Does Taekwondo Have Grappling?

does taekwondo have grappling

Grappling in taekwondo is just as uncommon as the use of a physical weapon. But does Taekwondo have grappling?

Generally, Taekwondo does not have or use grappling techniques for competition purposes. However, some styles such as the ITF involve a variety of grappling techniques in their self-defense program.

The use of grappling techniques is unpopular in taekwondo as practitioners are mainly taught how to kick, punch, and block during training.

However, some taekwondo styles like the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) incorporate these techniques in their self-defense training curriculum.

Now, let’s dive deeper into this topic and try to better understand whether taekwondo uses grappling techniques or not.

Table of Contents

Does Taekwondo Include Grappling?

Taekwondo does not include grappling techniques in its curriculum as it is mainly known for kicks and strikes. However, some taekwondo styles such as the ITF incorporate some grappling techniques in their self-defense program.

Let me say this upfront. If you are looking to join a taekwondo class with the aim of learning and mastering grappling techniques, you should instead join other martial arts such as Hapkido, Judo, or BJJ.

This is because grappling is not a natural part of taekwondo, and you would be lucky to find a school that incorporates it into its program.

Remember, Taekwondo is a Korean martial art form characterized by kicking and punching techniques, with emphasis on head-height kicks, spinning jump kicks, and fast kicking techniques.

Tae kwon do literally means “kicking”, “punching”, and “the art or way of”.

This art requires you to attack or defend with your hands and feet, with the occasional use of weapons.

World Taekwondo (WT), as far as I know, does not teach grappling techniques.

However, certain taekwondo styles such as the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) have grappling techniques included in their program.

The ITF grappling techniques are covered in two parts:

First are the general stand-up grappling techniques such as wrist locks, clinch, and so on.

Generally, these are covered under self-defense (Hoshinsul) sections of the ITF Encyclopedia.

Secondly, ground grappling techniques which are known in ITF as ground techniques (nuwo gisul), with a particular emphasis on specific striking and kicking techniques from the ground are contained in Volumes 3 and 4 of the ITF Encyclopedia.

As I understand it, General Choi, (Taekwondo Founder and first President of the ITF) did not want to standardize self-defense in Taekwondo.

This is because he believed that self-defense is contextual, and instructors ought to provide the type of self-defense teaching that their students would likely need and that is most fitting for their personalities and body types.

As a result, no set self-defense (including grappling) syllabus was provided in the ITF Taekwondo Encyclopedia.

However, National Governing Bodies and instructors compose their syllabus guided by principles from the ITF Encyclopedia.

This means that ground techniques and grappling may be covered in some countries, while they may be absent in others.

Similarly, the self-defense curriculum may be quite diverse from one ITF school to another.

This means that even in the same country, some schools may teach grappling, while others may not.

What Martial Art Teaches Grappling?

As you can already tell, taekwondo isn’t the best martial art style for grappling.

Luckily, there are lots of martial arts that teach and even emphasize the use of the techniques.

Some of these grappling martial arts styles include:

  • Judo
  • Shoot wrestling
  • Cornish wrestling
  • Catch wrestling
  • Submission grappling
  • Jujutsu
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu
  • Sambo
  • Hapkido

Different wrestling styles including freestyle and Greco-Roman have gained global popularity.

Other known grappling-oriented styles are:

  • Aikido
  • Sumo
  • Shuai jiao
  • Malla-yuddha
  • Bokh
  • Danzan ryu
  • Luta livre
  • Schwingen
  • Ssireum

Some martial arts with a significant grappling component include,

  • Mixed Martial Arts
  • Daido Juku Kudo
  • Pankration
  • Shootfighting
  • Vale Tudo

For more information on these grappling styles, see this article from Black Belt Wiki.

Does Taekwondo Use Weapons?

Taekwondo does not use weapons as weapon training is not a part of most taekwondo organizations’ curriculum. However, some styles such as ATA incorporate weapon training in their syllabus.

Weapons training is quite unusual in the field of Taekwondo.

As a reminder, Tae kwon do translate to “kicking”, “punching”, and “the art or way of”

However, despite its emphasis on the use of the human body as a weapon, some taekwondo styles such as the American Taekwondo Association (now ATA Martial Arts) incorporate the use of weapons in combination with traditional unarmed taekwondo practice.

Weapon training is one of the main differences that ATA has compared to the other taekwondo forms.

Approved songahm taekwondo weapons for training in the American Taekwondo Association includes stick, staff, nunchucks, canes, sword, etc.

For an in-depth explanation of taekwondo and its unpopular use of weapons, see:

Taekwondo Grappling Techniques

We already identified the fact that ITF is probably the only taekwondo style with some grappling techniques.

Some of these techniques include the sweeping and toppling techniques derived from Taekkyeon.

Judo also had an early influence on ITF Taekwondo as some of the early masters had a background in judo, thus many basic break falling and throws, and so on are similar to that of Judo.

Basic principles for falling and throwing techniques with some examples can be seen in Vol. 5 of the ITF Encyclopedia.

Hapkido techniques were later incorporated into Taekwondo’s self-defense arsenal, so taekwondo pins, joint locks, and so on are very similar to that of Hapkido.

The ITF Encyclopedia however does not refer to joint-locking, only joint-breaking, bearing in mind that Taekwondo was originally a military combat system, not a civilian self-defense system.

Still, the sine wave motion which follows wave and circle principles particularly found in Chinese internal martial arts like Tai Chi was later introduced.

So, some instructors replicate the Chinese “Chin Na” type techniques to reflect the current evolution of ITF Taekwondo.

“Chin Na” also known as “chepo sulgi” in Korean translates to “arresting techniques”; i.e. these are the types of techniques used by law enforcement to control and arrest a criminal.

The only book I know of that specifically focuses on ITF Taekwondo grappling techniques is Tony Kemerly and Steve Snyder’s book “Taekwondo Grappling Techniques: Hone Your Competitive Edge for Mixed Martial Arts

This book follows the ITF patterns and derives specific grappling style skills from each of the patterns.

It provides a systematic method for learning such techniques and could therefore work very well as a grappling syllabus.

However, since the techniques all commence from a standing position, it does not cover ground fighting but include various throws, pins, and joint locks.


Grappling is not a part of Taekwondo competitions but is incorporated into some schools’ self-defense programs.

Even at the school level, not all schools teach these techniques.

This, therefore, makes taekwondo an unwise choice for anyone serious about learning grappling techniques.

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