Posts Tagged ‘Hee Il Cho’

Taekwondo Is Effective For A Self Defense Program:  Why Taekwondo Is More Effective Than A Reality Based Self Defense Course (Part 5)

*This is the final part of the series 


V. A Taekwondo Self Defense Program Can Run Better than an RBSD Program

             Original Taekwondo is itself a reality based self defense system in its own right if it is taught properly with a self defense mindset. A Taekwondo program can be changed to fit any business model or self defense program for any company.


Uniforms or special clothing is not important

Taekwondo may wear a white uniform whereas most RBSD guys wear camouflage pants or athletic attire, or just stylish black clothes or a polo shirt. This is not important. With or without the dobok Taekwondo can still be trained effectively. Belts do not even have to be worn and the grades and degrees given (geup and dan) do not have to be literally visible things a student wears. It could just be a verbal or shown through a certificate that someone has attained a certain geup. Students simply would have to wear athletic type of clothing that is easy to move in and loose fitting and comfortable. It is not mandatory to run a Taekwondo self defense program with traditional uniforms.

Even so, if one wants to go full traditional style then of course wearing the dobok and wearing the physical belts is available. Uniforms serve a purpose such as uniformity in class, that all people including men and women both are equal in class, wearing a uniform makes someone feel important and focused, and most importantly the uniform is a very great training suit. It is durable and strong and no one will have to worry what clothes to wear to training each day.


The progressive structure of Taekwondo motivates students

With the progressive structure and ranks given Taekwondo motivates students and encourages them to train harder to get to the next level. With a written curriculum handed out to students for each level of training, students can know what they need to know at a given time. A Taekwondo instructor should hand out papers with new techniques and knowledge that the student has to know. Each rank they can keep a binder of syllabi as references they can go back to.

Formal testing is also a positive thing for students. It gives a good amount of stress which can simulate distressing circumstances a self defense situation would bring up. It also stresses importance of skill with each rank’s techniques. If one cannot perform movements properly they do not pass. The ability to fail a test is very important as it will encourage students to train harder and make sure they have learned what needs to be learned. Rank testing does not have to cost extra money either, or if you do charge it does not have to be expensive. The commercialization of Taekwondo has brought about many people who just want to make easy money. Charging for testing and then encouraging students to test gets people rich. Exchanging money for a test usually pushes the instructor to pass less than deserving students to the next level even if they should have actually failed. This is a problem. It is recommended that testing fees are very low with the possibility of student’s to fail, or cost nothing at all.

During a test students will display every technique they learned and show applications for movements as well as live sparring with mild contact. This will present realism and test if a student can actually apply his knowledge in a simulation representing a real threat. Testing should be done every 4 months or more.


The purpose is training effective fighting techniques first over everything else

Most RBSD programs encourage practitioners to pay into their system’s founder’s pockets by certification fees, seminar fees, annual membership fees, DVD purchases and t-shirts, special requirements, and other unimportant things. This is because most RBSD systems exist solely off of marketing gimmicks and seem to mostly exist for the sake of promotion of the system itself rather than training fighting techniques to students. Taekwondo should not be this way. Taekwondo should exist first for the training of fighting techniques for self defense, and everything else such as promoting Taekwondo as a wonderful art after the fact. The program should not exist just to market the program. Taekwondo does not exist just to market Taekwondo. First teach proper combat and promote self defense, then worry about members or a student brotherhood in the system. If the product is good then many people will follow.



            Taekwondo has everything RBSD has with methodical training practices. A self defense minded Taekwondo instructor will be able to teach anything an RBSD instructor teaches and instill dedication, masterful skills, and an aggressive mindset for self defense in his students. RBSD programs are unnecessary and they cause people to overlook the value of traditional martial arts styles such as Taekwondo. There is nothing truly new or innovative that RBSD teaches that is not already taught by legitimate traditional martial arts instructors. RBSD instructors spent a lot of time belittling the traditional martial arts, especially Taekwondo. This is because of mcdojangism’s influence on Taekwondo culture. Yet, this is not a good enough reason to discredit Taekwondo itself as a whole.

Taekwondo is a very good martial art style to use for a proper self defense program. It was birthed from the aftermath of a brutal Japanese regime in Korea and further developed within war. Taekwondo has been proven in war on the battlefield and used by the U.S. Military and government agencies. Taekwondo has lethal striking techniques which are the basis for very effective self defense. It is a complete stand up striking system that has combat effectiveness. The live sparring and training drills and focus on mastering techniques enables any Taekwondo practitioner to obtain and retain realistic self defense knowledge. The fighting spirit that Taekwondo offers and complete fitness can be trained with total aggression and a “will to win” attitude that will give people true confidence and not a false sense of security that most RBSD programs give. Taekwondo is an excellent self defense art.


Works Cited

        (2009). Training For Black Belt: Grandmaster Tae Hong Choi. Posted on March 17th, 2009 at accessed, September 24th, 2014.

Cho, H.I. (1988). The Complete Black Belt Hyung W.T.F. Hee Il Cho: Los Angeles, CA.

CrossFit Defense. (2014). The Philosophy. Posted at, date accessed, September 24th, 2014.

Department of the Navy. (2011). Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). MCRP 3-02B. Department of the Navy, Headquarters United States Marine Corps: Washington, D.C. Posted at, date accessed September 24th, 2014.

Dougherty, M.J. (2010). Special Forces Unarmed Combat Guide: Hand-To-Hand Fighting Skills from the World’s Most Elite military Units. Metro Books: New York, NY.

Hamic, R. (2010). Press About: Press Release Distribution: Moni Aizik and Combat Survival are Sued in Multi-Million Dollar Class Action Lawsuit for Fraud and Misrepresentation. Posted by SARAVANAN2, on August 24th, 2010 at, date accessed September 26th, 2014.

Human Weapon. (2007). Season 1, Episode 8. Marine Corps Martial Arts. First aired September 27th,  2007 on The History Channel. Quote starts at 3:09 into the episode.

Integrated Combat Systems University. Krav Maga Principles. Posted at, date accessed, September 24th, 2014.

Jung, H. (2009). The Oregonian: Portland-area tae kwon do grandmaster pioneered sport in U.S. Tae Hong Choi, who established schools and taught thousands of students, dies at 7. Posted March, 11th, 2009 at, date accessed, September 24th, 2014.

Kim, S.H. (2009). Taekwondo Self Defense: Taekwondo Hoshinsool. Turtle Press: Sante Fe, NM.

Morgan, F.E. (1992). Living The Martial Way. Barricade Books, Inc.: Fort Lee, NJ.

Sylvester, M. (2012). Matthew Sylvester: Father, Author, Martial Artist: Tony Blauer: It’s not who’s right it’s who’s left. Posted May 7th, 2012 at, date accessed September 26th, 2014.

Swift, J.E. (1968). Black Belt Magazine: Budo Demolition: The Famed Tiger Division of the Korean Army in Action! Sine Pari, Kidokwan Martial Art International. Posted at, date accessed September 26th, 2014.

The Pentagon. (1980). Hand-To-Hand Fighting (Karate / Tae-Kwon-Do. ST 31-4. U.S. Government Printing Office: Fort Bragg, NC. Reprinted by Militaria Press.

Thomas, B. (1994). Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit: A Biography. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, CA.

Urban Protection Solutions/ Self Defense Classes. Posted at, date accessed, September 24th, 2014.


Go back to Part 4                                                                        Go on to Part 1 (First Part)


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. 

Problems With The Taekwondo Male Body Image: Skinny Legs And 6 Pack Abs Don’t Win Fights

        For the longest time in Taekwondo culture the Taekwondo approved male body image has usually been a tall and thin male. Most often it is the standard long legged, skinny Asian body of the Korean male. I believe the current standards for a serious Taekwondo fighter’s body is very biased for a certain caliber of people and usually only focuses on poomsae and Olympic sparring sport competitors. When a body type for western specific men is presented for Taekwondo in general, whether they be white, black, hispanic etc., the models closely resemble the ideal tall Korean body in shape. I find this to be an unrealistic standard and unfair. Also, many Korean men are not even tall but there are a lot who are. It isolates other effective body types for martial arts and fighting by presenting only one standard as the ideal Taekwondo body type for males: the tall and lanky sport competitor.

        I know there is also a Taekwondo body image for females. For women it is the petite and shorter, yet still skinny Asian bodied, Korean female. You see this all the time in martial arts catalogs. And Mexico has recently tried to introduce a new “female dobok” specifically for sex appeal and also making the claim that spandex material is better for sparring (which it is not). Even so, this article will focus on the male body image and leave the female body image for another discussion.

        Taekwondo models do not necessarily look unhealthy usually. They look athletic and attractive. Once in awhile I do sense that possibly the models have a bit skinny legs that are ineffective for serious kicking, which won’t cause any serious impact on a person. For western models in Taekwondo culture, the influence of the Korean standards for a proper body carries over into any ethnicity almost, whether it be European, African, Latino or other. I do believe that the standards for a Taekwondo fighter’s body in most of Taekwondo pop-culture are unrealistic and also wrong for many people to have. The k-pop music influence of Korean pop-culture has heavily influenced Taekwondo worldwide. The idea of the proper shape of a body for a serious martial artist is shown to be somewhat effeminate for the males and also very thin, and most often tall. I do not find this to be accurate of what many true Taekwondo masters look like. Many of the old masters over 60 years old have shorter legs, even some stubby compared to western legs, and many of these Korean grandmasters have thicker thigh muscles and shoulder muscles from decades of hardcore training. A few have bulky muscles and look built. Of course most often these masters are naturally wiry or thin, but they are still very masculine and tough. Of course some masters are more bulky and shaped like a barrel and do not even have 6 pack abs. This is because they have functional muscles for actual use, not for show.

        Here are some examples of the male body image portrayed in current Taekwondo culture as ideal for martial arts in magazines advertisements, and catalogs for uniforms:

To find these images I typed “Taekwondo male dobok” into Google.

Here are some examples of Taekwondo athletic body types for WTF sports:

For those images I typed in “Olympic Taekwondo athlete” into Google. Almost every image has this similar look for body type. It is still the thin and long legged body type.

        Now this is not necessarily wrong or a bad body to have. Many people obviously naturally are tall and lanky. This body type works very well within Olympic sport Taekwondo where kicking from distances to score points works best with long and thin legs. They can reach farther, often times faster moving, and are harder to see than a larger mass. This kind of body works best for Olympic sports and is probably why most of the heavier bodies of male athletes are not seen in this sport often. At least they are not showcased as much. But Olympic sport Taekwondo is only a part of Taekwondo and not the whole. Taekwondo is a self defense art.

        Believe it or not ITF Taekwondo is not immune to this. Here are a couple examples:

Hands down sparring exactly like WTF with lanky bodies

This ITF Demo team is much like any WTF body type

        The most desires or acceptable body for a Taekwondo fighter can be summed up in the poster boy for Taekwondo pop-culture, Olympic gold medalist Steven Lopez:

In my opinion he looks somewhat anorexic. Yes he has very defined muscles, but he is incredibly skinny. Yes he is trying to be sexy by showing his Fruit of the Loom’s in the front. But realistically that does not matter, his muscles and body type are not well for any serious combat without rules, let alone MMA. He needs to bulk up. He has the tall and lanky, long legged, tiny armed body that is popular. He does not need arms as much as legs for his sport.

      I have in the past been called obese or fat by a Korean master because my body type is more bulky and tank like. No I am not fat, I just do not have a perfect 6 pack of abs and I have thicker muscles and big arms and a big chest. I lift weights and work out to keep my fitness up so I can be a better fighter. There are a lot of typical athletic males like me out there who do various sports, including various styles of martial arts who are thick framed and bulky. In the past it has seemed that it was understood that to be a better fighter you should be stronger, bigger, tougher, thicker and faster. This is not talking about storing up body fat like a sumo wrestler, this is talking about working out. Lifting weights, doing pushups and eating protein etc. I believe it is self evident that someone who is larger and stronger will defeat someone with the same skill level who is smaller and thinner. Of course someone who is smaller and thinner with more advance skill than a larger opponent will win in a fight, but if that larger opponent ended up being just as skilled as the smaller guy it is obvious the larger guy has a better chance of winning. This is why world championship fight leagues have weight classes. Every combat sport has weight classes including Taekwondo. But take sport out of the picture and put the emphasis on fighting in general and self defense where there is no rules and it is better to be larger.

        This mentality in Taekwondo culture also affects the way companies produce doboks (uniforms). Companies now make doboks tighter and longer. So the uniform becomes stitched for someone with a thin frame and who is very tall. Most companies sell the uniform’s sizes by the weight of the person, not actual measurements. So, someone who is muscular and 200lbs. or so will buy a size 6 dobok and when he gets it in the mail he tries it on only to find out that the uniform top is tight around the midsection and the sleeves go past his wrists over his hands. The pants crotch hangs way too low and restricts kicking so he has to roll down the top of the pants a couple of times, and the pants go over his feet and touch the floor so he has to roll them up a few times.

        So, buying a properly fitting dobok  for average athletic males who do not fit the stereotype body find it nearly impossible to find a well made uniform that is WTF approved and fits properly. This exact thing happened to me when I bought a Mooto Basic uniform. When I ordered over the phone they told me if I got a size 5 it would be too tight so I need to get a larger uniform. When I said the sleeves or legs might be too long they said just alter it. So basically now I have to pay someone to alter a uniform and when they alter it they never alter it to be the same stitching as the original. It is very annoying. So, I just roll my pant legs up, pant waist band down, and arm sleeves of the top up. The is the only way to wear the uniform functionably for me. Even so, the quality of the Mooto basic uniform is very top of the line and I am satisfied. But it would be nice if they made them fit better. This is what many guys have to deal with when buying doboks now. The only decently fitting uniform I had in the past was when I was 16 and bought and Addidas uniform. A Taekwondo uniform is supposed to be a practical training suit that allows for total mobility in every direction. It should not be tight or have a low crotch that restricts kicking and it should not flop over the hands and feet.

        Within sport fighting events such as the UFC and GLORY Kickboxing the most respected fighters, the ones seen as the most dangerous, often times are very large men with large muscle mass. They have a lot of mass, but are not necessarily thing or perfectly toned. Most of the top fighters in mixed martial arts do not even have 6 pack abs and store a thick layer of body fat over their strong bodies. Examples of top fighters body types are bellow:

Cain Valasquez the current heavy weight UFC champion

Feder Emelianenko the Legend “Last Emperor”

Daniel Cormier 

UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell and his famous pot belly

Now here are some images of random Taekwondo masters or grandmasters:

The late Tiger Sang Soo Kim, 9th dan black belt from the 1970s. He has a very muscular body and is very bulky and large framed. He is not lanky and thin and tall. He has thick muscles.

Grandmaster Hee Il Cho, 9th dan of AIMAA. He has thicker muscles than a typical Taekwondo guy today, yet he is naturally thinner as a Korean. But he is one of the most serious fighting masters alive in Taekwondo today.

Master Sang H. Kim, 8th dan Kukkiwon who has authored various Taekwondo books including Taekwondo self defense and combat. He also has made various DVD’s on Taekwondo and self defense. His body type is the shorter with stubbier legs that is common among many Asian men. Not all Koreans are lanky and tall, I believe more are shorter especially from the older days (born before the 70’s possibly due to nutrition) as Korea progressed with wealth after the war.

9th dan grandmaster Lee Kyu Hyun of Kukkiwon with another 7th dan master. Shorter and thicker bodies than the typical thin models of Taekwondo magazines.

The late grandmaster Tae Hong Choi of Oregon. This man signed my 1st dan black belt certificate as well as applied my rank into the Kukkiwon. He looks like a standard Karateka yet he is a Taekwondoin from the oldschool days. This is what a Taekwondo master looked like as it was about mastering the fighting art and not simply doing poomsae and Olympic sport tournaments. When I tested under this man asked me specifically what Taekwondo was and he wanted to make sure I knew it was a fighting art first and only a sport after that. This grandmaster taught U.S. Special Forces and the South Vietnamese Army Taekwondo techniques. He also taught Taekwondo techniques to CIA operatives. This was a man who understood real combat and self defense, and the fact Taekwondo is a combat art. He was a highly respectable Kukkiwon grandmaster and even heavily promoted WTF tournaments, and served as a USTU Vice President. Yet, he would never be chosen as an ideal male body type for current standards of WTF/Kukkiwon Taekwondo culture.

        Realistic, martial artists’s body types are featured often in other martial arts styles. They are seen as badass and tough. The body that matters for fighting, not for show. One of the most serious, fierce, and hardcore fighters of the last century was Grandmaster Masutatsu Oyama or Kyokushin Kai Karate fame:

No real martial artist who knows anything about this man would dare call him fat or think he was not a true master. he is barrel shaped, much like a ball or tank. He is thick muscles but has an obvious layer of fat, yet he was a true fighter and beat hundreds of opponents. Even in his younger days he never seemed to have a 6 pack of abs, yet he did have more muscle tone. Most Kyokushin fighters are built like a tank. Their aim is to train for throwing the hardest kicks and hardest punches in order to win fights. That is their goal, to show they have the “strongest Karate.” Taekwondo could really benefit fromt his mindset. Not that Taekwondo fighters need more body fat, but that the focus should be on practical bodies with functional muscles and health. Not to look long and tall only.

Fumio Demura is one of the greatest Karate Legends of our time:

Grandmaster Demura is a 9th dan of Shito-Ryu Karate and one of the most famous and skilled Karate masters from older times still alive. His body type is more round. Yet no martial artist who knows anything would argue against his legitimacy as a master simply because he does not have a lanky tall body with 6 pack abs.

Gichin Funakoshi was one of the most influential martial arts masters of our time especially for Taekwondo:

Taekwondo itself is heavily based on this man’s created Karate style. If it was not for Grandmaster Funakoshi, Taekwondo would not be what it is today and might not even exist. Several of the founding kwan masters were high ranking dan grades under Funakoshi. Look at Funakoshi’s body type. He is very small, short, does not have extremely hard and defined muscles and has absolutely no 6 pack abs. People today would say he was even chubby and would not respect him because he does not have an “elite fitness” body. Yet, he was considered very dangerous. He himself claimed that Karate was like a gun, a deadly weapon that is very dangerous and should only be used in (or taught to) the right hands. Funakoshi was about fighting for self defense. Only later did Shotokan start a sport specific focus, but even so most serious Shotokan practitioners train for self defense and not simply to win tournaments.

These are just some examples.

        A martial artist’s body needs to be efficient and practical. It needs to be healthy yet it needs to have functional ability not aesthetics. Also, beauty is in the eye of the beholder often times. Martial arts is not a beauty pageant and martial artist’s bodies should not be trained simply for display, but for actual use. In a self defense situation or any fight the body that wins matters. Not how good it looked before the fight. Through hard training, though, you can and do get a better looking body because you become more healthy but this is not the goal. The goal is health and ability: cardio, strength, speed, power etc. not looking sexy.

        Taekwondo, if it wants to be considered as a fighting art and about what matters, the Taekwondo consensus on what is a proper body for males needs to change. A focus on men who can fight and have good skills much like the masters of 60 years ago. The Tae Hong Choi’s are the past norm. Only when Taekwondo got overly commercialized and watered down and superficial did the desire for one body type, the lanky and tall with long legs male become what is desired in a male Taekwondo practitioner.

        To be sure, in no way am I promoting obesity or laziness.  I am not saying people should be fat or no one should try to lose weight or be fit. There are plenty of really fat and out of shape fake masters out there. The point I am making is there are fit bodies of various shapes and sizes and for each individual master of martial arts they won’t always have the same body type. Some are thicker, some have layers of body fat yet are strong as an ox and can kill you, some are shorter legged, and not everyone of them has 6 pack abs. Taekwondo needs to focus on the badass, hardcore body image of a fighter and not simply a model type Olympic only sport competitor who is tall and lanky with no chest or shoulder muscles (because they barely punch). Koreans need to also understand that other ethnicities have different body shapes and not everyone can look like a Korean man and be thin or wiry. Besides there are large Korean men who are thick like wrestlers.

        Taekwondo practitioners who have dealt with such prejudice against larger bodies for males need to keep training with confidence and not worry if someone thinks you are fat. If you can stronger and tougher that is what matters. Do not listen to the ignorance of certain people. I would rather be tough like Mas Oyama and be big, than skinny and lanky and only be good at sport competition and male modeling.


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. 

Fighting Is Imperative To Taekwondo Training

       *Authored by White Dragon. 

        If you claim to be a Martial Artist and you don’t fight then you really know nothing of the Martial Arts. This holds true for Taekwondo. You will know nothing of Taekwondo unless you fight. Regardless of physical ability (possibly handicaps, injuries, mental challenges etc.) a student must train to fight the best he can. By fighting, it does not mean you must fight in a tournament, or in a cage fight, or some kickboxing event only. No, by fighting, it simply means at least sparring in your dojang and sometimes going hard on one another. Another way to fight is outside of the dojang. If someone attacks you then you fight them. If no one attacks you then you could provoke them into fighting you so you can try out your techniques, but that really is not a good goal to have, for the essence of self-defense is to only fight back when attacked. Going out looking for a fight is immoral and against the principles of Taekwondo’s martial philosophy. Nonetheless, a Taekwondoin must fight if he wants to prove he knows anything about Taekwondo. This can easily be done in a gym environment supervised by a qualified instructor.

        It is a myth that for one to prove he is black belt quality he has to fight in an MMA cage, or Kickboxing ring for sport fighting. You can still be a decent fighter without competing. An example of this reality is when author Sam Sheridan (2o10) paid a visit to Renzo Gracie’s (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master) gym in New York and met John Danaher “New Zealand John.”  Danaher is Renzo Gracie’s top Professor (Instructor) and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu genius (Sheridan, p. 235). He has never competed! He had a childhood surgery go wrong on his knee so he does not compete but is excellent in knowledge and physical abilities in the gym (Sheridan, p. 236). He is so respected that even Georges St. Pierre took private lessons from him and many other top names in MMA. The point being, even though he does not train to fight in competitions he is still a good fighter. You can be a fighter even if you do not compete.

        The meaning of being a fighter does not necessarily mean you practice combat sports and are a paid professional fighter. The word fighter simply means “a person with the will and disposition to fight, struggle, and resist.” A Taekwondo fighter is simply that same kind of person with such a will and disposition who trains in Taekwondo. It should be acknowledged that any true Taekwondo black belt should, thus, be a Taekwondo fighter whether or not they participate in combat sports. Also whether or not they are soldiers in the military. Sport fighters and soldiers are fighters, but not all fighters are sport competitors or in the military. All true Martial Artists train to be ready in case there is a need to fight; whether or not they plan to fight in the ring or in honorable duty calls to defend one’s family, friends, and personal interests. Hopefully, all Taekwondo fighters embrace the 5 tenets of Taekwondo and will fight for what is good and not selfish ambition.

        There is no excuse not to spar in your school. At first sparring can seem scary, but over time confidence can be built through contact training drills that build up over time to harder connecting techniques. This can be from defensive drills where you allow yourself to get hit either on your body or padded gear; and also within sparring you can start out light contact with realistic techniques and over time develop into a fearless full contact fighter. Every Taekwondo fighter should experience full contact sparring at some point in their training history, at least in a controlled environment in the dojang under the safety of instructors watching. Hopefully the Taekwondo fighter makes this a reoccurring practice throughout his training life in order to keep skills up. Gradually, the Taekwondoin soon enough will develop self confidence and be able to control his fear.

        Many dojangs today over emphasize self confidence for emotional security and self esteem while spending hardly any time on physical self confidence. If people are built up to believe in themselves without proving it physically they are going to be in a lot of trouble as they will have a false sense of security. Overconfidence destroys Martial Artists. Grandmaster Hee Il Cho explains that “physical confidence can only be gained by learning how to fight and knowing how to take care of yourself in a real situation” (p. 52). That means not simply doing sport sparring for a tournament rules format, but free sparring with a wide variety of target areas and self defense techniques. Cho also expresses, “Fighting is imperative in the martial arts. Without fighting, you’re not understanding total and complete martial arts, because until you get physically hit by someone, you won’t know if something works” (p. 52). In the Martial Arts it is expected you will get bumped and bruised and even bloodied. This is just a fact and it is something to expect and fight through. Your instructor should help you with mental strength and pain tolerance. This is not to say it’s okay to be injured, it is not. A real Taekwondo instructor watches for the safety of his students and helps them avoid real injuries. Safety gear is important to start off with and can gradually thin out over time, and if one chooses to spar without gear that is up to them with a partner of mutual understanding and common sense. But bumps and bruises and even blood should be expected! Students must learn to get over it and realize it only makes them stronger when they heal up.

        Training for tournament fighting is a good start for any Taekwondo student wanting a fight experience with some benefits of extra safety. But it should not be the main goal of the overall fighting technique that student will know in his Taekwondo life. Becoming a tournament champion and earning trophies and medals in a point fight system can bread unnecessary arrogance and embellished claims of skill if one is not careful, nor has an instructor there to make him check himself. The development of the W.T.F.  has been a blessing and a curse for the art of Taekwondo. On one hand it brought world-wide awareness of Taekwondo and has received acknowledgment in many countries and governments and within international organizations such as the IOC. This has been great for the spread of Taekwondo, but the curse in all of this is that the W.T.F. explicitly only represents sport sparring and sport poomsae competition. They exist solely to promote the tournament sport with all of its rules and regulations and all of its limitations for real world combat. They do not care about anything else. This has caused so many Taekwondo masters to only care about their students winning sport fighting, point tournaments and poomsae competitions. They have a total lack of focus for open rules competitions such as Kickboxing and MMA, as well as an unconcern for real world self defense.

        If Taekwondo is realistically going to keep up with the times and develop further in the Martial Arts world this overemphasis on sport has got to stop. Sport is great, but not an overemphasis on it. If the Kukkiwon is going to be the leader in Taekwondo development and advancement then they should start developing fighters for other modes of combat sports such as Kickboxing, Knockdown style, and MMA. Why not create a Kukkiwon Fight Team and train them for such events? Taekwondo is, first and foremost, a fighting art. Such competitions will only allow Taekwondo to prove itself in more combative avenues which will increase its credibility. This will only cause people to notice effective techniques that could transfer over to self defense.

        Taekwondo also is in general, a fighting art for self defense. The republic of Korea teaches it’s soldiers Taekwondo, and the Martial Art has been used in the Vietnam War to kill the enemies by ROK Marines. Morgan (1992) concurs,

“As anyone who has faced the army of the Republic of Korea can testify, Taekwondo can be a devastating method of unarmed fighting. But to learn true combat, students must practice without the constraints of tournament rules.” (p. 53)

        To understand fully the art of Taekwondo, the practitioner must spend quality time in sparring; not just for tournaments but also for real life situations targeting all over the body from leg kicks, face punches, knees, and elbows. This can be done in a safe environment and there is no excuse not to spend significant time training in such a way to help the Taekwondo fighter become adequate with the full range of Taekwondo techniques. You cannot simply practice for spin kick tricks, poomsae competitions and demonstrations, or board breaking. One especially should avoid wasting time on “Taekwondo-dance” and all of the other silly antics that people have created to impress ignorant masses of pop-culture followers who have no concern for the warrior way or self defense, and just enjoy showing off and dancing. The Taekwondo student must  practice using Taekwondo for what it was originally intended for, which is fighting.


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. 

Works Cited

        Cho, H.I. (1988). The Complete Black Belt Hyung W.T.F. Hee Il Cho: Los Angeles, CA.

        Morgan, F.E. (1992). Living The Martial Way. Barricade Books, Inc.: Fort Lee, NJ.

        Sheridan, S. (2010). A Fighter’s Mind. Atlantic Monthly Press: New York, NY.