T Nation

Is Tae Kwon Do Worth It?

Basically what the title says. Found out there’s a club at my college. Just saying “club at my college” doesn’t sound very tough, which I don’t think it’s supposed to, but…you know. Kinda still want it to sound cool.

They also teach Hapkido and something with swords. It’s a couple one hour sessions a week. It’s free. Those are the pros.

I’m really only interested in doing it if it’ll actually transfer to any real life situations. I’m sure boxing, wrestling, or maybe BJJ would be best, but they don’t offer any of that here. I’m not worried about getting beat up - I mean, it could definitely happen, but I’m a big dude and it’s not that hard to avoid ever getting in fights. I work as a bouncer but drunks/wasted frat boys typically aren’t that skilled in combat.

Anyone have any input? Go for it, or just skip it and get stronger/continue to avoid fights?

I am of the opinion that you can gain something out of most training. Tae Kwon Do fighters have excellent kicks. I really liked Hapkido and in that art you could find useful techniques for bouncing such as control holds and the like. So I would go for it.

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Generally speaking, you get better at fighting by training techniques that work and sparring in as realistic conditions as possible without risking (much) harm. The realistic, high-effort sparring is one of the main things that set boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, BJJ and wrestling apart from Karate and TKD.

I’ve never done TKD so I’m not sure how much of the activity fits that bill. I’ve always thought of it as more of a sport than a martial art, but that’s just my impression.

Try it. If you like it, rip it.

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I practiced those arts for 3+ years. Tang soo do & hapkido. Tea kwon do is the cheap whore version of tang soo do(inside joke). Here’s my take. If you don’t already know how to fight (from getting into a lot of fights, etc), you are not going to learn to fight with these arts. At best, it will help you develop better techniques when doing stuff if you are already tuff. So, there were numerous guys who had advanced the ranks, but were soft. I would not try a high kick unless you know what you are doing really well. A guy with any skill will catch your leg and make you pay.

However, there were a few teenagers who had been practicing since childhood and they were awesome. One of those teenagers kicked me in the back of the head and I never saw it coming. I was considered one of the better adults. So, if you grow up doing it and have numerous years under your belt, then yes. Otherwise no unless you are already experienced at fighting.

I took it upon myself to go to tournaments and fight. I figured I get to beat up one or two people without being arrested.

As @twojarslave said, realistic fighting is the best way to learn fighting. Having said all that, if it’s free and you have time, do it. You may learn something useful.

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TKD and Hapkido are fantastic arts… with the right instructor.

I’m slightly biased because I spent almost 10 years training hapkido; it’s basically Korean ju-jitsu, combined with some basic striking. It has a lot of really great joint manipulation techniques and stand up grappling including throws, locks, takedowns, etc.

HOWEVER: without the right instructor (read: one that stresses sparring and live training), it can quickly turn into a “fluffy” art. I was lucky to have coaches who did a LOT of live training with us, and stripped out the super fancy moves in favour of what was simple and effective.

Hapkido also made my transition into BJJ really easy, because I had a strong grasp of how to manipulate the body and paid attention to technique. Hapkido’s ground game is, however, not it’s strong suite. Nor is its striking, though this is again depends on your coach.

I have very little experience with TKD, as my striking experience comes from Muay Thai and boxing. I’ve sparred with a handful of TKD guys, and some of them were as fast as lightning and hit like a truck. Others were… not as good. Very flashy.

Honestly, I say go for both and see what it’s like. It’s free, so it really can’t hurt.

I got a black belt in TKD. ATA fed. I am very certain it made me LESS effective in a fight.

Gained some great flexibility and mobility and learned the habit of training for combat sports, but it was so far from actual fighting that I had to “unlearn” much of it when I wanted to learn how to fight.


Interesting question and answers.

I train BJJ but was considering cross training with TKD once a week, just to learn the flashy kicks, and for the movement and mobility/flexibility.


I did Hapkido as an early to mid teen. Against unsuspecting people my age, it worked a charm -particularly some of the arm/wrist locks.

Against an adult male who knew how to fight, I suspect it would have given me just enough confidence to get myself really messed up.

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Are there any good looking women training?

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I learned more about fighting from boxing for a few months than I did from a few years of Shotokan Karate. I don’t see why someone couldn’t learn TKD and incorporate its kicks into their fighting style, but stuff like boxing, wrestling, muay Thai and BJJ just seem like much better investments of time.

To put it another way: Let’s say you have to fight one of the 3 opponents below. All are the same size and have the same level of skill in their respective martial art.

Fighter A- Boxing
Fighter B- Folkstyle wrestling
Fighter C- TKD

Is anyone really going to choose fighters A or B?

However, if someone wants to learn TKD because they find it fun or want to compete in it, then they obviously should train it. Do what you like.

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The big thing is, the stance and mechanics you end up employing in order to execute a lot of the kicks requires you to put yourself in a situation where the more effective stuff isn’t going to get executed well. @theBird wanting to combine it with BJJ honeslty wouldn’t be awful since, after you try your first tornado kick and end up on the ground, NOW you’re in your element, haha.

I know some dudes have managed to get TKD’s stuff to work in the ring, but for the majority of folks, going a more traditional route as far as stand up game goes is probably going to be in their best interest, much like what you wrote.


Thanks all.

I went to a class to check it out - wasn’t really impressed. I respect those who stick with it long enough, and I’m sure there’s at least a few people who can use it well, but I don’t think it’s for me. Apparently this version is the one from Korea, not the American one, but after going, I feel confident that if I could get my arms around one of these people and/or get them on the ground, I’d win the fight. I’d rather do BJJ or boxing or something, but there’s nowhere to do it around here. I’ll stick with weightlifting.

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Good on you for giving it a shot.

Keep lifting!

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In an interesting turn of events, I’m now teaching my kid Tae Kwon Do due to the mandated isolation and school closures. I’ve taught them some boxing before, but kids really respond to the gi and belt thing (which I ordered online, and dug out my old black belt for the wow factor: it still works).

My wife is part Korean, so the kid has Korean heritage, so I don’t want to put on a gi, say we’re learning TKD and then teach them Muay Thai, as that’s just all sorts of cultures. I’m trying to reconcile making some of the stuff that is just flat out silly into something meaningful.

Right now, the big thing is blocks. As cool as the idea of “blocks are strikes”, I don’t foresee anyone every striking someone slow enough that you can see it coming and intercept it with a TKD style low/high block. So, instead, I’m going to repurpose these as “grab defenses”: something you do to smack away the hand of someone reaching out to grab you. Those can sometimes be a bit more clumsy and open an opportunity. Otherwise, I’m going to bring in the age old defense of “don’t be there in the first place”: moving, slipping, evading, angles, etc.

And lord help me, I HATE chambered punching. I can see selling it as a punch strengthening exercise (kinda), but even then, it just ingrains SO many bad habits. My hands dropped all the time when I got into boxing and Muay Thai because I was so used to chambering. I think Kyokushin solves this by chambering more toward the armpit than the waist, but I’m not too sure.

I can share some of my thoughts as I go along with it. It’s still a fun activity, just not what I’d do to learn how to fight.

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Definitely open to hearing how it goes. It’s no longer a path I’m aticipating being able to follow for a while but I’m sure someone will benefit from hearing about it.

I would’ve expected some lifting training (though I know you’ve said you’re not a good trainer) from you. TKD just easier to teach? Or maybe more “fun” if the kid isn’t super into it (which I also think you’ve mentioned before…).

Yeah, it’s more for the fun of it. Lifting isn’t going to hold their attention span. We still hae physical training in the day, but it’s mostly play. They do gymnastics too, which has built a good physical foundation.

We did some medicine ball over bar on Monday. Strongman events still have a draw, but lifting will always be boring, haha.

I was also taught how to teach TKD, whereas lifting has all been self taught.

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That’s a good idea. My brothers are home now and we’ll have the next 5 months together, so I’m thinking of showing them some things. They’ve been running and doing BW work for a while but with the extra time, might as well learn some new things.

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Hey, wanna know another awful habit from TKD? Leaving your punch out. You are always switching hands with the chamber punch, which means the hand gets left out at the end of the punch. Great for developing shoulder endurance: awful for learning to bring your hands back to your face.


I’ve learnt in real fights kicking above the knee can get you into serious trouble. It happened to me one night . A few weeks prior I kicked a guy in the head lights out for trying to break into a car . Few weeks later I saw a guy pushing a young lady around when I decided I’ll just do the same . Turns out his head was a medicine ball and my foot landed on top of his shoulder . Luckily he didn’t know what to do with the situation I just handed him but that was the last time I ever tried the flashy kick. It can get you to hospital in a flash

Dude, if you live somewhere where you have to kick 2 different people in the head on two separate occasions, the best self defense you could do is move away.