Should ‘Taekwondo’ be capitalised?

Yes, the word ‘Taekwondo’ should be written starting with a capital letter.

‘Taekwondo’ is often written in many different ways – ‘Tae Kwon Do’, ‘Tae Kwon-Do’, ‘Taekwon-Do’ – I write it as a single word with no spaces or hyphens separating the syllables (to see the reasons for this, have a look at this page).

Writing capital letters in the middle of the word – as in ‘TaeKwonDo’ – is bad English. However, the word should start with a capital letter. Why is this?

Most sport names don’t begin with a capital letter – i.e., swimming or running – and in those cases it’s because the name of the sport is derived from a verb – to swim or to run – and the name of the sport is just the name of the activity. However, even for sports where the name isn’t based on a verb – like tennis or football – the name doesn’t start with a capital letter, so why is Taekwondo different.

It’s because Taekwondo is a style of an activity – it is a style of martial arts. The term ‘martial arts’ isn’t capitalised because it refers to a general activity, but ‘Taekwondo’ is a proper noun for a style of martial arts, thus it is written with a capital letter.

In this regard, styles of martial arts follow the same rule as styles of fine art. The term ‘fine art’ is used to refer generally to painting and sketching, but when referring to a specific style of fine art, such as Impressionism, it is written with a capital letter. The same is true of religions: ‘religion’ is generally not capitalised, but ‘Buddhism’ is.

This is true of all martial arts – Karate, Judo, Kendo, and so on should all be capitalised.

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Want to learn more?

If you'd like to learn more about the Korean terminology used in Taekwondo, consider buying this book: Taekwondo Terminology. It contains an extensive dictionary of terms used in Taekwondo, as well as explanations on how to pronounce Korean words, and aspects of Korean grammar.

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