History of Taekwondo

First off, you may be surprised that taekwondo has only been around since the 1950s! I had always thought the history of taekwondo was like many other martial arts, being around since the beginning of times.

In a sense, it has. The history of taekwondo goes back many centuries, if you look at it as an art and not the official name. Taekwondo derives from several martial arts. The main martial art it comes from is Tae kyon. It is easy to see the resemblance even in the name.

Let's begin at the roots of Taekwondo, nearly 2000 years ago.

Hwarang Do

"The way of the flowering manhood."

The year is around 600 AD. In Korea, there are three kingdoms. These are the Silla Kingdom, Paekje Kingdom, and the Koguryo Kingdom. The Silla Kingdom is the smallest of the three, and is constantly under attack by the other two. These attacks on the Silla Kingdom led the noblemen to develop a fighting system to protect themselves. This became Hwarang Do. the hwarang were those noblemen. After a couple of wars against the other kingdoms, the Silla Kingdom unified Korea (final war was in 668 AD). After this unification, there was a time of peace.

Martial Arts in the Military

Now, the time is around the late 10th century, or late 900s AD. The martial arts in Korea that the hwarang learned were spreading and becoming important all over Korea. The military decided that all young men joining the military must learn martial arts.

However, as we reach the late 1500s, King Taejo came into rule and the country switched religions from Buddhism to Confucianism. This switch lowered the emphasis on martial arts in the military, and it was soon no longer taught.

The art was almost lost, but a few Buddhist monks kept training and kept it alive.

Japan Enters into the Picture

As the Japanese move in to occupy Korea in 1909, they also bring along their own martial arts. The main Japanese martial art is Karate. However, they also suppressed martial arts in Korea (of course to prevent being overthrown and kicked out of Korea!). This made it even more difficult to practice martial arts in Korea. Many of the remaining practitioners fled to China and Japan.

Korean Liberation

In 1945 at the end of the second world war, Korea was finally freed from Japanese rule. Koreans returned to their homes from Japan and China and other neighboring countries. With them, they also brought back the Korean martial arts, with a few changes that occured from influence of Japanese and Chinese martial arts. The Korean government wanted to bring back the Korean martial arts and supported it. They decided to officially sponsor the Korean martial arts. Many new students began learning the martial arts.

Taekwondo is Official

On April 11, 1955, a group of martial arts experts met together in South Korea to unify all of the martial arts disciplines under one system. This system became Taekwondo. Major-General Choi Hong Hi is recognized as the founder.

Taekwondo Goes Worldwide

In the 1960s, Taekwondo began to spread worldwide. In 1973, the first Worldwide championship took place in Seoul, South Korea. In 1988, Taekwondo became a demonstration sport in the olympics. In 2000 it became an official olympic games sport.

History of Taekwondo

The earliest records of Martial Arts practice in Korea date back to about 50 B.C. These earliest forms of korean martial arts are 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 simply dancing.

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The vital points of the body are listed below. A vital point is a part of the body that, when attacked in the right way (force, angle, accuracy), can cause paralysis, unconsciousness or even death. Attacks to nerves can lead to nausea, headaches or worse.

This information should only be used to increase your knowledge of the body and of Taekwondo, it is not meant to be used without the supervision of a qualified instructor.

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Forms, or Poomses in Korean language, are a series of defending and attacking movements performed against imaginary opponents in a set pattern. Through the practice of forms, students come to learn the applications of various techniques of Taekwondo. Forms serve a multi-dimensional role, aiding in development and refinement of coordination, balance, timing, breath control and rhythm, all of which are essential skills to the Taekwondo student.

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One of the four elements fo taekwondo (besides sparring, styleforms and self-defence) is the breaktest. It is a obligatory part of the black-belt exam and is s popular element of taekwondo demonstrations.

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What is taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a modern martial art, characterized by it's fast, high and spinning kicks. There are multiple interpretations of the name taekwondo. Taekwondo is often translated as 'the way of hand and foot'. My definition of the name Taekwondo is

  • Tae='to strike or block with the foot' or 'to kick', it also means 'jump'
  • K'won='Fist', 'to strike or block with hand'
  • Do='The way of' or 'art'.

Put this together and Taekwondo means: "The art of Kicking and Punching" or "The art of unarmed combat". The sport has been founded in Korea and is one of the popular modern martial arts.

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Ethics

As in all Martial Arts, ethics are of great importance. One can look at individual ethics, treat a fellow-man right, or one can look at social ethics, as part of a whole.

Ethics basically all comes down to one point, the difference between 'good' and 'evil'. We practise taekwondo, often seen as an aggresive sport, but does this mean that we can be aggresive? Do we want to be aggresive? The answer is NO!

We wear protection, because we don't want someoneelse to be injured, nor do we want to get hurt ourselves. Taekwondo is not a destructive and aggressive sport, but a sportive one. As I see it, taking part in a competition is not to hurt your opponent, but to test your strength, in both physical and mental ways.

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Many people have the Korean Flag on their suits, without knowing that it has a more meaningful background than most common flags. On this page you can find a short overview.

Summary

The meaning of Korean National Flag is very philosophical. The origin comes from the Oriental philosophy called Eum-Yang, in Chinese pronunciation Yin-Yang. In Korea, the symbol of 'Yin and Yang', and sometimes the flag itself, is called Taeguk and summarizes the thoughts of 'I Ching' (called 'Yeok' in Korean). The name means as much as the flag of 'Great Extremes'.

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Hosinsul (self defense) is one of the four principles of taekwondo. Although taekwondo is a "self defense" sport in itself, it focusses on high and spinning kicks which are not very suitable for real life (street) application. Hosinsul is a mixture of all kinds of techniques, including grappling/locks as well as depending against armed attackers etc. (The photo shows Yvan de Wever, 6th dan Hwalmoo Hapkido)

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