Philosophy of Taekwondo



The Taekwondo spirit originated from the traditional national thought of the Korean people. According to Korean legend this originated from the founder of the Korean nation, Tangun. Tangun advocated the idealism of "hong-ik in-gan" (universal benefits of humanism). This thought became the basis for the Korean traditional national philosophy and also the basis of the Taekwondo spirit.

During this Three Kingdoms period Bhuddism and Confusianism were practised widely in Korea. The idealism of "hongik-ingan", represented by the philospohy of "Seon", was developed by the Hwarang with the integration of Buddhist and Confucian ideas into the hwarangdo spirit. The hwarangdo spirit is characterised by the three virtues of loyalty, filial piety and reliability, and three virtuous conducts of modesty, frugality and restraint.

The traditional thought "hong-ik in-gan" stresses respect for all human beings. The Korean people throughout the Koryo and Chosun periods were taught in their daily life to respect their superiors and treat their inferiors kindly.

During this time there were a number of scholars expressing various philosophical theories. One of these, Great Scholar Yi Yul-Kok, said in his writings: "I endeavoured incessantly to achieve self-restraint until I could reach a realm of a saintly life", "I do what is to be done with all sincerity" and "Cultivation of the mind and learning should be continued without slowing down the tempo". These sayings partly reflect the spirit of Taekwondo.

One of the most significant ideals of this time, and even today, is that of "Chon-do". "Chon-do" is to do the right thing or follow the right way. This ideal is an integral part of the Taekwondo spirit.



One of the most important aspects of the philosophy of Taekwondo is that it is not fully learned from books, as such things are often forgotten, but that it is an integral part of Taekwondo practise and indeed our everyday lives. The philosophy of Taekwondo is often described or summarised as the "Tenets of Taekwondo". These tenets are:



Ability to deal with danger, fear or pain. To face one’s own fears. The confidence to act in accordance with one’s own beliefs.




Politeness and good manners.




Customary or proper behaviour regarded as correct or acceptable in social or official life.



Indomitable Spirit:

Difficult or impossible to subdue or defeat. Never allowing disbelief in yourself.




Honesty, adhering to moral principles.




Knowing your capabilities and limitations without being pretentious.




Not quitting - continued steady effort. Withstand discouragement.




To give proper attention and consideration.




The ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions or reactions.


These tenets are essentially key words that perhaps summarise the virtues found within the spirit of Taekwondo. However, in order to fully appreciate and understand the philosophy or spirit of Taekwondo it is important to know something of Korean history and traditional values. The traditional values of the Korean people are an integral part of the philosophy of Taekwondo.



It would be incorrect to say that philosophy of Taekwondo is based on any religion. It is not. However, it would be equally incorrect to ignore the influences that many religious belief systems have had on both the Korean traditional values and on the development of the Taekwondo spirit.

The philosophy of Taekwondo has evolved over time in the same way that the physical aspects of Taekwondo have also evolved. The original philosophical aspects were based on the need, or instinct, for survival and defence of one’s homeland or nation. As the tribal and agricultural community of the Korean people became established, so did the spirit of national unity. This developed into "Seon" (impeccable virtuousness) to become the basis of Koreans’ philosophical thoughts.

During the development of the Korean nation – particularly through the three-kingdom era – Taekwondo became a systematised martial art. The Korean warriors of the Shilla Kingdom, or Hwarang, took "Seon" and accepted it as their martial spirit. Based on this, they held themselves true to; loyalty to their country and filial piety. Added to this was the virtue of courage – to never retreat – and the virtue of practising a strong ethical code. (ref: History).

The historical influences on the philosophy of Taekwondo can be seen in the following periods of history.

 Ancient Times or Old-Chosun Age

 Three Kingdoms Period

 Koryo and Chosun Dynasties



The Taekwondo spirit has been directly influenced over time by the traditional beliefs and thoughts of the Korean nation and has been moulded through common experiences of joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure through the ages. It can be more easily identified by Silla’s hwarangdo spirit which is based on the "Seon" philosophy as well as Buddhist thoughts of national safeguards, Confucian thoughts of loyalty and filial piety and Taoism’s thoughts of tacit performance.

The Korean martial art of Taekwondo aims not only to acquire power and skill for self-defence, but to perfect character by devoting oneself to the right way, respecting one’s responsibilities and embodying the thought of universal equality.

The Taekwondo spirit can be best summarised by the philosophy of "hong-ik in-gan" – peace loving, spirit of integrity, protecting righteousness and a strong sense of responsibility.