History Of Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do History

Tae Kwon Do is thought to have its origin nearly 2000 years ago during the Three Kingdoms era of Korean History, about 50 B.C. Archeological evidence from both the Silla and Koguryo dynasties reveals early martial arts practices felt to be the foundation of modern Tae Kwon Do. It was then known as ‘Taek Kyon’. Evidence that Martial Arts were being practiced at that time can be found in tombs where wall-paintings show two men in fighting-stance. Others reject this evidence and say that these men could be dancing as well. (These wall murals can also be found on the walls of the North Dojang!) At that time there were three kingdoms: Koguryo (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.) Paekje (18 B.C. – 600 A.D.) Silla (57 B.C. – 936 A.D.). choi_portrait1

From Koguryo comes the art of punching and butting – Soo Bak Do. During the sixth century in Silla, young noblemen and military officers combined the physical attributes of this early martial art with the mental and spiritual concepts and called their new way Hwa Rang Do, the way of flower and youth. Silla unified the kingdoms after winning the war against Paekje in 668 A.D. and Koguryo in 670 A.D. The Hwa Rang Do played an important role at this unification. The Hwa Rang Do was an elite group of young noble men, devoted to cultivating mind and body and serve the kingdom Silla. The best translation for HwaRang is ‘flowering youth’ (Hwa=’flower’, Rang=’young man’). The HwaRang Do had an honor code and practiced various forms of martial arts, including Taekyon and Soo Bak Do. The honor code of the HwaRang is the philosophical background of modern Tae Kwon Do. What followed was a time of peace and the HwaRang turned from a military organization to a group specialized in poetry and music.

It was in 936 A.D. when Wang Kon founded the Koryo dynasty, an abbreviation of Koguryo. The name Korea is derived from the name Koryo. During the Koryo dynasty (10th – 14th centuries) Soo Bak Do reached pre-eminence, for protection of the country and to enhance health, for sports and for virtue. However, in the Joseon dynasty (1392 A.D. – 1910 A.D.) the popularity declined. King Taejo, founder of the Joseon-dynasty, replaced Buddhism by Confucianism as the state religion. According to Confucianism, the higher class should read poems and play music. Martial arts was something for the common, or even inferior, man. In the early portion of the 20th century, Japan occupied Korea. During this time, Korean martial arts and other customs were banned. Tae Kwon Do went underground to resurface after the liberation of Korea in 1945. Since then Tae Kwon Do has become increasingly popular, first in Korea and then throughout the world.

Modern day Tae Kwon Do is influenced by many other Martial Arts. The most important of these sports is Japanese Karate, because Japan dominated Korea during 1910 until the end of W.W.II. During W.W.II, lots of Korean soldiers were trained in Japan. After the war, Korea became independent. During the occupation of Korea, the Japanese tried to erase all of the Korean culture, including the martial arts. The influence that Japan has given to Tae Kwon Do are the quick, straight line movements, that characterize the various Japanese systems. At the end of W.W.II, several kwans arose. These kwans were: ‘Chung Do Kwan’, ‘Moo Duk Kwan’, ‘Yun Moo Kwan’, ‘Chang Moo Kwan’, ‘Oh Do Kwan’, ‘Ji Do Kwan’, ‘Chi Do Kwan’ and ‘Song Moo Kwan’. The Kwans united in 1955 as Tae Soo Do. choi_portrait3

In the beginning of 1957, the name Tae Kwon Do was adopted by several Korean martial arts masters, for its similarity to Tae Kyon. General Choi Hong-hi required the army to train Tae Kwon Do, so the first students were Korean soldiers. The police and air force had to train in Tae Kwon Do as well. At that time, Tae Kwon Do was a Korean version of Shotokan Karate. In 1961 the Korean Tae Kwon Do Union arose from the Soo Bakh Do Association and the Tae Soo Do Association. In 1962 the Korean Amateur Sports Association acknowledged the Korean Tae Kwon Do Union and in 1965 the name is set to Korean Tae Kwon Do Association (K.T.A.). General Choi was president of the K.T.A. at that time and was asked to start the I.T.F. as the international branch of the K.T.A.

The southern government was overthrown in 1961. General Choi Hong-hi left for America and established the I.T.F. (International Tae Kwon Do Federation) Tae Kwon Do, as a separate entity, two years later. In 1973, the World Tae Kwon Do Federation (W.T.F.) was founded. In 1980, W.T.F. Tae Kwon Do was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) and became a demonstration sport at the Olympics in 1988. There were several attempts to unify I.T.F. and W.T.F. Tae Kwon Do, but unfortunately, these failed. In the year 2000 WTF Tae Kwon Do goes Olympic. To unify the different schools of Tae Kwon Do, the Kukkiwon was founded. They created the Taeguek poomses to have a consistent set of forms for all Tae Kwon Do schools. Master Sang Lee carries on the traditions of the Ji Do Kwon (art of practising wisely) school of Tae Kwon Do.

A goodwill trip to North Korea in 1966 caused General Choi to fall choi_portrait2in disgrace in the eyes of the South Koreans. Choi resigned as president of the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association (K.T.A.), the predecessor of the WTF, and founded the I.T.F. that same year. Headquarters were established in Canada. ITF started concentrating on the forms developed by General Choi, while the KTA (became the WTF on May 28, 1973) concentrated on the Palgwes. Later the WTF abandoned the Palgwes and started concentrating on Taeguek poomses. Slowly, the WTF emphasis turned to sparring. The American Tae Kwon Do Association (ATA) is a smaller organization, and has many similarities to the ITF. The ATA has a copyright on the forms of the organization, so these forms cannot be used on competitions by non-members. There are many organizations, but the three mentioned above have the most members. ITF practises the semi-contact part of Tae Kwon Do, while WTF practices the full-contact part. Since the break-up, there have been many attempts to reunite WTF and ITF, so far without success.