Brief History of Taekwondo

Early Koreans, the Tonkin people, developed unique martial art 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 an 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 600A.D. to about 1400A. D., the main stream dominant form was soobak, which further evolved into Taekyon beginning in the late 1300’s. Taekyon was the dominant Korean martial art 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 Tae Kyon 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 1950’s.

Unification of the Korean arts was slow. The first step came when a conference of masters assembled on April 1, 1955, to organize the Korean arts and merge the Kwan. The name chosen for this unified art was Tae Soo Do, although this was changed in 1957 to Taekwondo, a name suggested by Hong Hi Choi for its similarity to Tae Kyon. The Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA) was founded on Sept 14, 1961, with Hong Hi Choi as the President.

The spread of Taekwondo as a martial art and competitive sport continues to this date. Taekwondo continues to evolve as a world class martial art and Olympic sport.