The Most Popular Martial Art in Korea: A Ranking

Choose the martial art you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Oct 2, 2023 10:27
Welcome to StrawPoll's ultimate ranking of the most popular martial arts in Korea! As the birthplace of numerous renowned martial arts disciplines, Korea has a rich history and tradition that has captured the interest of enthusiasts worldwide. Dive into the world of powerful strikes, swift kicks, and unparalleled techniques as you explore and vote for your favorite Korean martial art. Be it the dynamic elegance of Taekwondo, the fluidity of Hapkido, the ancient wisdom of Ssireum, or the hybrid ingenuity of Kuk Sool Won, your vote will help determine the reigning champion. And if you think we've missed an important martial art, don't hesitate to suggest a worthy contender. Unleash your inner warrior and join the battle of the masters as we discover Korea's most popular martial art on StrawPoll!

Which Is the Most Popular Martial Art in Korea? (October 2023)

  1. 1
    Luketkd · CC BY-SA 3.0


    General Choi Hong Hi
    Taekwondo is the most popular martial art in Korea and is also the national sport. It is known for its fast and powerful kicks and has been an Olympic sport since 2000.
    Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that focuses on fast kicks, spinning kicks, and jumping kicks. It emphasizes strong and accurate kicks, as well as agility and footwork. Taekwondo is known for its dynamic and high-impact techniques, making it an effective martial art for self-defense. It also promotes discipline, self-control, and respect.
    • Meaning: The way of the foot and fist
    • Date of creation: 1940s-1950s
    • Belt system: Uses a colored belt system to signify progress and rank
    • Sparring: Regular practice of free sparring
    • Forms: Includes a set of patterns called poomsae or forms
    Taekwondo in other rankings
  2. 2
    Hapkido is a Korean martial art that focuses on self-defense techniques such as joint locks, throws, and strikes. It is known for its fluid movements and the use of the opponent's energy against them.
    Hapkido is a dynamic and versatile martial art originating from Korea. It is a comprehensive self-defense system that focuses on redirecting an opponent's energy and neutralizing attacks through various techniques.
    • Techniques: Hapkido encompasses a wide range of strikes, kicks, joint locks, throws, and grappling techniques.
    • Fluidity: Flowing movements and circular motions are emphasized in Hapkido, allowing practitioners to seamlessly adapt to changing situations.
    • Joint Manipulation: Hapkido emphasizes joint manipulation techniques to control and immobilize opponents.
    • Pressure Points: The art incorporates the use of pressure points to exploit weaknesses in the opponent's body.
    • Throws and Takedowns: Hapkido includes an extensive repertoire of throws and takedowns, allowing practitioners to efficiently neutralize attackers.
    Hapkido in other rankings
  3. 3

    Kuk Sool Won

    In Hyuk Suh
    Kuk Sool Won is a comprehensive martial art that incorporates techniques from various Korean martial arts such as Taekwondo, Hapkido, and others. It focuses on self-defense, health, and personal development.
    Kuk Sool Won is a Korean martial art that incorporates techniques from various other martial arts, aiming to provide a well-rounded self-defense system. It focuses on strikes, kicks, joint locks, throws, and grappling techniques, as well as weapons training. The practice of Kuk Sool Won emphasizes discipline, respect, and the cultivation of a strong mind and body.
    • Originated: Korea
    • Year of creation: 1958
    • Meaning of name: National Martial Art Association
    • Main techniques: Strikes, kicks, joint locks, throws, grappling
    • Focus: Self-defense
  4. 4
    Tang Soo Do
    Anass Sedrati · CC BY-SA 4.0

    Tang Soo Do

    Hwang Kee
    Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art that emphasizes the use of both hand and foot techniques. It is known for its powerful strikes and kicks and has a strong emphasis on discipline and respect.
    Tang Soo Do is a traditional Korean martial art that combines the techniques of Karate with elements of Chinese and Korean combat styles. It emphasizes discipline, physical conditioning, and self-defense.
    • Origins: Developed in the 1940s by Hwang Kee in Korea.
    • Meaning: Tang Soo Do translates to 'China Hand Way', reflecting its influence from Chinese martial arts.
    • Techniques: Includes hand strikes, kicks, throws, joint locks, and forms (hyungs).
    • Uniform: Practitioners wear a dobok (training uniform) with a belt indicating rank.
    • Philosophy: Emphasizes the cultivation of a strong spirit, self-discipline, and respect for others.
    Tang Soo Do in other rankings
  5. 5


    Master Na Han-Il
    Gumdo is a Korean martial art that involves the use of a sword. It emphasizes precision and control and is often practiced as a form of meditation.
    Gumdo, also known as Kumdo, is a Korean martial art that focuses on swordsmanship. It is often referred to as the Korean version of Japanese kendo. Gumdo practitioners engage in sparring and forms training with various types of swords, including the traditional Korean two-handed longsword called the jukdo. The art of Gumdo emphasizes discipline, focus, and the development of physical and mental strength.
    • Origin: South Korea
    • Translation: The way of the sword
    • Primary weapon: Jukdo (two-handed longsword)
    • Focus: Swordsmanship and sparring techniques
    • Training methods: Forms (patterns), sparring, cutting drills
  6. 6
    Hyesan Yu Sok. · Public domain
    Taekkyeon is a traditional Korean martial art that emphasizes fluid movements and the use of kicks, throws, and joint locks. It has a long history and is recognized as a cultural heritage of Korea.
    Taekkyeon is a traditional Korean martial art that emphasizes fast and fluid movements, known for its graceful and dance-like style. It focuses on kicks, sweeps, and strikes using the feet, hands, and knees. Taekkyeon is characterized by its circular and flowing motions, with practitioners aiming to maintain balance and harmony throughout their movements.
    • Traditional Origins: Developed in Korea over hundreds of years
    • Year of Inception: No specific year as it evolved gradually
    • Style: Emphasizes rhythmic and circular movements
    • Techniques: Kicks, strikes, and sweeps using feet, hands, and knees
    • Balance: Focuses on maintaining balance and harmony
  7. 7
    Kendo is a Japanese martial art that has been adopted and popularized in Korea. It involves the use of bamboo swords and protective equipment and focuses on discipline and respect.
    Kendo is a traditional Japanese martial art that focuses on sword fighting using bamboo swords called shinai. It emphasizes discipline, honor, and respect, and is often seen as a way of life rather than just a physical activity. Kendo practitioners wear protective armor called bogu, which enables them to strike with full force while minimizing the risk of injury.
    • Weapon: Bamboo sword (shinai)
    • Armor: Bogu
    • Etiquette: Strict code of conduct
    • Strikes: Targeting specific areas of the body
    • Kiai: Vocalization of spirit during strikes
    Kendo in other rankings
  8. 8
    Ssireum is a Korean form of wrestling that has been practiced for centuries. It involves two competitors trying to throw each other off balance and is often performed during festivals and celebrations.
  9. 9
    Subak is an ancient Korean martial art that dates back to the Three Kingdoms period. It involves both hand and foot techniques and is known for its practicality in self-defense situations.
    Subak, also known as Ssireum, is a traditional Korean martial art that focuses on grappling and throwing techniques. It is considered one of the oldest martial arts in Korea and has deep roots in the country's culture and history. Subak emphasizes balance, technique, and agility rather than brute strength.
    • Origin: Korea
    • Primary techniques: Grappling, throws
    • Age: Centuries old
    • Traditional attire: Ssireum hanbok
    • Olympic sport: No
  10. 10
    While not originally a Korean martial art, Kung fu has become popular in Korea due to its effectiveness and popularity in China. It involves a wide range of techniques and styles and has a strong emphasis on discipline and self-improvement.
    Kung fu is a Chinese martial art that originated in ancient China. It has become popular all around the world, including in Korea. It is known for its diverse techniques and styles, encompassing both unarmed and weapon-based combat. Kung fu emphasizes discipline, flexibility, precision, and strength.
    • Techniques: Kung fu includes various strikes, kicks, throws, joint locks, and grappling techniques.
    • Styles: There are numerous kung fu styles, such as Shaolin, Wing Chun, Tai Chi, and Praying Mantis, each with its unique characteristics and principles.
    • Forms: Kung fu practitioners often perform choreographed sequences of movements called forms or katas to develop fluidity, strength, and coordination.
    • Philosophy: Kung fu encompasses philosophical ideas such as harmonizing Yin and Yang, cultivating inner energy (Qi), and maintaining mental and physical balance.
    • Training methods: Kung fu training involves rigorous physical conditioning, flexibility exercises, meditation, and the use of specialized equipment like wooden dummies and swords.

Missing your favorite martial art?


Ranking factors for popular martial art

  1. Number of practitioners
    The number of people actively practicing a specific martial art can be a good indicator of its popularity.
  2. History and cultural significance
    The role of martial arts in Korean culture and its historical significance can also influence its popularity. For example, Taekwondo is often considered a symbol of Korean national identity and pride.
  3. International recognition
    The level of recognition and popularity of a martial art in other countries and international competitions can add to its overall popularity.
  4. Accessibility
    The availability and accessibility of martial arts schools, training facilities, and resources can also have an impact on its popularity.
  5. Media exposure
    The amount of exposure a martial art receives in popular culture, movies, and TV shows can also influence its popularity.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular martial art in Korea. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or your favorite martial art is missing from the list, feel free to help us improve the ranking.


  • 178 votes
  • 10 ranked items

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Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each martial art once every 24 hours. The rank of each martial art is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most popular martial art in korea

Martial arts have a rich history in Korea, dating back to the Three Kingdoms period from 57 BC to 668 AD. During this time, warriors developed their own styles of combat, which were influenced by Chinese martial arts and Korean traditional fighting techniques. Today, martial arts remain an integral part of Korean culture, and there are numerous styles practiced throughout the country. Among the most popular are Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Kendo. Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that emphasizes powerful kicks and punches, as well as fluid movement and flexibility. It was developed in the 1940s and 1950s and has since become one of the most widely practiced martial arts in the world. Hapkido, on the other hand, is a more defensive martial art that focuses on joint locks, throws, and pressure points. It was developed in the 1960s and is often seen as a complementary style to Taekwondo. Kendo is a Japanese martial art that has gained popularity in Korea in recent years. It involves using bamboo swords and protective armor to simulate sword fighting. Despite the popularity of these styles, there are many other martial arts practiced in Korea, each with their own unique techniques and traditions.