Skip to main content

Martial artists often generate an impressive and intimidating shout when throwing a kick or strike. In Taekwondo, we call this sound a kihap 기합 (sometimes spelled kihup, kiai, or kyup). 

Yelling forces us to exhale, removing air from our diaphragms and bringing more power and speed to our attacks. It also forces a subsequent inhale, which brings oxygen into our bodies. In tournaments, the powerful yell helps judges to recognize when a strike is landed.  

What Does Kihap Mean?

The word Kihap is the combination of two base words. Ki is generally translated as energy or life force. Hup means to coordinate, gather, and concentrate. Thus, the term kihap describes a concentration, coordination, or gathering of energy, power, or force. 

In short, Kihap is a means to concentrate a martial artist’s power. 

What is the purpose of Kihap in Taekwondo?

  1. Increase Power

    • Shouting ensures we breathe out at the proper time.
    • Kihap creates greater consistency with technique. 
    • The yell reduces fear and hesitation, so we strike closer to the maximum power our body can generate.
  2. Intimidate Opponents

    • A fierce yell may startle and intimidate an opponent or attacker. 
    • A kihap synchronized with an effective strike will make the strike seem even more powerful and painful.
  3. Increase Confidence

    • The kihap, combined with getting into fighting stance, places our mind and body in the dojang (Taekwondo training studio), where we practice executing martial arts techniques over and over. By bringing our mental state back to the dojang, we release some of the anxiety that naturally occurs during a real-life conflict or in a tournament sparring match.
    • This psychological return to the dojang transitions the mind to use muscle memory, rather than attempting to overthink the situation. This optimizes success during attacks or in tournaments.
  4. To Protect Our Bodies

    • If we see a strike coming and are not able to defend against it, a kihap will tighten our core muscles and may prevent organs from getting injured.
    • Kihup may prevent getting the wind knocked out of you, since the lungs have been emptied of air.
    • A loud exclamation is a natural response to pain. Further, according to some martial artists, it is a way for the body to get rid of an excessive ki surge. 

Kihup During Training

During Taekwondo training, we practice channeling our power through kihup alongside with our kicks and strikes. Listen to some of our students’ kihaps here. And if you want to learn to increase confidence, generate power, and scare attackers, consider joining us on the mat for lessons.

Published: May 11, 2020

Categories: Benefits of Taekwondo, Taekwondo, Training Tips

Tags: , , , , , ,

Taekwondo helps students thrive in various situations. When we are happy and healthy, it is easy to be on our best behavior: kind, generous, motivated, disciplined, and productive. But during tough times, stress, anxiety, and disappointments can wear us down. When we tap into the inner resources we’ve developed through Taekwondo training, we make the best of difficult situations.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, Akula Taekwondo’s studio in Novi, Michigan, like martial arts schools throughout Michigan and the world, temporarily closed in the spring of 2020. For both students and instructors, plans were disrupted and favorite activities cancelled. With ever-changing information and timelines, many experienced a spectrum of emotions–while confined to their homes, with limited outlets for our frustrations and energy. Taekwondo helped.

How Practicing Taekwondo Helps Students Thrive in Tough Times

Intense Exercise Keeps Bodies Healthy

During isolation, the movement typical in normal day-to-day life–walking to and at school/work, outdoor recreation, gym sessions–has been replaced by hours of Zoom meetings and independent desk work. But the human body needs to move to stay healthy!

Taekwondo is a great, multi-faceted total-body workout. Taekwondo practitioners build stamina and strength through punching and kicking drills, core-strengthening exercises, stretching, and fitness training. Learning and practicing poomsae (specific patterns of defense and attack movements) leads to improved motor skills, coordination, and body control.

As a result of regular training, Taekwondo athletes demonstrate high levels of cardio-respiratory fitness, excellent flexibility, outstanding dynamic upper and lower body strength, and good core endurance. They are also able to generate and sustain power. 

How Exercise Benefits the Immune System

According to Cora Malott, MD, physical exercise specifically benefits the immune system through the following mechanisms:

  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Leads to appropriate weight loss
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Reduces risk of diabetes

Physical Activity is Good for Mental and Emotional Health 

During the coronavirus situation, we are constantly adapting to ever-changing circumstances. Physical exercise may trigger neuroplasticity and, thereby, enhances an individual’s capacity to respond to new demands with behavioral alterations. Further, intense physical activity is a scientifically documented mood-booster and esteem-booster

People generally feel more clear-headed and energetic after a hard workout such as a Taekwondo session. This is because exercise increases production and function of mitochondria, often called the powerhouses of cells. More mitochondria means more energy and a greater ability to work harder and faster.

One study found that children with a higher level of physical fitness had larger dorsal striatum. The dorsal striatum is the area of the brain important for making decisions and balancing rewards. Theoretically, an individual with a better developed dorsal striatum would be more willing to practice a skill to gain mastery, versus the instant gratification of scrolling through social media or playing a video game.

Another study found that even one bout of aerobic exercise improved scores on a test of memory, reasoning, and planning. Then, this study found that aerobic exercise was associated with a higher GPA among college students, and this one found that increased physical activity was associated with higher academic performance in school children grades 5 and 9.

On a more basic level, kicking, punching, and screaming are a great stress release for all ages.

Social Benefits of Taekwondo Training

While taking classes via Zoom or Facebook is not the same as practicing at the studio, online interactions offer social benefits. 

We have been offering classes in a private Facebook group. The videos stay up for students to practice at their convenience–yet the vast majority of students participates during the livestream. Knowing that classmates are participating in the classes at the same time feels good. We feel the connection. And strong social connections make people happier and physically healthier, which can translate to improved performance in all areas of life.

Edit: Once outdoor gatherings were sanctioned, we began gathering outdoors in small groups. Parents feel comfortable with the outdoor setting. Kids are thrilled to be outside and interacting with peers.

The Five Tenets of Taekwondo Guide Behavior

In addition to the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of practicing Taekwondo in stressful times, Taekwondo’s martial artists can rely on the Five Tenets of Taekwondo to guide their behavior.

The intense togetherness and disappointments that are a hallmark of the Covid-19 situation can be stressful, heart-breaking, and anxiety-producing. The Five Tenets act as a constant reminder that the martial artist’s character is built up with the practice of Taekwondo, which includes our actions in all situations and all interaction with others.

The Five Tenets of Taekwondo

  1. Courtesy
  2. Integrity
  3. Perseverance
  4. Self-Control
  5. Indomitable Spirit

Martial Arts in Novi, Michigan

Interested in getting mentally and physically healthy through martial arts training? Our Taekwondo class sizes are small, giving kids and adults plenty of space and attention. Sign up for a Six-Week Trial now.

Taekwondo Belt DisplayTaekwondo’s Belt System has been an important part of Taekwondo tradition since the 1940s. Students and practitioners are honored with belts and ranks for being disciplined, skilled, and dedicated to their art.

At Akula Taekwondo, we encourage students to learn and hone martial arts skills, develop mental focus and physical fitness, and enjoy the journey to black belt. Martial Arts training should not focus solely on achieving belt rank. But testing is an important ritual in martial arts. The length of time it takes to earn a black belt in Taekwondo depends on the age, dedication, and ability of the student, as well as the standards of the martial arts school issuing the black belt. 

Belt Testing in Taekwondo: Purpose and Philosophy

In Taekwondo, belt colors indicate the level of training (rank). The belt system acts as an incentive for the student to advance to the next level of training.

Belt requirements vary between Taekwondo, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, and other forms of martial arts. Standards also vary from school to school. In general, when the instructor deems a student ready to move on to the next belt, the student will be invited to test. Traditional Taekwondo schools (dojang) maintain high standards to avoid becoming belt factories.

Taekwondo Graphic

Belt colors are not standardized and thus, vary from school to school. Each belt color in Taekwondo correlates with the GUP (rank) of the student. The term GUP (sometimes spelled Geup) means degree. When moving from school to school, the GUP will let the new instructor know the level achieved more than the belt color.

At the Black Belt level, the term DAN (phase) replaces GUP as rank indicator. There are ten DAN degrees, starting with the first and ending with the tenth. All DAN degrees are represented by a Black Belt. Embroidered stripes, generally in gold, indicate the black belt degree achieved.

Belt Ranks at Akula Taekwondo



No Belt

White Belt

10th GUP

Yellow Belt

9th GUP

Orange Belt

8th GUP

Green Belt

7th GUP

Blue Belt

6th GUP

Brown Belt

5th GUP

Senior Brown Belt

4th GUP

Red Belt

3rd GUP

Senior Red Belt

2nd GUP

Poom Belt

1st GUP

Black Belt*

1st DAN

Stripe System in Taekwondo

To indicate intermediate steps towards the next rank, some schools add tape stripes at the end of the belt when students reach training milestones. At Akula Taekwondo, stripes are earned and taped around the end of the belt when the following skills are mastered.

Black Stripe, Mat presence — All Belts

  • Gives 100%. 
  • Focused, respectful, and disciplined. 
  • Demonstrates the five tenets of Taekwondo.

Brown Stripe, Fundamentals — All Belts

  • Knows fundamentals for current and previous rank. 
  • Executes fundamental moves with speed, power, and accuracy.

Orange Stripe, Forms — All Belts

  • Knows current and previous forms for rank. 
  • Executes forms with appropriate speed, power, and accuracy.

Yellow Stripe, Strikes — All Belts

  • Knows current and previous kicks and other strikes.
  • Executes kicks and strikes with appropriate speed, power, and accuracy.

Green Stripe, One-Steps — All Belts

  • Knows current and previous one-steps and takedowns, if applicable. 
  • Executes one-steps and takedowns with appropriate speed, power, and accuracy.

Red Stripe, Sparring — Orange Belt and up 

  • Knows and obeys the rules of sparring. 
  • Can spar proficiently for rank.

Blue Stripe, Weapons — Blue Belt and up

  • Knows current and previous weapon skills and/or forms.
  • Executes weapons skills and forms with appropriate speed, power, and accuracy.

White Stripe, Self-Defense — Brown Belt and up

  • Knows how to get out of the required grabs.
  • Adept at grappling, if applicable.
  • Performing and memorizing different steps and moves in a certain sequence. 

Belt Lore

According to long-standing Taekwondo tradition, you should never wash your Taekwondo belt. It is said that if you wash your Taekwondo belt you are washing away all the knowledge you have gained in Taekwondo up to that point.

Taekwondo Martial Artists allow their belts to wear naturally. The belts of Taekwondo Masters are often frayed and stained from years of wear. The battle scars are worn proudly.

Testing for a martial arts belt is an honor and a privilege. It’s an opportunity for students to discover for themselves, what they have learned and what they are capable of. Moving through the belt colors (belt ranks) is a wonderful part of a martial artist’s journey. 

More about belt testing in our next blog.

Published: February 19, 2020

Categories: Taekwondo

Tags: , , , ,

Taekwondo is a Korean Martial art, now practiced around the world, including at Akula Taekwondo in Novi, Michigan. Since Taekwondo originated in the Korean peninsula, the Korean language is commonly used for commands, orders, and moves during traditional Taekwondo training. Because one of Mr. Tegler’s instructors was from Korea, he learned Korean Taekwondo terms while training and now teaches his students in the same tradition. 

Learning Korean terminology as part of Taekwondo practice enhances the students’ study of this Korean Martial Art. Incorporating Korean words and philosophy is also provides an opportunity for learning some history and culture. This is another way that Taekwondo training engages body and mind.

Students learn Korean terminology and Taekwondo Tenets during mat chat.

Akula Taekwondo’s intermediate students learn Korean terminology and Taekwondo Tenets during mat chat.

Why not give Taekwondo commands in English?

A common field terminology is used in many endeavors. For example, ballet dancers use French words, doctors use Latin words, etc. Seventy million people in 188 countries across the world practice Taekwondo. Using common terminology unites Taekwondo athletes from may nations. Additionally, earning words in new languages is great for the cognitive learning process. This is another way Taekwondo training is good for the brain. 

Korean Words Commonly Used in Taekwondo Schools

The word Taekwondo means “the way of foot and fist.” It is a martial art that uses bare hands and feet for attack and defense, using kicking, jabbing, and shouting. 

Words and Phrases Commonly Used in Taekwondo Classes

  • Attention – Chah-ryut
  • Ready Position – Joon-bee
  • Begin – Si-jak
  • Yell – Kihup (kiai, kyup)
  • Bow – Kyung Nae 
  • Bow to Flags – Kuk Gee Eh Dae Han Kyung Na 
  • Uniform – Dobok
  • Gym for practice – DoJang

Counting in Korean

  1. Hana – one
  2. Dul – two
  3. Set – three
  4. Net – four
  5. Dasot – five
  6. Yasot – six
  7. Elgub – seven
  8. Yodol – eight
  9. Ahob – nine
  10. Yol – ten

Learn more Korean terminology used in Taekwondo at The Martial Arts Resource and in this video.

The ability to set goals and then work to achieve them is an important life skill that can be learned through martial arts training. Taekwondo is an ideal method for honing the focus, concentration, and persistence needed to achieve life goals. Further, our system of earning belts provides motivation for working systematically and consistently to achieve goals.

Easy Goal-Setting

In our previous post, we discussed choosing one-word as a focal point for the year. Did you choose a focus word to set the tone for the decade? Have you taken action to bring your goal, focus, or intention into your life?

While Big Days (New Year’s Day, birthdays, Mondays) lend themselves to setting goals and starting projects, any day can be a great day to begin working toward a goal. There are many ways to set a goal, but a one-word goal can be a great motivator to keep us on track.

For example, if I choose STRONG as my one-word goal or focus, it helps me remember what I want: to be strong in body, mind, and spirit. But knowing I want to be strong is not enough. I need to take action to make my goals and intentions my reality.

Life Skills Learned in Taekwondo Classes in Novi, MI

At some point, everyone gets tired, discouraged, and takes a hit–either literally or metaphorically. And it’s okay to fall down. However, it is also important to get up and keep going. The difference between success and failure is taking action–over and over and over. That’s something we do in every martial arts class. By committing to a program, we develop the discipline, focus, and persistence needed to achieve martial arts goals and life goals.

Students may start Taekwondo training at any age–and experience the benefits at every age. By improving self-confidence and self-control, rehearsing martial arts techniques, and developing physical fitness, martial artists become more stronger, smarter, and more efficient, converting personal dreams into life-changing realities.