1. Philosophical principles of Taekwondo

The philosophy of Taekwondo is very special, but what makes it so special? If we learn philosophy from books, we tend to forget it as soon as we leave them, because it is not related to our actual lives. But since Taekwondo is connected with our lives like every movement of ours is, we can never forget its philosophy.

That is, Taekwondo philosophy is one of actions which can be learned from other actions, and our everyday activities. Taekwondo philosophy represents the principles of the changes and movements in things and human beings. It also represents the principles of our lives, since life consists of our movements. Therefore, we can say Taekwondo is a philosophy in itself. We can understand the philosophy of Taekwondo by doing Taekwondo, and this understanding should lead to better understanding and enhancement of our life. The principles of Taekwondo can be explained in several ways but here we will explain it simply with the principle of Sam Jae (Three Elements) and that of Eum (the Negative or Darkness) and Yang (the Positive or the Brightness). Sam Jae refers to Cheon (the Heaven), Ji (the Earth), and In (the Man) and the principles concerning them. In oriental countries, it has been recognized as the central principle which explains the changes of everything in the world. Sam Jae and the changes of Eum and Yang constitutes the Eight Trigrams for Divination in the Book of Changes. The principle of Sam Ja has been emphasized in oriental countries, especially in Korea. If you understand Taekwondo, following the principle, you could understand all the skills and spiritual depth of Taekwondo. The principle of Eum and Yang has also been emphasized in oriental countries as the central principle of life. It maintains that everything has an opposite side. This principle explains various forms of changes, but it comes from Taegeuk (the Great Absolute), which represents the ultimate claim that Eum and Yang were the one and the same thing. If we understand Taekwondo according to this principle, we will find a solution, and by continuously changing skills, we will never get stuck, in any situation. After we understand these philosophical principles of Taekwondo, we can find proper ways to understand and develop our lives.


2. The historical development of Taekwondo Philosophy.

What is the philosophy of Taekwondo? T'aekwondo contains thoughts which Han (Korean) people had developed through a long history. Its philosophy is easily explained with Hongik-ingan, Jaese-ihwa, or Hwarangdo spirit. Hangik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa were not only ideologies of Tangun Chosun's foundation, but also a fundamental thought of Han people. With time, these ideas developed into the Hwarangdo spirit and todays Taekwondo's philosophy. Now, let's look at, the principles contents of the philosophy.

Hongik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa

'Hongik-ingan' means a universal welfare of mankind. It was the idea of the national foundation by Tangun, and Taekwondo spirit, too has inherited the idea of Hongik-ingan. It is easily confirmed from the fact that the word of Taekwondo, itself means to suppress fighting and induce peace. On one hand, Jaese-ihwa means that the world is educated in accordance with the reason of heaven. Taekwondo is a principle, not a simple connection with movements. It is the Korean traditional martial art characterized by the trinity of body, mind and life. Thus, the principle is the reason of all creation,and so it refers to the reason of heaven in Jaese-ihwa. Therefore, human beings can be educated in accordance with the reason of heaven through correct training of Taekwondo. That's the very meaning of Jaese-ihwa. Hongik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa appear clearly in the myth of the Korean foundation. According to it, "In the early age, Hwan-Wung, the son of Heaven established a nation called Baedal (earliest name of Korea). He then announced the purpose of the national foundation as Jaese-ihwa (the world educated in accord with the reason of heaven.) and Hongik-ingan (an universal welfare of mankind).

The Spirit of Hwarangdo

Like this, the idea of Tangun's national foundation affected various martial arts ( the old forms of Taekwondo ) and their groups. Also, it greatly contributed to the devlopment of Silla's Hwarangdo. The Hwarangdo spirit was based on the idea of Sinseondo with the integration of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. It contained the 3 virtues loyality, filial piety and trust, 5 principles of the world and 3 virtuous conducts of modesty, frugality and restaint. Now, let's look at the contents in details.

        ( 1 ) Loyalty, Filial piety, Trust

  • Chung (loyalty) : It refer to the loyalty to the nation.
  • Hyo (Filial piety) : It means the filial piety to the parents
  • Shin (Trust) : It means to have trust among human beings.

    ( 2 ) Sye-Sok-Oh-Kye : 5 Principles of the world

  • Sa-kun-lee-chung : to follow a nation and a king with loyalty
  • Sa-chin-lee-hyo    : to respect parents with filial piety
  • Kyo-u-lee-shin       : to make friends with trust
  • Lim-cheon-mu-t'wi : not to withdraw on the battle field.
  • Sal-saeng-yu-taek : not to take another life, unless an unavoidable                              situation requires it.

    ( 3 ) Three kinds of beauty (Sam-mi) of Hwarangdo
    Three kinds of beauty refer to three virtuous conducts

     *Modesty : Modesty means the virtue to know courteous refusal. That is, it refers to services done for society without personal interests on gains. Also, it refers to the spirit to contribute to social development rather than that of an individual.

    *Frugality : Frugality means not to waste. If we live with the abundant materials without extravagance or waste, we will not suffer if difficult times come around. Also, such frugality generates room to help needy people in society.

     *Restraint : Restraint refers to self-denial. It means to win over one's self or ego. Through restraint, people do not fight each other, rather, they live together in harmony.


As mentioned above, the Hwarangdo spirit is to systematize the thoughts led by Hongik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa concretely. Thus, Kukiwon said, "Taekwondo spirit was developed as the tradition and thoughts of Korean people through the old ages. Then, it was developed as Hwarangdo spirit which made it the spirit of Shilla's people. Hongik-ingan and Jease-ihwa are the core of Taekwondo's thought. Before Hwarangdo, they were already systematized as the traditional thoughts of Han the people, and they developed into the idea of Sinseondo. Also, they were called "Poongryudo " The idea of Sinseondo is the core of Oriental thoughts, simultaneously, it is a very profound philosophy. Movements embody the spirit physically, and the spirit is the inner working of movements. Thus, it is natural that the thoughts and Taekwondo have developed together.