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Different taekwondo federations and associations (ITF and GTF, Kukkiwon/WT, ATA, etc.) express their philosophies differently. There are many common themes among these philosophies however, as these philosophies generally tend to reference back to the code ommon touchpoint as their philosophical foundation, there are some common themes among the philosophies of different taekwondo styles:

  • Respect for one's teachers, parents and siblings
  • Promoting a more peaceful world
  • Perseverance
  • Self Control

The following table briefly summarizes the philosophies and tenents of some common styles of taekwondo.

Hwarang Code (historical) ITF Oath WTF Philosophy (paraphrased) ATA Oath (pre-event)
Loyalty to one's lord I shall observe the tenets of Taekwon-Do Promote the welfare of mankind I will practice in the spirit of taekwondo
Love and respect your parents and teachers I shall respect the instructors and seniors Behave rationally ("in accordance with the reason of heaven") With courtesy for fellow students
Trust among friends I shall never misuse Taekwon-Do Emulate the Hwarang spirit Loyalty for my instructor
Never retreat in battle I shall be a champion of freedom and justice Be a bro Respect for my juniors and seniors
Never take a life without just cause I shall build a more peaceful world Be a buddy not a bully (post-event oath)
ITF / GTF Tenets Perseverance in the spirit of taekwondo
Courtesy (예의 ye-ul) Honor with others
Integrity (염치 yom-chil) Integrity within myself
Perseverance (인내 in-nae) Self-control in my actions
Self-control (극기 geuk-gi)
Indomintable Spirit (백절불굴 baek-jeol boolgool)

ITF Philosophy


The philosophy of Tae Kwon Do is to build a more peaceful world. To accomplish this goal Tae Kwon Do begins with the foundation, the individual. The Art strives to develop the character, personality, and positive moral and ethical traits in each practitioner. It is upon this "foundation" of individuals possessing positive attitudes and characteristics that the "end goal" may be achieved.

Tae Kwon Do strives to develop the positive aspects of an individual's personality: Respect, Courtesy, Goodness, Trustworthiness, Loyalty, Humility, Courage, Patience, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, an Indomitable Spirit and a sense of responsibility to help and respect all forms of life. This takes a great deal of hard training and many do not reach far enough to achieve perfection in all of these aspects. However, it is the physical, mental, and spiritual effort which the individual puts forth that develops the positive attributes and image of both the individual and how he or she perceives others.

By helping mold an individual into a well-rounded and responsible person, the individual can pass onto others, through both his teachings and his personal actions, the principles he has learned through his Tae Kwon Do training. Individuals unite and become a family, families come together and form a community, communities merge and develop into a nation, and nations are what make up our present-day world. In order to help build a more peaceful world, Tae Kwon Do starts with one person at a time. Gradually groups form, dojangs (schools) emerge, organizations develop, until Tae Kwon Do's philosophy has influenced, in a positive way, enough persons, families, communities, and nations, to someday bring about, or at least help bring about, the unification of nations dedicated to helping each other.

The task is not easy. Just like the metamorphosis an individual goes through from white belt to black belt and eventually Master, so the transition of the unification of nations united by laws of peace, is a long and hard task. Tae Kwon Do strives for this unification. Race, creed, and nationality have nothing to do with Tae Kwon Do. They are all one in the same. Tae Kwon Do reaches toward the total development of the individual and the founding of a peaceful world. No matter what color a persons skin, no matter what his religion, no matter where his national boundaries we all seek one thing, Peace. This peace can only be achieved if each person has found peace within himself. Tae Kwon Do reaches toward the cultivation of this inner peace and the development of a well-rounded responsible individual.

The physical aspects of Tae Kwon Do are merely a by-product of Tae Kwon Do. It is the mental and spiritual development of a person which Tae Kwon Do nurtures and helps give birth to. The philosophy of Tae Kwon Do can be attained through the cultivation and maturity of all three aspects of the Art; physical, mental and spiritual, in each individual. Once these three aspects have been instilled in a person, then the total maturation of the person will start a chain-reaction which will, with God's help, lead us to a more peaceful world.

Tae Kwon Do is doing its part to build a more peaceful world, I, as an instructor, am doing my best to attain this goal, and you, as a practitioner of the Art of Tae Kwon Do, have begun to set the world on the path of peaceful unification. Our task is not an easy one. We may not see our goal fulfilled in our lifetime, but we are now planting the seeds which will one day take root and blossom into Tae Kwon Do's philosophy, total positive development of each individual and a peaceful world.

WT/Kukkiwon Philosophy

Sam Taeguk.png
The Sam Taegeuk, representing the Heavens, the Earth, and Man
The Taegeuk, representing the unity of opposites

Quick Summary: WT taekwondo philosophy is based on these principles:

  1. Sam Jae - the principle that all change in the world can be explained as the interaction of the three elements: the Heavens, the Earth, and Man.
  2. Eum and Yang - the principle of "the unity of opposites" - things that seem polar opposites are really two sides of the same coin (called yin and yang in China)
  3. Hongik-Ingan - the principle of promoting the universal welfare of mankind
  4. Jaese-Ihwa - education in accordordance with the reason of heaven; in other words, behaving in a rational way
  5. The Hwarang spirit - the Hwarang were an elite caste of young scholar/warriors during the Three Kingdoms era of Korean history, known for their martial prowess but also their education and code of virtues

These principles should be applied by individuals on a personal level in their daily lives, with the intent of benefiting those around them. In this way, the universal welfare of mankind is promoted.

Paraphrased from

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, the philosophy is one of actions that can be learned from other actions, and our everyday activities. Taekwondo philosophy represents the principles of the changes and movements in 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 two principles:

  • Sam Jae (the Three Elements) --  "Cheon" (the Heavens), "Ji" (the Earth), and "In" (Man)
    •  In Asian culture, Sam Jae has been recognized as the central principle that explains the changes of everything in the world. "Sam Jae" and the changes of "Eum" and "Yang" constitute the "Eight Trigrams for Divination" in the "Book of Changes" (the I Ching). The principle of Sam Jae has been emphasized in Asian countries, especially in Korea. If you understand Taekwondo's principle, you could understand all the skills and spiritual depth of Taekwondo. 
  • Eum (the Negative, or Darkness) and Yang (the Positive, or Light).
    • The principle of Eum and Yang has also been emphasized in Asian countries as the central principle of life. This principle 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 was 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.

What is the philosophy of Taekwondo?

Taekwondo contains thoughts that Han (Korean) people had developed through history. Its philosophy is easily explained with Hongik-Ingan, Jaese-Ihwa, or Hwarangdo spirit.

  • Hongik-Ingan and Jaese-Ihwa were not only ideologies of Tangun Chosun's foundation, but also a fundamental thought of Han people.
    • Hongik-Ingan means "the universal welfare of mankind." It was the idea of the national foundation by Tangun, and the 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. 
  • With time, these ideas developed into the Hwarang-do spirit and the Taekwondo philosophy today. 

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 (educate with the reason of heaven) and Hongik-Ingan (universal welfare of mankind)."


See Also

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