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:
Popular spelling
Revised RomanizationTaekgyeon
Dictionary spelling
Revised RomanizationTaekkyeon

Taekkyon, Taekgyeon, Taekkyeon, or Taekyun (Korean: 태껸/ 택견/ 托肩, pronunciation: Korean pronunciation: [tʰɛk̚k͈jʌn]) is a traditional Korean martial art.

It is characterized by fluid, dynamic foot movement called pum balki, 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 As such, it has provided historical references for modern Korean martial arts and is often considered as the oldest martial discipline of Korea.[1] It was almost wiped out during the Japanese Occupation,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 has influenced the name and conceptualization of Taekwondo.[2]

Taekkyon was the first martial art enlisted in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is also the 76th Intangible Cultural Property of South Korea.[1][3][4]

History of Taekkyon

Children of the Late Joseon period playing Taekkyon. This picture is the only contemporary photo of Taekkyon in practice.

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. 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:[5]

"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 other terms are written in hanja.

Song Deok-gi who was the main preserver of Taekkyon during the 20th century, writes in the preface of his only 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."[6]

The "Dae kwae do"(대쾌도, 大快圖), painted in 1846 by renowned Hyesan Yu Suk (유숙, 劉淑). It shows Ssireum above and Taekkyon below. Players wear a coat called "Dopo" and ties their clothes together in order to have more freedom of motion. Dopo were only worn by scholars (Seonbi, 선비). Located in Museum of University of Seoul

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.[7] In the 1921 book Haedong Jukji (East Sea Annals) by Choe Yeong-nyeon, Taekkyon is called "flying leg technique".[8][9] 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. Both combat sports were often done together at festivals, attended by all social classes. For example, during the Dan-O-Festival, a tournament called Gyeoll-yeon-taekkyon was carried out. Players who beat five opponents consecutively could take a rest and re-enter the tournament again later.[10]

Taekkye\on's popularity suffered as Neo-Confucianism became widespread among the elite and underwent a long period of decline. 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 indigenous fighting techniques, which nearly made the art extinct.[11]

The onslaught of the subsequent Korean War left only one surviving Master: Song Deok-gi. Being part of the last generation who received a traditional education under the tutelage of Master Im Ho,[12] he had maintained his practice in secret throughout the Japanese occupation and subsequently laid the seeds for the art's regeneration. The style he practiced was called "Widae" ("high-village") after his village of Sajik. Song was critical in the preservation of Taekkyon, since most of the current knowledge came from him. Revealed to the public on 26 March 1958 after a Martial arts demonstration given for then-president Syngman Rhee's birthday, Song became known as "the Last Taekkyon Master of the Joseon Dynasty".

Deok-gi taught a handful of students who in turn taught others. On June 1, 1983, owing to the efforts of his pupil Shin Han-seung, Taekkyon was given the classification as Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76" by the Korean government. It is only one of two Korean martial arts which possesses such a classification. Song Deok-gi and Shin Han-seung were subsequently given living national treasure status by the South Korean government.[13] Since then, Taekkyon has been enjoying 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.[14] Afterwards, other schools have been established, splitting-up the Taekkyon scene between the followers of Song's teaching (current leaders of the Widae Taekkyon Preservation Association), and the tenants of Shin's, more focused on a sportive approach and bringing the art on the global stage.

Deok-Gi died on 23 July 1987, at the age of 94. In November 2011, Taekkyon was recognized by UNESCO and placed on its Intangible Cultural Heritage List,[4] being honored as the first martial art on UNESCO's list, the other being Ssireum.[15]


Taekkyon utilizes a wide variety of techniques including kicks, hands, knee, elbow strikes, pressure point attacks, throws, joint locks, headbutt and grapples.[16] 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-timing by using the whole weight of the body and catching the opponent's attack off-balance before returning it against him.[17]

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 neung-cheong: 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: 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.

Pumbalki (Footwork)

The most unique feature of Taekkyon is its triangular foot work called pumbalki or pum balbki (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 pumbalki 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 its meaning.[18] 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.

Taekkyon's pumbalki is in the shape of an equilateral triangle (). It is practiced in one place, but when fighting with real opponents it involves continual advancing and retreating moves.

Hwalgaejit (arms swinging)

Hwalgaejit looks like the movement of a bird's wings. The shoulders are expanded naturally and must flow harmoniously with the footwork. While improving the body's reflexes, responsiveness and balance, it also help distract the opponent's attention before the counterattack. It is mainly used defensively to block or catch an opponent blow. Hwalgejit movements transfer power from the body to the arms in order to enhance power for quick action.

Kick Techniques (Baljil)

Taekkyon has been so renowned for its leg 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).[19][20] 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.

Hand Techniques (Sonjil)

Though renowned for the variety of its kicks since the ancient ages, Taekkyon uses a lot of hand techniques. They target all area 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 members. The palm or fist is often used to strike.

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

Throwing and tripping (Taejil)

Taekkyon uses techniques for throwing the opponent to the front 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.

Joint Locks (Ttanjuk)

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.

As a competitive martial art

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

Taekkyon jousts have evolved into a modern sport and tournaments are held by the three modern schools all over Korea. And also 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 kicking them 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. The contestants circle each other, changing their footwork constantly using pumbalkki and feinting with low kicks, before attacking suddenly.

Modern development

Various Taekkyon organisations currently exist in Korea and overseas. These include:

Taekkyon is also practiced around the world with schools in Australia, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, United Kingdom and the USA.

Historical records on Taekkyon and street fighting

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:[28] Sibak (시박),[28] Pyeonssaum (편싸움),[29] Nalparam (날파람),[30] Nanjanbaksi (난잔박시),[31] Taegyeok (태격).[32] 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".[33]

Taekkyon myths and facts

There is a common modern 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.[34] Even though the Taekwondo establishment claims an ancient lineage through Taekkyon, and even partially modeled its name on it,[35][2][36] the two disciplines don't have much in common.[37] In fact, Taekkyon associations do not acknowledge having any relationship to taekwondo, and explicitly deny any link.[38]

Taekkyon in popular culture



Television series

See also


  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. ^ a b "the name Taekwondo was adopted for its similarity in name, to Taekkyon". Tae Kwon Do Chang Moo Kwan website.
  3. ^ "Taekkyon on the Cultural Heritage Administration Web Page".
  4. ^ a b "UNESCO - Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art". ich.unesco.org.
  5. ^ (in Korean) Lee Yong-bok (이용복): "Taekkyon Research" (택견연구) ISBN 8971930748. Seoul: Hakminsa Publishing, 2001
  6. ^ (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)
  7. ^ Culin, Stewart (December 1, 1895). "Korean games with notes on the corresponding games of China and Japan". Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ (in Korean) Lee Yong-bok (이용복): Taekkyon (택견). Daewonsa Publishing, Seoul 1995, S. 14 f.
  9. ^ In this source, the idu-writing 托肩 is used to represent "Taekkyon". 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 Taekkyon 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
  10. ^ (in Korean) Lee Yongbok (이용복): Taekkyon, a Korean Martial Art (한국무예 택견). Seoul: Hakminsa Publishing 1990.
  11. ^ "UNESCO page on Taekkyon". www.unescoicm.org. 2011. Retrieved 2021-09-18.
  12. ^ ""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 [practicionner] of that time."". Kyulyun Taekyun Website.
  13. ^ Song Deok-Gi (송덕기) und Bak Jong-gwan (박종관): Taekkyon, a Traditional Martial Art (전통무예 택견). Seoul: Seorim Munhwasa Publishing 1983. Page 21.
  14. ^ "대한택견회 소개 | 대한택견회".
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ "Taekkyeon". Black Belt Wiki.
  17. ^ Kim, Yeong Man (2021). Combat Taekkyeon (실전태껸) (in Korean). 글샘. ISBN 9791188946617.
  18. ^ The hanja pum means "level" or "goods", but it is used only because of its shape, not because of its meaning
  19. ^ Choi, Yeong-nyeon (1921). East Sea Annals (해동죽지) (in Korean).
  20. ^ "백기신통비각술 ("one-hundred godlike flying leg skills")". blog.daum.net. 15 April 2013.
  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. ^ "Widae Taekkyon". Namu Wiki. 2021.
  24. ^ "유네스코 세계문화유산 충주 택견의 갈 길". 충북인뉴스. December 5, 2011.
  25. ^ Rubbeling, Hendrik (2017). Taekkyon – Wie Wasser und Wind. Norderstedt. ISBN 978-3744896818.
  26. ^ 한, 병철 (2012). 고수를차아서 "Searching for the masters". 뿔미디어. ISBN 9791131539279.
  27. ^ "TK Battle Main Page". www.tkbattle.com.
  28. ^ a b "[수박 이야기] 또 다른 탁견?". Mookas.
  29. ^ "Joseon-musa-yeongwoongjeon (조선무사영웅전) bare hand Pyeonssaum and Taekkyeon record".
  30. ^ "1927's Korean Flag Fight, Gitssaum, a street fighting game with no-spin horizontal fist punching & shoulder-push for frontal punch".
  31. ^ "[송준호 수박이야기] 여진족 무술! 타권(打拳)". Mookas.
  32. ^ "성리학에 기반한 전통 무예 '태격'을 아십니까?". 세계일보. November 12, 2008.
  33. ^ "[도기현칼럼]옛법택견, 그 파괴 본능". Mookas.
  34. ^ "A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do" by Alex Gillis
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ "Taekwondo Classes in Salisbury". Parks Martial Arts.
  37. ^ "Unlike Tae Kwan Do, in Taekkyon combat, 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.
  38. ^ 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)
  39. ^ "The God of High School - Ep. 58". www.webtoons.com.
  40. ^ "민족무술 '택견', 침략자에겐 '응징'을, 관객에겐 '뜨거움'을". www.incheonin.com/news/.
  41. ^ "Fight Class 3". www.comic.naver.com.
  42. ^ "Fighter in the Wind Movie Script". www.scripts.com.
  43. ^ a b "Sort by Popularity - Most Popular Movies and TV Shows tagged with keyword "taekkyon"". IMDb.
  44. ^ "Human Weapon - The History of TaeKwonDo". Youtube.