Is Taekwondo Worth Learning? Here’s What You Need to Know


Taekwondo(TKD) is a very popular martial art and combat sport that has been around since the 1940s. But due to the rapid rise of modern MMA and other styles like BJJ and Muay Thai in the last couple of decades, it seems like the arts like TKD are slowly fading into obscurity. But is this true? Is Taekwondo still worth learning?

Taekwondo(TKD) will always be worth learning because training improves your fighting abilities, as well as fitness and overall health. As a whole, if you commit yourself to TKD classes consistently, expect to become flexible, stronger, more agile, less aggressive, and overall, a better person.

The benefits of Taekwondo training are clear. But as you are going to see in this article, there is a reason why this Korean art is not as popular as it once was. Keep reading this article as we are going to explore all the pros and cons of TKD, and find out whether it is worth learning.

Is Taekwondo Worth Learning?

Yes, regardless if you are male or female, TKD training is beneficial for everyone. Here is a brief look into a list of reasons why Taekwondo is, and always will be worth learning:

Teaches solid self-defense skills

Taekwondo is a martial art created with self-defense in mind and early forms and methods of teaching used to be very practical for real-life fighting. The concept and emphasis have changed over time, but you can still develop solid fighting skills that can help you get out of trouble on the streets. 

One thing to consider is the fact that TKD is not an advanced self-defense system, and that it is quite limited in many areas. If you want to learn it just for self-defense, then there are far better options out there like Muay Thai, Krav Maga or MMA. That being said, the TKD skills you learn are more than enough for you to defend against a person who is not trained in martial arts.

Improves discipline and focus

TKD as a concept is versatile and includes a lot of techniques that are very hard to master. On top of that, it includes a belt ranking system and the promotional criteria are very strict in most schools. You must spend many years training hard to become proficient.

To achieve a black belt, you must set your goals, stay focused, be patient, and work hard. You won’t achieve anything without a high level of discipline and focus. This is one of the first lessons all students learn when they step into the Taekwondo dojo. 

Improves strength and cardio

Taekwondo puts a lot of emphasis on endurance. Classes are cardio intense, and students also do a lot of bodyweight strength exercises. Each session is a mix of aerobic and anaerobic workouts that will activate every single muscle in your body. Unlike in the fitness gym, these workouts allow you to improve both strength and endurance at the same time.

Throwing hundreds of kicks per class and doing all sorts of other drills with little rest will keep your heart rate high for as long as the class lasts. Over time, this method of training will make your lungs and heart much stronger, and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Increases flexibility

The main weapons in Taekwondo are kicks that all require a high level of flexibility. If you join the classes, expect to spend a lot of time stretching before and after each class, even at home to speed up the process. Over time, this will improve your range of motion, balance, and prevent many injuries.

Makes you happier and more confident

First of all, you will train in a group of 10–15 people and constantly interact with other students. This will improve your social and communication skills, and is an opportunity for you to meet some new friends. Next, training hard and going through all of those grueling workouts causes your brain to produce various happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. So instead of feeling angry or anxious, you will actually feel happy and relaxed after a workout.

In the end, as you are getting physically stronger, better at performing at techniques, and progressing through the ranks, the rise in confidence would naturally follow. You will have that feeling of accomplishing things that will give you wings to achieve anything you want in life.

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Why Does TKD Get A Bad Reputation?

Despite being a very popular martial art well spread all around the world and even a part of the Olympic games, there are still people who think that TKD is not worth learning. Here is a shortlist of reasons/myths why they think so:

  • Because it is ineffective– this is not true. Though there are other arts that are more practical in real life, TKD will boost your fighting abilities to some extent. The skills you develop would be more than enough for you to deal with the attacker with average skills on the streets.
  • Because it is dangerous– it is true, you can get hurt in training. But the risk is the same as in all other martial arts, and even sports like football for instance. It would be foolish to expect to not get hurt in a sport where you have to exchange punches and kicks on a daily basis.
  • It will make me or my child more aggressive— this is just another myth. TKD classes are great for kids because they will learn all about respect and how to avoid conflicts. They will train in a positive and friendly atmosphere where any type of bullying is not tolerated at all. And for last, physical exercise produces chemicals like serotonin which will make them feel happy and relaxed after a workout.

What Are the Disadvantages of Learning Taekwondo?

Although Taekwondo has many benefits, there are also more than a few cons you should be aware of before signing up.

Emphasis on competition

Back in the late 1950s, Taekwondo was founded as a martial art for self-defense and real combat. Early forms used to be more brutal and oriented towards the self-defense aspect until the competition became too popular.

TKD Competition

Over time, the entire emphasis of the art has moved towards the competition, so much that modern practices focus more on this aspect. Instead of teaching you how to fight, most schools will train you how to compete under strict rules. Some schools still use traditional methods of teaching, but you might have a hard time finding one. 

Difficult to apply in real life

First, TKD is pretty one-dimensional as it puts too much emphasis on leg strikes with limited punching. Second, training for competition is more important than self-defense in most schools. As a result, students rarely do any self-defense drills and even when they have time to do it, they get stuck doing forms, breaking boards and bricks which won’t teach them much about fighting. 

Yes, kicks are an effective weapon in a fight. However, you need space and time to throw kicks, which you won’t have in most street-fighting scenarios. In fact, most street fights take place at close range where you need to know how to punch, block strikes, use elbows and knees and even grapple and fight on the ground.

As a black belt, you will be capable of neutralizing a person who is not trained in martial arts. But you would look lost against the attacker who knows how to box, grapple, or is physically much bigger than you are. On top of that, you won’t learn how to deal with weapons or against multiple attackers. 

Not as popular among adults

Over time, TKD schools have become a very popular option among kids who want to learn martial arts. This means that you won’t see many young people in their early 20s joining the classes. Most adults choose to train in other, similar arts such as Muay Thai, Kickboxing, or Boxing, which are also more effective. So if you are an adult wanting to train in Taekwondo, you might have a hard time fitting in or finding a group to train with. Most of the adults in classes are actually black belts who have been into Taekwondo since childhood days.

Physical Injuries

TKD is a full-contact martial art that involves a lot of hard sparring where students often get hurt and sustain serious injuries. Next, the emphasis is on leg strikes, which are more powerful than punches and can cause more serious injuries like broken ribs, leg fractures, and concussions. Despite the fact that all students wear protective gear and are careful not to hurt each other, the injury rate is high. It’s not about whether you are going to get hurt in Taekwondo or not, it’s about when and how badly.

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Disadvantages of TKD In a Street Fight

Training in taekwondo will provide you with solid knowledge and skills that you may apply in a real fight. But bear in mind that TKD is not the best option if your primary focus is on learning self-defense techniques. Here is a detailed look at why modern practice is not that practical in real life.

Taekwondo schools moved away from self-defense 

Modern schools focus too much on competition, winning matches, and tournaments. Students spend most of the time learning how to score points in a match, avoid fouls, and overall, obey the rules. They rarely do any simulations related to self-defense or drills where they can learn more about the physical and mental aspects of street fighting, as well as about the dangers that come with it.

Still, there are arts like boxing and Muay Thai that also teach you how to fight under the rules. But why these systems are more effective than Taekwondo then? Well, to understand this, you must take a deeper look into the rules of TKD.

The rules make Taekwondo ineffective

The following are the rules of the TKD competition that clearly limit your abilities in a real fight.

  • Rules favor kickscontestants get twice as many points for landing a kick than for landing a punch. As a result, they spend the majority of their training time learning how to throw kicks while neglecting other aspects of the art. 
  • No punches to the headin competition, there are no punches to the head. Contestants can only land punches to the upper body area below the neck.
  • Point scoring format — the main goal in a TKD match is to score more points than your opponent to win a match. Each kick or punch brings you a certain amount of points and the key is to have more when the time expires.
  • No fluid action — the action resets after every point. Once a contestant lands a clean strike, the referee would stop the action, and give the fighter a point before continuing the match.
  • No aggressioncontestants do not have to throw kicks or punches with full force to win points because the focus is on technique and precision.

If you combine these rules with the fact that the concept of training in most schools is oriented towards competition, you get why TKD is not that practical in real life. In fact, the entire concept of Taekwondo competition is the total opposite of what you will face on the streets.

One-dimensional approach

On paper, TKD is a versatile system that teaches you how to use all limbs as weapons to strike with punches and kicks, elbows and knees, and even grapple. In reality, however, the emphasis is on leg strikes, while punches are seen as a secondary weapon. Yes, kicks are effective in real fighting and cause the most damage, but fighting mostly with kicks will severely limit your ability to defend yourself against different types of strikes.

Lack of defense (guard and blocks)

Since there are no punches to the head in competition, students rarely learn any blocks or other drills on how to avoid punches to the head. Compared with Muay Thai fighters or boxers, they have terrible head movement, no guard whatsoever, and have a tendency to keep their hands low beside their bodies. If you look at MMA fighters who have a strong base in TKD, they all have this bad habit of keeping their chin up in the air and hands low. 

Forms (katas) and breaking boards

TKD training includes a lot of pre-arranged forms where students practice techniques alone. Though this method has some benefits when it comes to muscle memory and putting your mind into some type of meditative state, it won’t improve your fighting abilities. The same stands for breaking boards and bricks that visually look amazing and even intimidating, but these things do not have much in common with real fighting.

Taekwondo vs Karate  – What’s the Difference?

Though they may look similar at first sight, Taekwondo and Karate differ a lot in just about every aspect. Here is a detailed look into all the differences:


TaekwondoKarate
HistoryTaekwondo emerged in the late 1940s in South Korea. Its origins come from various arts such as Taekkyon and Chinese martial arts.Karate comes from the South Okinawan Islands in Japan and its origins go all the way back to the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 19th century. 
DerivationTaekwondo translates to “the way of the foot and fist”The word karate means “empty hands”.
Styles and FormsInternational Taekwondo Federation (ITF) World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) American Taekwondo Association (ATF)Goju-Ryu Wado-Ryu Shotokan Shito-Ryu Kyokushin
Emphasis and conceptTaekwondo puts a lot of emphasis on kicking as its founders believed that kicks are longer and more powerful weapons than punches. Most karate styles focus on mixing kicks and punches with quick footwork. But it is fair to say that most dojos actually favor punches over kicks. 

Final Thoughts

Taekwondo is an excellent choice for anyone looking for good health, a challenging workout, and/or a basic foundation in self-defense.

TKD is open for all races, genders, and people of all ages. However, bear in mind that training can be hard on your body and cardio intense. As such, people at the age of 50 or 60 might have a hard time dealing with the intensity of classes, and stay away from injuries. As a result, you won’t see many older adults joining the classes, and in some way, the same stands for the mid-aged adults as well.

Most people who are in their early 20s are far more likely to enroll in Muay Thai, BJJ, or MMA classes. The first reason is the fact that these systems are far more practical in a street fight than Taekwondo is. Second, not all people at this stage in life are into wearing a gi uniform, doing katas, breaking boards, and learning about history and tradition. Modern boxing or Muay Thai gyms are adapted to the modern lifestyle, and with that, suit better this age group.

That being said TKD classes are actually most popular among children as their first introduction to the world of combat sports. Training is safe, playful, and has tons of physical and mental benefits that support their growth.

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