Taekkyon is a traditional Korean martial art first explicitly recorded
Taekkyeon is characterized by fluid,
dynamic foot movement called "pum balgi" or Stepping-on-Triangles.
Taekkyon is concerned with applying both the hands and feet at the
same time to unbalance, trip, or throw the opponent. Hands and feet
are always used together.
Taekkyon has many leg and whole-body techniques with fully integrated
armwork. Although taekkyeon 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 martial art is frequently romanized informally
as Taekgyeon, Taekkyon, or Taekyun.
1 History of Taekkyeon
2.1 As a martial sport / combative sport
3 Modern development
4 See also
6 External links
History of Taekkyeon
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The earliest existing written source mentioning
Taekkyeon is the book
Jaemulbo (also Manmulbo), written by Lee Sung-Ji during the reign of
Subak are Byeon, Gangnyeok is Mu and all these are called
Tak-gyeon" (卞 手搏爲卞 角力爲武 苦今之탁견)
I.e. the word is spelled Tak-gyeon, written in Hangul, while the other
terms are written in hanja.
Around 1900 Taekkyon was practiced frequently around Hanyang (Seoul),
the capital city of the
Song Duk-ki (1893–1987) was
critically responsible for conveying the art. In the foreword of his
only book, he writes: "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."
The "Daekwaedo". Museum of University of Seoul.
Taekkyeon matches were frequent in the late
Joseon Dynasty. For
example, during the Dano-Festival, a tournament called Gyeollyeon
(결련) was carried out. Players who beat five opponents
consecutively could take a rest and re-enter the tournament again
Taekkyeon is documented as a living martial art in an 1895 book on
Korean sports and games.
In the book "Haedong Jukji" by Choe Yeong-nyeon (최영년, Hanja:
崔永年) from 1921, the idu-writing 托肩 is used to represent
"Tak-gyeon". The translation of 托肩 is "push-shoulder". However
this does not mean that the translation of Taekkyon is "push the
shoulder", because idu is just a way to phonetically write pure Korean
words with Chinese characters. At the same time, all the arm
techniques of taekkyeon are generated from a shoulder movement first,
by whipping the entire arm out. When fighting, there are numerous ways
Taekkyeon pushes and pulls an opponent by the shoulders. Also in this
book, there's a poem and a non-fictional text about Taekkyon, calling
it lyrically "flying leg technique" (bi-gak-sul, 비각술,
Taekkyeon is also depicted in the image "Dae Kwae Do" (Hangeul
Hanja 大快圖) which was painted around 1850 by Hyesan Yu
Suk (Hangeul 유숙,
Hanja 劉淑). It shows
Ssireum above and
Taekkyeon below. Both combat sports were often done together at
festivals, so Hyesan painted a lively scene with people from all
social levels. The right Taekkyon player wears a coat called "Dopo"
and ties their clothes together in order to have more freedom of
motion. A Dopo was only worn by scholars (Seonbi, 선비). Soldiers
are watching the games as well as ordinary people (Sangmin, 상민)
which can be identified by their clothes (white hanbok) and behaviour.
For instance, one of the lower class men at the left turned up his
trouser legs, which was not considered good manners by the upper
Taekkyeon took a severe blow when
Neo-Confucianism grew in popularity,
and then the Japanese occupation nearly made the art extinct.
Taekkyeon has enjoyed a resurgence in the decades following the end of
the Japanese colonial period in 1945. The last
Taekkyeon Master from
the Joseon-dynasty, Song Duk-Ki, maintained his practice of the Art
throughout the Japanese occupation and subsequently laid the seeds for
the arts' regeneration. The style he practiced was called Widae
(high-village). On June 1, 1983, taekkyeon was given the
classification as Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76" by the
Korean government (중요무형문화재 제76호). It is the only
Korean martial art which possesses such a classification.
In November 2011,
Taekkyeon was recognized by
UNESCO and placed on its
Intangible Cultural Heritage List, being honored as the first
martial art on UNESCO's list.
Taekkyeon combat held for
Hi! Seoul Festival
Hi! Seoul Festival on April 28, 2007
Taekkyeon contains many kinds of techniques, including hand and leg
techniques as well as joint locks, throws and head butts. The whole
body is used in each movement.
Taekkyeon teaches a great variety of
kicks, especially low kicks, knees, jumps. The basic steps are
geometric and at the core of all advanced movement. All movements are
natural to the human body.
The movements of Taekkyon are fluid with the practitioners constantly
moving. One of its most striking characteristics is the motion called
gumsil or ogeum jil: It is a constant bending and stretching of one's
knees, giving the art a dance-like appearance. This motion is also
used in the
Korea mask dance talchum, so both arts look similar in a
way. Taekkeyon 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.
In competition, the players must use a foot work called pumbalkki
(품밟기) which looks like a dance. The meaning of pumbalkki is "to
step the pum". Pum refers to the triangular look of the hanja 品, as
pumbalkki has a triangular form as well. The hanja pum means "level"
or "goods", but it is used only because of its shape, not because of
There are evolving forms in Taekkyeon. 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
Taekkyeon uses high, medium and low kicks. 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 chagi, 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. The art is also 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.
As a martial sport / combative sport
Taekkyeon 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
him out of the ring, or kicking him in 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 western 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. To an untrained eye, the matches are cautious but
exhilarating affairs. The contestants circle each other warily,
changing their footwork constantly using pumbalkki and feinting with
low kicks, before exploding into a flurry of action which might leave
one fighter flat on his/her back.
Song Duk-ki was given living national treasure status by
South Korean government
South Korean government in 1983.
Song Duk-ki died on 23 July
1987, at the age of 94.
The only authorized
Taekkyeon organisations are:
Korea Traditional Taekgyeon Association (KTTA). The KTTA is led by
Jeong Gyeong-hwa who was given the title of "living cultural asset" by
the Korean Government. He learned from Shin Han-seung and Song Duk Ki.
Korea Taekkyon Federation (KTF). The KTF is led by Lee Yongbok,
who learned from both
Song Duk Ki and Shin Han-seung.
The Kyulyun Taekyun Association (KTK). The KTK is led by Do Ki-hyun
who mainly learned from both Song Duk Ki, but also from Shin
The World Widae
Taekkyeon Organization (WWTO). The WWTO is based in
Los Angeles and led by Go Yong-woo who learnt from Song Duk Ki.
Taekkyeon is taking root in other nations around the world with
^ (in Korean) Lee Yong-bok (이용복): "Taek-Gyeon Research"
(택견연구) ISBN 8971930748. Seoul: Hakminsa Publishing, 2001
^ (in Korean) Song Dokki (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)
^ (in Korean) Lee Yongbok (이용복): Taekkyon, a Korean Martial Art
(한국무예 택견). Seoul: Hakminsa Publishing 1990.
^ Culin, Stewart. Korean games with notes on the corresponding games
of China and Japan (1895) pg. 39
^ (in Korean) Lee Yong-bok (이용복): Taekkyon (택견). Daewonsa
Seoul 1995, S. 14 f.
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List
^ Song Dokki (송덕기) und Bak Jong-gwan (박종관): Taekkyeon, a
Traditional Martial Art (전통무예 택견). Seoul: Seorim Munhwasa
Publishing 1983. Page 21.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Taekkyeon.
Traditional Taekkyon association
Kyulyun Taekkyun association
Korea Taekkyon Federation
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