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(Redirected from Taekkyeon)
Also known asTaekgyeon, Taekkyeon, Taekkyon
FocusSelf-defense with a focus on kicks, trips, throws in competitions
HardnessLight-contact (pushing hands) Full-contact (strikes, kicks, throws, takedowns etc...)
Country of originKorea
Official websiteFour associations:
Revised RomanizationTaekgyeon
Dictionary spelling
Revised RomanizationTaekkyeon

Taekkyon (Korean태껸; 택견; Hanja托肩; Korean pronunciation: [tʰɛk̚k͈jʌn]), also spelled Taekkyeon, Taekgyeon, or Taekyun, is a traditional Korean martial art.

It is characterized by fluid, dynamic foot movement called pumbalki, or "stepping-on-triangles". Taekkyon includes hands and feet techniques to unbalance, trip, or throw the opponent. Taekkyon has many leg and whole-body techniques with fully integrated armwork. A taekkyon practitioner is called a "taekkyon-kkun".

Since the twentieth century, taekkyon has come to be seen as a living link to Korea's past. As such, it has provided historical references for modern Korean martial arts and is often considered as the oldest martial discipline of Korea.[1] It was almost wiped out during the Japanese Occupation, before being rediscovered after the Korean War. It influenced the name and conceptualization of taekwondo.

Taekkyon was the first martial art listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is also the 76th Intangible Cultural Property of South Korea.[1][2][3]


Historical records regarding taekkyon are scant and ambiguous. The term is described as a martial art, and probably is descended from earlier dynasties' Subak or as a folk game.[citation needed] The earliest written source of the term appears during the reign of King Jeongjo (1776–1800) of the Joseon Dynasty, in the book Jaemulbo (also Manmulbo), which included an entry about a 2nd century Book of Han reference of contests of unarmed combat. In this entry, author Lee Sung-Ji extended a 3rd century annotation of this reference to say that such competitions are like the taekkyon of his time:[4]

"Byeon: Byeon is hand to hand combat (Subak), competing in a martial game, (Lee Sung-Ji extension starts here) like today's taekkyon."

The word taekkyon is written in Hangul, which denotes its connection with the common people while the rest is written in Hanja.

Song Deok-gi who was the main source of the taekkyon revival after the occupation, wrote in the preface of his book: "It cannot be said for sure when and how taekkyon came into existence, but until the end of the Korean kingdom, certain people did taekkyon together."[5]

Painting entitled "Dae kwae do"(대쾌도, 大快圖), painted in 1846 by Hyesan Yu Suk (유숙, 劉淑).[citation needed] It shows ssireum above and taekkyon below.

Taekkyon was documented for the first time in the West as a living martial art by anthropologist Stewart Culin in his book Korean Games, written in 1895.[6] In the 1921 book Haedong Jukji (East Sea Annals) by Choe Yeong-nyeon, taekkyon is called "flying leg technique".[7] Taekkyon was widely practiced during the Joseon period. Two versions existed at the time: one for combat application used by militaries, the other as a game, very popular among lower classes alongside ssireum (Korean wrestling). Both combat sports were often seen at festivals, attended by all social classes. For example, during the Dan-O-Festival, a tournament called Gyeoll-yeon-taekkyon was held. Players who beat five opponents consecutively could take a rest and re-enter the tournament again later.[8]

Taekkyon's popularity suffered as Neo-Confucianism became widespread among the elite and it underwent a long period of decline.[when?] At the dawn of the 20th century, it was only practiced around the capital city of Hanyang (Seoul), in the district of Jongro. The subsequent Japanese occupation prohibited gatherings of people and indigenous fighting techniques, which nearly made the art extinct.[9]

After the Korean War there was only one surviving master: Song Deok-gi who was part of the last generation that received a traditional education under the tutelage of Master Im Ho.[10] He had maintained his practice in secret throughout the Japanese occupation. The style he practiced was called Widae (high-village) after his village of Sajik. Song was critical in the preservation of taekkyon due to his link to pre-war teachings. After a martial arts demonstration given for then-president Syngman Rhee's birthday, he was revealed to the public on 26 March 1958 and became known as the "Last Taekkyon Master of the Joseon Dynasty".

On June 1, 1983, owing to the efforts of Song's pupil Shin Han-seung, taekkyon was classified as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the Korean government. It is one of two Korean martial arts classified as such. Song Deok-gi and Shin Han-seung were subsequently given living national treasure status by the South Korean government.[11] Since then, taekkyon has enjoyed a renaissance with the establishment of university clubs, the opening of new schools, and active promotional efforts from the government and associations alike. The first contemporary taekkyon competition took place in Busan on June 30, 1985.[12] Afterwards, other schools were established, dividing the taekkyon scene between the followers of Song's teaching (current leaders of the Widae Taekkyon Preservation Association), and the followers of Shin, who are more focused on a sport approach and bringing the art to the global stage.[citation needed]

In November 2011, taekkyon was recognized by UNESCO and placed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List, honored as the first martial art on the list.[13]


Taekkyon utilizes a wide variety of techniques including kicks, hands, knee, elbow strikes, pressure point attacks, throws, joint locks, headbutts and grapples.[14] The whole body is used in each movement. Although taekkyon primarily utilizes kicking, punching, and arm strikes thrown from a mobile stance and does not provide a framework for groundfighting, it does incorporate a variety of different throws, takedowns, and grappling techniques to complement its striking focus. The main purpose of taekkyon is to catch the opponent off-guard by using the whole weight of the body and catching the opponent's attack off-balance before returning it against him.[15]

The basic pumbalki footwork is geometric and at the core of all advanced movement. The movements of taekkyon are fluid with the practitioners constantly moving. One of its most striking characteristics is the motion called ogumsil or neung-cheong: It is a constant bending and stretching of the knees, giving taekkyon a dance-like appearance. This motion is also used in the Korean mask dance Talchum which gives them a similar flow. The art is like a dance in which the fighter constantly changes stance from left to right by stepping forward and backwards with arms up and ready to guard, blending arm movements with leg. Taekkyon does not make use of abrupt knee motions. The principles and methods used to extend the kick put more emphasis on grace and alignment for whole-body strength, as with the arm motions.

There are evolving forms in taekkyon. One form can be performed many different ways with its variations over the basic ten-year training period. The curriculum is adjustable within the traditional system. Masters may create their own personalized approach for teaching the basic taekkyon system.[citation needed]

Pumbalki (footwork)[edit]

The most unique feature of taekkyon is its triangular footwork called pumbalki or pum balbki (품밟기) which looks like a dance. The meaning of pumbalkki is "to step the pum". Pum is the hanja 品, which means "goods" or "level" but it is used for its shape rather than the meaning as pumbalki has a triangular form as well. Footwork is smooth and rhythmic and enables rapid shifting of the center of gravity. It has the effect of strengthening the waist and lower part of the body as well as harmonizing attack and defense.

Position of the steps in Pumpalki.

The steps in pumbalki are roughly in the shape of an equilateral triangle (). It is practiced in place, but in competition it involves continually advancing or retreating.

Hwalgaejit (deceptive arm movements)[edit]

Hwalgaejit looks like the movement of a bird's wings. Coming from the root Hwalgae, meaning "deceptive arm and leg movements resembling the movements of butterfly wings," the shoulders are expanded naturally and must flow harmoniously with the footwork. While improving the body's reflexes, responsiveness and balance, it also helps distract the opponent's attention before the counterattack. It is mainly used defensively to block or catch an opponent blow. Hwalgejit transfers power from the body to the arms in order to enhance power for quick action.

In a similar way, Hwaljegi refers to deceptive leg movements designed to deflect, jam, and break the opponent's legs. Naturally, this depends on the application and not harming the opponent is preferable to harming them- but it remains in the repertoire.

Baljil (kicks)[edit]


Taekkyon has been so renowned for its kicking techniques that ancient chronicles referred to it with poetic names such as "one-hundred godlike flying leg skills" (baek gisintong bigaksul), "leg art" (gak sul), or "flying leg skills" (bi gak sul).[16] Modern taekkyon schools teach a great variety of kicks, low, medium, and high, as well as jumps. Sweeps with straight forward low kicks using the ball of the foot and the heel and flowing crescent-like high kicks. There are many kicks that move the leg outward from the middle, which is called gyeot chigi, and inward from the outside using the side of the heels and the side of the feet. The art also uses tricks like inward trips, wall-jumping, fake-outs, tempo, and slide-stepping.

Sonjil (strikes)[edit]

Though renowned for the variety of its kicks since the ancient ages, taekkyon also uses a lot of strikes. They target all areas of the body and use every part of the arm: forearm, elbow, hand edge, back of the hand, fingertips. Techniques must be used in coordination with the pumbalki so that the springing power can be transferred to the upper limbs. The palm or fist are most often used to strike.

Though hand techniques had been used for self-defense until the Widae style, the three modern schools only teach it at an advanced level as part of yetbeop taekkyon.

Taejil (throws)[edit]

Taekkyon uses techniques for throwing the opponent either forward or backward. Once the opponent is unbalanced, the user can follow with either a throw or a trip. The important thing is to use the opponent's own power to counterattack.

Ttanjuk (joint locks)[edit]

These techniques are for locking and twisting an opponent's articulations. Counter an opponent's attack by locking a joint and follow with a hand or leg attack.

Competitive taekkyon[edit]

Taekkyon Competition held for Hi! Seoul Festival on April 28, 2007

Taekkyon bouts have evolved into a modern sport and tournaments are held by the three modern schools across Korea and it is also an authorized discipline in Korea National Championships. When taekkyon is practiced in competition, it uses a limited subset of techniques, focusing on grappling and kicking only. Points are scored by throwing (or tripping) the opponent to the ground, pushing them out of the ring, or kicks to the head. There are no hand strikes or headbutts, and purposefully injuring your opponent is prohibited. The head kicks are often quite sharp, but usually not full force, and fighters may not attempt to wear the opponent down with body blows as in boxing or Muay Thai. Matches are sometimes decided by the best of three falls—the first fighter to score two points wins. However, different modern associations employ slightly different rules.

People who participated the first national Taekkyon competition.

The first taekkyon competition was held by the Korea Taekkyon Federation at the Busan Gudeok Stadium on June 30, 1985. Song Deok-ki, who was 93 years old, demonstrated mack-boigi, and Shin Han-seung, who was 58 years old, demonstrated bonddae-boigi. In the subsequent competition, Shin was the referee and Song was the coach of the Seoul team. All three representatives of modern taekkyon, Lee Yong-bok, Jung Kyung-hwa and Do Ki-hyun, as well as Song and Shin, attended at this competition.[citation needed]

Since then the Korea Taekkyon Federation which stipulates the rules for taekkyon competitions has been promoted to a regular member of the Korean Sports & Olympic Committee, which is the Olympic Committee of the Republic of Korea. In 2022 taekkyon was added as an event at the Korean National Sports Festival[17] and to the Korea Sports for All Festival in 2023, which are Korea's largest sports festivals.[citation needed] The Korea Taekkyon Federation also has the authority to hold the ‘Presidential National Taekkyon Competition’ and the ‘Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism National Taekkyon Competition’, which are the most authoritative competitions recognized by the Korean government.[citation needed] Only people who belong to the KTF can participate in these competitions.


Korea Taekkyon Federation[edit]

Korea Taekkyon Federation logo

The Korea Taekkyon Federation (KTF), sometimes called Daehan Taekkyon, is based in Seoul Olympic Park and was established in 1991. It was led by Lee Yong-bok until 2015. Originally an 8th Dan in Taekwondo, he taught himself taekkyon with a brief stint studying under Song Deok-gi and Shin Han-seung.[18] The KTF is a member of Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) since 2007, and it is the only taekkyon organization recognized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korean government. About 80% of taekkyon trainees in Korea belong to the KTF.[citation needed]

The KTF currently plays the role of national federation and international federation simultaneously. Therefore, the ‘World Martial Arts Masterships Taekkyon Competition’ is also organized by the KTF. The national Sports Instructor Courses, recognized by the Korean government, are also operated by the KTF.

This federation is the biggest and the most developed of all the taekkyon associations in Korea and abroad.[19] With the support of the KSOC, the KTF has produced videos of taekkyon in four different languages.[20] The videos contain taekkyon rules, referee rules, and standard training courses.

Taekkyon is the only sport that uses hanbok, traditional Korean clothes, as its uniform, and all participants, including athletes, referees, and coaches, wear hanbok. Through this, taekkyon also plays a role of exposing Korean traditional clothes to the public.

Widae Taekkyon Preservation Society[edit]

The Widae Taekkyeon Preservation Society, also called World Wide Taekkyon Organization (WWTO) or simply Widae Taekkyeon is based in Seoul and Los Angeles. Led by Lee Jun-seo and Ko Yong-woo, the two most senior students of Song Deok-gi.[21] This association was established by Song Deok-gi and Lee Jun-seo in 1983 and does not teach the sport science innovations brought to the art in the mid 1980s.[22]

Korea Traditional Taekgyeon Association[edit]

The Korea Traditional Taekgyeon Association (KTTA) is headquartered in Chungju, therefore sometimes referred to as Chungju Taekkyon. The KTTA is led by Jeong Kyung-hwa (1954-) who was given the title of "living national treasure of the second generation" by the Korean Government in 1995. He was the main pupil of Shin Han-seung. The KTTA was responsible for the recognition of taekkyon as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.[23]

Kyulyun Taekyyun Association[edit]

The Kyulyun Taekyyun Association (KTK), based in Seoul, was established in 2000. The KTK is led by Do Ki-hyun who mainly learned from Song Deok-gi after starting his training under Shin Han-Seung. The school is famous for organizing the Taekyun Battle, one of the most prestigious tournaments of Korea, every year since 2004.[24]

Historical records on taekkyon and street fighting[edit]

Medieval records mention that several street fighting games and techniques existed in Korea at the time, up until the twentieth century. Due to the elite's scorn and contempt for martial activities, taekkyon came to be perceived as a fighting method for thugs and sometimes confused with such disciplines:[25] Sibak (시박),[25] Pyeonssaum (편싸움),[26] Nalparam (날파람),[27] Nanjanbaksi (난잔박시),[28] Taegyeok (태격).[29] Some barehand techniques for street fighting are currently taught as part of the curriculum of the three modern schools as part of the "Yetbeop Taekkyon" or "Old style Taekkyon".[30]

Taekkyon and taekwondo[edit]

There is a common myth about taekkyon being depicted as a kicking game as well as an "ancient version of taekwondo" in the public eye. This is mainly due to the spread of taekwondo as the national martial sport of Korea after the Korean War. Since then, taekkyon has been known to the general public mainly through taekwondo's association and rendition based on incomplete information via bits and pieces of records emphasizing its kicking techniques.[31] Even though the taekwondo establishment claims an ancient lineage through taekkyon, and even partially modeled its name on it,[32][33][34] the two disciplines don't have much in common.[35] In fact, taekkyon associations do not acknowledge having any relationship to taekwondo, and explicitly deny any link.[36]

Taekkyon in popular culture[edit]


  • The God of High School (갓 오브 하이 스쿨): weekly online manhwa published on Webtoon since 2011. Adapted into an anime by MAPPA in 2020. The character Park Il-Pyo and his cousins use this fighting style under the name of "Ssamsu Taekkyon".[citation needed]
  • Bridal Mask (각시탈): manhwa published in 1974. Adapted in TV series in 2012. The main character Lee Kang-To and his older brother use taekkyon against their japanese oppressors.[37]
  • Fight Class 3 (격기 3반): weekly manhwa published on Comic Champ since 2015 (on hiatus as of 2021). First year student Gi Ba-ram at Nam-il High's Fight Class 1 is a proud user of taekkyon.[citation needed]


  • Fighter in the Wind (바람 의 파이터): martial arts film released in 2004. Very loosely based on the life of Korean-born karateka Oyama Masutatsu (1923-1993), founder of the Kyokushinkai style. The film shows the young master engaging in taekkyon with his mentor and using it against a Japanese officer.[38]
  • The Showdown (거칠 마루) Geochilmaru: martial arts film released in 2005. Eight fighters of different styles met online on a martial arts site challenge each other to decide who will face the webmaster and urban legend, the mysterious Geochilmaru.[citation needed]
  • The three Master Kims (김관장 대 김관장 대 관장): comedy released in 2007. The burlesque character of "Master Kim" played by actor Shin Hyun-joon turns out to be an expert in taekkyon against gangsters terrorizing his district.[citation needed]

Television series[edit]

  • Human Weapon: in Season 1, episode 6 Jason Chambers and Bill Duff travel to Korea to train and fight in Taekwondo. Taekkyon is mentioned as a traditional Korean martial art.[citation needed]
  • Warrior: In episode 6 of the second season ("To a Man with a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail"), a Korean fighter fights with taekkyon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b GREEN Thomas A., SVINTH Joseph R. (2010). "Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation" Vol 2. ABC-CLIO. p. 195. ISBN 978-1-59884-243-2.
  2. ^ "Taekkyon on the Cultural Heritage Administration Web Page".
  3. ^ "UNESCO - Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art". ich.unesco.org.
  4. ^ (in Korean) Lee Yong-bok (이용복): "Taekkyon Research" (택견연구) ISBN 8971930748. Seoul: Hakminsa Publishing, 2001
  5. ^ (in Korean) Song Deok-Gi (송덕기) and Bak Jong-gwan (박종관): The traditional martial art taekkyon (전통무예 택견). Seoul: Seorim Munhwasa Publishing 1983. ISBN 89-7186-209-2. ISBN 89-7186-001-4 (Set)
  6. ^ Culin, Stewart (December 1, 1895). "Korean games with notes on the corresponding games of China and Japan". Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ (in Korean) Lee Yong-bok (이용복): Taekkyon (택견). Daewonsa Publishing, Seoul 1995, S. 14 f.
  8. ^ (in Korean) Lee Yongbok (이용복): Taekkyon, a Korean Martial Art (한국무예 택견). Seoul: Hakminsa Publishing 1990.
  9. ^ "UNESCO page on Taekkyon". www.unescoicm.org. 2011. Retrieved 2021-09-18.
  10. ^ ""From the age of 12, he [Song Deok-Gi] started to properly learn taekkyon with another 10 children of his age from 'Master Im Ho' who was the most well known taekkyon-kkun [practitioner] of that time."". Kyulyun Taekyun Website.
  11. ^ Song Deok-Gi (송덕기) und Bak Jong-gwan (박종관): Taekkyon, a Traditional Martial Art (전통무예 택견). Seoul: Seorim Munhwasa Publishing 1983. Page 21.
  12. ^ "대한택견회 소개 | 대한택견회".
  13. ^ "Ssireum wrestling from North Korea and South Korea was jointly inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 26 November 2018". Unesco.org. 25 November 2018.
  14. ^ "Taekkyeon". Black Belt Wiki.
  15. ^ Kim, Yeong Man (2021). Combat Taekkyeon (실전태껸) (in Korean). 글샘. ISBN 9791188946617.
  16. ^ Choi, Yeong-nyeon (1921). East Sea Annals (해동죽지) (in Korean).
  17. ^ "Taekkyeon debuted as an official event at the National Sports Festival for the first time..." 11 October 2022. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  18. ^ Rubbeling, Hendrik (2017). Taekkyon – Wie Wasser und Wind. Norderstedt. ISBN 978-3744896818.
  19. ^ 한, 병철 (2012). 고수를차아서 "Searching for the masters". 뿔미디어. ISBN 9791131539279.
  20. ^ A playlist of taekkyon videos in English
  21. ^ Kim, Yong-Man (2018). "택견이 이칭(異稱)에 대해서 조선의 마지막 국가무형문화재 제76호 택견기능보유자 송덕기(1893~1987)로부터 1969년~1985년까지 택견을 사사(師事)받고, 특히 1983년부터 집중적으로 2년간 이준서(前, 송덕기의 윗대택견 국가전수장학생)와 함께 사사받은 고용우(1952년 1월 13일生, 미국 로스앤젤레스 거주)에 대해서 태견(김정윤, 2003)은 "송덕기는 고용우가 가장 태견을 마음에 들게 한다"고 기록하고 있다. 그는 구술채록(2013년 2월 10일, 미국 로스앤젤레스 커피숍)에서 택견의 이칭에 대해서 다음과 같이 진술하였다". Mooye.
  22. ^ Kim, Young-Man (2020). 택견 근현대사 (Modern and Contemporary History of Taekkyon). Kyobo Book Centre. ISBN 9791188946402.
  23. ^ "유네스코 세계문화유산 충주 택견의 갈 길". 충북인뉴스. December 5, 2011.
  24. ^ "TK Battle Main Page". www.tkbattle.com.
  25. ^ a b "[수박 이야기] 또 다른 탁견?". Mookas.
  26. ^ "Joseon-musa-yeongwoongjeon (조선무사영웅전) bare hand Pyeonssaum and Taekkyeon record".
  27. ^ "1927's Korean Flag Fight, Gitssaum, a street fighting game with no-spin horizontal fist punching & shoulder-push for frontal punch".
  28. ^ "[송준호 수박이야기] 여진족 무술! 타권(打拳)". Mookas.
  29. ^ "성리학에 기반한 전통 무예 '태격'을 아십니까?". Segye Ilbo. November 12, 2008.
  30. ^ "[도기현칼럼]옛법택견, 그 파괴 본능". Mookas.
  31. ^ "A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do" by Alex Gillis
  32. ^ Lo, David. "Nam and General Choi faced a dilemma as they could not teach the Koreans Karate and call it Taekkyon. Eventually they took the best of Tang Soo Do and added some Taekkyon. They needed a new name urgently but the President liked the name Taekkyon" (PDF). Thesis prepared for 4th dan granting requirements" (PDF). Thesis prepared for 4th dan granting requirements.
  33. ^ "the name Taekwondo was adopted for its similarity in name, to Taekkyon". Tae Kwon Do Chang Moo Kwan website.
  34. ^ "Taekwondo Classes in Salisbury". Parks Martial Arts.
  35. ^ "Unlike Tae Kwan Do, in Taekkyon, flying or spinning kicks weren't often used. Instead, low kicks to the shins or knees, sweeps and trips, and direct push kicks to the body were more common". Karate world.
  36. ^ Sungkyun CHO, Udo MOENIG, and Dohee NAM (2012). "In addition, the Taekwondo establishment maintains that Taekkyon is one of its predecessors. Interestingly, Taekkyon literature usually does not acknowledge having any relationship to Taekwondo, and the Korea Taekkyon Federation (Taehan Taekkyon Yonmaeng) denies any link".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  37. ^ "민족무술 '택견', 침략자에겐 '응징'을, 관객에겐 '뜨거움'을". www.incheonin.com/news/.
  38. ^ "Fighter in the Wind Movie Script". www.scripts.com.

External links[edit]