What Are the Tenets of Taekwondo? (And what do they mean?)

Taekwondo is one of the most popular martial arts for a reason. It trains both your body and mind and gives you a clearer outlook on how to live life, thanks to its guiding tenets. But what are the tenets of Taekwondo?

These five tenets of Taekwondo are Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, and having an Indomitable spirit. These principals are the core beliefs that Taekwondo schools and instructors use to instruct their students.

The tenets of Taekwondo are its core principles. There are essentially five tenets, but some taekwondo schools may add some more.

In the rest of this article, I will explain the meaning of these tenets and how you can apply them to your life. If you stick to the end, you get to read the fascinating history behind the creation of the tenets of Taekwondo.

Taekwondo Tenet 1 – Courtesy

In Korean Hangul, it is written as 여의 (Ye-ui) and pronounced ye-wee. Courtesy means to behave respectfully and politely to everyone in the dojang and people you meet outside. It also means to act nicely to people and promote the spirit of mutual concessions.

Examples of this are practiced in the dojang when Taekwondo students in junior ranks bow and greet when they meet the GrandMaster, black belt practitioners, and other senior ranks; this act is a sign of respect for their accomplishments. It is also a show of mutual respect when you and your opponent, fellow students, or instructor bow to each other on and off the mat. It shows appreciation to your teachers and fellow students.

Other ways of showing courtesy are saying “thank you” when someone does something nice for you, saying “Sir” or “Ma’am” when talking to people that are older than you, and being polite when you speak to everyone.

A Taekwondo student should observe correct etiquette and good manners and be civil at all times within the Dojang and in their daily life.

Taekwondo Tenet 2 – Integrity

Integrity is written as 염치 (Yom chi) in Korean Hangul and pronounced yom-chee. Integrity means being honest, having strong moral principles, and standing up for what is ethically correct. It means to tell the truth at all times and to do the right thing no matter what. Integrity is when a person holds themselves to a strong moral standard.

Examples of showing integrity are informing a cashier if you are given too much change, returning to pay for something you forgot to pay for, keeping your promises, and being truthful even if you might get punished.

It is against integrity when an instructor misrepresents himself and his art by presenting improper techniques to his students because of his lack of knowledge.

Taekwondo Tenet 3 – Perseverance

Perseverance is written as 인냬 (In-nae) in Korean Hangul and pronounced een-nay. To persevere means to continually struggle against all odds to reach your goal. No matter the barriers blocking your path, you are willing to face them and not give up on your dream.

To persevere as a Taekwondo student, you must keep training during good and bad times, even when you are bored or frustrated because you are not getting a technique or form.

It is normal to be frustrated when it is hard to achieve your goal (e.g., the perfection of a technique or achieving a higher degree). You may not always succeed on the first try, so you shouldn’t give up when that happens. Students of Taekwondo are to try and try again and never give up, even in difficult situations, both during their Taekwondo training and in their daily lives.

Training in any sport takes a while to get good at, which is why you need to persevere. Perseverance is patiently continuing training because you will be great at it someday. In a recent article, I explained how often you should train in Taekwondo, especially if you plan to become an instructor or professional athlete. Click the link to read the full article on this website.

Taekwondo Tenet 4 – Self-Control

Self-control is written as 극기 (Geuk-gi) in Korean Hangul and pronounced gook-gee or guk gi. It means having complete control over your thoughts, emotions, and actions, especially in difficult situations.

One of the most important secrets that a white belt needs to learn is that mastering self-control (physically, mentally, and spiritually) would make learning martial arts easier.

Every martial art requires years of patient practice to perfect.

A lack of self-control means you would get frustrated quickly, give up, and move on to other endeavors. When faced with upsetting situations, the best course of action is to maintain your calm and keep your emotions under control.

Lao Tzu, a great Chinese philosopher, talked about the importance of self-control by saying, “the term ‘stronger’ is the person who wins over oneself rather than someone else.” This means you are a stronger person if you have control of yourself.

Self-control is essential in the dojang because you can hurt yourself or your sparring partner if you lose control of your emotions. A loss of self-control in free sparring can prove disastrous to both the student and the opponent.

Another example of self-control in the dojang is remaining at attention or in the ready stance without motion until your instructor allows you to do otherwise.

Taekwondo Tenet 5 – Indomitable Spirit

In Korean Hangul, it is written as 백절불굴 (Baekjul Boolgool) and pronounced beckjool boolgool. An indomitable spirit means one who is strong, brave, and impossible to make frightened. A person with an indomitable spirit never gives up or admits that they have been defeated. It also means having the mindset of not giving up on your goal no matter the setbacks you face.

A person with an indomitable spirit is a courageous person who maintains inner strength, whether winning or losing.

An example of people who exhibited an indomitable spirit is Leonidas and his 300 Spartans.

They faced the mighty Persian army at Thermopylae. Even though the odds were against them and they were greatly outnumbered, Leonidas and his 300 Spartans refused to back down. They faced the superior forces of Xerxes without fear.

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I have got the answer in my recent article. In it, I thoroughly compare Taekwondo and Judo and explain which might be better if you ever got into a street fight.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who came up with the five tenets of Taekwondo?

The origin of the five tenets of Taekwondo began during the Three Kingdoms Period of Korean history. These kingdoms were Silla, Koguryo, and Paekje.

The kingdom of Silla was initially the smallest of the three kingdoms.

To defend Silla from the other rival kingdoms, its ruler, King Chin Hung, created an organization called Hwarang. Hwarang consisted of youths from noble families who were persons of good character, virtue, and countenance. They were trained to become excellent warriors and protect their kingdom.

As Hwarang warriors, they were taught arts, science, dance, and literature. They were also trained in hand-to-hand combat and the arts of warfare.

During the 30th year reign of King Chin Hung, two Hwarang warriors, Kwi-San and Chu-Hang, went to meet a famous Buddhist warrior monk Won Gwang Beop Sa. They asked him to provide them with a set of principles to live by for those who could not embrace the Buddhist monks’ secluded way of life.

Won Gwang instructed them on his “Five Commandments for Secular Life.”

These commandments were then accepted as the Hwarang Code of Conduct. It comprises these five rules: 

  1. Rigid loyalty to king and country
  2. Respect and obedience to one’s parents
  3. Unswerving loyalty to and trust of friends
  4. To display courage and never retreat in battle
  5. Prudence in the use of violence or the taking of life.

This Hwarang Code of Conduct is where Taekwondo’s Five Tenets were derived from.

What is the significance of the five tenets of Taekwondo?

In Taekwondo, philosophy and core values are closely tied to the training curriculum. Taekwondo is very much interested in your personal development and outlook on life.

Usually, at the beginning of every Taekwondo class, the tenets of Taekwondo are recited first. Then the student oath is recited with the students repeating it after the instructor or with them all reciting it in unison.

The student oath is as follows:

  1. Observe the tenets of Taekwondo.
  2. Respect all seniors and instructors.
  3. Never misuse Taekwondo.
  4. Be a champion of freedom and justice.
  5. Help to build a more peaceful world.

The tenets of Taekwondo are old oriental principles that are ever relevant. These core values guide the actions, thoughts, and personal affairs of Taekwondo students in their daily lives. Practicing them helps build better self-esteem and better quality of life.

The tenets also help martial artists to have increased self-discipline and self-restraint and resist peer pressure. If more and more people practice these tenets, we will have a more peaceful world.

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Luckily in this recent article, I show you just how possible it is! In it, I share helpful online resources and classes that will help you understand the fundamentals all on your own in the comfort of your house. And some of these lessons are free!

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The Tenets of Taekwondo


We considered the five tenets of Taekwondo: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, and having an Indomitable Spirit. We also discussed the origin of the tenets of Taekwondo and its significance.

Each of the five tenets is an essential guiding principle in your training as a Taekwondo student and in living a good life.

These tenets help martial artists have increased self-discipline and self-restraint and resist peer pressure.

Especially in children, these tenets will help them develop a confident character and resilience. Ideally, every serious Taekwondo student knows and imbibes these ethical principles in everyday life.

Image by inno kurnia from Pixabay

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