Taekyon, or Taekkyon is a traditional Korean martial art, probably stemming from Subak. It is uncertain when Subak was first practiced in Korea, but it may have existed many centuries ago. The first source mentioning Taekkyon is the book Manmulbo (also Jaemulbo), written around 1790 by Lee, Sung-Ji
At the height of its popularity, even the king practiced Taekkyon, and Taekkyon matches were frequent. However, the next king outlawed Taekkyon matches, motivated by the gambling which took place around them – where people would gamble away their wives and houses – thus making it a purely military art. Subak split into two; yusul and Taekkyon, during the early Joseon dynasty.
Taekkyon took a severe blow when Neo-Confucianism grew in popularity, and then the Japanese occupation damaged the art even more. Taekkyon has had a slight resurgence in recent days, getting the classification “Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76” on June 1, 1983. It is the only Korean martial art which possesses such a classification.
Taekkyon contains all kinds of techniques, including hand- and leg techniques as well as joint locks, head butts and so on. However, today there are different styles which sometimes do not emphasize all techniques. In all styles, just like in past centuries, kicks are most dominant. Taekkyon probably teaches the greatest variety of kicks among all martial arts, especially low kicks (ddanjuk) but also jumps.
Taekkyon movements are very fluid and dance-like with the practitioners constantly moving. Thus, it resembles Capoeira and Shaolin Kung Fu. While some people see a certain similarity to the motions of Tae Kwon Do, the techniques and principles differ a lot from those of other Korean martial arts, for example, Taekkyon does not make use of abrupt knee motions. The principles and methods used to extend the kick put more emphasis on fluency and pushing rather than on speed and strength of the kick.
Taekkyon uses many 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 moved the leg outward from the middle and inward from the outside using the side of the heels and the side of the feet. The art also used tricks like inward trips, wall jumping, fake outs, tempo, and slide stepping. The art is also like a dance which the fighter constantly changes his or her stance from his or her left to his or her right by stepping forward and backwards while his or her arms are up and ready to guard. This art requires traditional Korean white robes which were worn commonly in the past of Korea.
Low kicks, which are very frequent in Taekkyon, are normally used to disable an opponent’s balance and knock him to the ground. These kicks include leg sweeps as well as direct blows to the knee. There are around 10 different basic techniques of this set of techniques called ttanjuk.
When Taekkyon is practiced as a sport, 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 him out of the ring, or kicking him 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 decided by the best of three falls – the first fighter to score two points wins. To an untrained eye, the matches are cautious but exhilarating affairs. The contestants circle each other warily, changing their footwork constantly and feinting with low kicks, before exploding into a flurry of action which usually leaves one fighter flat on his/her back.