Taekwondo is without a doubt one of the, if not the, most practiced martial arts nowadays, from its country of origin Korea to any other place in the world, taekwondo has become a very popular martial art, hence the decision of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to make it an Olympic Sport, meaning federations from all countries can participate in qualifying tournaments as well as regional competitions.
Now, here’s where things get a little bit complicated. When we talk about the word “sport” we talk about a ludic activity which has but one goal: entertain and help you move your body. Obviously, this means it won’t help you do anything else, like defending yourself for example.
Taekwondo is considered a martial art because the objective of a martial art is to provide you with not just the means to get fit and shape but also to defend yourself may the case be. Like any and all martial arts taekwondo is not designed to hurt, but instead to be able to respond to an aggression.
But martial arts also help you use them as the last resource more than the first as well as help you get your mind in shape and in balance.
So, in this whole equation, how do we consider Taekwondo? A sport or a martial art?
This is where this all begins, the mere fact that the IOC included taekwondo in the disciplines that participate in the Olympic Games and that all countries have their own federation with its respective rules and that the taekwondo uniform has become one of the many that distinguish each sport during the games make it complicated to really find an answer. This is specially noticiable when the participants have achieve mastership as their taekwondo uniform shows for it not just with the belt but also on the dobok.
But let’s analyze for a bit what martial arts are all about, first and foremost their training is the value of their training that does not only go back for many years but also does something else, which is a “double training” because for one it teaches how to connect punches and kicks with force and strength enough to, for example, break a leg. But also, when it comes to Olympic or regional competition, practitioners are trained on “pulling punches” which means, learning how to properly connect a punch or kick but only to make contact with the opponent in a way that a judge can call a point (or to make enough contact so the electronics used today can detect it) but never to hurt or injure a rival.
The idea is to make the practitioner learn to control the force of the blows in order to gain victory but not at the expense of the physical well-being of its counterpart.
On the other hand the martial arts teach on how to use those same techniques in order to neutralize an opponent in a real life combat situation where no other means of control are possible, remember what we mentioned before, like all martial arts Taekwondo is NOT learning how to fight, but how to defend oneself and use its teachings as the last resource not the first.
And the final answer is?
One of the problems that come when training for sports competition is that this kind of training will not be useful in real life combat while at the same time and as shown in one of our previous publications “New Kicks of Taekwondo” has the risk of distorting the techniques in hopes of only get points and not execute them properly.
A Taekwondo uniform worn either for competition or martial arts per se, means the same, that you are a bearer of an ancient knowledge in martial arts and that you know how to use it either for competition as well as for real-life combat situations.