Is Taekwondo an Effective Martial Art?

Taekwondo Students Warming up

Taekwondo Students Warming up

Before I answer this question, we must come to a common understanding of the term “effective”.  Too many times, when people say something, they have a certain meaning or intent for that word which may or may not match with those on the receiving end.

To this end, let’s define “effective”.

The term “effective” shall be used in the context of self-defense, not in pitting one art against another.  Too many times people compare one art against another, arguing about which is better, when in fact, the biggest factor in making the determination is the person who practices the art.

Anyway, back to the term “effective”.  In self-defense, an art is effective if it does the job it was intended to do–help someone who would otherwise be at a disadvantage defend against an unexpected, bigger attacker (or attackers).  The art becomes effective if the practitioner is able to use what they’ve learned to escape harm from their assailant.  Notice that I said escape from and not beat their assailant.  I remind my students that all they need to do is escape; don’t stick around fighting like in the movies–just escape.

Taekwondo, like other martial arts, gives the practitioner a fighting chance to escape; and if left with no choice, a chance to defeat their assailants. Because of this, Taekwondo is an effective martial art.

What does Taekwondo teach to make it an effective martial art?  Here are just a few obvious ones:

  • Agility and coordination
  • Strength and flexibility
  • Striking and blocking techniques
  • Combination self-defense techniques to some of the most common attacks
  • Knowledge of the most vulnerable targets on the human physiology
  • Constant practice to ingrain self-defense techniques into physical reactions
  • The moral knowledge and strength to do the right thing (one of the most crucial aspects we teach in Taekwondo since we are giving practitioners tools that can potentially be dangerous in the wrong hands)

 Agility and Coordination

Every workout and drills we do in Taekwondo is designed to help the student become more agile and coordinated.  Most students who have not had any martial arts training find it difficult to do certain drills, but by the time they reach the next belt, they find a significant improvement in both their agility and motor skills.

Strength and Flexibility

The various workouts we do at the beginning, class drills, and cool down workouts all help build our students strength and flexibility.  Just the warm up workout alone is enough to help in that area as the basic class warm up drills are designed to help loosen up, warm up, and stretch the major muscles of the body.  Many of the workouts we do in class include exercises designed to strengthen the abs, the arms, and the legs.  Because of the techniques we practice (especially the kicks), a lot of leg and some shoulder stretches are done to minimize injuries.  If a student is consistent and constant with their workouts, they are able to develop strength and flexibility.

Striking and Blocking Techniques

The foundation of Taekwondo is its repertoire of striking and blocking techniques.  Striking in the context used here includes kicking, kneeing, or any offensive techniques.  Blocking refers to any defensive covering techniques.  Much like karate, Taekwondo is a “hard style”.  This means that any techniques, whether it be a kick, punch, block, or chop is executed quickly and with extreme force–so much force that it can have the potential to break the bones of the target it is hitting.  The blocking techniques alone are designed to destroy the limb that it is blocking!

Combination Self-defense Techniques

The basic techniques taught in our Taekwondo classes are the foundation of our self-defense.  Our students learn some initial self-defense techniques through drills called “step sparring”. These drills help the students get started with self-defense in a safe way.  The attack and defense are all pre-arranged, but  allow the student to learn the techniques while in motion.  By being attacked while in motion, they learn and understand that distance and timing are crucial to effective self-defense execution.

As the student advance in belt, we teach a more street-style self-defense, where the techniques employed are many and the completion of the defensive techniques leads to the defeat of a single opponent.

Knowledge of Human Body Vulnerabilities

When we punch, elbow, chop, or kick, we remind each student to think about what they are attacking.  If they are supposed to do a high punch, we remind them that they ought to aim at the filtrum philtrum.  If they are delivering a midsection elbow strike, we tell them to aim at the solar plexus.

All strikes are aimed at something to remind the student that targeting is as important as the technique being executed.

Constant Practice to Ingrain Techniques Into Reaction

All self-defense techniques taught at our school are checked through out the school life of our student.  This means that at promotion testing, students are expected to remember all earlier techniques.  This requirement helps the students ingrain what they’ve learned into their reaction.  As I’ve often mentioned to students, when you are defending yourself against an attack, there is no time to think, only react.  Thinking about what technique to do causes hesitation, and can be dangerous to the student under the most common attack scenarios.

Moral Knowledge and Strength

Everything we teach at our school would be of no value if we didn’t teach moral knowledge and strength.    As a matter of fact, it would be extremely dangerous as we could be teaching a new breed of bullies.  This is why we temper what we teach with a strong dose of moral knowledge and strength.

We teach our students to live by a certain martial arts code which we call the tenets of Taekwondo.  The tenets include:

  • Courtesy – be nice and respectful to others
  • Integrity – be someone who is true and honest to others, as well as themselves
  • Perseverance – don’t give up; try and try until you succeed
  • Self-control – don’t let temptation or anger control you; you control yourself
  • Indomitable spirit – set high goals and go for them
  • Victory – always keep a positive attitude
These tenets are designed to give moral guidance to our students when trying to figure out the right thing to do.  These same tenets can be used and applied to become successful in life.
I consider any student who live by these codes as martial artists.


Yes, Taekwondo is an effective martial art; and so are other arts when properly used as a self-defense tool to protect oneself and others.

Our school teaches the following to make sure Taekwondo continues to be an effective martial art:

  • Agility and coordination – improve motor skills and coordination
  • Strength and flexibility – become stronger and more flexible
  • Striking and blocking techniques – learn powerful techniques
  • Combination self-defense techniques – learn effective self-defense
  • Knowledge of vulnerable targets – learn the human body’s weak spots
  • Constant practice in self-defense – self-defense works only through constant repetitive practice
  • The moral knowledge and strength to do the right thing – the most important thing we teach our students; without this we aren’t teaching Taekwondo.


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