anired06_next.gifPKG Tours

anired06_next.gifVideo Clips
 Jeju Championship


Card Center

Taekkyon Overview 

What is? | Origin | History 

1. What is Taekkyon 

Unlike many hard, external Korean
arts which are best suited for younger students, Taekkyon can be practiced well into old age.
Because all movements are intended to harmonize with the structure of the human body, techniques are natural and minimally stressful. Part of the reason for this stems from the art's abandonment of normal warm-up and stretching exercises. Instead, the basic techniques, interspersed with brief series of hand pats along the length of tight muscles, provide the necessary muscle stretch and circulation boost. Song Duk-ki proved Taekkyon's therapeutic side effects by training daily until the age of 94. Shin Han-seung continued until he died at the age of 60.

Like other martial arts, Taekkyon teaches the use of "ki" or internal energy, to augment physical power. One method for releasing "ki" is through a "kihap", the forceful exhalation of air at the moment a technique is performed. However, Taekkyon's "kihap" differs from that of all other Korean and Japanese arts. Instead of a short, loud explosion of noise, Taekkyon students make a soft but forceful "eek eh" sound which, they claim, comes from the traditional Korean fighting arts.

A basic principle of Taekkyon sparring is to attack hard with soft, and soft with hard. To illustrate, a punch to an opponent's jaw, while undoubtedly effective, will inflict considerable pain on the puncher. weapon such as the knee or elbow.  









MA Highlight

Related Tours

Quick Wit

Wall Paper






More sensible is to strike a hard target with a softer weapon-the palm heel, for example. Conversely, Taekkyon teaches that an attack to the fleshy mid-section is more effective if the striker uses
a hard weapon such as the knee or elbow. Lee Yong-bok explains that, unlike most other fighting styles which advocate performing a linear technique and then finishing it, Taekkyon teaches students
to continue techniques past their potential point of impact.

In a violent encounter, Taekkyon strategy teaches that a person should stand directly in front of his attacker and move with a rhythmic motion that allows a quick, evasive slip to either side. In contrast to the linear movements in Taekwondo and other Korean arts, the Taekkyon student's body constantly moves forward and backward, to the left and to the right. Lee Yong-bok describes this strategy as the first skill of Taekkyon: staying away from the attacker's weapons.
According to this logic, evasion is superior to blocking because,
as long as an opponent's attack fails to make contact, his power does not matter.

Taekkyon fighters move with a rhythm which beginning students sometimes learn while traditional Korean drums and bamboo flutes keep time. This rhythmical motion into and out of attack range further differentiates the style from all others. Similar movements have been found in the
"tal chum", the centuries-old Korean mask dance. Herein lies another of Taekkyon's differences: During this continuous body motion, the arms constantly move up and down, out and back, and from side to side, confusing the opponent as to exact target locations. When combined with nimble footwork in four directions and occasional evasive jumping, a Taekkyon stylist becomes more difficult to hit.

Taekkyon's kicks have proved so effective that the style does not even include among its hand strikes a traditional jab or reverse punch. The kicks are so legendary that, for hundreds of years the name of the art was synonymous with foot-fighting. However, the kicks bear little resemblance to the typical spinning and jumping maneuvers glorified in tournaments and film. Instead, Taekkyon leg techniques are simple and direct, focusing on linear moves but including limited usage of circular and spinning kicks. Taekkyon has traditionally emphasized stepping and stamping techniques directed at the opponent's lower legs and feet.

In contrast to the intensity of Taekkyon when it existed only for combat, modern practice limits the damage that may be inflicted upon fellow students.
Lee explains the traditional rules of friendly Taekkyon competition, probably developed within the past 100 years, as follows:Custom (greeting and bowing) comes first. Pressure-point attacks are not allowed. Light to medium contact is allowed. Leg-grabbing and take downs are allowed. Kicking above the neck is allowed. Trapping with the hands is allowed. Jumping and kicking with both legs is allowed. Knocking out one leg with a kick is allowed.

Under the system Shin Han-seung systematized, Taekkyon training progresses through three steps. The first is
"honja ikhigi", or training by oneself in basic movements and techniques. The second is called "maju megigi", or practice of more difficult and realistic techniques with a partner. The third is "gyeon jugi", or sparring. It teaches what can only be learned in simulated combat when the defender does not know his opponent's actions or reactions.

In conclusion, it seems obvious that Taekkyon is the only plausible candidate for the descendant of ancient
"subak". Its verifiable history of at least 150 years, during which its name was used in historical records, far exceeds that of any other Korean martial art. It is the only Korean fighting system that cannot be easily connected to modern Japanese and Chinese martial arts, and its skills and techniques greatly differ from those of other modern Korean styles. The evidence presented above persuaded the Korean Cultural Property Preservation Bureau that Taekkyon was a unique and historical martial art. Unfortunately, it is doubtful the arguments will ever convince masters or students of competing Korean styles that Taekkyon is Korea's oldest fighting art.


2. Origin of Taekkyon

The histories of the various Korean martial arts differ
somewhat from those of other countries. Certain individuals claimed to have been the sole creators of most Japanese, Chinese and Okinawan styles. Koreans do not teach that their arts had a purposeful, directed creation, but rather a gradual evolution. And so it is with Taekkyon. One of the few current experts in the skills and history of Taekkyon is Lee Yong-bok of Pusan, Korea. According to him, the fighting arts have evolved alongside mankind ever since he has had to coexist with other men. Human nature itself made this necessary. One person alone cannot take responsibility.

It was more than 5,000 years ago when humans started migrating to the Korean peninsula from the adjacent parts of China. Quite some time after that, a distinct fighting art slowly began to develop. It was called "maen son mu yea" or empty-hand martial art. Whether it was brought in from China by immigrants or actually started in Korea is not certain. But over time, maen son mu yea must have diverged from any possible connection it might have had with another art, making it the first distinctly Korean style.

The earliest verifiable evidence yet found is a painting in a
grave from the Goguryo dynasty (fifth and sixth centuries A.D.). On the wall near the dead member of the royal family is a scene depicting Taekkyon self-defense techniques.
One man is attacking with a front kick as his opponent traps his leg with one arm and strikes his chest with the other. Further evidence suggests Taekkyon was taught to public servants, whether they agreed or not. And while it could be argued that the differences between the styles are too slight to allow exact determination of Taekkyon from a mere stone carving or wall painting, historians tend to support Taekkyon in this case.

A Joseon dynasty scholar named Shin Chae-ho devoted a great deal of his life to the history of Taekkyon. Among his conclusions was that this was the martial art of the nobility during the Goguryo period for reasons of both personal defense and physical well-being. The Hwarang warriors of the Silla dynasty were famous throughout Korea. Over the centuries, their martial art came to be known as hwarang-do, at least in the West. But Shin contended that these young warriors were really trained in Taekkyon, and it was only after their amazingly successful exploits became legend that their art's name was altered in their honor. Another of his claims, sure to be disputed by followers of other arts, is that the ancient art of Taekkyon was, in fact, the inspiration for some styles in neighboring Japan and China. Specifically, judo's locks and throws and drunkard-style kung fu's hand techniques are identical to Taekkyon movements, he wrote.

Written records from the countries of the region all lend support to the historical importance of Taekkyon. Chinese books state that the "Han" people (in Korean, "Han guk" means the Korean nation) were strong, brave and skilled in the martial arts. It also says their art was likely to have influenced those in China. Ancient Korean history texts tell how all styles flourished during the Koguryo period, even to the point where the king was practicing Taekkyon. Other documents verify this. And finally, old writings from China, Japan and Korea give accounts of a type of martial arts competition held in the Baekje region of Korea. They noted the remarkable similarities of the styles of the three countries, pointing to the great influence that Taekkyon had had.

But as all things in life do, Taekkyon reached its peak. The king and his court were practicing it. Soldiers drilled daily in the deadly aspects of it. And even the common man enjoyed it for its defensive techniques mixed with dance-like rhythms. But with the advance of technology came the introduction of firearms. No longer would hand-to-hand combat be so essential a factor in warfare. And so began the stagnation and eventual decline of Taekkyon.
The military abandoned it first, and then the royalty. Only commoners continued, until Taekkyon came to be called the martial art for the average man. And for quite some time after that, things remained as such.

Perhaps the darkest period in Korean history was from 1910 to 1945, when Japanese forces occupied the entire nation. All forms of art and culture, including Taekkyon, were suppressed in the hopes of destroying the people's strong nationalistic spirit. Historical accounts tell how a sword-wielding Japanese soldier was attacked and killed by a Korean man. The victor was armed only with Taekkyon. Subsequently, the Japanese military outlawed all practice and teaching of it, partly out of revenge and partly out of fear. So, as with so many other martial arts in the world, Taekkyon went underground. It was secretly and diligently practiced, improved and handed down to a select few individuals. As the number of students at times fell to zero, the art balanced on the verge of extinction.

Present-day Taekkyon owes its existence to one man named Song Duk-ki. Throughout the entire period of occupation, he persevered for the sake of the preservation of his art. He most often practiced alone in his home under cover of night. His only hope was to find a suitable person to whom he could pass his skills. Finally he was able to recruit a single student as dedicated as himself--Shin Han-seung. For many years, these two were the only people in the world with any detailed knowledge of Taekkyon.

It was not until 1968 that the public was exposed to Taekkyon.
It took that long for Song and Shin to completely organize and systematize the art and their teaching method, and to prepare the facilities necessary for instruction. It was also in that year that a kind of martial arts "feud" erupted between the followers
of Taekwondo and Taekyon, which in a way helped with the publicity drive. Both tried for approval as Intangible Cultural Assets, and both claimed to be the only traditional martial art of Korea. Taekkyon declared that it was the original creation, while opponents insisted that Taekkyon was merely a subset
of Taekwondo. In the end, an impartial board ruled that the two arts were, in fact, different, but neither one was proclaimed a cultural asset.

The years following that were rather uneventful. Limited public instruction was resumed, but it met mostly with apathy and rejection from the martial arts community. Few seemed interested in an art that had been dormant for such a long time while other styles had spread throughout the world. In 1983, Taekkyon got an unexpected boost from the Korean government. Finally, after many years of continuing negotiations, tae kyon officially became Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76. Additionally this qualified the two masters for government aid for the purpose of educating the public about the art. Many hoped it would lead to a rebirth of this dying martial art. But so far, Taekkyon is still nearly lost in obscurity, somehow evading the spotlight and likely to continue to do so.


3. History of Taekkyon

daegedo.jpgIt should be noted that many Korean writers use the terms "subak" and "taekkyon" somewhat interchangeably when describing martial arts prior to the Yi dynasty. In reality, subak is the correct term for this period because the name taekkyon was not recorded until the 18th or 19th century. Over the centuries, subak has been called "subak hi", "subak ki" and "subyeok ta", and taekkyon has been known as "takkkyeon", "gak hi", "gak sul" and "bigak sul". Further illustrating the way some Koreans imprecisely apply one style name to other martial arts is Hwarang Kee's use of the term subak ki to describe the martial arts of historical Korea, Japan, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, India and China. His English-language book uses the term tang soo do because that appellation is more popular in the West. In this article, the term subak will be used until historical records specifically name taekkyon.

Goguryo Dynasty

Researchers generally believe subak was first practiced in Korea in the northern regions of the Goguryo dynasty (37 B.C. - A.D. 668). The territory, extending hundreds of miles north of the Yalu River, now forms part of Chinese Manchuria. Early in the 20th century, Shin Chae-ho (1880-1936), a Korean scholar exiled to China, wrote that Goguryo people practiced subak, swordsmanship, spear fighting and horse riding.

In 1935 archaeologists discovered proof of ancient martial arts in several burial mounds near the town of Jian in China's Jilin province. It is now believed the tombs were erected by Goguryo-dynasty Koreans between 3 and 427. The oldest physical evidence of martial arts in Korea is painted on the walls of three of them: Gak Jeo Chong, Sam Shil Chong and Mu Yong Chong. Richard Chun wrote that the murals indicate that people of the Goguryo dynasty practiced subak as a martial art. "Evidence of the practice of taekkyon [subak] has been found in paintings on the ceiling of the Mu Yong Chong, a royal tomb from the Koguryo dynasty". Choi Hong-hi, the father of modern taekwondo and a noted scholar of Korean martial arts, wrote that the mural in Gak Jeo Tomb was painted during the reign of the 10th king of Goguryo and showed subak sparring.

Despite depictions in tomb art and occasional mentions in government records, scholars have been unable to determine exactly which techniques or fighting methods composed subak. Records of the Goguryo dynasty, most of which were not written until the Yi dynasty (1393-1910), suffer from a lack of detail. Tomb paintings show generic poses and primitive techniques not easily identified as part of any modern martial art. The evidence indicates that empty-hand fighting arts were practiced in Goguryo, but we cannot know for certain what they were or how closely they are related to modern styles.

samsilchong.jpgSilla and United Silla Dynasties

History tells that the Silla kingdom (57 B.C. - A.D. 668), located in the southern portion of the Korean peninsula, received its first taste of northern subak from a battalion of soldiers and advisors sent by Goguryo. After Silla appealed for help against the continual harassment by the Japanese pirates, King Gwanggaeto, the 19th in the line of Goguryo monarchs, sent a force of 50,000 soldiers into neighboring Silla to help the smaller kingdom drive out the pirates. It is at this time that taekkyon [subak] is thought to have been introduced to Silla's warrior class. 
The citizens of Silla developed a great affinity for subak and refined the skills into a more effective military art. It was embraced by the military and widely taught throughout the kingdom. These taekkyon-trained warriors became known as the hwarang. They adopted taekkyon [subak] as part of their basic training regimen. The Hwarang ... were encouraged to travel throughout the peninsula in order to learn about the regions and people. These traveling warriors were responsible for the spread of taekkyon [subak] throughout Korea during the United Silla dynasty, which lasted from A.D. 668 to A.D. 935.
The Hwarang (Flowering Knights) were a group of aristocratic teenage boys selected for their physical beauty and bodily strength. Han described their existence as a "survival of the youth bands of tribal times ... dedicated ... to preparing to serve the state in war". When the Hwarang were not engaged in ritual song and dance, they drilled in the arts of war, primarily swordsmanship, archery and spear-fighting. Secondary training included empty-hand striking and grappling techniques. The eventual unification of the three kingdoms--Silla, Baekje and Goguryo--into the United Silla kingdom attests to the warriors' combat efficiency.

muyongchong.jpgNo records specifically describe the martial arts of the Hwarang fighters. They probably called their empty-hand striking and grappling skills subak, just as Koreans had for the past several hundred years. It is uncertain if they had a special term to denote their weapons techniques. Lee Yong-bok points out that it is ridiculous to believe that the Hwarang relied mainly upon empty-hand martial arts in battle, as many Korean masters argue. Empty-hand skills would certainly have been but a minor adjunct to their military training and battlefield survival. Therefore, we cannot say subak was the martial art of the Hwarang; it was merely one portion of their combat repertoire.

The Hwarang's greatest contribution to the fighting arts was more spiritual that martial. Before their existence, Korean fighting skills lacked a philosophical dimension. The Hwarang warriors' dedication to Mireuk Buddha (Sanskrit: Maitreya), the Buddha of the Future, caused this to change. Han wrote: "Quite often Buddhist monks were instructors of the Hwarang. The monk Won Gwang, in fact, was the author of the famous
Sesok Ogye, or Five Tenets". Composed around 602, they constituted the Way of the Hwarang:

Serve one's king with loyalty.
Look after one's parents with filial piety.
Treat one's peers with trust.
Withstand enemy attacks with courage.
Terminate life with discrimination.

The Five Tenets
spiritually strengthened the knights and, by augmenting their fighting skills with Buddhist philosophy and moral precepts, transformed them into true martial arts. Some argue that only then did subak and the various weapons systems cease to be merely methods for destroying enemies and become true martial arts with philosophical value and an attitude of charity and compassion. Choi Hong-hi agrees: "It appears that the warriors of Hwarang added a new dimension to [subak] by ... infusing the principles of the Hwarang-do. The new mental concept ... elevated foot fighting to an art".

Another often-cited example of Korean martial arts during the Silla dynasty is the GumGang Yuksa Buddhist images. In a chapter about Korean fighting arts, authors Draeger and Smith wrote, "The statues of Gumgang Gwon at the entrance to the Sokkul-am ... show typical fighting postures". Likewise, Choi Hong-hi wrote, "The statue of Gumkang Yuksa, a famous warrior, [stands] in Sukulam, a stone cave built in the age of Silla. Notice the similarities in form between the Gumgang Yuksa and present day taekwondo". Even Hwang Kee printed in the English version of his textbook a caption under a photo of Gumgang Yuksa reading "Statue of a General from the Shin Ra [Silla] Dynasty practicing subak ki".

In reality, the Gumgang Yuksa statues have no relationship to martial arts. Archaeologists have discovered the relatively common images across Buddhist Asia, from India to China to Korea. They actually portray Buddhist guardian deities, called Vajradhara in Sanskrit. Lee Yong-bok wrote, "The In Wang statues [Gumgang Yuksa] are from China and India; they are not evidence of Korean martial arts." Lee explained that both guardians originally held a spear in their hands, but when the images were transplanted to Korea, artists did not replicate the weapons. The resulting clenched hands resemble closed fists, thus appearing as empty-hand martial arts poses. Had the spears been reproduced, supporters might not be so insistent. Even if die-hard proponents insist the carvings are actual martial poses, their documented presence in China and India would indicate that Silla-dynasty fighting arts had originated in one of those countries, not in Korea.

Goryo Dynasty

As the United Silla dynasty gave way to the Goryo dynasty (935-1392), subak continued to fare well among members of the Korean military. Numerous historical records in the Goryo Sa (History of Goryo) briefly mention subak while describing official court functions and military training. Another historical text reported that, during the 12th century, a man named Eui Mu was skilled in subak and loved by the 16th king of Goryo. Because of his martial arts ability, Eui Mu was promoted to general.

Hwang also wrote that another book recorded that King Chung Hye (r. 1339-1344) watched a subak performance as part of military celebration. The soldiers so impressed the king that he sought out the most-skilled instructors and began to practice the art. Shortly thereafter, popular empty-hand fighting competitions pitted five-soldier teams against each other. The event, called "o-byeong subak-hi," helped make subak better known among spectating government officials.

Subak's popularity did not last long, however, for the next king, Chung Mok (r. 1344-1348), outlawed its practice by civilians. He was motivated by frequent incidents in which onlookers wagered outrageous prizes, including money, houses, even wives. Chung Mok set the penalty for betting on subak matches at 100 strikes across the buttocks with a wooden paddle. Recipients of the beatings often died of infection.

Goryo-dynasty soldiers practiced subak as a compulsory supplement to weapons training. For this reason, it is not surprising that the focus of the art shifted toward quick and lethal attack methods. The military organized national competitions to motivate troops to develop their combat skills and fitness levels, and to evaluate them for promotion.

Researchers have discovered no specific records of any other martial arts in the early part of the Goryo dynasty, so we can assume that subak still included all its original kicks, punches, joint locks, throws and pressure-point strikes. Even though evidence indicates the art spawned the grappling sport of ssirum as early as the Goguryo dynasty, subak training in the Goryo dynasty still consisted of striking and grappling.

Yet during the later part of the Goryo dynasty, or possibly during the early years of the Yi dynasty, masters specializing in different aspects of subak went their separate ways. Park wrote, "Subak as an art became fragmented and diffused throughout the country, and its practice continued to decline until only incomplete remnants remained". Sources indicate that yu sul, a soft art ultimately derived from the Chinese art of sho buo (subak), became popular in the 12th century, then went extinct early in the 19th century. In 1945 historian An Ja-san wrote a text titled Chosun Mu Sa Yeong Ung Jeon, in which he detailed the lives and exploits of military heroes of the Chosun (Yi) dynasty. Choi Hong-hi wrote that An's book stated, "The yu sul school was known under the name of subak ki .

Sometime after yu sul separated, the subset of remaining subak skills, which contained mostly striking techniques, became known as taekkyon. At times, pronunciation of the same two Chinese characters varied to "taekkyon," but both meant "push shoulder". Hwang succinctly described the origin of the kicking art: "Taekkyon developed from ancient tang soo do [subak]" . Contrary to some historical accounts of the development of the Korean martial arts, subak/taekkyon was never called tang soo, kong soo or taekwon. Those arts actually developed independently and quite recently, and were based mostly upon the Japanese interpretation of Okinawan karate.

Yi Dynasty

Scholars cannot pinpoint the exact date on which the Yi-dynasty (1392-1910) text titled Man Mul Bo (a.k.a. Je Mul Bo) was written, nor can they verify that Yi Seong-ji, the suspected author, was actually responsible for those four volumes of Chosun-dynasty lore. However, they have examined in detail the work's contents (history, law, medical learning, etc.) and found a short entry under taekkyon. It may have been the first time the fighting art's name was rendered in Hangul, the phonetic script created in 1446 by King Sejong. Before that, the name had always been written in Chinese as subak.

As the Yi dynasty progressed, specific references to taekkyon began to occur more frequently. Historical documents tell how the third king of the dynasty (r. 1401-1408) recruited experts in taekkyon, ssirum wrestling and archery to help organize the army. The 32nd volume of Tae Jong Shil Lok recorded that, beginning in 1410, the court organized several military parades which featured taekkyon demonstrations. Centuries later, such a performance might have inspired Kim Hong-do, a popular 18th-century Korean folk artist, to create his royal palace grounds painting of a crowd of aristocrats observing a taekkyon sparring match.

A better-known Korean folk painting dating from the later Yi dynasty again shows taekkyon and even refers to it by name. Its title is Dae Kwae Do, or competition painting, and it now hangs in the Seoul National University museum. Painter Hye-san Yu-suk, who lived from 1827 to 1873, is thought to have created the work around 1846. Dae Kwae Do depicts two men sparring and two others grappling, while a group of "yang ban," or aristocrats, looks on. The painting's legend specifically names the arts as taekkyon and ssirum wrestling.

The Joseon Wang Jo Shil Lok, a historical book detailing the lives of Yi-dynasty kings, often mentions taekkyon. It describes how, in the middle and later parts of the dynasty, soldiers' examinations included spear fighting, archery and taekkyon, and how front-line soldiers were sometimes selected from among winners of taekkyon fighting competitions.

One of the world's oldest martial arts instructional manuals was reportedly authored around 1759 by a Korean named Cheok Gye-gwang. Titled Mu Yea Do Bo Tong Ji, it describes and illustrates in exacting detail every fighting skill Cheok could research. Although one chapter focuses on empty-hand fighting, most of the book discusses weapons techniques, including broadsword, saber, spear, halberd, trident and others too obscure to name.

Nearly all modern Korean arts claim Mu Yea Do Bo Tong Ji as proof of the historicity of their styles. Yet many researchers point out that most of the weapons discussed are distinctly Chinese, and that even the empty-hand techniques resemble the Chinese way of fighting. In his book, Song Duk-ki called Cheok Gye-gwang a Chinese national and discredited citation of Cheok's work as proof of Korean martial arts (1983, p. 18). Song's assertion gains support from a Chinese book which says, "Qi Ji Guang [Chinese pronunciation of Cheok Gye-gwang], a well-known general, compiled a book dealing with 16 different styles of bare-hand exercises and another 40 of spear- and cudgel-play, each with detailed explanations and illustrations". Both the Korean and the Chinese works feature nearly identical drawings and were written using Chinese characters, but neither mentions subak or taekkyon. Instead, empty-hand skills are called "Gwon bop," pronounced "chuan fa" in Chinese. For these reasons, Mu Yea Do Bo Tong Ji, whether an original Korean work or an early example of plagiarism, cannot be reliably cited as historical evidence for subak/taekkyon or any other style.

Decline of taekkyon
The introduction of firearms in Korea initially suppressed martial arts practice as guns replaced swords, bows and spears both in military training camps and on the battlefield. Officers could see little need for their men to practice seemingly antiquated empty-hand fighting skills when more advanced weaponry was becoming available. But later, when guns could not be produced in sufficient quantities and never became available to the masses, taekkyon enjoyed a slight resurgence in popularity.

Much more devastating was the pressure exerted against martial arts when Neo-Confucianism, a resurgence of the social guidelines and values taught by the Chinese sage Confucius, grew during the latter half of the Yi dynasty. Just as taekkyon was beginning to find increasing popularity among the general population, Neo-Confucianism brought about a drastic decline in all martial arts practice outside the military. As the phrase "favoring the arts and despising arms" came into vogue, scholasticism and civil service received official support, while physical and combative activities were disdained.

In an account in Joseon Sang Go Sa, Shin Chae-ho confirmed that taekkyon, once famed throughout the Goryo dynasty, nearly died out during the Yi dynasty. In Joseon Mu Sa Yeong Ung Jeon, An Ja-san also intimated that taekkyon was waning. In spite of these pressures, the art did not succumb. Park wrote that taekkyon, facing Neo-Confucianism's effect on the government and military, was able to survive only because of its popularity among the general public. A large number of practitioners spread across the peninsula ensured the art's survival, if only in remote locations. In his writings about the later Yi dynasty, Shin noted that archery and taekkyon contests were still held in some locations to test the skill and strength of soldiers.

Hwang Kee speculates that another reason for the art's near downfall may have been that taekkyon acquired a less-than-honorable reputation. He says that, after returning from Manchuria in 1939, he heard stories from elderly Koreans telling how young people learned taekkyon for criminal purposes and often formed street gangs. He wrote that taekkyon was looked down upon because it did not teach discipline, and that it contained only non-specific offensive and defensive techniques called "gong bang bop." It is difficult to determine exactly how much of Hwang's account is fact and how much is merely an attempt to promote his own subak do/tang soo do style by discrediting taekkyon in the public eye. Although taekkyon's criminal connection remains a possibility, no other researcher has mentioned it.