Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. It combines combat and self-defense techniques with sport and exercise. Gyeorugi, a type of sparring, has been an Olympic event since 2000. Taekwondo was developed by a variety of Korean masters during the 1940s as partial combination of taekkyeon, Okinawan karate, and other traditions.
The name taekwondo was coined by Choi Hong Hi (of the Oh Do Kwan). The World Taekwondo Federation claims that taekwondo development was a collaborative effort by a council consisting of members from the nine original kwans, while the International Taekwon-Do Federation credits Choi Hong Hi solely.
Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on high kicking and fast hand techniques, which distinguishes it from other popular martial arts and combat sports such as karate. However, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) believes that because the leg is the longest and strongest limb a martial artist has, kicks therefore have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes with the least chance of retaliation.
Taekwondo as a martial art is popular with people of both genders and of many ages. Physically, taekwondo develops strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina. An example of the union of mental and physical discipline is the breaking of wooden boards, bricks, or tiles, which requires both physical mastery of the technique and mental concentration to focus one's power.
A taekwondo student typically wears a uniform (도복/道服, doh'-bok), often white but sometimes black (or other colors), with a belt (ddi 띠, dee) tied around the waist. There are at least three major styles of dobok, with the most obvious differences being in the style of jacket: (1) the cross-over front jacket that resembles traditional Asian clothing, (2) the V-neck jacket (no cross-over) typically worn by WTF practitioners, and (3) the vertical-closing front jacket (no cross-over) typically worn by ITF practitioners. The belt color and any insignia thereon indicate the student's rank. In general, the darker the color, the higher the rank. The school or place where instruction is given is called the dojang (도장, doh'-jang). The grandmaster of the dojang is called a gwanjangnim (관장님, gwon'-jong-nim); the master (senior instructor or head of dojang) is called sabeomnim (사범님, sah'-bum-nim); the instructor is called gyosannim (교사님, gyoh'-sah-nim); and the assistant instructor is called jogyonim (조교님, joh'-gyoh-nim). The person's seniority in the dojang is not what distinguishes their title, but rather it is the degree, or dan, of black belt.
Taekwondo is traditionally performed in bare feet, although there are specialist training shoes that can sometimes be worn.