Taekwondo is Not a Martial Art
I accept PRO's debate and look forward to his arguments in the next round.
I thank Con for accepting this debate. I would like to apologize from the get go; I should have either made this debate longer or put my opening arguments in R1. Oh well, its all a learning experience, right?
The word martial is defined as “relating to, or suited for war” . Therefore, in order to be considered a martial art, Taekwondo has to employ techniques that are useful in combat and/or self-defense. Now I don’t deny that Taekwondo pays lip service to such techniques, but as I will presently show, the foundations of modern Taekwondo are not martial techniques. The two things that modern Taekwondo is known for are Olympic Style Sparring, and high, acrobatic kicking.
Sparring is the cornerstone of martial arts training . However, modern Taekwondo sparring divorces itself from most useful martial techniques. The only techniques allowed are punches to the chest, and kicks to the chest guard and face. No open hand techniques, no punches to the face, no grabs, no takedowns, no throws . These prohibited techniques are exactly the kind of thing that one would need in order to become a proficient fighter, and Taekwondo not only doesn’t promote them, it outlaws them.
The other point I will address is the other aspect of Taekwondo that the sport is known for: high kicking. . It is necessary to warm up the large muscles used in such kicks, or one risks injury , which would certainly damage your chances in a fight. On the street, there is no time for such warm ups , so performing them would be suicide. High kicking may be pretty, but it isn’t martial technique.
I have shown that the core aspects of modern Taekwondo, Olympic Sparring and acrobatic kicking, are not martial techniques. Therefore, Taekwondo is not a martial art.
I would first like to thank PRO for setting up this debate. As a Taekwondo practitioner, I am frequently assailed by this misunderstanding, and I am glad to have the opportunity to clear the air regarding the style that is the core of my personal martial arts repertoire. As a disclaimer, I have been a student of Taekwondo for most of my adult life. I will do my best to source anything that might be controversial, but this may end up being a difficult topic to discuss without drawing on my own knowledge.
What is a martial art?
Right from the start, CON makes the error of defining the term “martial art” only in terms of the word “martial.” Using CON’s own dictionary, we can define “martial art” as, “any of several arts of combat and self defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport” . This definition clearly shows that martial arts are often practiced as sports, so the fact that Taekwondo is practiced as, and known for, sport, does not disqualify it from being a martial art. This definition is supported by several other dictionaries .
However, if we are going to use CON’s definition, I would like to note that CON wrote, “Taekwondo has to employ techniques that are useful in combat and/or self-defense.” Con notes in a later paragraph that Taekwondo sparring allows punches to the chest and kicks to the chest and ribs (he actually says “chestguard;” the Olympic Style chestguard covers the chest and ribs ). Do those techniques not translate to self-defense? Nowhere in the numerous definitions I provided, or even in the one CON provided, does it say that ALL (or even most) techniques must be martial in nature in order for a style to be considered a martial art.
What is Taekwondo?
CON’s next error was to conflate the numerous different flavors of Taekwondo that exist in the world. There are different types of sparring and different student/teacher combinations approach Taekwondo training in very different ways.
CON gave a basic overview of Olympic Taekwondo Sparring, which is governed by the rules of the World Taekwondo Federation. However, in his discussion of Taekwondo sparring CON failed to mention the existence of other types of Taekwondo. In the International Taekwondo Federation, sparring rules allow punches to the face, as well as the trunk . Regarding the lack of throwing, grabbing, etc, of course not. Taekwondo is primarily a striking art; it’s not what it focuses on. Judo does not allow striking or kicking , does that make it lose its status as a martial art?
Con also took issue with the high kicks practiced in Taekwondo. One of the things I teach my students regarding self-defense is to use techniques that you are comfortable with. Some people are able to use the appropriately without warm ups , some are not. Therefore, for some people, high kicks are a tool in their self-defense toolbox.
As I mentioned above, Taekwondo training takes many different forms. Some school focus on competition sparring , while others focus on self perfection . I have been to schools that really push the practical self-defense and others that are more of an aerobics class. Many school have different instructors that each have their own focus. Millions of people across the globe practice Taekwondo ; it is not possible to paint them with a broad brush.
Right off the bat, CON’s definition of the term “martial art” is suspect, but even if we use it, I have shown how Taekwondo fits that definition. I have also shown that CON tries to use one specific subdivision of the Taekwondo community to judge an entire art; a simple study of other school of thought within the style show that this argument fails. CON has not met the burden he accepted when he made his initial claim.
I would also like to admit defeat. I originally started this debate somewhat for fun, and it seems that I am in over my head on this topic. That's what I get for arguing from personal experience.
I appreciate Con's input on this topic. As I mentioned in R1, this debate was partially so that I could work on the mechanics of the website, and for that I feel it has been a success.
I thank PRO for setting up this debate, and I wish him luck in upcoming black belt examination.
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