Taekkyeon (The art of kicking and tripping) Together with Taekwondo, Taekkyeon is a well-known traditional martial art in Korea. This method of self-defense includes numerous foot motions and fluid arm movements with the hands unclenched. Unlike other martial arts forms, there is no abrupt kicking or punching. There is more emphasis on low kicks and leg sweeps to make the opponent lose balance and knock him/her to the ground.
While some people see certain similarities between Taekkyeon and the motions of Taekwondo and Chinese Kung Fu, the techniques and principles clearly differ. While Taekwondo movements are rather rigid, straight, and restrained, those of Taekkyeon are curved; and while Kung Fu movements are long and stretched, those of Taekkyeon are short and springy. Also, Taekkyeon relies on the pushing strength in the palm of the hand as compared to the use of the fist in Kung Fu. Beneath light and gentle movements reminiscent of a masked dance, lies tremendous strength which can deliver a debilitating blow or even death to an opponent.
Nowadays, Taekkyeon is widely used in gymnastics and fitness sports, especially because of the flexibility and spontaneity of the movements. Recently, it has become popular with women because it is less intense than other martial arts.
History of Taekkyeon
The history of Taekkyeon can be traced back to the ancient tombs of Muyongchong and Samsilchong of the Goguryeo Dynasty. Tomb wall paintings believed to portray Taekkyeon, show figures paired in a combative stance with hands reaching forward. Evidence has been found dating back to the Goguryeo era, when martial art techniques were highly advanced. At that time, a large number of military men practiced Taekkyeon. During the Joseon era, Taekkyeon matches were quite popular, even among the common people. Recently, however, most Taekkyeon masters have died or retired, and there are few left to carry on the tradition. Thus, in 1983, the government designated the martial art as an Important Intangible Cultural Property for its preservation and popularization.
Techniques and Principles of Taekkyeon
Taekkyeon relies more on defense than on offense. Fluid, spontaneous movements of the hands, feet, and body move consistently with the muscles. Another notable characteristic is its lyrical, dance-like rhythm, which characterizes it as a highly artistic martial art.
A few of the major Taekkyeon techniques include the basic pose wonpum (standing with feet at shoulder width) and its variation pumbalgi, which is a stepping sequence in a triangular motion. The movement involves taking a step and shifting the weight to that step, and then to the previous step; this is done back and forth, side to side. Foot techniques include the following: front kicks with the top of the foot; spinning the body and kicking with the arch of the foot; kicking outside in; jumping and kicking; spinning the body and kicking with both hands on the floor; and slapping the opponent’s face with the sole of the foot. Some hand techniques are: pushing the opponent by the neck; jabbing the opponent with the wrist on his/her chest or neck; pulling the opponent by the leg after getting him/her down on the floor by a kick; striking the opponent's neck using the heel of the hand; and thrusting one’s fingers into the opponent’s eyes. The hwalgaejeotgi technique, which consists of waving both arms to confuse the opponent's vision or pre-empt an attack, and the yelling of ikkeu, eikkeu are also Taekkyeon techniques.
Taekkyeon Competition Rules
Following amendments in 1991, 1997, and 1998, Taekkyeon match regulations were settled. After paying their respects in the center of the competition area, both contestants must maintain one of his/her feet forward within attacking distance of the opponent. A contestant wins the match if any part of the opponent's body (from the knee up) touches the floor as a result of a legal attack; if he/she kicks the opponent in the face; and if, as a result of his/her kick (both legs must be in the air and higher than knee-length), the opponent loses balance or retreats by more than two steps.
- Competition area: The mat-covered area measures 8 x 8 meters. A circle 2.5m in diameter demarcates the center.
- Composition of refereeing officials: 1 center referee, 2 corner judges, 1 jury, 1 timekeeper.
- Competition uniform: Contestants must wear white summer uniform pants, cotton-padded socks, and one contestant a blue and the other a white upper garment.
- Competition classification: There are individual, team, adult, student, and children (children less than 10 years of age) competitions. The competitions are divided by gender, and sometimes by weight divisions.
- Duration of contest: For individual competitions, there are 3 rounds of 3 minutes each, and 1 minute of rest between rounds. For team competitions, there is 1 round of 3 minutes. There is no time limit in competitions like Cheonha Myeongin (World Master Competition).
- Methods of competition: Tournament or league system, combined tournament and league system, or round-robin system.
Taekkyeon Ranking System
Originally, there was no ranking system. The current ranking system, which ranges from pum to dan according to the level of expertise, was first introduced in the 1970s in an effort to more systematically preserve and popularize Taekkyeon. There are 18 ranks, starting with beginner (no pum), then 8th-pum to 1st-pum, and afterwards, from 1st-dan to 9th-dan. Generally, it would take almost 40 years of practice for a beginner to move up to 9th-dan. The time is sometimes shortened for practitioners who have contributed to the popularization or development of Taekkyeon by winning competitions, publishing a related book or thesis, receiving awards, or opening an institute.
Korea Traditional Taekkyon Association: +82-43-845-1784, www.krtga.com (Korean)
Korea Taekkyon Association: +82-2-516-2707 , www.taekkyon.or.kr (Korean)
World Taekkyeon Headquarters: +82-51-896-1707
National Taekkyeon Association: http://taekkyon.sportal.or.kr/ (Korean)