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The relation between Taekwondo and Taekyon


The relation between Taekwondo and Taekyon, and the influence of Taekyon's kicking technique on Taekwondo are topics of debate in Korean martial arts. Some argue that Taekyon influenced Taekwondo's kicking techniques. The founder of Mu Deok Kwan, Hwang Ki, mentioned that while not stating that Taekyon is the base of Taekwondo, it has influenced specifically the foot techniques in Korean martial art. Kim Yong-ok argues that Taekyon, traditionally a game or amusement, was mistakenly designated as a heritage of traditional martial arts.

The claim has been made in some historical accounts that Taekwondo, initially known as Taekyon, derives from traditional Korean martial arts and is heavily influenced by Karate. This is contested by scholars such as Song Hyeong-seok who emphasize the minimal technical exchange between Taekwondo and Taekyon. There is still debate surrounding the true nature of Taekwon-do's foundations and its relation to Taekyon. Despite this, Taekwon-do remains an independent and distinctive martial art, incorporating not only powerful kicking techniques but also elements from various influences. Its roots in traditional Korean martial arts shape its fundamental essence.

What is Taekkyon?

Taekkyon, also known as taekgyeon, is a traditional folk game and martial art in Korea. It is an attack using a unique rhythm and stepping on the steps, leg walking, kicking, and throwing. It is registered as National Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 76 Taekkyon of South Korea[1]. Because it has been designated as a cultural heritage, the use of a gym is called "Jeon-su-gwan(傳修館)" not "Dojang."

The Taekkyon Association defines taekkyon as a technique that uses mainly the feet to subdue the opponent. It can be seen as a traditional martial art that uses the feet more than the hands.

In modern times, Taekkyon has declined due to the introduction of Japanese martial arts such as Judo and Karate. After Korea's liberation, Taekkyon's techniques were passed down to modern Taekwondo, and through many efforts to revive the tradition, Taekkyon was registered as the first UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in the world on November 28, 2011.


The earliest records of the name "taekgyeon" date back to the Joseon era (1776-1800).

While "su-bak" was referred to as "byeon" and "gak-ryeok" was referred to as "mu," they are now called "Taekkyon(托肩)".

The origin of "taekgyeon" is also known as "taekgyeon(托肩)", but it may also be of vernacular origin. With the weakening of the understanding of origin, it became standardized as "taegwon" based on the 5th regulation of standardized language. Originally, "taekkyon" did not comply with standard language regulations because it went against the principle of reverse consonant harmony, rule 9, but almost all taekkyon-related organizations consistently use the term "taekkyon," and it was recognized as a plural standard language from August 31, 2011, following a full meeting of the National Institute of the Korean Language Council on August 22 of the same year.


A painting by Yoo Suk, a mid-19th century artist depicting a folk game that was prevalent in Seoul at the time. Wrestling (upper part) and Taekkyon (lower part) are depicted. The various expressions of the surrounding crowd show that Taekkyon is an open martial art.

A folk game that was prevalent in Seoul, or Hanyang, as it was called at the time, during the Joseon era. It involves dancing. Although it was perceived as a folk game like wrestling during the late Joseon era and the period of Japanese colonial rule, it was later re-evaluated as a martial art after liberation.

While there's evidence that various forms of martial arts-like games existed in Pyeongan-do and Gyeongsang-do during the late Joseon era, the exact forms have not been confirmed. Based on the testimony of the elderly describing these martial arts-like games, it can be inferred that taekkyon, napparam, kkagi, and jepi have regional characteristics. Considering this, studying the connection between supak and taekkyon is also necessary.

Among those who learned taekkyon from a taekkyon player named Imho during the late Joseon era, Song Deok-ki is regarded as the originator of modern Taekkyon. Those who learned taekkyon from Song Deok-ki organized various groups such as the Korean Taekkyon Association, the Taekkyon Original Conservation Society, The Korean Traditional Taekkyon Association, and the Kyeollun Taekkyon Association.

"At that time, people did not think of taekgyeon as a special martial art, but as a kind of folk game that people gathered together at a good place to exercise in their leisure time."

— Song Deok-ki . "Preface", "Korean indigenous martial arts, Taekkyon (traditional martial arts, Taekkyon)". Seorim Cultural Press.

People who practiced taekkyon during the late Joseon era and the period of Japanese colonial rule did not consider taekgyeon to be a martial art but recognized it as a folk game like wrestling.


Taegijil, Taejil: Techniques for kicking or grabbing and knocking down an opponent.

Sonjil: Techniques for catching, pushing, or pulling with hands.

Bal-giljil: Foot movements, kicking. In contrast to the hands, which can be used freely, the feet have fixed limits, and are therefore called bal-giljil.

Hwolgae: Referring to the arm from shoulder to hand.

Gyeollyeontae, Gyeollyeontaekgyeon: Contest of taekkyon between villages.

Panmak-eum: The final round of a contest of taekkyon between villages, marked by a match. The taekkyon player who won the match at that time received a hero's welcome in their village.

Yeotbeob: Part that indicates the martial nature of taekkyon, referring to techniques that are prohibited at taekkyon contests that could cause fatal injuries. According to Song Deok-ki, they were used in the past but are not used anymore.

Holsaegim: Holsaegim is a training program created by the Kyeollun Taekkyon Association to allow practice of taekkyon alone, in stages.

Hopaesul is not considered a taekkyon technique even by the Kyeollun Taekkyon Association. Therefore, it cannot be considered a taekkyon term.

Representative techniques

The characteristics of Taekkyon are as follows: First, the movements of hands, feet, and body are consistent with the movement of muscles and form a martial art that is flexible and naturally exchanged. Second, Taekkyon has a musical and dance-like rhythm, making it an artful martial art. Third, it is focused on defense rather than attack and involves a lot of foot movement.


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