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Is Taekwon-Do for adults? Or, is it a playtime activity for kids? While this question frustrates me, I can understand why people ask it.

Essentially, it is both. Different strains of Taekwondo have developed in recent years. They have gone in different directions and focus on different markets. As an adult, you need to do your research and look for what you want to achieve by taking up Taekwondo.

In this day and age, the majority of martial arts are no longer martial arts. Due to commercialization, this is very true of most strains of Taekwondo, too. It is increasingly difficult to find a school that teaches and practices traditional Taekwon-Do in the true sense.

Taekwon-Do is seen as a play activity for kids. It has become the norm that when looking for a martial art to take up, adults (especially young adults) will rarely consider Taekwon-Do as their first choice. So many adults have the perception that Taekwon-Do is a children’s game and has no real relevance as a martial art for a grown person to do. Many adults that do take up training get involved because it would be something fun to do with their little ones, it can be a social event, it is fun, light-hearted, and has various holistic benefits for body and mind.

rhee ki ha

But, what about taking it up because it is a badass, killing art that will turn you into a human weapon? These days’ people will laugh at you if you tell them this, but it is, in fact, entirely true.

If you want to experience adult Taekwon-Do you must seek out a club that offers traditional classes specifically geared towards adults. As an adult, if you are training in a class alongside five year-olds, you have missed the mark and should rethink what your objective is.

To experience true Taekwon-Do you must go to the source, or as close to the source as possible. This means finding a school that practices original Taekwon-Do. In my book, this means ITF Taekwon-Do. Even within the ITF it can be a challenge to find a school that is not entirely focused on the sporting aspect. As a person looking to take up Taekwon-Do, don’t just settle for the local club because it is the closest. Not all Taekwon-Do is equal. The bastardisation of the art has spread far and wide. This said, don’t discount taking up Taekwon-Do. Take the time to find the school that offers you what you are looking for – they are out there. There are schools that meet and far exceed the criteria for adult training.

sidekick neck

Taekwon-Do has two parts, the physical technique and the way. To oversimplify – the way is there to help mould and guide the martial artist so as not to misuse the physical side and to have compassion for fellow man. Why is the way of the martial art so necessary? Because it is a martial art originally fashioned to break bones and to kill. Yes, to kill! I often see shocked looks on people’s faces when I say this. Taekwon-Do was not originally intended as a kid’s activity. The techniques and the intent behind the techniques is not to merely score a point or knock a person out, it is to entirely dilapidate and destroy whoever or whatever is on the receiving end. The way brings balance to the equation. People often misunderstand what I mean. Taekwon-Do is not for murder. There is a big difference between being capable of killing, and murder. Taekwon-Do is for self-defence. Depending on the situation, a varying degree of control is necessary. You must be able to calculate and determine what reasonable force is to end the situation. If, however, you have not trained and engineered your body to its maximum capability, you could end up in hot water. Just because you are capable of killing, doesn’t mean you do. It is like a sports car. Just because the car is capable of travelling at 350kmh doesn’t mean that it cannot go slower. It is still perfectly capable of driving at 40mph but if it needs the extra speed, it is there in reserve.


As said, the intent and focus behind techniques in an adult class should not be about gaining points, but inflicting maximum damage. The training should reflect this. As the saying goes, “You fight the way you train!” If you train like a wimp, then that is exactly how you will behave in a real situation. A common term used in traditional training is Pilsung, translated as Certain Victory. This should always be kept in mind when practicing Taekwon-Do.

There is a seriousness to traditional training, but at the same time it is unexplainably fun and enjoyable. If you find yourself giggling like a school girl and bouncing around like an idiot at a party, then you are probably not training correctly. It is incredibly fun and enjoyable in its own special way, but not in the foolish sense of these words. I have often said that you don’t train Taekwon-Do for fun, but you will have fun doing it. I have always found that there is even a slight amount of fear when training in a traditional class. You are able to recognise the seriousness of the training.

Nam-Tae-Hi military demo 1959

As an adult, training in a traditional Taekwon-Do class you will sweat, cry, bleed, cry some more, and then come back the following day begging for more. Real Taekwon-Do is not for wimps. It is for men and women of a different breed. It is for people with drive, determination, commitment and indomitable spirit – something that is lacking in the world today. It is apparent that the very foundation that Taekwon-Do was built on has been lost to the ever-softening world around us. It should be remembered that Taekwon-Do was born out of necessity and hardship. The training was tough because the obstacles standing in the way were tough. People were willing to sacrifice their bodies for the art. It produced supermen who could accomplish remarkable, seemingly supernatural feats. It has come to the point that adults have the perception that to be tough a sport like Muay Thai or MMA must be taken up. It dumbfounds me that people find these sporting activities more relevant for street defence than a martial art that was designed for the purpose of snapping bones and rupturing internal organs. Taekwon-Do, in reality, is very much an adult martial art. It offers tough, hard-core training for body and mind and should be the first place people go when looking for a real martial art.


People say they want something real, hard-core and more adult but when it is truly put in front of them, it is too difficult. So do people really want a more adult martial art? I’m not entirely convinced.

There are countless benefits of traditional Taekwon-Do training for adults. Next week I will cover some of them.