TaeKwonDo History

Taekwondo is a Korea Martial Arts which has been developed through centuries of Eastern civilisation. Literally Taekwondo means the "Art of hand and foot fighting" ( Tae= Kick; Kwon=Fist used to punch or destroy; Do=Art or Way. ). However, for students who pursue Taekwondo in a more deeply levels, Taekwondo has a wider meaning, it is the scientific use of the body in methods of Self defence.

During the 6th century A.D., the Korean peninsula was divided into three Kingdoms:
a) Silla
b) Koguryo
c) Baek Je.
Silla, the smallest of these Kingdoms, was constantly under invasion and harassment by its two more powerful Northern and Western neighbors, each invading force left influences on the Korean Martial Arts communities. At the beginning the 20th Century, Japan invaded and occupied Korea until the end of the 2nd World War. After the liberation of Korea ( 1945 ), the Korean people struggled to re-establish their national identity. Various styles of Korean Martial, called Kwans, that had survived by going underground during the Japanese occupation of Korea, began to re-emerge and be once again taught to the Korean people. The Korean government, firmly dedicated to promote a unique Korean national identity, endorsed a Martial Arts unification plan proposed by General Choi Hong Hi and many separate Kwans united under the newly created name of TaeKwonDo.

General Choi fell into disfavor by the South Korean government, because of his unauthorized trips to North Korea on his attempt to introduce Taekwondo to the North Korean people. His International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) was displaced by the new World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) under the leadership of Mr. Un Yong Kim. Mr. Kim is now the Vice President of the International Olympic Committee and under his guidance, a full contact sporting version of Taekwondo has become popular to the point of becoming an official Olympic sport.

There are differences on when Taekwondo was originated, some Taekwondo authorities believes that Taekwondo is relatively new, no more than 49 years old. In order to understand better the origin of Taekwondo, below is a resume of the develop of Taekwondo.

1905 : Occupation of Korea by Japan. Japanese educational curriculum was imposed on all Korean schools. It mean that the Korean students were taught Judo and Kendo at the schools.

1906 : Tae Kyon was secretly practice and passed on to a few students, like Duk Ki Song. Song Duk-ki learned Taekkyon before the Japanese occupation (1910).  He began learning in 1905, when he was 12 (13 in Korea).  His teacher was named Im Ho.  Song stopped practicing when Korea was colonized and didn't teach anyone at all during the occupation.  He had his first students only in the late 1960's.  He absolutely never had Han Il-dong as a student.  Besides Song, the people who are known to have learned Taekkyon before the occupation were Kang T'ae-jin, Sin Jae-yong, Kim Hong-sik, and Yi Kyong-ch'on.  Song was the only one who ever taught, though.

1909 : The Japanese forbid the practice of any kind of fighting Arts in Korea. However it did not stop totally the practice of Martial Arts. The Buddhist temples in Korea and Japan were the refuge places for the Martial Artist.

1930 : Around the 1930s Mr. Choi Hong Hi (founder of Taekwondo), began his Martial Arts instruction under Master Han IL Dong, who was his calligraphy instructor. He began teaching Tae Kyon to Mr. Choi Hong Hi because in his youth he was frail and quite sickly.

1936 : Hwang Kee ( founder of Tang Soo Do ), another students of the outlawed Martial Arts was only 22 years old when he mastered the Arts of Tae Kyon and Soo Bak Do. Master Hwang Kee then traveled to Northern China where he studied the T'ang Method, then he worked to combine those styles until 1945.

1937 : Mr. Choi Hong Hi was sent to Japan (Kyoto) to further his education. Here he met a fellow Korean Mr. Kim, who was engaged in teaching Shotokan, a Japanese Martial Arts. After two years of concentrated training, Mr. Choi earned his first degree black belt. Then he went to the University of Tokyo where he continued his training and attained his second degree black belt, at this time he began teaching at the YMCA. When the World War II began, Mr. Choi was forced to enlist in the Japanese Army.

1941 : Because of the pressure of the World War II and in order to fulfill military requirements, the Japanese lifted the ban on Martial Arts in Korea. On this year Judo and Juken-jutsu (bayonet art) began to be taught.

1943 : Karate and Kung-fu were officially introduced to Koreans, which enjoy mass popularity.

1945 : Liberation of Korea. Resurfaced of the native Arts of Tae Kyon and Soo Bak. Among the others Martial Arts styles that surfaced at this time were:
- Bang Soo Do
- Kong Soo Do ( Karate-Do, literally means "Way of the empty hand" )
- Kwon Bop
- Tae Soo Do   ( Way of the foot and hand )
- Tang Soo Do ( Karate-Do, literally means "Way of the Chinese hand" or "Way of the tang hand").

The Japanese occupation of Korea bring to Korean people a renewed interest for the Martial Arts, as a results several schools ( Kwans ) opened in Seoul. Below are the five Kwans in order according on who open first :

- 1st Chung Do Kwan or Chong Do Kwan ( Gym of the blue wave ) : Founded by Won Kook Lee (Lee Won-Kuk) in 1945, in Yong Chun, Seoul.

- 2nd Moo Duk Kwan : Founded by Hwang Kee, at the end of 1945. Hwang Kee taught an art he eventually named Tang Soo Do.

- 3rd Yun Moo Kwan : Founded by Sup Chun Sang (Sup Jun Sang; Chun Sang-Seop).

- 4th Chang Moo Kwan or Kwon Beop Dojang : Founded by Yun Pyung (In Yoon Byung; Yun Byung-In), at the YMCA in 1946.

- 5th Chi Do Kwan : Founded by Yon Kue Pyang.

After the Korean War (1953-1954), three more Kwans appeared, those are :

1.- Ji Do Kwan or Jee Do Kwan : Founded by Gae Byang Yun.

2.- Song Moo Kwan or Sang Moo Kwan : Founded by Byung Chik Ro (Ro Byung Jik; No Byong-Jik).

3.- Oh Do Kwan (Gym of my way) : Founded by Hong Hi Choi, with the help of Tae Hi Nam.

1945 : The Korean and the Japanese Martial Arts gained a lot of popularity. So in this year the Korean Judo Association was formed.

1946 : Early this year the Tae Kyon instructor began teaching the troops in Kwang Ju, Korea.

1946-1947 : Mr. Hong Hi Choi(at time he was first Lieutenant of the Korean Army's 2nd Infantry Regiment), taught Martial Arts to Korean and Americans stationed at Tae-Jon. This was the first time that Americans were introduce to what eventually become known as Taekwondo.

1947-1948 : 1947 was a year where Mr. Hong Hi Choi rose rapidly through ranks. He was promoted to captain and then Major. In 1948 he was posted to Seoul as the head of logistics and become Taekwondo instructor for the American Military police School in Seoul. In late 1948, Mr. Choi become the Lieutenant Colonel

1949 : Mr. Hong Hi Choi was promoted to full colonel and visited the United States for the first time, attending the Fort Riley Ground General School located in Kansas. While there this art was introduced to the American public.

1952 : President Seung Man Rhee observe a 30 minutes demonstration by Korean Masters and was so impressed with Mr. Nam Tae Hi, breaking demonstration, that he asked Mr. Hong Hi Choi about the art. President Rhee then ordered all soldiers to receive training in this art. Various units distinguished themselves, including the Korean 29th Infantry Division, which was organised and activated by Mr. Hong Hi Choi at the Cheju Island in 1953. This unit was responsible for all Tae Kyon training in the Korean Army and the Black Tigers, an elite unit  involved in espionage missions behind enemy lines.

1953 : By the end of this year, Mr. Hong HI Choi, commanded the largest civilian gym in Korea, the Chong Do Kwan.

1953-1954 : After the Korean War, three more Kwans appeared. The Ji Do Kwan, Song Moo Kwan, and the Oh Do Kwan.

1955 : Technically this year was the beginning of Taekwondo as a formally recognized art in Korea. During this year, a special board was formed which included leading master instructors, historians, and prominent leaders of society. Several names were submitted for this new Martial art. Finally on April 11, 1955, the board decided on the name of Taekwondo, submitted by Mr. Hong Hi Choi. The name of Taekwondo replace the different and confusing terms such as Dang Soo, Gong Soo, Tae Kyon, Kwon Bup, and others. During this year Mr. Choi spread Taekwondo to universities and military post across Korea. The third District Command in Tae Jon become one of the main centers for this new art.

1959 : Taekwondo spread beyond its national boundaries. Mr. Hong Hi Choi and nineteen of his top black belts toured the Far East. The tour was a major success. Also in this year Mr. Hong Hi Choi was elected President of the Korea Taekwondo Association, and published his first Korean text on Taekwondo entitled " Taekwon-Do Guidelines ". During this year, Mr. Choi  attended the modern weapon weapon familiarization course in Texas, USA. He used this opportunity to visit several Taekwondo schools, one of them was the Joon Rhee school, who was the pioneer of Taekwondo in the USA. and later on become the Secretary General of  United States Taekwondo Association in Washington D.C.

1961 : The Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA) was founded on September 14, 1961, with Mr. Hong Hi Choi as a President. At this time the Chi Do Kwan left the organization. The Chung Do Kwan, the largest civilian school in Korea, remained distant from the KTA and develop their our organization called the Korean Soo Bahk Do Association which become the rival of the KTA. In 1962, the Korean Government stepped into the dispute when they recognize all the blacks belts certified by the KTA, as a consequence many Martial Artists who had left, return to the KTA.

1962 : South Vietnamese troops requested to be taught Taekwondo, so Mr. Nam Tae Hi, known as the right hand man of Mr. Choi, and three other instructors were sent from the Oh Do Kwan to teach fifty soldier from various branches of the Vietnamese Armed Forces. Two instructors returned to Korea after six months, but Mr, Nam Tae Hi and Seung Kyu Kim stayed a full year returning on December 24,1963.

1962-1963 : Taekwondo entered Thailand. Malaysia and Hong Kong.

1963 : Mr. Hong Hi Choi hosted a famous demonstration at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

1964 : On February the Taekwondo  Association was formed in Singapore. Also on this year Mr. Chong Lee introduce Taekwondo to Canada.

1965 : Mr. Hong Hi Choi led a goodwill mission of Taekwondo to West Germany, Italy, Turkey,  United Arab Republic, Malaysia, and Singapore. This was the basis for not only establishing Taekwondo Associations in these countries but also the formation of the "International Taekwondo Federation" (ITF).

1966 : Mr. Park Jong Soo introduced Taekwondo to the Netherlands. Also on this year Mr. Hong Hi Choi, lost his leadership of the KTA (Korean Taekwondo Association), because the South Korean government did not like a goodwill trip to North Korea by a Taekwondo demonstration team lead by Mr. Choi. Mr. Choi resigned on this year as a president of the KTA, and on March 22, 1966, he founded the International Taekwondo Federation ( ITF. ) in associations with Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, the United States, Turkey,  Italy, the United Arab Republic, and Korea. The headquarters of the ITF eventually moved to Canada.

1967 : The Hong kong Taekwondo Association was formed. also on this year Mr. Hong Hi Choi visited the All American Taekwondo Tournament held in Chicago, Illinois, where he discussed expansion, unification, and policy of the United States Taekwondo Association with leading instructors. This visit led to the formal establishment of the U.S. Taekwondo Association (USTA) in Washington, D.C., on November 26, 1967. The USTA was superseded in 1974 by the U.S. Taekwondo Federation (USTF).

Korean Taekwondo & Japanese Karate :

Until the 1960s, Taekwondo was essentially the same as Shotokan Karate. "The modern karate of Korea," according to Sihak Henry Cho, "with very little influence from Tae kyun, was born with the turn of the 20th century when it was imported directly from China and also from Okinawa through Japan." "Taekwondo," he claimed, "is identical to Japanese karate.... Some of the Korean public still use the 'karate' pronunciation in conversation." This should not come as a surprise. By the time of the Japanese occupation, Koreans had lost interest in the martial arts. There were few native martial artists left and since they were forced to teach in secret after 1909, they had to restrict the number of students they could accept. At the same time, many Koreans probably went to Japan for an education (like Mr. Hong Hi Choi) and returned with some knowledge of either Judo or Shotokan Karate. Thus, by the end of the occupation, Korean martial arts were known by a minority while the Japanese arts were diffused throughout the populace, and especially among those of the upper classes who had had a Japanese education.

As a sport, Taekwondo progressed quite slowly. In 1962, Tae Kwon Do was included as one of the official events in the 43rd Annual National Athletic Meet. In May, 1973, the first biennial World Tae Kwon Do Championships were held in Seoul, with more than thirty countries participating. Taekwondo's big break came when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized and admitted the WTF in July, 1980. In May 1982, Taekwondo was named an official Demonstration Sport for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Modern Problems:
The Taekwondo unity that Choi had achieved early in the 1960s soon disintegrated. Taekwondo splintered when the KTA was renamed the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), on May 28, 1973. Young-wun Kim became the President, and he dissolved the WTF's connection with Choi's ITF. The ITF continued using the forms developed by Gen. Choi while the WTF began using the Palgue forms, although the WTF later abandoned the Palgues as well, and focussed on the Tae-guek forms. The WTF also began placing more emphasis on the sport applications of Taekwondo. In 1977, the kwan names were replaced by serial numbers.  The kwans, in order from 1st kwan to 9th kwan, are: Songmookwan, Hanmookwan, Changmookwan, Moodukkwan, Odokwan, Kangdukwan, Jungdokwan, Jidokwan, and Chungdokwan.

Ancient Korean Martial Arts:
Although Taekwondo is a modern art, many Korean practitioners claim that the art began in the Koguryo dynasty (c. 37 B.C.). They claim that various Koguryo dynasty royal tombs contain murals of men practicing Taekwondo. Interpretation of these postures, which seems to be mere wishful thinking, apparently began with Tatashi Saito's "Study of Culture in Ancient Korea."
Saito said that:
"The painting either shows us that the person buried in the tomb practiced Taekwondo while he was alive or it tells us that people practiced it, along with dancing and singing, for the purpose of consoling the dead."

None of the Koguryo tomb murals can be definitively identified as the practice of a kicking & striking art. The murals on the ceiling of the Muyong-chong are said to show "two men practicing a sort of taekwondo." They actually show two men -- both with goatee, moustache and long hair -- wearing loin cloths. They are at least four feet apart (their outstretched hands are a foot away from each other). The positions could be stretching, dancing, or possibly wrestling Mongolian style, but they certainly do not resemble modern Taekwondo stances or techniques.

The ceiling of Sambo-chong shows a man in deep horse stance who appears to be pushing the walls apart. The WTF claims that this is "Poomse practicing of Taekwondo," something that would be hard to determine from a single figure, and certainly not the simplest explanation of the position. Similarly, the paintings on the ceiling of Kakchu-chong shows two men either dancing or Mongolian wrestling (the figures date from the age of San-Sang, the tenth King of Koguryo), but Dr. Lee Sun Kun (President of Kyung Puk University) tries to say that the mural "shows sparring of Soo Bak."

The Hwarang fighting order of the Silla dynasty, also known as the Flower Knights, were famous for their practice of the martial arts under the name of Hwarang-Do. According to the WTF,  "Many scattered evidences described in the Samguk Yusa, two oldest documents of Korea history show that Hwarang also practiced Taekwondo in their basic training of the body."The Koreans also cite as evidence the two Buddhist images inscribed on the Keumkang Ginat Tower at the Sokkuram cave in Pulkuk-Sa Temple, Kyungju. These Silla dynasty (c751 A.D.) stone relief carvings show the warrior "Kumgang Yuksa" posing fiercely with one hand stretched low and the other held near the ear in a fist. Although the Koreans often call this position a Taekwondo fighting stance, the pose bears a closer resemblance to the typical temple guardians found in Japan and elsewhere. In modern Taekwondo, these figures are the inspiration for the double blocks used in the Keumgang form.

The earliest influence on the Korean martial arts came from China. According to legend, the Bodhiharma came to China in 520 A.D. and taught Kung-fu at the Shaolin monastery for nine years. Sometime after this, a form of Chinese hand and foot fighting called Kwon Bop (based on Shaolin Kung-fu) entered Korea. During China's Sung and Ming dynasties, some believe that nei-chia (internal kung-fu) and wai-chia (external kung-fu) entered Korea.

During the Koryo Dynasty (835-1392 A.D.), Tae Kyon was renamed Subak. Subak probably peaked in popularity between 1147 and 1170, in the reign of King Uijong. According to Draeger, Kwonpup (aka. Kwon Bop) remained the more popular of the two arts. There were two schools of Kwonpup, one defensive and the other a more aggressive school featuring jumping attacks and evasive movement.

Some claim that envoys from Okinawa learned Subak during the Yi Dynasty (1392-1907) and took it home, mainly because The Historical Record of Choson gives evidence of trade between Choson (ancient name for Korea) and the Ryukyu islands. There is also some speculation that people of Chung-chong and those of Cholla provinces once gathered at the village of Chakji to compete in Subak. The military manual Muye Dobo Tongji (Record Book of Military Arts was published (written by Lee Duk Moo, c1790) by King Chongjo, and gave notice to Subak. Illustrations show techniques that are somewhat Chinese in nature: "These techniques -- perhaps of Chinese origin, perhaps not -- definitely took on their own flavor and interpretation in the hands of the clever Koreans." The illustrations show men without facial hair, wearing baggy pants, sashes, and caps. They do seem to be executing kicks and blocks. The practice of Subak eventually declined due to lack of attention at the royal court.

Bibliography :
A History of Taekwondo by Dakin Burdick.
Tae Kwon Do by Gen. Choi Hong Hi.

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Updated by Hoosain Narker