I have trained weapons in a couple martial arts and I think that weapons should be a part of traditional taekwondo curriculum. For a particular school of taekwondo, they would not teach weapons as part of the curriculum except as an auxiliary lesson. If you went to the other martial arts of that same school, they did teach some weapon defense techniques. I know some taekwondo schools that do teach weapons as part of ranking curriculum.

As I do not see it in the WTF or Kukkiwon texts, is weapon training a part of traditions in taekwondo or is taekwondo technically a no-weapons, free hand-foot form?


6 Answers 6


The situation of TKD is very similar to that of Shotokan karate (and indeed since TKD comes mostly from Shotokan karate).

In Shotokan, you will occasionally see some weapons being taught, such as the nunchaku, tonfa, sai, and sword. But those weapons aren't in Shotokan's syllabus. Each instructor had to learn them from someone who knows Okinawan or Japanese kobudo (classical martial arts).

It's usually taught as supplemental material, not part of the official syllabus, depending on what your instructor happens to have gone out and learned on his/her own. Weapons could be part of the syllabus for that particular school only, but not all Shotokan schools.

And this is the same as what you'll find in TKD.

In my old TKD school, my instructor was adamant that weapons had no place in his school. To him, TKD was for defense purposes only, and weapons were offensive (in both senses of the word). At least to him.

I later learned that other instructors see it very differently. They might point out that in order to defend oneself well against someone armed with a weapon, you better be familiar with that weapon. So it behooves you to learn how to use weapons.

Also, they point out that learning to control a weapon will magnify any weaknesses you have in your stance, strength, coordination, speed, timing, etc. All of that can benefit your empty-hand abilities as well.

Personally, if you're trying to decide between two TKD schools, one with weapons and one without, I think the choice of schools should almost entirely depend on how good their actual TKD (empty hand) skills seem to be, rather than valuing weapons training particularly highly. But that's how I would value them. You may see it differently.

Also, I've not found very good weapons instruction in TKD schools, I'm afraid. In fact, I'd say most are absolutely atrocious at it. My recommendation is to look around. See who's teaching what. Go to their classes and see for yourself what it looks like. There is a lot of good weapon instruction in many different martial arts. Such as: Okinawan kobudo, kung-fu, iaido / kenjitsu / kendo, Bujinkan ninjutsu, classical jujitsu (many have weapons), Filipino martial arts, or Silat. Have a look around.

  • Agreed. Probably better to go with a TKD school that puts emphasis on good unarmed technique. Remember you can always go to a different school to learn weapons, such as a school that just teaches Iaido or Kali. Jan 28, 2014 at 12:53

Taekwondo quite literally translates as the art of kicking and punching. You can certainly stylise that translation, but that's what it means.

The reason TKD doesn't focus that much on weapons is probably because it's quite a modern art, having been founded in the 1960's ( or was it the 1950's?) when people were shooting at each other with firearms, as opposed to beating each other up with sticks and swords or shooting with the bow and arrow. But that's just a guess. I never really asked anyone who might know.

I did see the benefit of training with especially the Kali sticks and the Bo. They are a great exercises for coordination, concentration and rhythm and help develop your ability to use groups of muscles efficiently.

  • I was thinking about the relative youth of the modern art, but the art has its basis in centuries old martial arts. As far as the bo and kali, I find them and other "traditional" weapons to be natural extensions of the hand and foot techniques that is taught with taekwondo. As well, something especially like the bo can help taekwondo practitioners showcase the use of two hands (or the whole body) for all techniques. Dec 5, 2013 at 14:41

It's going to depend on your instructor and art, and how they promote weapons within the art. Traditional Korean weapons include spear variations (traditional spear, one similar to a naginata, trident, etc), bow, sword variations, a nunchaku variant, and the staff. Whether or not these are part of the curriculum at your dojang is variable.

For example, many WTF schools emphasize sparring, as they are the recognized Olympic TKD style, and do not do much with weapons. ITF has had some weapons at a few schools I've been to, and ATA has quite a few weapons, some of which are borrowed from Okinawan/Japanese styles. (ATA weapons include staff, single/double escrima, 3 sectional staff, sword, single/double nunchaku, ssangh nat (kama) and cane.)

If you truly want to learn weapons, however, there are arts that focus much more heavily on weapons, and I would suggest adding those for the weapons training. The training that you will get in a TKD environment is not generally going to be a focus, it will be an adjunct, and nowhere near as in depth for instruction.


TKD isn't the best way to learn weapons. If you want a weapons art that goes well with TKD, learn escrima. It goes well together. Don't try to learn just from TKD, like the Wudang Kid said.

  • Why is TKD no the best way to learn weapons? And what is it about Escrima that makes it better?
    – THelper
    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:04
  • The movements in TKD are similar to the movements in escrima. There is a lot of similar positioning. That's what my grandmaster who teaches both said when I used to take TKD. I never took escrima but he was like considered one of the top martial arts teachers in the country. Escrima apparently is so similar in movement that doing one will help the other to a reasonable extent, more than you'd expect from two very different martial arts in that way. Feb 11, 2014 at 17:47
  • If you add this comment to your answer, your answer will be much better. Just click on 'edit' below your answer text.
    – THelper
    Feb 11, 2014 at 20:57

Of course, we all know the meaning of taekwondo...

My school seems to be a bit different.

We do alot of weapons. Because they're fun.

We officially have nunchaku forums on our tests, and that's it. We also do bo staff, although there is only one official pattern, and it is about as exciting as watching the grass grow. We have fierce tournaments. Us black belts create our own weapons patterns, and compete with them in tournaments.

kumdo. My school studies "chang moo kwan" (one of the eight original kwans, or gyms in korea before the kukkiwon), and that has kinda blended into our taekwondo studdies a little.

Aside from the required weapons, we also do "demo" weapons. That is, other weapons patterns that we present at demos. We do nunchaku, sai, bo, sword, escrima, ropedart, tonfa, and others...

I have never heard of a different TKD gym doing that, so I guess I can't really speak for TKD as a whole.


Tae Kwon Do came from the practice of Tae Kyeon which was formalized martial arts practice in the courts. Hwarangdo warriors practiced a similar art, but also incorporated bo-staff, Korean sword, spear, and knife (Dando) in their training. It was until the Japanese Invasion that a lot of Tae Kyeon was formalized with the Japanese method of martial arts training. But weapons was a essential training tool and tools of use in combat for Hwrangdo warriors. A lot of the other Korean martial arts such as Hwarangdo and Kuk Sook Won use traditional Korean weapons as a part of their training. There are Tae Kwon Do self defense techniques that trains students against knife and staff attacks. It would not hurt for the students to learn about how to use the knife or staff to defend yourself if the need is ever there.

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    Welcome to the site. This is a nice answer but lacks references. If you were to add some, it would be a great answer. Jul 22, 2015 at 9:44

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