Theory of Power

Since Taekwon-do is a martial art that channels power in many ways, it is important to understand the components that, combined, will maximize the power expressed in a technique. A primary point to maximizing power is the ability of the individual to maintain a relaxed state while delivering the strike. Only at the point of contact should the proper amount of tension be applied. In order to gain an understanding of power, it is necessary to examine the elements individually as expressed in the theory of power.


Speed is a misnomer for acceleration, the state of initiating a motion to reach proper velocity to penetrate a target. Without speed, the ability to penetrate a target is severely impeded. To maximize speed, the muscles of the body must be relaxed. Then, a sudden initiation of motion is necessary to start the striking tool on its way to the contact point. During the traveling period the muscles should stay as relaxed as possible. At the proper time, tension is executed in the muscles causing the striking tool to receive a last-second added burst of acceleration used to penetrate the contact point. An illustration of this principle would be the ability of a whip to crack.

The whip represents a relaxed muscle group; the tip of the whip represents the striking tool; and the standing air at the whip’s end represents the intended target area. Motion is initiated by the larger muscle group, at the whip’s handle, because the larger muscle groups require longer periods to achieve necessary acceleration. This motion is transmitted down the length of the whip, smaller muscle groups, causing greater and greater acceleration until at last reaching the whip’s tip, the striking tool. At the proper moment, tension is introduced and transferred down the length of the whip. The tension, locking out the technique, causes an additional acceleration when the striking tool meets with the contact point, providing the striking tool the speed necessary to penetrate the target, standing air. This penetration is manifested by the cracking sound of the whip.

Reaction Force

Reaction force is an element that helps to maximize the speed, acceleration, of a technique. Reaction force is an equal and opposite motion from that of the intended striking tool. For example, if an individual executed a middle punch, the speed of the outgoing punch would be increased greatly if the individual simultaneously pulled his non-punching hand to his hip. This increase in speed would ultimately increase the power of the punch. Also, reaction force assists in maintaining balance. In the example of the middle punch, the individual is able to maintain a stable center of gravity because of the non-punching hand’s action in conjunction with the punching hand’s action. By maintaining a stable center, full power can be devoted to the technique and not decreased by a need to regain balance.


Concentration is necessary to maximize the impact of the striking tool to the contact point of the target. Concentration is the focus of all of the muscles of the body behind the striking tool and delivering the “lined up” tool to the smallest possible area, the contact point. An example of concentration in a striking tool would be if two arrows, one coming to a point and one with a disk at its end, having precisely the same mass were shot from a bow using exactly the same pressure to shoot the arrows. Upon reaching the contact point of the target, the pointed arrow would penetrate the target because the arrow’s shaft is “lined up” behind the point and applying unified force to one focused area, represented by the arrow’s tip and the contact point of the target. The other arrow would hit the target but would not penetrate the contact point because the force of the shaft is not focused behind one distinct point. Instead, it is diffused throughout the disk at the arrow’s end and consequently a larger contact area of the target. Another aspect of concentration is the mental concentration to dedicate all of the body to a technique in order to penetrate a specific target. If an individual attempts to break one board with a side kick, something he should physically be able to do, but the mind is not properly focused on execution of the kick, he will not succeed in breaking the board.


Balance is especially important in Taekwon-do because of its jumping techniques and high kicks. By maintaining a stable center of gravity, one can deliver maximum force in a strike. This is because the muscles of the body are correctly “lined up ” behind the striking tool. In the arrow example above, one arrow has a normal straight shaft and one arrow has a Z-shaped shaft. If one tried to stand the arrows on end, the Z-shaped arrow would be difficult to stand because its center of gravity is not aligned with its tip. The arrow with the straight shaft, however, would stand easily because its center of gravity is aligned with its tip and, therefore, the arrow is balanced. When the arrows are shot from a bow, the Z-shaped arrow would not penetrate the contact point, let alone fly to it. This is because the force traveling the arrow’s shaft is not aligned behind the arrow’s tip, the striking area. In fact, the Z-shaped arrow would probably break if it did have enough force to hit the target. The straight arrow, however, has its center of gravity aligned with its tip. Consequently, all of the force of the arrow is traveling as one balanced unit behind the tip. The arrow flies true and penetrates the target with power.

Breath Control

Breath control is essential to the practice of Taekwon-do. Without proper breathing, the participant’s stamina is severely depleted. Invariably, new students tire more quickly than more experienced students until they learn to breathe diaphragmatically. When one feels themself getting tired, focus on breathing deeply. Visualize the oxygen going all the way down into the diaphragm. Soon, you will feel stronger. Another aspect of breath control is its function as the trigger for muscle tension in executing a technique. When an individual inhales, the muscles of the body are relaxed; exhalation causes tension in the muscles. Before executing a technique, a person should take a deep breath to relax the muscles of the body as part of his preparation. During the execution, the muscles will flow smoothly to a specific point where a sharp exhalation tenses the muscles to provide an added burst of acceleration and aligns the muscles behind the striking tool. In the whip analogy, discussed under speed, the whip, muscles, began in a relaxed state. Later, there was an introduction of tension into the whip at the proper time to provide added acceleration to the tip, striking tool, at the contact point. The introduction of muscle tension was created by a sharp exhalation of air through the mouth.

The sharp exhalation also strengthens the body’s ability to receive a strike. When one is struck in the stomach and has the “wind knocked out of them”, they did not properly exhale. When one can receive very strong strikes to the stomach and seemingly not notice them, the person exhaled properly when they received the strikes and, consequently, was able to withstand their force.


Often, small children trying to break a board bounce off the board without success. A primary reason for the failure to break is that the children did not commit all their body weight to the technique. This dedication of weight, mass, is essential to deriving the maximum amount of power in a technique. This is best demonstrated by using the formula force = mass x acceleration, where force represents striking power. If a person swings a baseball bat with a mass of three units, accelerating at ten units per hour to hit a ball, the force exerted at the contact point with the ball is thirty units. If the mass of the bat is increased to five units and everything else stays constant, the force exerted is fifty units, an increase of twenty units in force. Of course, it must be remembered that greater mass requires greater time to reach the proper level of acceleration.