Is Taekwondo Effective?

two taekwondo ladies who facing each other

Considering the ceremonial and flashy nature of some taekwondo techniques, many often consider the art useless in real-life application. But is Taekwondo effective?

Generally, taekwondo is an effective form of martial art that is great for self-defense, street fighting, fitness, and weight loss. It can make you better focused, teach you discipline and respect, and make you more flexible and stronger.

It’s no surprise that Taekwondo which is one of the world’s most popular martial art is being undermined and often labeled useless and of no value in real-life situations.

The reality is the opposite because taekwondo is great for self-defense and weight loss and can also be adopted in a street fight (not advised though).

So, in this article, we shall be examining the effectiveness of taekwondo not only for self-defense, street fighting, and Mixed Martial Arts but also as a form of exercise and weight loss.

Note that the effectiveness of this sport might slightly vary depending on the purpose for which it’s needed.

For example, while taekwondo is an effective form of exercise and weight loss, it is a more effective self-defense mechanism than a street fighting tool.

Now, with this in mind, let’s begin!

Table of Contents

Is Taekwondo Effective for Self-Defense?

Taekwondo is an effective tool for self-defense. While it emphasizes kicks over other techniques, it also teaches special self-defense techniques which can be used to keep would-be attackers from getting close to you.

When it comes to self-defense, Taekwondo is sometimes criticized as not being the most effective martial art. 

There may be some merit to this critique since martial arts such as Krav Maga and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) intentionally incorporate new techniques from different martial arts to help maximize their lethality.

However, while taekwondo might not be as effective as these two martial arts for self-defense purposes, it remains an effective tool for self-defense.

Here is why.

Taekwondo is originally a self-defense martial art.

Taekwondo was historically recognized as a system of self-defense in the 1950s when a group of leading Korean martial artists came together and unified their various art forms under a single style of hand and feet fighting.

Even now, some taekwondo styles such as the ITF style strongly emphasize the self-defense aspect of the art.

Also, regular taekwondo programs have special self-defense classes (within the regular program) where various self-defense techniques are taught.

Some of these basic taekwondo self-defense techniques include;

  • Straight Punch
  • Front Kick/Push Kick
  • Defensive Side Kick
  • Roundhouse Kick
  • Target Elbow Strike
  • Palm Heel Strike
  • Knee Strike

This is not all as there are other basic taekwondo moves that if practiced correctly can transform Taekwondo into a robust self-defense system.

So taekwondo isn’t just about the use of legs (which itself is also useful for self-defense).

With this said, you must know that in practice, most self-defense situations do not involve a “fair” fight as most real-world situations are not one-on-one fights between two unarmed people.

Most self-defense situations often involve muggers, rapists, gang members, etc. who come to the scene in a group and with arms.

So, the best self-defense is to know your surroundings, avoid dangerous situations, and know how to de-escalate confrontations.

Is Taekwondo Effective in a Street Fight?

Taekwondo is an effective martial art for street fighting. However, it is not the best martial art for this purpose since it was not originally designed for street fighting.

Please note that taekwondo was not traditionally designed to aid anyone in a street fight. It was designed to help you avoid it.

So, it’s not advisable to take up the art for the purpose of going out to bully others and cause trouble as this will be against the ethics of Taekwondo.

This is probably why taekwondo practitioners are one of the most peaceful martial artists in the world.

Taekwondo has in fact become a soft vehicle of diplomacy for peace in the world today.

However, even though taekwondo isn’t designed for street fighting purposes, its techniques can be effectively applied if you’re caught in the chaos of a street fight.

Remember, Taekwondo includes many techniques such as kicking, punching, blocking, dodging, and footwork, all of which are useful tools for street fights.

Note however that the mere practice of Taekwondo only as a sport – that is, the skill of landing a high kick on the head or chest of an opponent probably has less value in a street fight.

Normally, a highly risky kick like that will likely give your opponent a handle to wheelbarrow you around.

This is however different when you learn taekwondo as a martial art and a self-defense mechanism and not just a sport.

The training you will undergo here will come with a whole lot of useful things such as endurance, strength building, speed, flexibility, and valuable self-defense techniques.

You will also likely develop an understanding of when to fight (only as a last resort) and when to comply or run

Good taekwondo schools teach taekwondo sport in combination with different taekwondo techniques that have nothing or little to do with the sports side of the art but more to do with real-life fighting situations.

One more thing, when you find yourself in a street fight, avoid the use of high-flying kicks such as spinning kicks.

Stick to the simple basic kicks such as the roundhouse kick and front kick.

The simpler your kick, the safer and more effective it would be in a real-life situation. So stick to the basics.

Is Taekwondo Effective in MMA?

Taekwondo is effective in MMA as it provides a good base for any MMA fighter to build on. It must however be combined with other forms of martial arts to become completely effective.

Modern MMA includes Taekwondo techniques which are well suited to the rules of the sport.

But bear in mind that no matter how good you are at it, don’t expect to switch over from Taekwondo to MMA and simply expect to do well.

You still need to learn other aspects of MMA like boxing, takedowns, clinch game, and many other techniques.

What Taekwondo offers are fast and powerful kicks, great movement, great feeling for distance, and excellent footwork.

First, Taekwondo fighters are always on the move, bouncing in all directions, and rarely stick in one place.

They are very unpredictable in the standup as they are masters in striking from both stances.

And if we move to kicks, things get even better.

It’s fair to say that Taekwondo is for kicks what boxing is for punches.

Taekwondo fighters excel with all types of jumping and spinning kicks which they can accurately throw from all ranges and angles.

This explains why MMA fighters with taekwondo backgrounds are so exciting to watch.

However, Taekwondo has its downsides, notably when it comes to defense.

Due to its emphasis on kicks, students spend only a little time learning how to punch, block or make good head movements.

Yes, they do learn certain blocks, but they all tend to lower their hands which is terrible for MMA as it leaves you open for just about every strike that comes your way.

Another obvious downside is the lack of ground fighting, grappling, and fighting in the clinch.

This is why taekwondo needs to be combined with other relevant martial arts in other for it to produce maximum results.

Is Taekwondo Effective for Weight Loss?

Taekwondo is one of the most effective martial art and sport for weight loss. A 200-pound person can burn 937 calories in just an hour.

After Running and Jumping rope exercises, Taekwondo is the third best way to burn the most calories as it can help a 200-pound person burn 937 calories per hour. That’s a lot.

This is not surprising because Taekwondo training is a beneficial form of exercise and a full-body workout that activates all the muscle groups in the body.

Taekwondo students do a lot of intense conditioning and strength workouts, including the regular throwing of hundreds of kicks which can all be exhausting and even painful.

Hence their popular slogan “no pain no gain”

Is Taekwondo Effective in a Real Fight?

Taekwondo is effective in a street fight. However, it is not the most useful martial art for street fighting since it is not designed for this purpose.

As stated earlier, taekwondo as a self-defense system is designed to help you avoid and evade confrontations.

To me, Taekwondo and street fighting are like light and darkness, they do not go together.

However, even if these two are separate, some taekwondo skills can still be applied effectively in a street fight.

Some of these techniques include front kicks, punches, dodging, blocking, and footwork all of which are effective in a real fight.


While taekwondo might have its shortcomings, it remains an effective martial art style that can be useful for self-defense, street fighting, Mixed Martial Arts, and even exercises and weight loss.

If you find this post helpful, please comment below and let me know what you think.

See: Are Chinese Martial Arts Effective?

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