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  1. Kintanon is offline
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    Yes, I am smarter than you are.

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    Posted On:
    3/05/2007 5:41pm

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     Style: TKD, BJJ

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Taekwondo: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    If you're reading this then chances are you either are currently enrolled in a Taekwondo school or are considering enrolling in one. This article aims to help you decide make a decision about the future of your martial arts training by laying out all of the positives and negatives of Taekwondo in one easy to follow guide. The meat of this guide is based on my experience over the last 13 years earning a 1st Dan Black Belt and then competing on the east coast and attending schools from Maryland to Florida. Many of my observations may be specific to the East Coast of the US, and most of them will probably be specific to the US, but the descriptions below should be applicable to almost every Taekwondo School in the United States. If you are in a different country and interested in Taekwondo then be sure to check the bottom of the article where I have tried to compile a brief description of how TKD schools differ in different countries. I would like to reiterate yet again, this guide does not describe 100% of all TKD schools, however if you leave your house right now, drive until you see a TKD school, and go in to observe then almost everything you see will most likely be covered by this article. I would also like to add that American Karate is actually Taekwondo being marketed as Karate and falls under the scope of this article.

    For a good, no nonsense description of the history of Taekwondo check out this site.

    Now that you have an idea of WHAT Taekwondo is, here is the rest of what you need to know before making a decision.




    The Good:
    We'll start with the positive aspects of Taekwondo.

    Cost - TKD schools generally are competitive to most other MAs. A standard school will usually charge from 60-90$ per month based on the location with some going as high as 300$ a month and some school or YMCA clubs as low as 35$ or even less. Chances are you can find a school to fit your budget.


    Flexibility - Taekwondo is widely praised for the flexibility of its practitioners. The emphasis on spectacular high kicks makes flexibility a prime attribute for an accomplished TKDer. You will almost certainly be able to do full splits if you spend much time in TKD.

    Excersise - Taekwondo workouts are comparable to most other arts. They are about as intense as a decent aerobics class which puts them somewhat less intense that a Boxing or Wrestling workout, but still a good workout. If you are going 2 or 3 times a week you will probably lose some weight and improve your endurance.

    Jumping - After a couple of years in TKD you may very well be able to dunk. A lot of Taekwondo schools that concentrate on XMA (eXtreme Martial Arts) competitions have great training programs for increasing your jumping ability.

    Fun - Flying through the air and kicking things is fun. It just plain IS. Once you get used to the idea you'll enjoy it.

    So Taekwondo will get you in better shape, improve your flexibility and your jumping ability. Being in better shape is always a good thing, and flexibility is also a good thing.
    So if this is the Good about TKD What's the bad? Well...

    The Bad:
    Forms - You will spend a LOT of class time memorizing a series of techniques and performing them over and over and over and over and over again. This is boring. It also doesn't tell you what to actually DO with the technique. Frequently you won't even told what the technique IS, just that you should do it after this other technique.

    Point Sparring - When you do finally get a chance to step up and spar you'll probably have been taking TKD for 6-8 months. Most schools let you start sparring at the 3rd or 4th belt rank. You'll have learned some basic kicks and punches and you'll probably be eager to test them out. First you'll need all of the appropriate equipment, which we will discuss later, But we'll assume you have that for now. You get into the ring and it's NOTHING like anything you've been learning. You'll be tapping each other with your feet without enough power to kill a fly. Punching to the head will be forbidden, as will kicking to the head for beginners most likely. You'll see people actually turning their backs on each other in the ring! Why? Because you're POINT sparring. This is a high speed game of tag. Just touch a point zone three times (Or 5, depending on your organization) and you win! This is also fun once you get the idea, but it's just a game of tag. It has zero relation to fighting or self defense. So keep that in mind.

    Snappy Kicking - The TKD style kicks with their whiplike extension of the leg are known to cause horrible knee troubles down the road if you aren't careful. Most TKD schools never mention this and never talk about how to avoid those problems. For this reason alone you should be very careful if you decide to enroll in a TKD school. Take care of your knees!

    So that's what's bad about TKD as a martial art, boring Forms, Silly games of Tag in place of real sparring, and a serious chance at blowing your knees out by 35. But I had three topics didn't I? What can I possibly mean by The Ugly? Keep reading.

    The Ugly:
    Contracts - Almost every TKD school will want to lock you into a contract. Usually they'll dress it up by calling it a "Belt Program" of some kind. Like the Green Belt Program means you sign up to keep paying them until you get a Green Belt (About a year) then they'll pressure you to join The Black Belt Club or some other inane name. It's really just another contract, usually 2 or 3 years long which has you paying them until you get a black belt. A LOT of schools are very nasty with these contracts if you want to leave and will bring down the wrathful lawyer-fu on you. Always be VERY clear on what is WRITTEN in the whatever you are signing. Do not take anyones word for what they will and will not enforce. If they tell you something make them write it into the contract and you both initial it. Make sure you KEEP A COPY of that modified contract in case of disputes.

    Testing Fees - In addition to whatever monthly cost you're paying you'll also be required to pay for your testing. The prices vary pretty widely based on organization but will usually be equivelant to the cost of 1 month of class for your color belts and 3 months of class for your blackbelt test. That's not a hard and fast rule, just a trend I've noticed as I looked at schools.

    Merchandising - This is where we talk about the gear you need. To start with you need a Do-bok, or Gi. It's essentially a set of white pajamas. Most of the time you'll get one of these for about 35$. You can buy really nice ones for slightly more, you can even buy all kinds of Designer Gis with flags or sparkles or whatever on them. Next you'll probably have to spend a few bucks on the patches for your school and organization, possibly a patch for your Black Belt Club status when you get there. You'll also need sparring gear. You'd think from my description above that you could do that with minimal, or even no gear. That is not the case. You'll need a Head Gear, Gloves, Foot gear, Shing guards, and possibly a chest protector. If you go the discount route you can pick this all up for around 75$. It will fall apart within a year. If you get quality stuff it will run you about twice that and last for 4 or 5 years.

    Poor Quality Control - This is probably the worst thing about Taekwondo. If you go to class and pay your money you will get promoted. If you stick around for approximately 4 years you will get a black belt. You may not be able to fight your way out of a paper bag. You may barely be able to stand up under your own power. But you will have a black belt. Children under the age of 16 are regularly given black belts in TKD schools. There is essentially no quality control at all.


    Summary:
    Taekwondo is a GREAT art for fun. It's fun to do, it's usually got a great social component to the schools. There is good emphasis on discipline and all that. Taekwondo is NOT a way to learn to defend yourself. Or a way to learn to fight. It COULD be. And you might stumble on the 1 school in 1000 that teaches it that way. But you are more likely to run into a TaeKwonDaycare than a school that teaches you to fight. If you're just in it for fun and like what you see when you go and check out the classes then by all means, sign up for TKD. Read your contract carefully and know what you're getting in to. If you want to learn how to fight, or want to be able to defend yourself against a belligerant drunk in a bar Taekwondo is not your best option. By nature of being in better shape you will be able to defend yourself slightly better than having never taken it, but you will not have the advantages you would have if you studied Boxing, Muy Thai, Kyokushin Karate, Judo, or Wrestling as far as KNOWING you can handle a resisting opponent.




    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ok, I wrote this up as a Review of TKD in general in response to some of the stuff going on in the "What's Wrong With Bullshido" thread. Hook me up with some feedback on it.
    Last edited by Kintanon; 3/07/2007 5:04pm at .
  2. Matt W. is offline
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    Posted On:
    3/05/2007 6:00pm

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     Style: Judo, TKD BB

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Well, right off the bat, I think you need a "What kind of TKD is this?" section. I mean, how the TKD is taught, as well as what you will be doing in class is going to vary greatly between ITF, WTF, ATA and those "American Karate" places that are often TKD based. The American Karate places are typically going to be big into competing in "generic" open style events like point karate, XMA, etc. WTF is the TKD of the Olympics and has a heavy competition aspect which is, in theory at least, full contact. ITF is considered more "traditional" or "self defense" oriented, though one will find a huge variety in the sparring at ITF places. Some can be hardcore, almost kyokushin like, and others are non contact point sparring.
  3. Matt W. is offline
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    Posted On:
    3/05/2007 6:02pm

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     Style: Judo, TKD BB

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Also, should there be a brief summary of TKD history?
  4. FickleFingerOfFate is offline
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    Guess which finger is the fickle one...

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    Posted On:
    3/05/2007 6:21pm

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     Style: Karate/ Arnis

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Second on the American Karate thing. Some, ours included, have integrated other arts, and do real sparring, others are as bad or worse than the TKD McDojangs.
    If you can't laugh at yourself,
    Others will be happy to do it for you. :evil6:

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  5. StuartA is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/05/2007 10:06pm


     Style: Ch'ang Hon Taekwon-do

    1
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Perhaps it would be a good idea to say where your impression of TKD training comes from ie. where you train, how long etc etc.

    The reason I say that is because...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kintanon
    The Bad:
    Forms - You will spend a LOT of class time memorizing a series of techniques and performing them over and over and over and over and over again. This is boring. It also doesn't tell you what to actually DO with the technique. Frequently you won't even told what the technique IS, just that you should do it after this other technique.
    Not in our school - we practice applications for the techniques!

    Point Sparring - When you do finally get a chance to step up and spar you'll probably have been taking TKD for 6-8 months.Most schools let you start sparring at the 3rd or 4th belt rank. ..
    we let studnets spar from day 1, more senior grades watch their contact levels for beginners and dont over power them with loads of techniques. Also, the only points sparring we do is when a tournament is coming up, and thats usually only for yellow belt and lower grades. Most senior grade sparring at competition is light continous (usually perfromed with a bit more contact in the higher dvisions, esp BB divsions). We also, do traditional sparring that allows sweeps, low kicks, throws etc. Plus a few other related types of sparring.

    You get into the ring and it's NOTHING like anything you've been learning. You'll be tapping each other with your feet without enough power to kill a fly. Punching to the head will be forbidden, as will kicking to the head for beginners most likely. You'll see people actually turning their backs on each other in the ring! Why? Because you're POINT sparring.
    Again, not in our school. Kicks are done with medium to heavy power levels, you can punch to the head and its continous sparring.

    Snappy Kicking - The TKD style kicks with their whiplike extension of the leg are known to cause horrible knee troubles down the road if you aren't careful.
    Again, not in our school. Hyper-extension of the joints and how to avoid it is always explained to new students.

    So that's what's bad about TKD as a martial art, boring Forms, Silly games of Tag in place of real sparring, and a serious chance at blowing your knees out by 35.
    Perhaps its time to change schools?


    Contracts - Almost every TKD school will want to lock you into a contract.
    Im glad you said "almost" as again, we dont have any contracts. Training fees are paid monthly and its so we have more training time and less "collecting" fees in. It also works out much cheaper then "per lesson" fees.


    Usually they'll dress it up by calling it a "Belt Program" of some kind.
    Again, no programs at our school (except a free coaching one that last 6 months to a year).

    Testing Fees - In addition to whatever monthly cost you're paying you'll also be required to pay for your testing.
    Well, they have to pay a fee at our school, but it is used to pay 2/3 outside examines to come in to ensure they have a fair garding (not that they wouldnt anyway)


    Merchandising - This is where we talk about the gear you need. To start with you need a Do-bok, or Gi.
    Again, nope.. students can start in whatever they want (as long as its not stupid or dangerous) and only have to geta dobok before they grade.

    you'll probably have to spend a few bucks on the patches for your school and organization
    Aghain, nope. We only have 2 badges, these are given for free. We allow an IAOMAS ones for those that have done IAOMAS related events, these are at cost (ie. non profit)

    you'll also need sparring gear.
    Anyone competing will need equipment, any sport or activity will require some.. very few require none at all!

    You'll need a Head Gear, Gloves, Foot gear, Shing guards, and possibly a chest protector. If you go the discount route you can pick this all up for around 75$. It will fall apart within a year. If you get quality stuff it will run you about twice that and last for 4 or 5 years.
    Again, not the case. Sparring equipment is only required when they have been training around a year, and then its hand/foot pads and a groin box. Tournaments require a head guard but thats only needed for those that wish to compete. Students can also get them from any source they want, and the ones we get last ages and actually cost less than the shops thanks to instructors discounts. As a matter of note, one of the studnets has had a pair of pads for over 10 years!

    poor quality Control - This is probably the worst thing about Taekwondo. If you go to class and pay your money you will get promoted.
    Again, nope. this is one of the reasons we get outside examiners that have no interest if a studnet quits if they fail a grading. promtions are not guarrenteed. plus we regularly stop studnets from graing in the first place as its better that they dont take it than fail!

    If you stick around for approximately 4 years you will get a black belt.
    Perhaps, but this isnt unreasonable as most McDojangs do them in less than 2. The last BB to grade at my school had been training around 5 years, the two before him about 6 years each.


    Summary:
    Taekwondo is a GREAT art for fun. It's fun to do, it's usually got a great social component to the schools. There is good emphasis on discipline and all that. Taekwondo is NOT a way to learn to defend yourself. Or a way to learn to fight. It COULD be. And you might stumble on the 1 school in 1000 that teaches it that way. But you are more likely to run into a TaeKwonDaycare than a school that teaches you to fight. If you're just in it for fun and like what you see when you go and check out the classes then by all means, sign up for TKD. Read your contract carefully and know what you're getting in to. If you want to learn how to fight, or want to be able to defend yourself against a belligerant drunk in a bar Taekwondo is not your best option. By nature of being in better shape you will be able to defend yourself slightly better than having never taken it, but you will not have the advantages you would have if you studied Boxing, Muy Thai, Kyokushin Karate, Judo, or Wrestling as far as KNOWING you can handle a resisting opponent.
    like i said at the beginning, it would be useful to state where your impression of TKD training comes as 9no offence0 but it seems very limited. Though I do understand your points and where they have come from (having seen lots of that crap myself), every school is NOT cut from the same cloth!


    Stuart
    Last edited by StuartA; 3/05/2007 10:14pm at .
  6. JohnnyCache is offline
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    Posted On:
    3/05/2007 10:13pm

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     Style: FMA

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Kintanon, before you submit this as an article, I think you need to consider your bias and personal experience, and if they are factors, include them.

    A bit about the real history of TKD and the different major types of TKD, and possibly some disscussion of its status as an olympic sport would all make good inclusions.
    There's no choice but to confront you, to engage you, to erase you. I've gone to great lengths to expand my threshold of pain. I will use my mistakes against you. There's no other choice.
  7. Ronin.74 is online now

    霍氏八极拳徒弟

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    Posted On:
    3/05/2007 10:30pm


     Style: CMA,Muay Thai ,Yudo,TKD

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    It wasn't total crap, ok to read but as you can see your going to get some feedback, both positive and negative, on this.

    I disagree with your " You will almost certainly be able to do full splits if you spend much time in TKD." statement. I spent many years in TKD both here and in Korea and was at one point able to do a scissor split, but I have never been even remotely close to doing a side split. Genetics can play a factor in this.

    Your comment about blowing your knees is dead on though. I'm 32 and my knees are so fucked up that they basically hurt all the time regardless of supplements and painkillers.
  8. WorldWarCheese is offline
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    Posted On:
    3/06/2007 12:42am


     Style: Muay Thai n00b

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I liked it. It holds true with everything I've seen to a degree on this or that in the vast majority of TKD (WTF/ATA) Dojangs in Worcester/Greater Boston are that I've looked at. They're all the same, especially on the subjects of:
    Contracts
    Sparring

    They told me they hold it off for insurance purposes.

    And yeah, include that bit about American Karate. It's TKD with the Karate Name and people should know it.

    Overall I'd say add the American Karate bit, a No BS TKD History, and just a few edits here and there and it'd be great for the Article Section.
  9. Kintanon is offline
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    Yes, I am smarter than you are.

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    Posted On:
    3/06/2007 1:35am

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     Style: TKD, BJJ

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Yeah, I wrote it up in 20-30 minutes at work so now that I read over it I see a few issues I need to correct, some of which have already been mentioned. I'll do an edit tommorow to include a concise BS free history of TKD, some of my credentials, and a note about American Karate and at least some note on the different major organizations, ATA, WTF, ITF.

    Also, the criticism I'm looking for isn't "Well MY school does it different!" I don't care what your school does. I've been to schools up and down the east coast. I've been to national tournaments. I competed in the ITF World Cup in 2004. I have a pretty damn good idea of what the majority of TKD schools will look like and that's what I'm interested in giving my impression of. So edits will be coming up tommorow. Thanks for the feedback.
  10. glad2bhere is offline

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    Posted On:
    3/06/2007 9:33am


     Style: Yon Mu Kwan Hapkido

    --
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Since I am invested in Hapkido I don't have a dog in this fight. One thing I would like to point up, though, is that I am finding that a great many of these threads seem to be presented as a kind of "let's talk about.....". The problem is that its pretty plain that the folks initiating the thread only want to talk about a subject if everyone else will help them chide the subject for its short-comings.

    Maybe its my age or (more likely) the sort of life I have led, but I am in a place right now where I don't see everything as a fundamental conflict where all variables involved are mutually exclusive of all other variables. To use a metaphor, I may be a conservative of sorts, but I'm not a "hard-liner" and have a difficult time understanding hard-line inflexibility or intolerance.

    Many years back I sampled TKD for a year or so. It didn't fit my temperment or goals, so I stepped away from it. Not long after I found Hapkido and its been a love affair ever since.
    I wonder if some larger portion of these TKD discussions doesn't have more to do with a practitioners expectations rather than the characteristics of the art itself. Thoughts?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
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