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What exactly is Taekwon-do?

Taekwondo is a modern Korean martial art, known for dynamic kicks, and quick footwork.
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What do our students say?

Read why students started and why they Keep Training


The key to success in school—and also in life—is not necessarily intelligence or talent. What separates the high achievers from the rest are traits like self-control, perseverance, determination, passion and resilience. In a word, grit. Research, such as that conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, has actually measured the effect of grit on performance, but we in taekwon-do have know this for decades. That’s because we have developed grit in kids thousands of times. (Read more)

Welcome to Traditional Taekwon-do

“The ultimate purpose of Taekwon-do is perfection of mind and body,” wrote Choi Hong Hi, the man credited with founding this dynamic martial art.

In the last line of the Taekwon-do Student Oath, students pledge “to build a more peaceful world.”

That sounds like a lot to ask from a martial art that teaches devastating strikes and kicks and originated as combat training for the Korean army. Yet it turns out to be true.

A traditional martial art is not simply about fighting. Nor is it merely a sport. The underlying premise of a sound martial art is that by practicing rigorous physical exercises, not only is one’s body improved, but also one’s mind and spirit. Further, in the give and take of regulated physical conflict—accompanied by a strict code of conduct—a person learns how to control aggression.

There are many styles of Taekwon-do and some are totally different from what is practiced at Traditional Taekwon-do in Portland. Among the most popular styles are those that devote most class activity to training for full-contact sparring competition, with two students in helmets and pads bashing each other.

While we believe competition is a valid part of martial arts, it is not the end in itself. For one thing, sport competition does not prepare the average person for personal self defense, since the rules for a sport do not apply to a street situation. A well rounded martial art includes elements of cooperation as well as competition—and requires a lot of individual work on one’s own.

We take both words in the term “martial art” very seriously. The martial aspect means we prepare our students to defend themselves. As training in Taekwon-do progresses, one recognizes this training is not only good for defense against physical aggression, but also verbal and psychological abuse and intimidation.

But Taekwon-do also is an art—a highly physical art. The central element of our Taekwon-do curriculum is the practice of forms—patterns of movements that depict one person defending against the attacks of invisible assailants from all directions. Each move in the pattern must be powerful and the transition between moves must be graceful. It challenges both mind and body. And the forms get ever more difficult as one rises in belt rank. Yet elegance in forms is possible to students who work diligently.

There also is artistry in the flow of free sparring, the ingenuity of joint locks and throws, and the creative force of board breaking. It’s part of what makes Taekwon-do fun.

Perfection is never possible, but the constant striving for perfection via Taekwon-do is rewarding in itself. Many students begin Taekwon-do marveling at the ease at which advanced students perform complicated skills, thinking they will never be able to do those moves. And then in a few years, other new students are marveling at them.

To decide whether Taekwon-do is the right martial art for you, please read the links on the page to the left. Better yet, come in and observe a class and talk to an instructor. Visitors are always welcome at Traditional Taekwon-do.