History of Korean Taekwondo

From the International Taekwon-Do Federation

Although the origins of the martial arts are shrouded in mystery, we consider it an undeniable fact that from time immemorial there have been physical conditions involving the use of the hands and feet for purpose of self-protection. If we ere to define these physical actions as “Taekwon- Do”, any country might claim credit for inventing Taekwon-Do. There is, however, scant resemblance between Taekwon-Do, as it is practiced today, and the crude forms of unarmed combat developed in the past.

Modern Taekwon-Do differs greatly from other martial arts. In fact, no other martial art is so advanced with regard to the sophistication and effectiveness of its technique or the over-all physical fitness it imparts to its practitioners. Technically, 1955 signaled the beginning of Taekwon-Do as a formally recognized art in Korea. During that year, a special board was formed which included leading master instructors, historians, and prominent leaders of society. A number of names for the new martial art were submitted. On the 11th of April, the board summoned by Gen. Choi Hong Hi, decided on the name of Taekwon-Do which had been submitted by him. This single unified name of Taekwon-Do replaced the different and confusing terms; Dang Soo, Gong Soo, Taek Kyon, Kwon Bup, etc.

In 1959, Taekwon-Do spread beyond its national boundaries. The father of Taekwon-Do and nineteen of his top black belt holders toured the Far East. The tour was a major success, astounding all spectators with the excellence of the Taekwon-Do techniques. Many of these black belt holders such as:

  • Nam Tae Hi, President of the Asia Taekwon-Do Federation;
  • Colonel Ko Jae Chun, the 5th Chief of Taekwon-Do instructors in Vietnam;
  • Colonel Baek Joon Gi, the 2nd Chief instructor in Vietnam;
  • Brigadier Gen. Woo Jong Lim; Mr. Han Cha Kyo, the Head Instructor in Singapore;
  • Mr. Cha Soo Young, presently an international instructor in Washington,D.C.

eventually went on to spread the art to the world.

In this year, Choi was elevated to two illustrious posts; President of his newly formed Korea Taekwon-Do Association and deputy commander of the 2nd Army in Tae Gu. In 1965 Ambassador Choi, retired two star general, was appointed by the Government of the Republic of Korea to lead a goodwill mission to West Germany, Italy, Turkey, United-Arab Republic, Malaysia, and Singapore. This trip is significant in that the Ambassador, for the first time in Korean history, declared Taekwon-Do as the national martial art of Korea.

This was the basis not only for establishing Taekwon-Do Associations in these countries but also the formation of the International Taekwon-Do Federation as it is known today. In 1966, the dream of the sickly young student of calligraphy, who rose to Ambassador and the Association President of the most respected martial art in the world came true. On the 22nd of March, the International Taekwon-Do Federation was formed with associations in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, the United States, Turkey, Italy, Arab Republic of Egypt and Korea.

From The Tae Kwon Do Network

Early Koreans developed unique martial arts forms for unarmed self defense to complement their skills with weapons. The first recorded evidence of what was to become modern Taekwondo is found about two thousand years ago in Korean history. A mural painting from the Koguryu kingdom (37 B.C. to 66 A.D.) was found in a tomb believed to have been built sometime during the period 3 to 427 A.D. This mural depicts figures practicing martial arts techniques. Historical records from this Koguryu period also mention the practice of martial arts techniques and tournaments. The early forms had different names, such as Kwonbak, Bakhi, Dangsoo, Taesoo and Kongsoo.

From about 600 A.D. to about 1400, the mainstream dominant form was Soobak, which further evolved into Taekyon beginning in the late 1300s. Taekyon was the dominant Korean martial arts form until the Japanese invasion and occupation of Korea in 1909. From 1909 to 1945, the Japanese suppressed Korean culture and martial arts, and introduced Japanese culture and martial arts.

The modern period of Taekwondo began with the defeat of the Japanese and the liberation of Korea in 1945. Korean martial arts masters wanted to eliminate Japanese influences. They began discussions on how to return to the traditional Taekyon based Korean martial arts and on how to unite the various martial arts schools (or Kwans) and styles into a single style and national sport. After several years of discussions, the name Taekwondo was chosen in April 1955 by the board of masters of the various Kwans, and the kwans started to unify through the late 1950s.

The spread of Taekwondo as a martial art and competitive sport continues to this date. Today, Taekwondo is by far the most widely practiced martial art in the world. The principle events in the rapid evolution of Taekwondo as a popular worldwide sport consist of:

  • 1965 The Korea Taekwondo Association was formed.
  • 1973 World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was created.
  • 1975 General Association of International Sports Federations recognized the WTF.
  • 1976 Taekwondo was accepted as a Consul International du Sport Militaire.
  • 1980 International Olympic Committee recognized the WTF.
  • 1981 Taekwondo was accepted as a World Games sport.
  • 1983 Taekwondo was accepted as a Pan American Games and All Africa Games sport.
  • 1985 Taekwondo was adopted as a demonstration sport for the 1988 Olympic Games.
  • 1986 Taekwondo was accepted as a Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire.
  • 1992 Taekwondo was a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.
  • 1994 Taekwondo was selected as a full Olympic sport for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
  • 1996 Taekwondo was a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA.
  • 2000 First official Taekwondo competition at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.