Korea's own contribution to modern martial arts, taekwondo was created after the Japanese occupation of the country, emerging from a number of different schools as a mixture of Karate and native fighting styles like taekkyon. The art's definitive shape would appear after its adoption by the South Korean army, which unified all the existent schools and gave birth to Tae Soo Do, which would be renamed Tae Kwon Do. The sport would be governed by the Korean Taekwondo Association and its more known offspring, World Taekwondo Federation (WTF, later reduced to World Taekwondo to prevent the obvious jokes with the acronym), but also by a controversially parallel body called International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), founded by Chong Hong Hi, who is called by many the true founder of the art. Over time, it became an Olympic sport and gained millions of adepts.
Practitioners of the sports are called Taekwondoin, although it's also common to hear Taekwondist or some idiomatic variation nowadays. Equipment consists in a white uniform called dobok which is a modified version of the judogi used in Judo, composed of a vertically closing jacket and long pants, either in white or black, tied by a belt called tti. Also, competition usually requires a full set of body armor, composed of head protector, chest plate, forearm guards and shin guards.
Taekwondo is quite popular in media due to the high spectacularity of its kicks. Its practitioners will jump, spin and fly, doing a heavy emphasis on agility and mobility rather than stability, and rules often endorse this kind of attack by giving points to the most complex and/or technical pirouette. It should be noted, however, that taekwondo is very stylistically separated in terms of competition, depending on which of the mentioned two federations hosts it.
- World Taekwondo: This style boasts the ruleset currently used in the Olympic Games. Fighters compete heavily armored, which counts as the target in competition: you score points on hitting your opponent's armor with at least some strength, the more awesome the strike, the more points you receive, also depending on the body part. Aside from points, it is also possible to win by knockout, superiority or by the referee's decision. Punching the head and kicking the legs are not allowed.
- ITF: This style is curiously both lighter and more open in terms of ruleset than World Taekwondo. Punches to the face are allowed and body armor is not worn, but striking with excessive force is discouraged and you get actually disqualified if you knock out the opponent, which make it a sort of body fencing instead of all around fighting.
Tropes associated with taekwondo
- Artistic License Martial Arts: Usually averted; taekwondo tends to be represented in media more accurately than other martial arts, as it fulfills very nicely the TV requirements of a martial art being high-flying and visually impressive in order to be considered badass.
- Extremity Extremist: Taekwondo is the main rival to Capoeira in variety and emphasis on kicking. Aside from its endless list of variants and combinations of kicks, hands strikes exist in the art and are mostly legal, but get pretty underused in competition due to them scoring less points than good ol' kicks.
- Hurricane Kick: Plenty of them are used in chains.
- Spectacular Spinning: Taekwondo requires a lot of movement, bouncing to keep yourself focus and ready. Spinning also helps you in attacking the right spots.
Famous or notable taekwondo practitioners
- Chuck Norris: A 8th degree black belt famous for his memetic roundhouse kicks.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: Surprised? Arnold has a taekwondo black belt stuck between his bodybuilding accolades.
- Vladimir Putin: Although he is much more known for his Judo, he is a honorific 9th dan black belt.
- Barack Obama: Another honorific black belt.
- Donnie Yen: Has a taekwondo black belt (among his many black belts, that is) and sometimes shows it on screen.
- Wesley Snipes: Has taekwondo among his many kicking arts.
- Scott Adkins: Yuri Boyka himself is a taekwondo black belt who uses a lot of spinning kicks in his films.
- Yanin Vismistananda: Tony Jaa's female protegee started as a taekwondo competitor before training in Muay Thai.
- Dave Mustaine: The leader of Megadeth was appointed a goodwill ambassador by World Taekwondo.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar: The former vampire slayer has a taekwondo black belt and often does her own stunts.
- Jessica Alba: She's a taekwondo practitioner as well, and sometimes does her own stunts, though not so often.
- Eric Roberts: Another black belt.
- Daniel Bernhardt: Of John Wick and Atomic Blonde fame is also another black belt.