Is it possible for excellent martial artists to arise from a mediocre school? Yes, but it’s not probable.
Behind every martial artist, there is an instructor, a taskmaster, a cheerleader who plays an integral role in their formation.
The best martial artists come from the best schools. If you want to become a great martial artist, you start by finding a great school.
What are the best Taekwondo schools in the world? Let’s look at the top 10 here.
Table of Contents
- What Makes a Good Taekwondo School?
- 10 Best Taekwondo Schools in the World
- How to Find the Best Taekwondo School for You?
- How to Find the Best Taekwondo School for Your Child？
- Ready to Start Your Taekwondo Journey?
What Makes a Good Taekwondo School?
Learning Taekwondo, as with all martial arts, is far more than just learning to kick and punch. Tradition, discipline, self-control, and other factors all play a role. Taekwondo is a way of life for the dedicated martial artist, not simply an exercise class with a little self-defense thrown in.
With this in mind, there are a few qualities that should be evident in every good Taekwondo school. Let’s explore.
Some modern schools are moving away from the traditions of Taekwondo. They turn to a more sporty approach focused on competitive sparring and flashy demonstrations.
But Taekwondo is not a sport. It is a martial art with its own history and culture that should be respected. Watch for these elements to know if a school is sticking to tradition.
Taekwondo is strictly Korean. In the West, the Chinese and Japanese arts of Kung Fu and Karate are more well-known because of martial art movies. Thus, words like dojo, sensei, or sifu are known and used. But, in a Taekwondo school, Korean words should be used. Dojang for the place of training, sabonim for the instructor, etc.
Furthermore, most good TKD schools will teach their students Korean words for kicks, strikes, body parts, and other relevant words. Check out our list of Korean words used in Taekwondo and what they mean in English to learn more.
Some modern TKD schools focus too much on sparring. Though it is the most exciting training element, no martial artist will ever be complete if they focus only on sparring. Forms, strength training, physical conditioning, and stretching are all important aspects.
Respect in a TKD school is often demonstrated through proper etiquette, such as bowing and salutations. Students should be expected to treat their sabonim, fellow students, and even those outside the Dojang with respect.
Discipline is a key aspect of many martial arts. Instructors should discipline students appropriately to maintain order and respect in the class.
Students should also learn self-discipline. This could be considered one of the most important gifts that Taekwondo offers to practitioners for all aspects of their lives.
Have you ever seen The Karate Kid? Two characters in this iconic movie are great examples of what a martial artist should be — and what they shouldn’t be.
Mr. Miyagi is a self-disciplined, humble gentleman who commands respect without trying through his gentle, yet firm attitude. In contrast, John Kreese, the leader of the Cobra Kai school, is a hot-headed braggart.
It doesn’t take a genius to know which type of attitude a Taekwondo school should be teaching.
10 Best Taekwondo Schools in the World
Now we have an idea of what constitutes a good Taekwondo school. Let’s take a trip and visit the best Taekwondo schools in the world (in no particular order).
1. World Taekwondo Academy
Grandmaster Byung Yul Lee came to the USA to establish one of the best Taekwondo schools in America in 1969. The legacy of this legendary martial artist lives on through his students who now serve as highly capable instructors in his school. The roster includes individuals who have been National Champions, Pan Am Champions, U.S.A. Team members, and U.S. and Olympic coaches.
World Taekwondo Academy has been turning out quality martial artists for over 50 years, making it one of the oldest Taekwondo schools in the USA. Currently, it holds the prestigious title of the nation’s #1 Taekwondo club for two years in a row!
Where is it? In the most unassuming of places, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The school boasts that its proven Taekwondo program can help anyone become more powerful and confident. The school offers various classes for men, women, and children starting at the age of 3. Respect and discipline are taken very seriously at the school while cultivating a safe and fun atmosphere.
Even if you don’t live nearby, you can enjoy instruction from this school through online classes.
2. JH Kim Taekwondo Institute
The respected Grandmaster Kim Jae Hun founded this prestigious institution in Boston in 1974. He came to Boston in 1971 to study at MIT.
While there, he began teaching Taekwondo classes at universities in the area. His analytical approach was a little different than what you typically see in a Taekwondo school. He blended what he learned in Western universities with the expertise he had developed in the East by studying under Taekwondo Masters.
People loved it and just three years later the JH Kim Taekwondo Institute was born. Now there are campuses in Singapore and Korea, and it has grown into a global network.
The analytical approach is still a major part of the curriculum. Every student must not only learn the techniques but understand why they work or why they are done in a specific manner. Technical discussions are highly encouraged.
Students are allowed to specialize in a specific area of Taekwondo and sport-style Taekwondo according to the Olympic rules is taught. However, everyone must learn the complete system to earn a well-rounded understanding of Taekwondo as a whole.
3. GB Taekwondo
This school is a bit newer, having been established in 2002 in Manchester. However, GB Taekwondo is responsible for training the British Taekwondo athletes who participate in the Olympics, Paralympics, and the World and European Championships.
With the entire country depending on them for representation on a global scale, you can bet they turn out high-caliber students. Each year the school holds multiple events to help prepare its full-time athletes for the Olympics.
Unlike other Taekwondo schools, this institution is not open for general admission. Funded by the British government, the focus is on turning out world champions and Olympic-level athletes.
Each year a talent draft (open recruitment process) is held for athletes between the ages of 13 and 18. Anyone with a martial arts background is eligible to apply. To be accepted into the Development Programme, individuals must demonstrate Olympic-level potential.
4. International Taekwondo Center
Let’s hop over to Egypt to see one of the best Taekwondo schools in the world. In fact, in 2020, two Olympic athletes who trained at the International Taekwondo Center in Cairo took home medals.
Funded by the Egyptian government, the high-quality instruction has earned Egypt a place among the top 20 best countries for Taekwondo training.
5. KyungHee Taekwondo
This group of Singapore Taekwondo schools is quite young, having been founded in 2011. The 8th Dan Grandmaster Eom Seong Soo who heads the school has an impressive list of credentials.
He has won various awards and certifications including:
- World Taekwondo Federation Master Award
- The Taekwondo Judgement Certificate from Korea Taekwondo Association
- Taekwondo Lead of Kyung Gi from the Ministry of Culture and Sports in Korea
- Best Leader from the Kyung Gi Do Taekwondo Association in Korea
And the list goes on. Furthermore, he ensures that all his instructors are more than qualified to offer top-notch Taekwondo instruction.
KyungHee Taekwondo Singapore is an official dojang authorized by the foremost Taekwondo University in the world, the KyungHee University Taekwondo Union. This organization has produced a number of amazing martial artists that have taken home medals from the Olympics, the Asian Games and played on the Korean National Team.
6. Cho’s Taekwondo Center
Looking for the best Taekwondo school in Hawaii? Look no further than Hee Il Cho’s Taekwondo Center. Though the school was founded in 2003, 9th Degree Grandmaster Cho has over 60 years of Taekwondo experience both as a student and instructor — and it shows through the quality of his students.
The school promotes harmony, goodwill, integrity, and honor and aims to serve their “ohana” (Hawaiian for family).
You might even recognize Master Cho’s face if you are a fan of ‘80s and ‘90s action movies. He appeared in small roles in various films including Best of the Best (1989), Fight to Win (1987), Bloodsport (1996), and Future War (1997).
Additionally, in 1980 Grandmaster Hee Il Cho founded the Action International Martial Arts Association (AIMAA). This organization helps other martial arts schools start and mature with the intent of spreading the core tenets of all martial arts — self-discipline, honor, harmony, etc.
This approach of unifying martial arts styles is considered quite radical, especially back in the 80s. Most martial artists were more concerned (and still are) with proving the superiority of their chosen martial art rather than exchanging knowledge.
Hee Il Cho’s Taekwondo Center in Hawaii serves as the international headquarters of the AIMAA and regularly hosts international members.
7. World Class Taekwondo
Located in San Jose, California, World Class Taekwondo was founded by Grandmaster Sun Ki Chong. This incredible martial artist was three times a Korean National Champion and also coached the US Team.
All instructors are nationally-certified and are dedicated to building a supportive and passionate community. The bulk of each class is spent on learning techniques. The school recognizes that physical fitness is a reason that many people enjoy martial arts but Taekwondo is treated as a way of life, not a fitness class.
Self-esteem, self-defense, discipline, confidence, and other qualities are steadfastly fostered in this school. Martial artists that study at this institution come out well-rounded and capable, both physically and mentally.
8. INSEP France
In France, the National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance (INSEP) was founded in 2001. The purpose was to bring together the best French Taekwondo athletes — and they did a fantastic job.
French athletes training at INSEP have won 8 Olympic medals (50% of France’s total Olympic medals) and various Taekwondo World Championship medals. With these successes, the French Taekwondo team has earned its place among the 10 best in the world.
Similar to GB Taekwondo, INSEP is more focused on training elite athletes and does not hold general admission Taekwondo classes. Instead, the institute offers rigorous training programs for elite athletes between 14 and 18 years old.
9. World Taekwondo: Iran
Here’s a surprise, when Taekwondo was introduced to Iran in the 1970s by Korean military advisors, the country fell in love with it.
Soon after, Iranian athletes began competing in Taekwondo on a global level. In 1975, the Iranian team took bronze in the 2nd World Taekwondo Championships. Over the years, Iranian athletes have won 54 Taekwondo World Championship medals and 6 Olympic medals.
Though there are over 5,000 TKD schools in Iran, World Taekwondo: Iran is where the best athletes train. The school was established by Grandmaster Shin Chul Kang at the request of Taekwondo Federation president, Seyed Mostafa Safavi.
10. Kukkiwon World Taekwondo Academy
No trip around the world visiting Taekwondo schools would be complete without a visit to Seoul, South Korea, the part of the world where it all began.
The Kukkiwon World Taekwondo Academy was founded in 1982 with an inclusive philosophy. While it recognizes the physical prowess of the sport, the school also focuses on producing quality social leaders. Virtue and the Taekwondo spirit in national and social is emphasized.
In the spirit of inclusivity, the academy started a master education course for the disabled in 2008. The school has produced approximately 140,000 leaders that continue the tradition of Taekwondo to this very day.
How to Find the Best Taekwondo School for You?
We’ve talked about what makes a good Taekwondo school and given information about 10 of the best Taekwondo schools in the world. But what about the best Taekwondo school for you? If you don’t live near one of the options we’ve discussed, how can you find one for yourself?
Simple. Do your homework.
Get on Google and do a quick search for “taekwondo schools near me” to get a list of nearby schools. You can also check out their websites to get a basic idea of what they offer.
For extra clout, you can also look for “World Taekwondo Federation schools near me.” Any school that has been accredited by the World Taekwondo Federation is very likely to be a fantastic school.
Visit the School
Then, go visit the school in person. Keep an eye out for the qualities that we mentioned at the beginning of this article. These are big signs about the quality of the school.
Most schools will allow you to watch a class and even take one or two for free. Take note of how the students and instructors behave. Is the atmosphere respectful? Do the students treat one another with decorum?
What kind of Taekwondo uniforms is everyone using? Traditional uniforms were white. Colorful uniforms can indicate a modernized school that has abandoned some or all of Taekwondo’s traditions.
Analyze the Instructor
Talk with the instructor and take note of their attitude. Do they seem humble like Mr. Miyagi or overbearing like John Kreese? Are they in shape physically? In other words, do they look like they practice what they preach?
If everything checks out, it’s just a matter of taking a few classes to see if the style of instruction feels right for you.
How to Find the Best Taekwondo School for Your Child？
Choosing a martial arts academy for your child is basically the same as choosing one for yourself. However, especially if you plan to drop your child off for Taekwondo classes, there are a few extra steps that it would be wise to take.
Run a Background Check
As odd as it feels, it’s a good idea to run a criminal background check on the instructor. Not every person with a martial arts background is a good person and martial arts schools are not regulated by the government. It’s up to you to do your own research to ensure your child’s safety.
Make Sure Parents Can Attend
Children’s classes are typically run a little differently than adult classes. Ask to sit it on one or bring your child for a free introductory class. If you aren’t allowed to attend, that’s a red flag. Reputable martial arts schools should have no problem allowing parents to watch the classes.
Ready to Start Your Taekwondo Journey?
Studying any martial art, whether Taekwondo, Karate, or something else, is an incredible journey. You will learn discipline, self-control, humility, and a whole host of excellent life skills.
When it comes to choosing a school, pick one whose instructor and students demonstrate these qualities and you’ll be good to go!
Curious about how Taekwondo compares to Karate? Check out our comparison here!