Only that one who knows where he comes from,
knows where he goes to!
A Korean proverb
Taekwondo is a young martial art with an ancient history. In its modern form it was systemitized by General Choi Hong Hi in 1954-55. At that time it was given the name Taekwondo. Ever since the remote past man has been anxious to develop his martial mastery.That was his way to make his living and to defend himself against enemies - other men and the wild animals. Gradually that striving led to the formation of martial arts. Their development continues to nowadays as well as human desire for self-perfection. Although Taekwondo was formed in its modern style during the middle of the 20th century it was natural continuation of the evolution of the Korean martial arts and to be more precise - of the traditional Taek Kyon (its characteristic high kicks are the basic of Taekwondo techniques) and Subak. That's the reason why we find it necessary to trace the history of the Korean martial arts back to their origin.
The foundation of Korea is dated back to the year 2333 B.C. At that time the country was known as Ko Chosun. Since then the Koreans practised sport games developing martial mastery as fights with stone weapons (spear and knife), kicks and hits, throwing, swimming. These skills were developed in the tribal states Chosun, Puyo and Chinhan. It is considered that one of the most important requirements for the national leaders of those days has been the martial mastery.
At the beginning of the New Era the Korean Peninsula was divided into three kingdoms - Koguryo in the Northern part, Paekche - in the South-Eastern, and Silla - in the South-Western one. There had been some smaller independent regions and a bigger one - Kaya, but later they were united to some of the three others on the peninsula. That's why that historical time was called the Period of The Three Kingdoms.
The first material evidences for practising of martial arts in Korea were founded in 1933 by archeologists in two of the royal tombs of Koguryo dynasty - Kakjeyo-Chong and Mion-Chong. These were frescoes showing two men practising Taek Kyon (in Muyong-chong tomb) and two others wrestling (in Kakshu-chong tomb) dated back to the year 3-427 A.D. The Japanese historian Tatashi Saito in his book "A Study of the Culture of Ancient Korea" writes: "These drawings show that the buried man has practised Taekwondo in his life, or that the ancient people have practised it along with dancing and singing to find peace for the soul of the deceased one."
In the year 320 Piryu, the ruler of Paekche, ordered a training centre of martial arts to be built in the capital town. Each month in the time of full moon there were contests in riding, fights with wooden sticks, hand-to-hand fights. The competitors were trained at that school. The educational programme included study of the Buddhistic doctrine and classic literature as well.
An important role for the development of the martial arts, culture and history of Korea had the Military Order of Hwa Rang. It was formed by the 24th king of Silla Chinghung Wang (540-576) for the young sons of the aristocrats. They were trained in perfect bow drawing and arrow shooting, fencing, riding, Taek Kyon (the art of foot fighting), Subak (the art of hand fighting). The Order had its Moral Code based on "The Five Orders" of the Buddhistic monk Won Wang (590): loyalty to the king, devotion to the parents, honesty to the friends, strenght in battles and using the marshal art only in the name of justice. That turned the training into a system for physical and spiritual mature called Hwa Rang Do("The Way of the Flower of Mastery"). Hwa Rang means "The Flower of Mastery" (Hwa - flower, blossom, Rang - a young master). The Order represented the hope of the Koreans for a better future (the flower was a symbol of glory, beauty and unity at that time). There were between 500 and 5000 members in different periods. In 676 they helped Silla to unite The Three Kingdoms in a new country - the United Silla. The fighters had fulfilled all hopes but later in 900 the state was divided into three parts again.
After the end of the Silla dynasty, in 935 was established the new united state of Koryo (918-1392). The modern name of Korea originates from it. The period of that dynasty was characterized by the constant wars against the aggressors. Naturally the martial arts became of great importance and the most popular of them was Subak. Su means "hand" and bak - "attack", i.e. "hand fight". It is considered that Subak was at its hight during the time of the ruler Uijong (1147-1170). He organized many military tournaments and he himself was present at many of them. That fact has been proved by many written documents. On 5 May and 15 August according to the Moon Calendar were organized the Festivals of O-Dan with contests in Subak. It has to be mentioned that as the differet dynasties gave different names to their states, so was the situation with the names of martial arts - in the time of Koryo Taek Kyon was called Subak as well. But these two styles were very close.
There are two important facts considering the development of the martial arts during the rule of Chosun dynasty (1392-1910). The first one is that Subak became more popular among the ordinary people unlike the time of Koryo when it had been a privilege for the military men only. The other significant event was the Martial Art Treatise "Muye Dobo Tongji" written by Li Dok Moo in 1790 on the order of king Chongjo. Te Kion, Subak and Sirum - the initial forms of Taekwondo, were the basic theme of that work. The third king of I dynasty (1401-1408) ordered to be found the masters of Taek Kyon, Subak and Sirum (Korean wrestling) and they to train the soldiers of the Korean army. In 1592 Japan occupied Korea. Followed the 7 years war against the aggressors during which Taek Kyon fighters had rended great services.
But when the period of Li dynasty (1832-1910) came the martial arts were forbidden and their masters were persecuted. Their practising was illegal but continued in secret.
In 1910 the occupation army of Japan conquered Korea. That time the Japanese banned the national Korean martial arts totally. Just to a small part of privileged men was allowed to practise Judo and Kum Do. The Koreans who were cadets in Japanese military schools could train Karate and Aiki Djutsu too. Despite the prohibition under death penalty the Korean martial arts flourished. They became the main weapon in the anti-aggressive struggle.
A great contribution for the development of the modern Taekwondo has General Choi Hong Hi. He was born on 9 November 1918. As a child Choi was a weak and delicate boy. He began studying calligraphy. His teacher Han Il Dong noticed the bad health of his young student and started training him in Taek Kyon as well. Then Choi studied in Japan where he attained the rank of 2nd degree black belt in Karate. After the end of the Second World War he came back to his liberated country. There he joined the army of the new Republic of Korea. As a company commander he trained his soldiers in a fighting system combining the techniques of Karate hand hits with Taek Kyon kicks. In those days there were many different martial schools with great masters. Choi Hong Hi worked hardly on his mastery perfection and organized his own school. On 11 April 1955 a special board of the new Korean martial art summoned by General Choi decided on the name of Taekwondo which had been submitted by him. Some of the other masters joined their schools to the newly formed structure. It is unknown how many of the schools of that time went on their own way. In 1959 the Korean Taekwondo Association was founded with Choi Hong Hi as a vice-president. On the next year he was elected for president. That was the time when Taekwodo was introduced to the world. Each year a demo-team led by Choi Hong Hi performed spectacular demonstrations. They won more and more people for the great idea of Taekwondo.
On 22 March 1966 was founded the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). At the beginning its members were Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, The Federal Republic of Germany, USA, Turkey, Italy and Egypt.
On 28 May 1973 was established the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) with the participation of 19 countries and the First World Competition took place in Seoul, South Korea.
On 17 July 1980 WTF was granted recognition by International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the 83th General Session in Moscow.
On 17 September 1988 Taekwondo WTF was a demonstration sport of the 24th Olympiad in Seoul with 192 competitors from over 35 nations.
On 30 July 1992 Taekwondo was a demonstration sport of the 25th Olympiad in Barcelona with 128 competitors from over 30 nations
On 4 Septeber 1994 A dream becomes reality! - Taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in Sidney 2000 Olympic Games at 103th IOC Session in Paris.