Scientific Principles of Taekwondo Movements

By Master George H. Ashiru


The topical shift in the center of Gravity of any point in the human protoplasm is movement. Movement is often created by a force, and is defined by Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, which tells us that a body will remain at rest or in uniform motion unless a greater force compels it to do otherwise. Locomotion also occurs in Hinge Joints, e.g. elbow, or Ball and Socket Joints, e.g. shoulders, which do not cause displacement of the entire body. In e martial arts, these two movements are made, in any of three planes x, y and z.


Movement is the essence of consciousness, and essentially the basis of life. Science is the study of the principles and applications of material nature and the forces at work around it and explains life in all of its ramifications, whether human or inanimate. The study of movements is a science and explains to us the methods of attaining and maintaining mastery over such movements, or in the case of martial arts, techniques.


Mental activity, emotional impetus, conditioned or instinctive reflexes and mechanical work guide every movement. The conscious desire to attain efficiency in the application of efforts in movement and in technique is mastery. Whether the effort is for mental or mechanical use, it is important that it be efficient. While mastery is a subjective axiom, efficiency is absolute and can be measured. It is therefore possible to measure efficiency in movement and application of techniques, in the same way that Nadia Comaneci of Romania could score a perfect 10 in Gymnastic competition, or Torvil and Dean could score a perfect 10 in Olympic Ice Skating, it could be possible to award such absolute scores for application of individual or whole series of techniques in martial arts, by following the biomechanical principles underlying such movements.

Movements are mastered only with active repetition, observation and correction over time, given consistent external and physiological conditions and earnest desire to achieve efficiency. Efficiency comes with conscious attempt to reduce mental work, emotional input, energy utilization and improvement of mechanical co-ordination, through a complete translation of thought energy to effort to kinetic output.


Effort refers to the emotional, mental and physical input generated in the application of force – Indeed all our life is involved in swimming in a sea of effort, as we are constantly consciously or sub-consciously emanating the effort energy necessary to maintain our consciousness and means of

expressing if. We have become aware that a certain amount of energy is expended in doing practically all kinds of things, from thinking, to feeling to doing. And even when we sleep, we expend ‘effort energy’.


In the performance of techniques in martial arts, energy is expended and work is done. Energy is defined as the capacity to do work. Energy is the great nuclear fission, which emanates from within our mind, muscles and limbs and permeates life like a sea of invisible water. By virtue of ‘pregnant stillness’, an object has potential energy; and by virtue of explosive propulsion the object will be kinetically energized. All techniques and actions of martial arts follow the same principle.

When a warrior is still, he is regarded as being in a state of relaxation, possessing potential energy and in hypotonic state. When he exerts himself into an action, he is thus kinetic, or hypertonic. Somewhere between these two states lies potentio-kinetic or eutonic balance, this is a state of Dynamic Meditation and is best observed in the fighting stance of the martial arts.

When work is done, power is produced. Mechanical work produces force required to propel a fist or foot to the intended target. When the master/warrior performs his/her actions, work input and output should be at 80% efficiency or more. While power output is normally directly proportional to energy input, the esteemed player can create greater power output out of diminishing energy input. This is a realm, which bothers on psychic energy.

When such work is done, power is generated. This power is the product of the force generated from the work done and the resulting speed. Power is thus the ultimate measure of the effective force of kick or strike.


We are conscious of the bridging effort between intentions and actions in the performance of techniques. Many techniques are however done without the investigation and guidance of a conscious decision. In automating our actions we don’t want to be encumbered with motives or the effect of our actions. This conditioned reflex is activated by repetition and ensues in mental consolidation of the process involved.

To graduate from the simplicity of relaxed, conditioned reflexes, to acquisition and proper refinement of the feel of the movement at world class level, that is the confines of movement analysis and perfection.

There is a degree of awareness, which we must have, and which contributes to the awakening of understanding of the proportionality between elements of effort and the capacity for control. There is the relationship between exertion and control, and the balance achieved, leading to the efficient translation of effort into action.

Space consideration is part of the proper utilization of mechanical effort in applying techniques. The cause of failure in the application of techniques is often due to the use of the wrong path or trajectory in space. The optimum space and path required is directly related to the amount of control required, balance desired and the end result expected. Space restriction, air resistance, ground friction and the physical limitations or strengths can be used positively or negatively to influence the result of a technique.

A movement can be too quick or too slow for efficiency in a given space condition. Thus, timing is necessary for the economic performance of techniques. The capacity to discern and use various combinations of external conditions rationally is well developed in people gifted with rhythmical sense and can be trained, with time, in others.


Co-ordination of the effort for martial arts actions require training which aims at strengthening the feel and increasing the understanding of the shades of movement and there inter-connections.

The gift for co-ordination of efforts is much rarer than that required for performing short, singles actions skillfully. Thus, much time could be wasted in training people who seem to be able to perform some definite tasks effectively, but lack co-ordination to weave multi-furious actions into a single series of well blended movements.

Co-ordination is a skill, which can be developed during consistent work. The gradual improvement in performance is, however, only easily observed in those with a certain innate capacity for all round co-ordination, The competent teacher can determine the basic elements of good effort management and co-ordination in the everyday behavior of the student.


Some athletes possess natural affinity for certain techniques, and when they display those actions in consonant with this gift, they show real economy of effort. This is the first pre-requisite of skill. Confronted with action outside of their natural capacity, they might be as awkward as others who cannot display any kind of adaptability.

Selection means putting the right action into play, or the right person to perform an action. Teaching involves helping people to adapt their bodies for use in the right way. Efficient selection and teaching demand both a thorough knowledge of martial arts principles and techniques as well as the science that relates to the use of the body, known as biomechanics. Biomechanics provides the principles obtained from the investigation of the effort capacity and natural implements of the human body, and of the rules, which govern their economic application. This field, which presents the description of the bodily engine and of its functions, envisages a vast field of science such as anatomy, physics, and biology. With a good grasp or

biomechanical principles, the athlete or teacher is on solid ground as to the efficient perpetuation of excellence in skill performance.


All factors being constant, the translation of thought to action is dependent only on the desire and discipline in the athlete. Desire to perform efficiently, discipline to consolidate and maintain the optimum level of ability.

Inspiration is the emotional energy, the seed that aids desire in the athlete, and usually comes from the teacher. Positive feedback from the teacher, parent, coach, spectators provide intrinsic motivation. Good guidance, positive role models and correct habits will sustain the discipline that is required to maintain an efficient athlete at peak mental and physiological condition.


Physical movement, mental and emotional effort combined produces efforts that sustain active life and excellence in execution of martial arts techniques. Without a direct, conscious attempt to understand the underlying physiological and mechanical principles involved, techniques of martial arts cannot be mastered.

Mastery of movements is important to all instructors and masters for it is the skilful adaptation of movements that leads to technical excellence (Musul), which is a goal of martial arts followers.