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Taekkyeon is a traditional Korean martial art with a dance-like appearance, 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 Manmulmo (also Jaemulmo), written around 1790 by Lee, Sung-Ji. Taekkyeon is also frequently romanized informally as Taekkyon or Taekyon.
Taekkyon never seems to have been widespread, and by the late 19th Century we know of only one Taekkyon competition a year in all of Korea. 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 many kinds of techniques, including hand and leg techniques as well as joint locks, and head butts. Today, however, different styles sometimes do not emphasize all techniques. In all styles, just like in past centuries, kicks are most dominant though. Taekkyon teaches a great variety of kicks, especially low kicks (ddanjuk) and jumps.
The movements of Taekkyon are fluid and dance-like with the practitioners constantly moving, in this regard it resembles Capoeira and Shaolin Kung Fu but is unique in many ways. While some people[who?] see a certain similarity to the motions of Taekwondo, 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 grace rather than strength.
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 move 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 uses tricks like inward trips, wall-jumping, fake-outs, tempo, and slide-stepping. The art is also like a dance in which the fighter constantly changes stance from left to right by stepping forward and backwards with arms up and ready to guard. This art requires traditional Korean white robes.
Low kicks, frequent in Taekkyon, are used to block the opponents kick. 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 ddanjuk.
When Taekkyon is practiced in competition, 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 sometimes decided by the best of three falls — the first fighter to score two points wins. However, different modern associations employ slightly different rules. 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 might leave one fighter flat on his/her back.
In 1987, the most important man for the transmission of Taekkyon,Song Duk-ki who was given national treasure status by the South Korean government, died at the age of 94. Shortly afterwards, in the same year, Shin Han-Seung (who was most responsible for the registration of Taekkyon as an intangible cultural asset) also died. Since this time, several Taekkyon associations which follow different goals are active.
The only authorized Taekkyon associations are: