

        The videos I chose show historic TKD as well as some modern techniques such as boxing style punches and other brutal hand techniques being trained with people. This is far better than just showing poomsae videos and analyzing them.

  2. MesYang88 says:

    As an instructor who’s trying in introduce foreign concepts to others you should take a little more responsibility and be a bit more thorough.

    Everything you just said probably could have been included in your article improving it’s quality and helping to hammer home the point. And I think you have the misconception that “historic TKD” is the same as just TKD. Styles like mine and many others actually left the KTA, Kukkiwon, etc because we wanted to preserve these historical and more effective techniques and didn’t want to water down our curriculum to suit the nation Sport of Korea.

    • Grey Wolf says:

      Considering the approximately 60 year history of Taekwondo and its rapid rate of change, anything developed 20 years ago or more could be considered historical TKD, in my opinion. I think essentially what White Dragon means by true historical TKD is anything in the development of TKD more than 15-20 years ago which is practical and useful for actual combat. That is, of course, hinged on the assumption that true TKD is a military and civilian art meant to be practical. If that’s the case, then anything that is impractical, dumb, or just flashy for flash’s sake, is ipso facto not true TKD.

      Anyway it’s hard to figure out what’s truly historical and what’s not because TKD is so young. In a very technical since, anything practiced last year that is different this year classifies as historical. But I think of historical TKD as anything before 90s, since it was still largely developing its identity.

      Then again, it could be argued TKD is still developing its identity. haha.

      • MesYang88 says:

        I see what you’re saying. When I think of “historical TKD” my thoughts go back to prior to 1970’s. And I don’t really consider anything in the 1940s-1950s (possible even through the 1960s) to be TKD at all, but rather their respective parent arts such as Kong Soo Do, Tang Soo Do, Kwon Bop, etc.

      • White Dragon says:

        I consider anything from 1955 to the present Taekwondo. Even their respective arts as soon as they formed into Taekwondo, it is Taekwondo. But yes it was Karate…

    • Grey Wolf says:


      I agree and yet I disagree. The kwan systems practiced in the 50s when they unified under the mantle of Taekwondo were the same systems that seemed to essentially practiced up through the 60s during the kukkiwon and ITF development. Those systems still survive throught the efforts and teachings of hundreds of teachers all over the world, who either supplement the kwan style with kukkiwon certification, or don’t go through kukkiwon at all.

      • White Dragon says:

        But you should go through the Kukkiwon. Its just better to have some sort of regulation and you can still teach extra stuff like I do. Kukkiwon is also where the linage of Taekwondo is that stuck around and did not branch off.

      • MesYang88 says:

        I believe I mentioned that in a previous post. For example my style doesn’t do the Taeguek poomsae, Kumgang, or Taebaek yet we still preserve around 28 forms. To add 10 more onto that just so we can say we’re Kukkiwon Certified is not only silly but abserd. There are some TKD masters and grandmasters that do infact do this, such as Grandmaster Kim Pyung-Soo of Chayon Ryu (this being a “sister style” of what I study). But I don’t even think he requires his students to get ranked through the Kukkiwon.

      • White Dragon says:

        Kukkiwon is the most prestigious certification for Taekwondo in the world and the proper linage of where Taekwondo went in the modern day. Kukkiwon is not some dictatorial organization that tells you what you HAVE to teach in your personal dojang. All you need are the requirements for black belt. Having a respectable organization back you up and give you regulations to follow makes you legitimate and respectable. Independent ranked schools that have no one to oversee them are not as trustworthy and no one can be sure what the qualifications are of many schools.

        This is not to say that actual fighting ability is not taught in some places but for the most part it is not a qualified gym to train at. Its the same as a personal trainer, you must get certified to show credability. You cant just say “Im gunna train you and I have no verifiable qualifications and I am not certified by the ISSA or NASM etc.” Who will trust you? Getting KKW rank if you claim Taekwondo is the right thing to do.

        Also your idea that tae guks are pointless is ignorant and you have no understanding of the martial applications for movements. Your hate for kumg gang is annoying to me. but that is your opinion and fine for you.

        No one is forcing anyone to get KKW and as far as you said if you dont think pre-1970’s is really TKD but other arts then fine, you do not train TKD. You train another art like Kong Soo Do or Tang Soo Do or Karate or whatever you want to call it.

        I train in Taekwondo and I rank up properly through the Kukkiwon and it is worth it. It gives me credability and shows integrity that I can prove I am approved. I dont have to agree with or like everything the Kukkiwon does or what the WTF does but it is what it is, the approved, accepted, norm and proper standards for Taekwondo today. That is the true spirit of South Koreans. not ITF, not another group. The Kwan system is defunct. All kwans, every one of them, approve and accent and fully support the Kukkiwon and the WTF.

        You have every right to be korean karate or what you train but you should not be so annoyed I recommend and truly believe a Taekwondo instructor needs KKW certification and should go for it. If you practice another style of martial arts from a kwan system that is cool.

        The tae gukl forms are actually really good and I teach them along with pal gae and other forms like chul gi, kichos etc. but I still make sure the students know KKW standards so they can rank up.

        I am sure you will reply and claim im absurd more and be really upset but whatever. This blog takes the stand that KKW is the true linage, proper ranking organization, and correct Taekwondo. You are on offshoot branch and your own group apart from Taekwondo.

        I dont force anyone to get KKW, but if they are going to claim to be black belts under my system they WILL be KKW certified and any person I want to teach in the future HAS to have KKW certification, it will be mandatory. This is the proper thing to do and shows legitimacy. Its not independent school rank within 1 small gym or small group of gyms in one area but international rank.

  3. MesYang88 says:

    You presume too many things, lol. I never said the Taeguek poomsae were useless. I even went out of my way as a 2nd dan to learn all 8 Taeguek poomsae. I simply said, and will continue to say, “I like the palgwe poomsae better.” This doesn’t mean the Taeguek lack worth, simply that I have a personal preference.

    When I taught at my colleges TKD club I taught the Taeguek poomsae to my students because I fully understood that within today’s TKD culture these are the generally accepted beginner forms. I’ve also put effort into learning Taebaek and plan on learning Kumgang when the need arises. The problem I have with these two poomsae isn’t that I don’t understand their use, but have already learned the uses of these techniques through the practice of the same techniques done in different forms. As a “new” form, they offer nothing new to me. Therefore it would be more beneficial for me as a student to continue practicing what I already know rather then trying to learn and maintain these two forms.

    I’ve looked into getting my certification through the Kukkiwon, and I’m honestly still on the fence. Which might be why I enjoy talking to you, who loves the Kukkiwon and WTF.

    As far as this concept of “qualified vs certified”? I think we’ll just have to continue to disagree on that, lol. For me you saying something along the lines of “if you’re TKD but not Kukkiwon, you can’t be legit” is about as silly as saying, “if you’re Karate but not JKA, you can’t be legit”. I’m not sure if that will even make sense to you…

    I’m not just a single instructor who goes by his own sets of rules. I belong to a martial arts organization in which I have certified ranks and instructor certification. The Grandmaster/ creator of my style was certified through the KTA (1970) and holds an 8th dan through the Jidokwan (1972). These are perfectly acceptable to me to express my TKD’s authenticity and lineage (though my lineage is much more complicated than just that). The man left Korea in 1976 because he didn’t approve of the direction the Kukkiwon and WTF were going (ie. the sportification of TKD). Which is something I’m sure you can understand, because you’re trying to fight the same things even now. He believed that TKD should be an effective form of self defense.

    I love TKD and I even appreciate the Kukkiwon. But my world of TKD has never revolved around the Kukkiwon.

    • White Dragon says:

      Okay well that was a misundestanding about your easlier comments about the tae guk forms.
      But just becuase you already know the uses of movements does not make it pointless to learn a new form with similar moves or even the exact same moves. Its just something else to do, it is a accepted and official poomsae and its fun and part of the artform. I dont see why you would want to avoid learning it just bc you already know moves of the same in another form.

      Kukkiwon does not mean make legit in skill. but it makes you acceptable and approved by a very large organization that proves you are official. It is much like a certification in anything: CPR, Fitness trainer, fork lift operator etc. You must have proper credentials so you are official in the eyes of the public. If you do not do kukkiwon its not a crime, but I think its silly not to do it when you have the ability.
      I dont like everything the KKW does or the WTF but i still accept it as the official Taekwondo rank and it gives me regulations and backing that I am valid. I want to have as much integrity as possible so I make sure I rank up. I had rank in a small organization of Taekwondo masters called the IMF and decided I want KKW. Originally I had 1st dan KKW, then 2nd in IMF. Over the years I realized I have potential as an instructor and now got KKW skip dan to 3rd and also IMF 3rd dan. I did this bc it gives me legitimacy and shows I am better than the other TKD teachers in this area. Not only am I a better martial artist but I have official rank backing me up by Korea itself. Anyone who has ability should do it. It does not cost that much at all, just find a good instructor who wont price gouge it and rip you off. But paying more than the KKW price is the norm since you pay the master instructor his cut and that is proper.

      Fine you are park of a Jidkowan linage like me. I have a Jikowan certificate for Northwest USA Taekwondo by grandmaster Tae Hong Choi (rip). My 2nd dan IMF was under a Chungdokwan grandmaster named Kwan Sung Lee (rip) but he did not give me a Chungdokwan certificate. Anyway you may have skills and have certification in a smaller organization but its just smarter to market yourself with KKW rank as well on top of it all especially if your instructor can do it for you and he is willing. You can still teach oldschool froms and fighting TKD. KKW is not a dictatorial government system for your teaching. Its not like a mcdojang that has set things you HAVE to do like chain schools. You can do what you ant, just promote the art of TKD and obviously the consensus of what forms you should do as a TKD teacher and olympic sparring ability. Thats just extra crap on top of what I already teach and I find olympic sparring in itself a decent thing just not what i care to focus on and it is about 1% in my opinion of the entire art of Taekwondo.

      My world of TKD I guess centers on KKW rank but I also look down in history as what people were learning back then and what techniques mean what and teach self defense and fighting. I also adapt modern training into it as TKD should always evolve into better techniques and not stay stagnent. I just think the artform itself is fine enough and they sould stop changing poomsae and doing stupid things. I just use KKW as set standard for ranking people and everything else is fighting with Taekwondo for me. I wont do stupid demos, or TKD dance, or use poomsae uniforms that look dumb. I dont care if they are WTF approved. I stick with the standard basic white vneck dobok and thats it. The uniform is dinstinct from karate, but im not saying a regular gi is wrong either. Its up to you.

      • MesYang88 says:

        When it comes to forms I used to have a Pokémon attitude, lol. I simply had to collect them all, but I don’t think this is the best mentality to have. Sometimes it’s better to know a limited skill set and work towards mastering that, rather than being a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

        I’ve given my hand at learning Taebaek and like I said, I intend to learn Kumgang at a later date. Who knows maybe in the future I’ll do like GM Kim Pyung-Soo (he teaches Kicho Hyung, Pyang Ahn, Taeguek, Palgwe, Yudancha Poomsae, Kwon Bop Hyung, and Kong Soo Do Hyung). Personally I’ve learned most of the forms he teaches, but I think for me and most others it’s a bit too much.

        Here’s a video of my first attempt at Taebaek, lol.

  4. MesYang88 says:

    Woops wrong link, lol.

    • White Dragon says:

      Well Taekwondo forms are taekwondo forms so you are not really going to be a jack of all trades and master of none, especially if similar moves are in other forms. Its not going to hurt your training. Doing more forms makes it more interesting and then one day you can do a marathon of every form you know. Its a good work out.

      Anyway how did you learn taebaek? Your idea of moving is correct like the actual moves you want to do, but fo course work to tighten them up a lot. Are you a black belt? What do you mean “non-practitioner?”

      • MesYang88 says:

        I’m a 4th dan but like I said Taebaek is not one of my required forms. I learned it simply by watching others, I watched the form being done 4 times and then later on did it by myself.

        Anytime I post a video of forms that aren’t required for my style I put “by non-practitioner” at the end of the title, to signify that I don’t usually practice these. I also have videos of me doing the Taeguek poomsae that were filmed back in 2011, and two videos of me doing the Pinan Kata, one from 2011 and again this past year.

      • White Dragon says:

        oh ok I get it. Well cool man maybe just practice a lot and then get KKW if you want to be TKD. If not then you can do your other kwan art. It doesnt matter but if you want to be TKD I still believe KKW is the way to do it. So does 4th dan make you a master?

      • MesYang88 says:

        We don’t use the title master till 5th dan and I have quite some ways to go till then. I just got my 4th not too long ago.

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