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  • What is the history of Korea?
  • What is the history of Taekwondo?
  • What are the qualities of a black belt?
  • Explain Taeguek.
  • Explain the meaning of each Taegeuk pattern.
  • Explain Koryo
  • Explain Geumgang
  • Explain Taebaek
  • Are you better than you were a year ago?
  • What does Tae Kwon Do literally translate to?
  • What is the difference between the sport & martial art of Taekwondo?
  • What is the difference between a colour belt and black belt?
  • What does being a black belt mean to you?
  • How do you live these things in your everyday life?
  • What are the below and what do they do:
    • WTF
    • TA
    • Kukkiwon



Q:  What is the history of Korea?

Korea is a modern nation with a history of over 5,000 years. The history of its culture can be seen in the Korean art and architecture that remains today.

In Korean mythology there is a story of the birth of the Korean nation when a god named Hwanung comes from heaven and transforms a bear into a woman. He marries her and she gives birth to a son, Tangun. Tangun establishes the first capital of the Korean nation in 2333 B.C. and calls it Choson – Land of the Morning Calm.

Ko (Old) Choson is the kingdom that many Koreans believe was founded by Tangun. They probably lived in pit houses and had iron tools. Their walled-kingdom was near Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

Prehistoric remains found throughout Korea indicate that early in the history of the Korean Peninsula sophisticated technologies were known by these inhabitants. These people believed that all objects had spirits, a belief known as animism. They also believed that some people had the power to communicate with these spirits and this is known as Shamanism. Farming at this time included growing rice. This was about 3,500 years ago at the start of the Bronze Age. Many farm tools have been found from this time.

There were many other nations in Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula during the Iron Age. In the 1st century B.C. Ko Old Choson gives way to three nations. The first is Koguryo (founded in 37 B.C) to the north which was in Manchuria and northern Korea. Koguryo becomes a buffer against the aggressive nations of China. Two other kingdoms developed, Silla (founded in 57 B.C.) in the south eastern corner of the peninsula, and Paekche (founded in 18 B.C.) in the south-western part of the peninsula. They become known as the “Three Kingdoms” although there was a fourth kingdom known as Kaya (founded in 42 A.D.).

Korea, being a peninsula and surrounded by the great powers of the Orient, has been subject to invasions throughout its history by warring nations from China and Manchuria to the north and from Japan to the east.

Being isolated from the north, Silla was the last kingdom to be influenced by foreign ideas. Due to this isolation, their art and architecture became distinctly Korean.

The cultures of the Three Kingdoms became very refined with an aristocratic society where the aristocrats became leaders. With the development of Silla and Paekche, friction developed between the three kingdoms.

Between 417 and 458 A.D. the Three Kingdoms accept Buddhism and this greatly expands their art and architectural culture. The Buddhist culture later extended to Japan and influences their culture.

With Buddhism the arts of building temples, creating stone Buddha’s, stone pagodas, and stone lanterns flourished. Huge bells are cast which are struck by logs hanging from two chains. Many monks composed and wrote literature in Chinese.

In the 7th century Silla conquered the other kingdoms and the Three Kingdoms are united by Silla except for the part of Koguryo in Manchuria. They are then able to form a nation under one government known as Unified Silla.

Many beautiful temples and shrines are built including Pulguksa Temple and the Sokkuram Buddhist Grotto, a technological as well as a sculptural masterpiece. Buddhist texts were printed with woodblocks. The oldest astronomical observatory in the world was also built in Kyongju, the ancient Silla capital.

The Silla rulers began to fight among each other and in 918 Wang Kon founded the Koryo Dynasty. This was where the name, Korea, was derived. The new laws were patterned after Chinese laws and Confucian and Buddhist beliefs. Buddhism became the official religion. The art of Koryo celadon pottery is developed which continues as an art today.

In the 12th century, Koryo underwent conflicts between the civilian and military structures and later in the 13th century Koryo was invaded several times by the Mongolians from the north. Koryo was also weakened by Japanese pirates.

In 1392 the Koryo Dynasty was taken over by the Choson Dynasty who had a Confucian form of government. The Choson Dynasty was ruled by the Yi family from 1392 to 1910. This was a government which promoted loyalty to their country and respect for parents. Choson founder King Taejo began the construction of Chongmyo Shrine in 1394 when the dynasty moved its capital to Hanyang, now Seoul. King Sejong the Great began his reign in 1418. In the early 1420 King Sejong also gathered many scholars to create a phonetic language which has 11 vowels and 17 consonants to form the Korean written language known as Han’gul. Until then, only a few scholars could read and write using Chinese characters. He also promoted education for all citizens and many scientific developments such as the sun dial and water clocks.

The Japanese attacked Korea in 1592-98 with destruction the of many buildings and the killing of many Koreans. Kobukson, the world’s first ironclad battleships, were built by Admiral Yi Sun-shin, which helped the Koreans prevent Japan from taking over Korea.
The Korean society changed as traders and merchants began to trade with Japan and the West. In the 1800’s the Choson leaders wanted to close Korea to foreigners, while the merchant class wanted to improve their economy and technology to deal with outside trade.
Japan began to grow stronger and in 1895 they defeated China during the Sino-Japanese War. Russia was defeated in 1905 in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan had become the military power in Northeast Asia. Japan annexed Korea as a Japanese colony in 1910.

For 35 years Korea was ruled by Japan. Koreans were not allowed to speak their own language or to learn about their history during this time in an effort to obliterate the Korean culture. Japan plundered land and food. On March 1, 1919 many Koreans were killed or put in prison nationwide as they protested the colonial rule. Koreans remember this day as a symbol of their patriotism. Koreans strove to keep their cultural heritage that we see today in their many historical sites.

On August 15th, 1945 Japan surrendered ending the Pacific War, but 10 days later Korea was divided into North and South Korea. The United States took control of surrendering Japanese soldiers south of the 38th Parallel while the Soviet Union took control of the north. The United Nations called for elections in 1947 but the North Koreans refused.

A communist form of government came into power in North Korea (known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). The United States turned its authority over to South Korea (the Republic of Korea) in 1948 and left a small group of military advisors.

South Korea was invaded by North Korea on June 25th, 1950. The United Nations sent military assistance. The Korean War lasted three years and inflicted terrible damage to Korea before a cease-fire ended the war in 1953. The 4 kilometre-wide area along the Military Demarcation Line which divides North and South Korea has become known as the DMZ, or Demilitarized Zone. Over the 49 years since the Korean War there have been continual conflicts along the DMZ.

South Korea continues in its efforts to unify North and South Korea, with President Kim receiving the noble peace prize in 2000 for his efforts.



Q:  What is the history of Taekwondo?


Detailed History of Taekwondo


Koguryo and Silla Dynasties

The origin of Taekwondo can be traced back to the Koguryo dynasty founded 37 B.C.  This is evidenced by the mural paintings found in the ruins of the royal tombs built by the Koguryo dynasty which show scenes of Taekwondo practice.  Taekwondo was also practiced during the Silla dynasty.  Korean culture and martial arts of the period were strongly influenced and enriched by the Hwarangdo, a military, educational, and social organisation of noble youths of the Silla dynasty.  The code of honor on which the Hwarang was based was loyalty to the nation, respect and obedience to one’s parents, allegiance to one’s friends, courage in battle, and avoidance of unnecessary violence and killing.

Archaeological findings such as mural paintings on the royal tombs of the Koguryo dynasty, the stone sculptures of pagodas and temples produced during the Silla period, and scattered descriptions in written documents show that many fighting stances, skills and formalised movements closely resemble the present stances and forms of Taekwondo.  Accordingly, it can be inferred that people in the three kingdoms practiced an art very like the one we study today.


Koryo and Yi Dynasties

In the history of Koryo, Taekwondo which was then termed ‘Subak,’ was encouraged as a martial art of considerably high value.  Subak is believed to have gained its highest popularity during the reign of King Uijong, between 1,147 and 1,170 A.D.  This period roughly corresponds to the era that includes part of the Chinese Song and Ming dynasties, during which Kungfu became widely popular.  This is worth noting as it further shows that Taekwondo is not only of pure Korean origin, but that it has achieved independent development throughout the long history of Korea.

It is important to note that during the Subak period a book was published to teach Taekwondo, and that Taekwondo’s popularity increased significantly amongst the general public.  This contrasts with the preceding Koryo dynasty where Taekwondo was mainly practiced by the military.  King Chongjo, published ‘Muye Dobo Tongji,’ an illustrated textbook on martial arts, which included Taekwondo as one of the major chapters.  It is obvious, therefore, that Subak became an important national sport and attracted much attention from both the royal court and the general public during the Yi dynasty.

Conversely, in the latter half of the Yi dynasty, the importance of Subak as a martial art began to decline due to negligence of the royal court (which was constantly disturbed by strife between feuding political factions).  As a result, Subak remained merely a recreational activity for ordinary people.


Taekwondo in the first half of the 20th century:

Along with the deterioration of national fortunes, the fall of the military was accelerated by the dismantling of the army; finally, Japanese imperialists colonised Korea through an oppressive forceful invasion.  The oppression of the Korean people by the Japanese imperialists worsened, and the practicing of martial arts, which could have been used as a means of revolt, was forbidden.

However, Taekwondo persisted in the spirit of the Korean people as a physical and spiritual training method of anti-japanese organisations such as the Indepedence Army and the Liberation Army, and as a legacy to pass on to the younger generation.



After liberation from the Japanese invasion on August 15, 1945, those with an aspiration to revitalise the traditional art of Taekwondo taught their followers, and at last, on September 16, 1961, the Korea Taekwondo Association was established. On February 25, 1962, the Korea Taekwondo Association became the 27th affiliate to join the Korea Amateur Sports Association. On October 9, 1963, Taekwondo became an official event for the first time in the 44th National Athletics Meet.  Its great leaps in the development of competition rules and protective equipment started with that meet.

Korean instructors began going abroad to teach Taekwondo in the 1960s, which marked a turning point in the history of Taekwondo.  The 1st World Taekwondo Championships were held in Seoul, Korea in May 1973 with participation from 19 countries.  At this time representatives of those countries established the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF).



In 1996, member countries of the WTF totalled 144 and the global Taekwondo population was estimated at 30 million people.  Spurred by the recognition of Taekwondo by the IOC at its 83rd General Session in 1980, Taekwondo has rapidly developed into an international sport.  It was adopted as a demonstration sport of the 24th Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the 25th Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Taekwondo was adopted as an official sport of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the 103rd Session of the IOC held in Paris, France on September 4, 1994.  Taekwondo has consolidated its position in world sport faster than any other martial art.  Four member regional unions of the WTF host continental championships.  There are World and Women’s World Championships, World Cup Taekwondo, CISM Taekwondo Championships and FISU World University Championships. Taekwondo is being played as an official sport in most international multi-sport games such as World Games, Pan American Games, All Africa Games, Southeast Asian Games and Central American Games.


Chinese Kungfu and Japanese Karate

Some people believe that Taekwondo originated from Kungfu, the Chinese self-defense art. According to a Chinese document, the Chinese art of self-defence is believed to have been initiated as a sort of physical exercise when the Bodhi Dharma taught the monks of Hsiaolin Temple in Tungpung County, Honan Province, China.  Bodhi Dharma, a great Indian Buddhist Zen master, came to China in 520 A.D.and spent nine years at Hsiaolin Temple where he introduced the art of self-defence.  However, if we recall that the mural paintings of Taekwondo in the ancient tombs of Koguryo belong to the period 3 A.D. to 427A.D., it cannot be said that the Korean Taekwondo owes its origin to the Chinese Kungfu.

No detailed record is available when Karate, the Japanese self-defence art equivalent to Taekwondo, was initiated.  There are two explanations about it.  One explanation is that a Chinese Master named Chen Yuanpin, who lived in the late Ming dynasty, was naturalised as a Japanese citizen and imparted the Chinese ‘Kungfu’ to the Japanese people.  The other explanation says that Karate is a developed form of “Okinawate,” a self-defense art indigenous to Okinawa.  However, when Okinawate began is not known either.  In order to trace the origin of Okinawate, we might rely on “The Historical Record of Chosun (another name for the Yi dynasty) which only says that envoys from the Ryukyu Island made frequent visits to bring tribute to the Kings of Chosun.

At that time in Korea, “Subak”, an old name of Taekwondo, had gained great popularity among the people, and therefore, it is not unlikely that the envoys from Okinawa learned and introduced to their people.  This speculation is not too absurd when we recall the fact that “Nul”, the Korean see-saw, was also adopted by the people of Okinawa from Korea.  It may therefore be concluded that Karate, derives from Taekyon or Subak, the primitive form of Taekwondo.



Q:  What are the qualities of a black belt?

Integrity A Black Belt does not lie, cheat, or steal. When you have integrity you can look people in the eye with confidence and know that what you’ve said is believed and trusted.
Loyalty The very word is life itself, for without loyalty we have no love of person or country.
Courtesy Allow each person their dignity. Show the courtesy that you hope to receive from others by showing it in your everyday life. It goes beyond the training hall door.
Self-Control Self-control means never having to say you’re sorry. By learning to control your words and actions people are less likely to be hurt by them.
Kindness This can stop wars and erase hate. But like a bike, it’s no good if you don’t get out and use it…. and it’s free.
Obedience This begins at home. Practice it with your family. Then enlarge it with your friends. Share it with humanity.
Cleanliness Soap and water works for the outside of the body. You have to work on the inside with a different type of cleaner.
Perseverance A Black Belt never quits. Once started it is better to finish. Sometimes people start projects and do not realise the difficulties that lie ahead. A Black Belt will look at these, not as difficulties, but as challenges to be overcome.
Courage Courage is shown by striving on despite the odds. It does not require fighting with your hands and feet, but with your mind.  Without fear, there is no courage.
Reverence Life is precious. A Black Belt remembers this and strives to refrain from harming others, even when they do wrong.

A Black Belt strives to encompass these qualities in their daily life.



Q:  Explain Taeguek

Translated from their Chinese characters, Tae means greatness, and geuk eternity.  Taegeuk is a symbol representing the principles of the cosmos, creation, and the norms of human life.  The circumference of the Taegeuk mark symbolises infinity, and the two parts – red and blue, inside the circle, symbolise yin (negative) and yang (positive).  Therefore, Taegeuk is the light which is the unified core of the cosmos and human life, and its boundlessness signifies energy and the source of life.  The yin and yang represent the development of the cosmos and human life, and the oneness of the symmetrical halves, such as negative and positive, and hardness and softness.  Without form, without a beginning, and without an end, Taegeuk represents the essence of all that is.

Eight basic Eastern principles (kwae) are developed in Taegeuk.  These are represented by the eight symbols outside the circle, and are arranged in an ordered system that also correlates with the cardinal and inter-cardinal directions.  One bar means yang and two bars the yin, both representing the creation of harmony with the basic principles of the cosmos phenomena.  In ancient times, these symbols were a sign of power, and to this day four of them are found on the South Korean flag.  The Taegeuk, infinity, and yin-yang are the three elements constituting a philosophical trinity.


Q:  Explain the meaning of each Taegeuk pattern

Taegeuk one represents the symbol of ‘keon,’ one of the eight kwaes (divination signs), which means the heaven (yang) and the light; the sequence of movements of the poomsae are dedicated to them.  The rain and the light of the sun which is necessary for all that grows, both come from the heavens.  The heavens, therefore, are the symbol of creation, and the beginning of all things in the universe.  Accordingly, Taegeuk one represented by ‘keon,’ is the beginning of training in Taekwondo.

The diagram for Taegeuk two symbolises ‘tae,’ which signifies cheerfulness and happiness.  A person who is filled with happiness is a person possessing inner strength as well as maintaining and conveying to others a sense of serenity and balance.

Taegeuk three is symbolized by ‘ra,’ the sign of fire.  This element encourages trainees to harbour a sense of justice and ardor for training.  Through intelligence, humans were able to tame fire.  Fire gives warmth and light to us; it excites us and gives us hope and confidence; but it also awakens passion, fear, and panic in us.

The symbol for Taegeuk four, ‘jin’ signifies thunder, which represents great power and dignity.  Thunder and lightning strike fear into people; but thunder also creates energy.  Correspondingly, the principle of this poomsae is to confront danger with calmness and courage in the form of powerful and focused movements.

The symbol of the wind (‘son’) represents Taegeuk five. In spite of turning into storms, wind also has a positive meaning, because wind disperses seeds and scatters dark clouds. Wind symbolizes a force of destruction as well as the power to build.

The symbol of water (‘kam’) characterises Taegeuk six, and means incessant flow and softness.  Like water that always flows down, the movements here are fluid, flowing into one another.  This image teaches us that difficulties and misfortune can be overcome if we proceed with confidence.  The movements have been developed with this idea in mind, follow the flow of water; individual parts are bridged by kicking action of the feet.

The Chinese character ‘kan,’ expressing Taegeuk seven symbolises the mountain – meaning ponderosity and firmness.  A mountain is seemingly permanent and unmovable, yet they are constantly growing and changing.  Humans seek to emulate these characteristics, moving forward and remaining still are both necessary when we want to achieve something.

Taegeuk eight symbolises the ‘kon,’ which represents ‘yin’ (c.f. Taegeuk 1) and Earth, meaning the source of all life, the root and settlement, and also the beginning and end.  Everything arises from the Earth, receiving its nourishment and energy.  The creative power of the heavens is embodied in the Earth.  Taegeuk eight is the last pattern a student learns on the way to becoming a black belt.  These basic patterns are revisited, and practiced again and again, until they are polished to perfection.



Q:  Explain Koryo

Koryo poomsae is represented by the Chinese character ‘seonbi’, which is both the line of the pattern, and means, a learned man of virtue who is characterised by a strong martial and moral spirit. This spirit has been inherited through the ages of Koguryo, Palhae and Koryo, and is the organising background of the Poomsae. The special ready position (tongmilgi) used in Koryo requires mental concentration focused by positioning the hands in between the upper abdomen, and the lower abdomen where ‘sin’ (divine) and ‘jeong’ (spirit) converge.



Q:  Explain Geumgang

The word “Geumgang” originally meant being too strong to be broken.  In Buddhism, what can break off every agony of mind with the combination of wisdom and virtue is called Geumgang.

Geumgang-seok in Korean  means diamond  –  Geumgang in Taekwondo means movement based on spiritual strength that is as beautiful and majestic as the Diamond Mountains and hard and adamant as diamond.

The line and shape of the pattern corresponds to the Chinese Character for mountain.  The Korean people named the most beautiful mountain in the Korean Peninsula Geumgang-san, which is located in the Taebaek mountain range.  In the movement of Poomse Geumgang the sharp and endlessly changeable majestic spirit like that of the mountains should be displayed.



Q:  Explain Taebaek

The mythological story about the foundimg of Korea says that about 4300 years ago, the nation was founded in Taebaek by Dangoon.  In the present day Taebaek is known as Mount Baekdoo.

Mount Baekdoo is considered the highest and most beautiful mountain in Korea, a symbol of Korea itself, and is considered sacred by the Korean people.  Poomse Taebaek has its basic principles of movement from the word Taebaek which means light.  Every motion of Poomse Taebaek should be displayed precisely and nimbly but also with rigor and determined will so as to be indicative of Taebaek itself.



Q:  Are you better than you were a year ago?

We would hope the answer is a resounding yes (if not why are you grading!?!).  You should of course be able to elaborate on how you have improved giving examples.


Q:  What does Tae Kwon Do literally translate to?

Freely translated, Taekwondo means ‘the art of kicking and punching.’  Literally it means:

Tae Pushing, jumping, or striking with the foot
Kwon Hitting or striking with fist or hand
 Do The way, the story, the art



Q:  What is the difference between the sport & martial art of Taekwondo?

A:  This is a personal response.  Your answer might include things like in a sport you compete against other people whereas in martial arts you only compete against yourself, ie you train for self-improvement.

A key difference between sports and martial arts is what they set out to achieve.   A sport by definition is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others”.   Concurrently, martial arts involve physical exercise and skill, but additionally set out specifically to improve the whole person, that is, such things as confidence, focus, self-esteem, and self-discipline.



Q:  What is the difference between a colour belt and black belt?

A:  Colour belts and black belts know many of the same techniques, yet most people would agree that they are significantly different.  On the physical side, black belts should not only have excellent technique, but an understanding of when and how to strategically apply them.  Sparring for example becomes a game of chess as opposed to random kicks and punches.   Mentally, a black belt should also realise the most important aspects of Taekwondo are not the kicking and punching, but the mental qualities.


Q:  What does being a black belt mean to you?

This is a personal response.  Overall we are looking for a thoughtful answer, considering things such as how you have grown and improved both mentally and physically over your years of training.



Q:  How do you live these things in your everyday life?

Personal response.  Be sure to give examples.



Q:  What are the below and what do they do: 

  • WTF
  • TA
  • Kukkiwon


A:  The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is the international governing body for Taekwondo.  Its Headquarters are in Korea, and in each country it has a representative national organisation.  Together the WTF and the individual countries governing body are responsible for the conduct of the competition aspects of Taekwondo.  Major events include the Olympics and World Championships.

  Taekwondo Australia (TA), is the national sporting organisation for Taekwondo in Australia and is responsible for the conduct of National level competitions and selection events for international competitions in Australia.  It also generally oversees Taekwondo in Australia.

  The Kukkiwon is the international body based in Korea which recognises black belt level gradings.  Kukkiwon certification is recognised in over 200 countries.  To grade to the highest levels of Taekwondo such as 8th or 9th testing is conducted directly by Kukkiwon in Korea.





Q:  Learn all terminology from:

  • Blue III list
  • Red I list
  • Red II list
  • Any pattern you have learnt to date
  • Specific terms


A:  Terminology – Blue III Terminology

Press the play button to hear the pronunciation of each word (make sure your speakers are turned on!).

The Korean terms below are spelt phonetically, ie say it as it sounds.

Please refer to the bottom of the page for additional resources and downloadable materials.

[table id=14 /]




A:  Terminology – Red I Terminology

Press the play button to hear the pronunciation of each word (make sure your speakers are turned on!).

The Korean terms below are spelt phonetically, ie say it as it sounds.

Please refer to the bottom of the page for additional resources and downloadable materials.

[table id=15 /]




A:  Terminology – Red II Terminology

Press the play button to hear the pronunciation of each word (make sure your speakers are turned on!).

The Korean terms below are spelt phonetically, ie say it as it sounds.

Please refer to the bottom of the page for additional resources and downloadable materials.


[table id=16 /]



Q:  Learn all terminology from any pattern you have learnt to date

You will need to go back through each of the patterns you have learnt and check that you know the Korean term for each technique and stance performed.  Most of course you will already know, but there are some special techniques eg the 5th step in Taegeuk Four.



Q:  Terminology – Specific Terms

Korean English Korean English
S-on Hand Bo Covered
Bal Foot Nare-e-oh / Nool-e-oh Downward
Nal Blade Oh-gul Upward
Batang Palm Doll-yo Turning
Pee-on Flat Dwir-oh Backward
Jew-mook Fist Dwit Back
D-oong Back knuckle Bitter-oh Twisting
Me Hammer / bottom Mir-e-oh Push
Cal-jabi Tiger mouth/Arc hand Nak-ah Hooking
K-ut Finger tips Hur-e-oh Thrashing
Swe–oh Erect hand Twi-oh Jumping / Flying
Oop-eo Palm down Mom-doll-e-oh Spinning
Je-ech-eo Palm up Doo-bal dang sung Two alternate feet
Pal-mok Wrist Mom-doo-bal Feet together
Up-chook Ball of foot Cow-e Scissors
Tock Chin Code-up Continuous / repeated
Mock Neck Han Single
More-up Knee Dube-e-on Double
Palgop Elbow Ot-core-oh Crossing
Jab-e-poom Swallow technique San-t-ule Wide open
Dang-yo tock chig-e Pulling in chin strike Way-san-t-ule Part wide open
Pie-jock Target Hech-e-o Wedge
Key-ock-pa Break Nar-ah-knee se-ogi Parallel stance
Bar-o Regular / Natural Mow-a so-ogi Closed stance
Band-i Irregular Dee Belt




Additional Resources