Korean Taekwondo Terminology in Plain English

Taekwondo terminology

What did he say?!

Have you ever taken a Taekwondo class? The instructor might have sounded like he was speaking a foreign language at times.

Well, he probably was!

Taekwondo is a Korean art and, as such, most taekwondo schools use Korean words during class. This also standardizes things so that students from different countries can come together and train. 

If you want to be able to keep up, you’ll need to know what these words mean. Check out this helpful list of Taekwondo terminology in both English and Korean. 

Counting in Korean

Bet you didn’t know you’d have to learn to count all over again to go to Taekwondo class, did you? Well, if you want to know how many repetitions you’re doing, learning the numbers in Korean is a must. 

Luckily, you don’t need to learn all the numbers, but 1 – 10 is a great start. Here they are.

  • One – Hana
  • Two – Dul
  • Three – Set
  • Four – Net
  • Five – Dasot
  • Six – Yasot
  • Seven – Elgub
  • Eight – Yodel
  • Nine – Ahob
  • Ten – Yol

Kicks

The word for kick in Korean sounds like chagi (chah-gee). Thus, you’ll see this appear in all the kick names.

  • Kick – chagi
  • Front – ap chagi
  • Side kick – yeop chagi
  • Roundhouse kick – dollyo chagi
  • Back kick – dwi chagi
  • Crescent kick – bandal chagi
  • Axe kick – naeryeo chagi
  • Scissor kick – kawi chagi
  • Push kick – meereo chagi
  • Knee strike – moreup chigi (yes, that supposed to be chigi because it’s technically not a kick)

Blocks

The kicks are a big deal in Taekwondo, but don’t underestimate blocks as well. It’s important to be able to protect yourself from incoming attacks. Check out this useful TKD terminology for various types of blocks. 

  • Low block – ahre maggi
  • Middle block – momtong maggi
  • Rising block – wee maggi
  • Knife-hand block – son nal maggi
  • Double knife-hand block – du son nal kuh dul a maggi
  • X block – yeot pero maggi
  • Outside block – backat maggi
  • Palm block – ba tang son maggi
  • Double hand block – du son kuh dul a maggi

Stances

Without proper stances and footwork, you’ll end up on the ground quickly. This is why the words for different stances are included in the basic taekwondo terminology you must learn at the beginning. 

  • Front stance – ahp gubi sohgi
  • Back stance – dwi gibi sohgi
  • Walking stance – ahp sohgi
  • Fighting stance – mot sohgi
  • Sparring stance – kyeo ry gee chum be
  • Horse stance – juchoom sohgi
  • Tiger stance – pyong hi soghi

Curious to learn more about the various kicks in Taekwondo? Check out this post!

Hand Strikes

Hand strikes are other Taekwondo commands in Korean that you’ll often hear in the dojang. If you’re struggling to understand when you hear the command, you’ll miss your chance to take the shot so learn these words well!

  • Hook – guligi chi gi
  • Back-fist – dung joomock chi gi
  • Double knife-hand strike – doo son nal mok chi gi
  • Hammer fist – me joomok chi gi
  • Palm strike – ba tang son tuck chi gi
  • Spear hand strike – son nal dung chi gi
  • Knuckle fist punch – pyon joomock chi gi
  • Knife-hand strike – sob nal chi gi

Anatomy

You won’t hear anatomical words in Korean as often as some of the other tkd terminology we’ve covered. However, it’s important to learn these words as well to know what they mean when you hear them. 

  • Head – mo li
  • Neck – mok
  • Face – eolgul
  • Elbow – pal gub
  • Hand – son
  • Fist – joomock
  • Forearm – palmock
  • Knee – moreup
  • Leg – dari
  • Foot – baal
  • Ball of the foot – jock do
  • Heel – bal dwee ggum chee

Pleasantries 

As will most martial arts, discipline and respect are a big part of learning Taekwondo. Following that idea, there are many respectful Korean taekwondo terms that all students of Taekwondo should learn. 

  • Hello – an nyung ha sae yo
  • Thank you – kam sa ham me da
  • Goodbye – an nyung he gae sae yo
  • Bow – kyung nae
  • Bow to the flags – kuk gee eh dae han kyung na
  • Bow to the master – kuan jang nim kkae kyung nae

School Terminology

No one will expect you to walk in speaking the correct taekwondo words. However, after a few weeks of attending classes, there are a few words that should be becoming familiar to you. 

  • Practice space – do jang
  • Uniform – dobok
  • Student – hak saeng (or jeja) 
  • Senior Student – sonbaenim
  • Master Instructor – kwan jang nim
  • Instructor – sabomnim
  • Ready – joon be
  • Attention – chah ryut
  • Forms – poomsae
  • Sparring – kyunggo
  • Black belt – dan
  • Self-defense – hosinsool
  • Korean flag – tae guk gi
  • American flag – mi gook gee
  • Yell – kihap

FAQs About Basic Taekwondo Terminology

How many of these tkd terms did you already know? Probably not many unless you’ve already studied Taekwondo. While some karate terms have become well-known, taekwondo doesn’t enjoy the same fame in the West. 

Let’s look at a few FAQs to understand more about taekwondo Korean terminology.

How do you write Tae Kwon Do in Korean characters?

태권도

What is a Taekwondo school called?

Dojang. 

The word “dojo” might be more familiar to most westerners as the popularization of Karate made it a popular word in the West. However, the proper Korean word is Dojang. 

What is a Taekwondo student called?

“Taekwondo-in” is the word used in general for Taekwondo students. They may also be called “hak saeng” or “jeja,” depending on the specific style of Taekwondo.

If you are addressing a senior student, call them “sonbaenim.”

What is a Taekwondo instructor called?

Sabom (sah-bom) is the proper term in Korean. Sensei is more popularly known in the West but it is a Japanese term used in Karate. 

If you wish to ask your instructor a question, add the respectful suffix -nim. Thus, address your instructor as sabomnim.

What should I say when bow/salute to a taekwondo teacher?

Taekwon. In fact, you can say this when you bow to anyone, whether an instructor or fellow student. 

Avoid calling an instructor by their first name. Use “sir” or “ma’am” or “master” when appropriate. This includes when responding to questions (yes sir, instead of simply yes). 

What’s the difference between baro and keuman in Taekwondo commands?

Baro means “return” while keuman means “stop.” However these taekwondo words often get confused because students hear them in the same context. 

Take this example at the end of a form. The instructor may say baro because they want you to return to the starting position, which is typically a ready stance. 

However, an instructor may also say keuman because you have reached the end and they want you to stop. The student will then return to a ready stance because that is what you do at the end of a form. 

You can see how it gets confusing. 

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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.