Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on kicking techniques, which distinguishes it from martial arts such as karate or southern styles of kung fu. The rationale is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, and kicks thus have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. Historically, the Koreans thought that the hands were too valuable to be used in combat.
Taekwondo as a martial art is popular with people of both genders and of many ages. Physically, taekwondo develops strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina. An example of the union of mental and physical discipline is the breaking of wooden boards, bricks or tiles, which requires both physical mastery of the technique and the concentration to focus one's power.
A taekwondo student typically wears a uniform (do-bok 도복/道服), often white but sometimes black (or other colors), with a belt (dti 띠) tied around the waist. There are at least three major styles of do-bok, with the most obvious differences being in the style of jacket: (1) the cross-over front jacket that resembles traditional Asian clothing, (2) the V-neck jacket (no cross-over) typically worn by WTF practitioners, and (3) the vertical-closing front jacket (no cross-over) typically worn by ITF practitioners. The belt colour and any insignia thereon (if any) indicate the student's rank. In general, the darker the colour, the higher the rank. The school or place where instruction is given is called the do-jang (도장). The grandmaster of the do-jang is called a gwan-jang-nim (관장님); Master (senior instructor or head of do-jang) is called sa-beom-nim (사범님); Instructor is called gyo-san-nim (교사님); Assistant Instructor is called jo-gyo-nim (조교님)
Taekwondo, along with many other martial arts, is traditionally performed in bare feet, though there are specialist training shoes that can sometimes be worn.
Although each taekwondo club or school will be different, a student can typically expect to take part in most or all of the following: