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Theory of Power in Taekwon-Do

(Him Ui Wolli)

Is Taekwondo good for self-defence?

Power in Taekwon-Do comes from a combination of the following:

Reaction force (Bandong Ryok)
—— reaction force of your opponent
—— reaction force of your own
Concentration (Jip Joong)
—— muscles concentrated towards the attacking or defending tool
—— muscles concentrated towards the opponent’s vital spot
Equilibrium (Kyun Hyung)
—— dynamic stability (Dongtchuk Anjong)
—— static stability (Jungtchuk Anjong)
Breath control (Hohup Jojul)
Mass (Zilyang)
—— increase body weight by turning the hip
—— increase body weight by utilizing the knee in a spring action
Speed (Sokdo)
—— speed and reflex (Sokdo wa Banung)

Reaction force (Bandong Ryok)

Gen. Choi states that according to Newton’s law, every force has an equal and an opposite force. If a car hits a wall with a force of two thousand kilograms, then the wall will also return a force of two thousand kilograms on the car.

Gen. Choi states two types of reaction force:
1. The reaction force of your opponent
2. The reaction force of your own

1. The reaction force of your opponent. Gen. Choi states that a defender can apply the principle of reaction force by using the attacker’s momentum and a minimum of his own power, which can throw the opponent off balance.

For example, “if your opponent is rushing towards you at a high speed, by the slightest blow at his head, the force with which you strike his head would be that of his own onslaught plus that of the blow. The two forces combined; his, which is large, and yours, which is small are quite impressive. This, then, is the reaction force from the opponent.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.15)

2. The reaction force of your own. “Another reaction force is your own. A punch with the right fist is aided by pulling back the left fist to the hip.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.15)

Gen. Choi states that if in a punch with the right fist, the left fist is not pulled back to the hip, then the principle of reaction force is ignored and less power is produced at the moment of impact. On the other hand, if the left fist is pulled back to the hip, then the principle of reaction force is observed and maximum power is produced.

Concentration (Jip Joong)

“By applying the impact force onto the smallest target area, it will concentrate the force and therefore, increase its effect. For example, the force of water coming out of a water hose is greater if the orifice is smaller. […] The blows in Taekwon-Do are often concentrated onto the edge of the open palm or to the crook of the fingers.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.20)

Gen. Choi states that concentration can be done in two ways:
1. All muscles, particularly the muscles of the hip and the abdomen, should be concentrated towards the attacking or defending tool.
2. The mobilized muscles should be concentrated towards the opponent’s vital spot.

Gen. Choi states that strength should be unleashed “at the point of contact with your opponent’s body, the force must be so concentrated as to give a knock-out blow. That is to say, the shorter the time for the concentration, the greater will be the power of the blow.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.20)

“In conclusion, concentration is done in two ways: One is to concentrate every muscle of the body, particularly the bigger muscles around the hip and abdomen […] towards the appropriate tool to be used at the proper time; the second way is to concentrate such mobilized muscles onto the opponent’s vital spot. This is the reason why the hip and abdomen are jerked slightly before the hands and feet in any action, whether it be attack or defence.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.20)

Equilibrium (Kyun Hyung)

Equilibrium signifies balance. The body must be kept well-balanced at all times. An unbalanced body is easily toppled. Equilibrium or balance is maintained when the center of gravity is maintained.

“To maintain good equilibrium, the center of gravity of the stance must fall on a straight line midway between both legs when the body weight is distributed equally on both legs, or in the center of the foot if it is necessary to concentrate the bulk of the body weight on one foot. The center of gravity can be adjusted according to body weight.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.24)

Gen. Choi states that equilibrium can be of two types:
1. Dynamic stability (Dongtchuk Anjong)
2. Static stability (Jungtchuk Anjong)

1. Dynamic stability occurs when the body is balanced while moving. During movements, the body weight has to be shifted. Balance is lost if the stance is too narrow or too wide, or if the bulk of the body weight remains on the centre of gravity instead on the appropriate foot, while moving.

2. Static stability occurs when the body is balanced by dynamic stability. Balance is lost if the body is leaned too far forwards or backwards, or if the knee is bent too much, or the heel of the stationary foot is off the ground.

“Equilibrium is classified into both dynamic and static stability. They are so closely inter-related that the maximum force can only be produced when the static stability is maintained through dynamic stability. […] One additional point; the heel of the rear foot should never be off the ground at the point of impact. This is not only necessary for good balance but also to produce maximum power at the point of impact.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.24)

Breath control (Hohup Jojul)

While attacking or defending, with punches, kicks, or blocks, one should never inhale, rather the breath should be stopped. At the moment of impact, in a sharp exhale, the breath should be exhaled. Thereafter, the breath should be slowly inhaled. This is known as controlled breathing and it improves stamina, speed, power, and conditions the body.

“Through practice, breath stopped in the state of exhaling at the critical moment when a blow is landed against a pressure point on the body can prevent a loss of consciousness and stifle pain. A sharp exhaling of breath at the moment of impact and stopping the breath during the execution of a movement tense the abdomen to concentrate maximum effort on the delivery of the motion, while a slow inhaling helps the preparation of the next movement. An important rule to remember: Never inhale while focusing a block or blow against an opponent. Not only will this impede movement but it will also result in a loss of power.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.31)

Gen. Choi states that any sign of tiredness should not be visible and so students “should also practice disguised breathing to conceal any outward signs of fatigue. An experienced fighter will certainly press an attack when he realizes his opponent is on the point of exhaustion.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.31)

Mass (Zilyang)

Combined with speed, the body weight has to be increased to obtain maximum force.

Gen. Choi states two ways of increasing the body weight:
1. By turning the hip.
2. By utilizing the knee in a spring action.

“No doubt the maximum body weight is applied with the motion by turning the hip. The large abdominal muscles are twisted to provide additional body momentum. Thus the hip rotates in the same direction as that of the attacking or blocking tool […]. Another way of increasing body weight is the utilization of a springing action of the knee joint. This is achieved by slightly raising the hip at the beginning of the motion and lowering the hip at the moment of impact to drop the body weight into the motion […]” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.33)

Speed (Sokdo)

“Speed is the most essential factor of force or power. […] According to the theory of kinetic energy, every object increases its weight as well as speed in a downward movement. This very principle is applied to this particular art of self-defence […] For this reason, at the moment of impact, the position of the hand normally becomes lower than the shoulder and the foot lower than the hip while the body is in the air.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.38)

To effectively apply the techniques of Taekwon-Do, the execution time of the techniques should be known by the students. To find out the execution times, Gen. Choi conducted an experiment in April of 1973, using multi-flash Strobo photography and the experiment was contributed by Jae Hun Kim, 3rd degree black belt holder. The experiment concluded as follows:

– A Side Piercing Kick takes 1/10 (0.1) of a second to execute. [Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.42, Photo)]

– A Hooking Kick takes 0.117 seconds or just a little more than 1/10 of a second to execute. [Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.43, Photo)]

– A Flying Front Kick takes 1/10 (0.1) of a second to execute. [Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.44, Photo)]

– A Front Punch takes 3/100 (0.03) of a second to execute. [Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.46, Photo)]

This experiment showed the speed of the Taekwon-Do techniques. It also showed that the speed of the technique is greater than the normal reflex time.

“Normal reflex time has been experimentally determined to be around 2/10 of a second, at the quickest.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.44).

Hence, the relation between Speed and Reflex (Sokdo wa Banung) should be understood.

“All these techniques cannot be blocked if we wait until an opponent begins to execute them, since the execution times of these techniques are shorter than the time it takes for our reflexes to respond. Therefore, we must be able to detect the on-coming of these techniques before-hand. This is the reason why one must gaze at the opponent’s eyes at all times and not at the legs or arms. […] developing speed is the most important factor in developing power. For example, if the mass is increased by a factor of three (with the speed kept constant) then the power is also increased by a factor of three. But if the speed is increased by a factor of three (with mass kept constant) then the power is increased by a factor of nine.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.47)

“Reaction force, breath control, equilibrium, concentration and relaxation of the muscles cannot be ignored. However, these are the factors that contribute to the speed and all these factors, together with flexible and rhythmic movements, must be well coordinated to produce the maximum power in Taekwon-Do.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.38)


Choi, H. H. (1985). Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (Vols. 1–15). Vienna: International Taekwon-Do Federation.



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