A Summary of Korean Terminology for TaeKwonDo


This document is an attempt to compile a list of Korean terminology used in the study of TaeKwonDo. In years past, the terminology reflected heavy Chinese influence. Around 1975 however, most styles "upgraded" to use a more "modern" Korean terminology that attempts to shed these other influences in an effort to be more "pure" Korean. Wherever possible, I have tried to use this "new" (more modern) terminology.

Since the Korean language is written using "Hangul" and not the Roman alphabet, all the spellings you see here are approximate romanizations and may not be the same spellings that some of you are used to seeing.

The rest of this document is separated into the following sections:

Korea and its Flag

The Korean name for Korea is "Hangeuk" and its people are called "Hangeuksaram". The ancient name for Korea is "Choson", which means literally "the land of morning calm" and comes from the "Choson" (or "Yi") dynasty of Korea's history (1392-1905). The name "Korea" comes from the "Koryu" dynasty of Korea's history (935-1392) during which westerners had their first contact with Korea.

The national anthem of Korea is "Aeguk Ka" ("Love of Country"). It was written during the Japanese occupation of Korea (circa 1905-1945) and was later set to music by Ahn Eak Tai.

The Korean flag is called "Taeguk-ki" and was adopted in August of 1882, not long after the "Hermit Kingdom" opened its front and back doors to foreign aggressive powers. The central theme of the flag is that although there is constant movement within the sphere of infinity, there is also balance and harmony. The flag consists of three parts: a white field (or background), a red and blue circle in the center of the flag (containing a "yin-yang" like symbol), and four black trigrams sorrounding the circle in each of the four corners of the flag.

The circle in the center is called "Taeguk" and means the origin of all things in the universe. The red and blue paisleys within the circle represent eternal duality (heaven-earth, fire-water, good-evil, male- female, dark-light, life-death). The blue portion of the circle is called "um" and represents the negative aspects of this duality; the red portion of the circle is called "yang" and represents the positive aspects. "Um-yang" is the Korean equivalent of "yin-yang".

The four black trigrams come from the Chinese book of "I Ch'ing". The trigrams also carry the idea of opposites and of balance. Each trigram (or "gye") consists of three parallel lines, some of which are broken (split), and some of which are unbroken (solid). Each gye has a specific name and represents one or more concepts: In the upper lefthand corner is "K'un" which consists of all solid lines and represents heaven, east, and spring; In the lower righthand corner is "K'on" which consists of all broken lines and represents earth, west, and summer; In the upper righthand corner is "Kam" which consists of one solid line sorrounded by two broken lines and represents water, north, and winter; In the lower lefthand corner is "I" which consists of one broken line sorrounded by two solid lines and represents fire, south, and autumn.

Definition of TaeKwonDo

"Tae" means "foot" or "to strike with the feet". "Kwon" means "hand", or "to strike with the hand". "Do" means discipline, art, or way. Hence TaeKwonDo (foot-hand-way) means literally "the art of the feet and the hands" or "the art of kicking and punching". Different schools and/or styles may impose different variations on the formal definition however. For example, some styles add the words "self defense" to the literal definition and/or throw in some form of the phrase "physical and mental training".

Korean Counting

There are two different numbering systems that are used by Koreans. The first numbering system is used when counting, or when only speaking of the numbers themselves. The first ten numbers in this system are as follows:

The stress in "hanah", "dasot", and "yasot" is on the first syllable, in "ilgop", "yadol", and "ahop" on the second. In counting cadence in TaeKwonDo, this is so emphasized that the other syllable frequently almost disappears (e.g., "han", "das", "yos", "lgop", "hop", etc.).

The other numbering system (which is of Chinese origin) is used in most other cases and is often used where Americans would use ordinal numbers (such as "first", "second", etc ...). For example, this second numbering system is used when describing a person's rank: a first degree black belt would be an "il dan". The first ten numbers in this numbering system are as follows:

The final `l' in "chil" and "pal" isn't rounded, like an American `l' .... It's a much shorter sound, sort of like the initial `l' in "let", but even shorter. It's not like the `l' in "ball".

When pronouncing the word "ship", you must not emphasize the "sh" sound. It's almost more like "sip" with a sort of a lisp. If you pronounce it like "sh" in "shell", then you are referring to sexual intercourse.

Even though this second numbering system may correspond to ordinal numbers in English in some cases, these are not ordinal numbers. Koreans use a separate set of words for ordinal numbers.

Basic Body Parts

Tenets of TaeKwonDo

Body Movements



Hand Positions

Hand Attacks









Common Phrases



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