Basic Theory and Terms every student should know

One of the first things the beginner notices when they start training is the unfamiliar words used in class.  Because TaekwonDo is an international martial art, we use Korean to overcome language barriers and allow teaching, learning and training for any student regardless of their nationality. After all, TaekwonDo originated in Korea; had it been London, then English would have been used. By using the Korean terminology, we can train anywhere in the world!

Please understand that you are NOT expected to be able to speak Korean! However you are expected to learn the Korean terminology as part of your training. 

Learning the terminology is easier for some students than others, but if you regularly hear the words and try to use them yourself, you will be surprised at how quickly they become second nature. In our experience, most young children are able to count to 10 in Korean very soon after they start training...

There are some basic terms, and also some basic theory that every student should know, and we encourage you to start learning these as soon as you can. Parents can really help their children here by working with them to learn these terms, and it is fun to do so!

Basic Theory and Terms every student should know….
  • Count to 10 in Korean (see here)
  • The Tenets of TaekwonDo, and meanings (see here)
  • TaekwonDo comes from Korea
  • TaekwonDo means literally ‘Foot Hand Art (or way)’
  • The founder of TaekwonDo was Major General Choi Hong Hi 9th degree Grandmaster
  • TaekwonDo became an official martial art on 11th April 1955


  • 1st - 3rd degree = Boo Sabum (Assistant Instructor, Novice Blackbelt)
  • 4th - 6th degree = Sabum (Instructor, Expert Black Belt)
  • 7th - 8th degree = Sayhun (Master)
  • 9th degree = Saesung (Grandmaster)

Please always refer to your Instructor as 'Sir' or 'Ma'am' or by title and name, e.g. 'Mr.Wood'

When asked a question or given a command by your Instructor, please always respond with 'Yes Sir/Ma'am". This is part of the first tenet of TaekwonDo - Courtesy, which is so important.

For more information on the Tenets of TaekwonDo, see here.

For full information on correct TaekwonDo behaviour/etiquette see here.

Common Commands (you will hear in every class)
  • Face Instructor - Sabum (or Boo Sabum) Nim Ke
  • Attention - Charyot
  • Bow - Kyong ye
  • Ready - Chunbi
  • In your own time - Kooryong Opshi
  • Begin - Si Jak
  • About turn - Dwiyo torra
  • Return to Ready - Paro
  • Break (in sparring) - Hetcho
  • Stop - Goman
  • Relax - Sho
  • Dismiss - Hae San
Basic Terms
  • Training Hall: Dojang
  • Training Suit: Dobok
  • Punch - Jirugi
  • Block - Makgi
  • Kick - Chagi
  • Stance - Sogi
Parts of the Body
  • Forefist - Joomuk
  • Knifehand - Sonkal
  • Forearm - Palmok
  • Inner Forearm - An Palmok
  • Outer Forearm - Bakat Palmok
Basic Stances
  • Attention Stance - Charyot Sogi
  • Walking Stance - Gunnun Sogi
  • Walking Ready Stance - Gunnun Chunbi Sogi
  • Sitting Stance - Annun Sogi
  • Parallel Ready Stance - Narani Chunbi Sogi

All stances are measured in 'Shoulder Widths' - please learn the correct dimensions/weight distribution of each of these stances here.

Other Basic Terms
  • Reverse - Bandae (so a reverse punch would be Bandae Jirugi)
  • Front Rising Kick (a stretching exercise) - Ap Cha Oligi
Sections & Levels of the Body

Body Sections include many different targets, and are designated into 3 areas:

  • High Section - top of the shoulder to top of the head (includes eyes, jaw, nose etc)
  • Middle Section - Shoulder to belt, or umbilicus (includes sternum, ribs, abdomen etc)
  • Low Section - Below the belt (includes groin, knees etc)

As your training progresses, it is very important to know where your target is and use the correct attack for that target, but this is something your will learn.

Levels of the body are used to describe the height of a technique - for example a middle punch is level with your own shoulder when delivered. A high punch is level with your eyes.

It is incorrect to say 'a high/middle/low section punch/block etc'.

Therefore you may hear the command: "moving forwards, walking stance, outer forearm LOW BLOCK" (in Korean this would be "Gunnun Sogi, Bakat Palmok Najunde Makgi)

Describing any technique in Korean:

Tip: After naming the stance first, always name the attacking/blocking tool next, then the level of the body, then the type of block/attack, including any specifics such as 'inwards' or 'downwards'.

For example, the Korean command for inner forearm middle block would be "An Palmok (the blocking tool - inner forearm), Kaunde (middle), Makgi (block). Outer forearm low block would be: Bakat Palmok (outer forearm), Najunde (low), Makgi (block).  A reverse punch to the middle section of an opponent would be "Ap Joomuk (forefist), Kaunde (middle), Bandae Jirugi (reverse punch).

As you can see, once you learn the basic terminology, it is quite easy to be able to put it together and communicate in class using the Korean words. For more information on using Korean terminology and pronunciation, click here.