Decoding Taekwondo Terminology: Essential Terms Every Practitioner Should Know

Taekwondo, a Korean martial art characterised by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques, is not only a physical exercise but a practice rich in culture and language. Understanding its terminology is pivotal for every practitioner to fully immerse themselves in the discipline, appreciate its depth and cultural heritage, and communicate effectively in the dojang (training hall). This article explores essential Taekwondo terms, offering insights into their meanings and applications within the martial art.

Introduction to Taekwondo language

The linguistic roots of Taekwondo terminology stem from Hanja, the Korean name for a traditional form of Chinese characters. However, in modern practice, terms are often expressed in Hangul, the Korean alphabet, making it accessible to a broader audience. Learning these terms enriches the practitioner’s understanding of the art’s principles, techniques, and philosophy.

Basic terms and commands

At the heart of Taekwondo training are several key terms and commands that form the foundation of instructions in the dojang. These terms are crucial for following directions, performing techniques correctly, and understanding the ethos of Taekwondo.

Stances and movements

  1. Ap seogi (아프 세오기) – Front stance, a basic position focusing on balance and stability.
  2. Dwit seogi (뒤트 세오기) – Back stance, which distributes weight primarily on the back leg, enhancing defensive capabilities.
  3. Beom seogi (범 세오기) – Tiger stance, a narrower stance that prepares the practitioner for quick movements.

Basic commands

  1. Charyeot (차렷) – Attention, a command to stand straight with the feet together and arms by the sides.
  2. Kyungnet (경례) – Bow, a gesture of respect towards the instructor or opponent.
  3. Junbi (준비) – Ready, indicating that the practitioner should assume the ready stance in preparation for the next activity.

Techniques and practices

Beyond the basic commands and stances, Taekwondo encompasses a wide array of techniques and practices, each with its specific term. These include strikes, blocks, kicks, forms (poomsae), and sparring (kyorugi), to name a few. A deeper understanding of these terms allows for a more nuanced practice and appreciation of Taekwondo’s complexity.


  1. Dollyo chagi (돌려 차기) – Roundhouse kick, a powerful and common kick in Taekwondo that targets the opponent’s head or body.
  2. Yeop chagi (옆 차기) – Side kick, executed by turning the body sideways with one foot kicking straight out to the side.
  3. Ap chagi (앞 차기) – Front kick, the simplest yet effective kick aimed straight forward towards the opponent.

Blocks and strikes

  1. Makki (막기) – Block, a defensive movement designed to deflect or stop an incoming attack.
  2. Chigi (치기) – Strike, which can be executed with various parts of the body, such as the fist, palm, or elbow.
  3. Chagi (차기) – Kick, a fundamental aspect of Taekwondo, with various forms and applications.

Forms and sparring

  1. Poomsae (품새) – Forms, a series of predetermined movements that simulate combat scenarios, demonstrating the practitioner’s precision, control, and fluidity.
  2. Kyorugi (겨루기) – Sparring, a practice fight between two practitioners, aiming to improve reflexes, strategy, and combat skills.

Philosophy and etiquette

Taekwondo is not solely focused on physical prowess; it equally emphasises moral development and discipline. The philosophy of Taekwondo is encapsulated in the Five Tenets: courtesy (ye ui), integrity (yom chi), perseverance (in nae), self-control (geuk gi), and indomitable spirit (baekjul boolgool). These principles guide practitioners in their training and everyday lives, fostering a respectful and ethical martial arts community.

The Five Tenets

  1. Courtesy (예의, ye ui) – Demonstrates respect for others, promoting a harmonious society and positive relationships within the dojang and beyond.
  2. Integrity (염치, yom chi) – Upholds honesty and moral uprightness, encouraging practitioners to live by ethical standards and admit faults.
  3. Perseverance (인내, in nae) – Encourages steadfastness and dedication in pursuit of goals, despite challenges and obstacles.
  4. Self-control (극기, geuk gi) – Teaches restraint over one’s actions and emotions, essential for responsible use of one’s skills and in personal conduct.
  5. Indomitable spirit (백절불굴, baekjul boolgool) – Instils a resilient mindset, enabling practitioners to face adversity with courage and determination.

Etiquette in the dojang

The practice of Taekwondo extends beyond physical and technical proficiency to include behaviour and conduct within the training environment. Etiquette in the dojang is crucial for maintaining respect, order, and discipline, reflecting the art’s philosophical underpinnings.

Key aspects of dojang etiquette

  1. Greeting and showing respect – Bowing upon entering and leaving the dojang, and when addressing or thanking the instructor or fellow practitioners.
  2. Attire and appearance – Wearing the proper uniform (dobok) and belt (ti) correctly, keeping the dobok clean and neat as a sign of respect for the art and oneself.
  3. Attention and discipline – Listening attentively to the instructor, following commands promptly, and refraining from disruptive behaviour during class.
  4. Assisting fellow practitioners – Helping each other learn and grow in the art fosters a supportive and collaborative community.

Understanding Korean culture through Taekwondo

Taekwondo offers a unique lens through which to appreciate and understand Korean culture and traditions. The terminology, rituals, and philosophies embedded in the practice reflect broader cultural values such as respect for authority, emphasis on community and harmony, and the pursuit of personal and collective improvement.

Integrating culture into practice

Embracing the Korean aspects of Taekwondo, from language to etiquette, enriches the practitioner’s experience, bridging the gap between martial arts training and cultural immersion. This holistic approach not only enhances technical proficiency and understanding but also fosters a deeper respect for the art’s origins and significance.

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