Is Taekwondo an Effective Martial Art?

Taekwondo - Effective Martial Art

The effectiveness of Taekwondo (and pretty much every other martial art) has been debated for years. Yet there is still no clear consensus. 

Some people claim that Taekwondo with its emphasis on using the body’s most powerful limbs is the most effective martial art. But others say that it is useless in a street fight or against an opponent skilled in grappling. 

So, what’s the truth?

Well, to some extent, it depends on the context you’re talking about. Is Taekwondo effective for what? Self-defense? Exercise? Street cred? The development of self-confidence?

Let’s look at this question and examine the different nuances here. 

Is Taekwondo a Martial Art?

Yes, Taekwondo is a Korean martial art based on techniques that date back several hundred years. The art combines elements of Karate and Chinese martial arts as well as traditional Korean styles. 

Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on kicks, which are believed to be more effective than punches in a self-defense situation. After all, legs are longer and stronger than arms and a well-placed kick can take your opponent out in one strike.

Is Taekwondo Effective for Self-Defense?

Yes, taekwondo can be very effective for self-defense. 

The techniques taught in traditional Taekwondo are very effective for disabling an opponent. Furthermore, the art also teaches practitioners to be aware of their surroundings and to have good control over their bodies, which can help them avoid or escape dangerous situations. 

This is true for people of all sizes. A well-trained Taekwondo martial artist can defend themselves effectively even against attackers who are much larger than them. This is due in part to the art’s heavy reliance on the body’s more powerful limbs. 

However, modern Taekwondo sometimes looks very different than traditional stuff. In Taekwondo sport, there are a lot of rules designed to protect the practitioners. You can’t strike your opponent in certain areas and you are only allowed to use certain techniques. 

In a real fight, you would quickly discover your opponent is not bound by the same rules and the habits you’ve developed are not serving you well.  Unfortunately, some Taekwondo schools are so focused on competition that they do not teach a more well-rounded curriculum. 

Students of this type of Taekwondo school may have better self-defense skills than the average person. However, it would be a mistake to assume they could effectively defend themselves outside the ring.

Is Taekwondo Effective in a Street Fight?

Yes, Taekwondo techniques can be very effective in a street fight. 

Even if you strip away the limiting rules of sport-style Taekwondo, many of the techniques are still quite flashy and acrobatic, which makes some people doubt its effectiveness. What would really happen if you tried to use Taekwondo in a real fight?

Well, Taekwondo fighters may use flashy techniques, but a well-rounded practitioner also has a strong defense.

Taekwondo teaches practitioners to use their entire body as a weapon and to strike with precision and power. With its focus on striking, speed, and agility, Taekwondo techniques can help you take down an attacker quickly and efficiently. 

Furthermore, traditional schools teach students to always be aware of their surroundings and prepared to defend themselves at all times.

There is a reason this martial art is taught to the Korean military and police officers. The art gives practitioners the skills they need to defend themselves on the street. 

While there is no guarantee that Taekwondo will help you win every street fight, it is certainly a big help.

Is Taekwondo Effective in MMA?

Yes, Taekwondo techniques can be effective in MMA fights. However, fighters who only study Taekwondo are at a disadvantage in the ring. Let’s look at why that is. 

A Mixed Martial Art (MMA) fight is a different beast than a typical street fight. You probably have heard people, particularly from the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu crowd, downplay Taekwondo in MMA. 

MMA is generally more brutal and has far fewer restrictions than sport-style Taekwondo. Honestly, if you tried to fight with sport-style Taekwondo in an MMA ring, you should prepare for defeat — and a lot of pain. 

Taekwondo fighters like to keep their distance and use their feet, but most MMA stuff is grappling-based and really in your face. However, Taekwondo practitioners have shown that kicks can be used to off-balance an opponent, making it easier to take them down. In addition, kicks can create space and keep an opponent at a distance. Not to mention that a well-placed Taekwondo kick is a show-stopping.

But Taekwondo techniques are only effective if the fighter is on their feet. The art doesn’t teach grappling so if the fighter falls, they don’t have much recourse. 

However, fighters who study both Taekwondo and a grappling martial art like BJJ are a force to be reckoned with in the MMA ring. Just take a look at Anthony Pettis or Anderson Silva. Both of these fighters got their start in Taekwondo and both are considered among the best MMA fighters of all time. 

Every Anderson Silva Finish

Is Taekwondo Good for Your Health?

Absolutely! Getting plenty of exercises is key for good physical and mental health. And you definitely get lots of exercise with regular Taekwondo practice. The training drills offer a great workout for your whole body, and can help you build strength, flexibility, and coordination.

Why is exercise so important for your health? The cardiovascular and strengthening benefits of exercise help keep a wide variety of diseases at bay — including the biggest killer in America, heart disease

Furthermore, for most practitioners, Taekwondo becomes a way of life. It’s not just an exercise class. Thus, students are more motivated to stick with it. Showing up for martial arts class is often easier than forcing yourself to go to the gym. 

In short, practicing Taekwondo is very good for your health. You can check out a more comprehensive list of mental and physical health benefits here.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Taekwondo? 

There are many martial arts that people can study, but Taekwondo may be one of the most popular. The sport is practiced by people of all ages and abilities in countries around the world.

Studying Taekwondo has many advantages, but there are also some disadvantages to consider. Let’s look at both briefly.

Advantages of Taekwondo

We’ve talked a lot about the advantages of Taekwondo already, so we won’t delve too deep here. We’ll just summarize a few. 

Excellent Exercise

Practicing Taekwondo is great exercise. Repeated drills build cardiovascular endurance, strength, and conditioning. Plus, there are a lot of stretching and flexibility exercises designed to help practitioners perform those incredible kicks.

Stress Reliever

What better way to let out all your stress than by pounding on a heavy bag or a practice dummy? Not to mention, intense physical exercise helps to burn off frustration and counteract the negative physical effects of stress. 

Self-Confidence, Discipline, and Respect

Any Taekwondo school that sticks to the old principles will have a focus on discipline and respect. They teach these principles as a way of life — both inside the Dojang and out. And your self-confidence naturally goes up as you reach and exceed your own expectations for yourself.

Self-Defense Skills

Taekwondo students learn lots of great self-defense techniques, as we’ve been exploring in this article. A good school also teaches students situational awareness, as well as how to avoid or get out of dangerous situations.

Many modern Taekwondo schools also include techniques from Judo or another grappling art to help students be more well-rounded. Devastating kicks are amazing, but you also need to know how to defend yourself in close combat. 

Disadvantages of Taekwondo

Of course, there are two sides to every coin. For all the great advantages of Taekwondo, there are also some disadvantages. 

False Sense of Security

Some people take things too far after learning a few self-defense moves. Perhaps they take unnecessary risks because they believe they can “take care of themselves” if something were to happen. However, part of taking care of yourself is to avoid frivolously endangering yourself.

This idea is not generally promoted or condoned by Taekwondo schools, but is an attitude some people may develop nonetheless. 

Risk of Injury

Like all sports, Taekwondo carries a risk of injury. If you don’t perform a technique correctly, you can hurt yourself. Plus, during sparring matches, fellow students are actively trying to strike you. While precautions are always taken to help avoid injury, accidents happen. 


It takes a lot of time to learn Taekwondo. Great martial artists don’t just show up at class a couple of times a week. They put their all into training, which means there is less time available for other pursuits. 


Taekwondo fees add up significantly over time. Not only do you have to pay for classes but also as you progress, you’ll need to pay for more protective gear, belt tests, etc. Month to month, the fees don’t seem so bad. But truly learning Taekwondo is a lifelong commitment and the costs add up. 

The Effectiveness of Taekwondo

Wow! We’ve learned a lot about the effectiveness of Taekwondo in this article. It’s hard to just ask questions like “is Taekwondo a good martial art” or “does Taekwondo work?”

Taekwondo is a complex subject and you have to define what effective means for you.

If you want to lose weight, get stronger, and gain confidence, dedicated Taekwondo practice is highly effective.

If you want to defend yourself on the street, the techniques you learn can be very effective, especially if your school includes grappling techniques in its curriculum.

If you want to win MMA fights, Taekwondo gives you some great skills but isn’t a complete package. 

So the real question is this, “is Taekwondo effective for you?” Only you can answer it!

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Cara Koch
Cara Koch
Hello! My name is Cara, and I hail from the great state of Washington up there in the Pacific Northwest. While there, I trained for and earned my 1st degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do at the Bonney Lake College of Martial Arts. My interest in martial arts, however, didn’t wane. I hope you enjoy the content on The Karate Blog and are impassioned and empowered by what you read here.