The roots of Taekwondo belong to Taekkyeon, a traditional martial art form. In turn, the roots of Taekkyeon can be traced as far back as tribal times in Korea. Taekkyeon has been known under different names throughout the ages and found quick growth during the age of the three kingdoms (a period during the 4th to 7th century when the Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje kingdoms fought with each other for dominance of the Korean peninsula). Afterwards, Taekkyeon would see more development and evolution during the Goryeo era (AD918∼ 1392), a time in which those skilled in the military arts were much respected. During that time, Taekkyeon was used as a way to determine promotions in the army. But things changed with the arrival of the Joseon era (AD1392 ~ 1910), in which the sword began to be viewed as a low class thing. As a result, Taekkyeon slowly receded into obscurity. Currently, Taekwondo, a descendent of Taekkyeon, is loved as a world-class sport as a result of the painstaking effort of many individuals. The reason why Taekwondo has been able to gain such success in modern times as a competitive sport (when compared to other Asian martial art forms) can be attributed to the fact that there has traditionally been a strong competitive aspect to Korean martial arts culture. Taekkyeon was enjoyed in past times in many folk festivals, as a healthy competition between neighbouring villages. There are records showing that men liked to place bets on the outcome of Taekkyeon matches. The late Joseon era’s ‘Haedongjukji’ text provides the most accurate description of Taekkyeon available from past records, and writes this about that martial art:
“There is something called ‘Gaksul’ (an old name for Taekkyeon) in the old ways, where two opponents face each other and places kicks in order to fell the other. There are three levels to this. The least skilled man attacks the legs, and a good man kicks the shoulders. The best man can kick as high as the head. Our ancestors used this in order to gain revenge, and even to win a woman through a bet.”
By the end of the Japanese occupation in Korea, there were five schools of martial arts under the name of Tang Soo Do style. These were called Kwans and were as follows:
1. Chung Do Kwan (Lee, Won Kuk),
2. Jidokwan (Chun, Sang Sup),
3. Chang Moo Kwan (Yoon, Byung In),
4. Moo Duk Kwan (Hwang Ki), and
5. Song Moo Kwan (Roh, Byung Jick).
After the Korean war, four more Kwans were formed. These were as follows:
6. Oh Do Kwan (Choi, Hong Hi & NAM, Tae Hi),
7. Han Moo Kwan (Lee, Kyo Yun),
8. Kang Duk Kwan (Park, Chul Hee & Hong Jong Pyo)
9. Jung Do Kwan (Lee, Young Woo).
The above kwans were unified forming one style which became known as Taekwondo. This unification was initiated by South Korea’s President Syngman Rhee . This was the first use of the word Taekwondo as it did not exist before this period. It is accepted that General Choi was the first person to have suggested the name Taekwondo. Literature claims that Sun Duk Song also submitted the name.
In this year the Korea Taekwondo Association was formed as an attempt to unify the many Kwans and create a standard system of Taekwondo. General Choi, Hong Hi was named President in the same year.
The first international tour also took place to the Far East. It was lead by General Choi, Hong Hi (pictured right) who was accompanied by 19 Black Belts such as Nam Tae Hi, President of the Asia Taekwondo Federation; Colonel Ko Jae Chun, the 5th Chief of Taekwondo instructors in Vietnam; Colonel Baek Joon Gi, the 2nd Chief instructor in Vietnam; Brigadier Gen. Woo Jong Lim; Mr. Han Cha Kyo, the Head Instructor in Singapore and Mr. Cha Soo Young, presently an international instructor in Washington D.C.
Despite the efforts, the Kwans still continued to teach their individual styles.
The Korean government ordered a single organization be created and, on September 16, 1961, the Kwans agreed to unify under the name Korea Tae Soo Do Association.
This association was a result of mutual agreement by the various Kwans as a means of achieving unification.
The Korean Athletic Union Recognized Taekwondo As A National Sport
General Choi Hong Hi establishes the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) after a trip to North Korea in the same year causes upset in South Korea.
The ITF HQ change location: General Choi Hong Hi moves to Canada and shifts the headquarters of the ITF from Korea.
The Korea Taekwondo Association Central Dojang Opens. The name was changed to mean ‘National teaching centre’. This is represented by the word Kukkiwon. It is the World Taekwondo Headquarters. Eight new Poomsae called Taegeuk were created.
The World Taekwondo Federation (WT) Was Formed. The nations involved in this formation were Korea, the USA, Uganda, Mexico, Austria, and the Republic of China. It was originally later by Kim Un-Yong (later a member of the International Olympic Committee).
First (WT) World Taekwondo Championship was held at the Kukkiwon with 35 delegates participating from around the world.
The First (ITF) World TKD Championship event was held in Montreal. Ten years later taekwondo was entered in the Asian Games as an Official Event
The WT Taekwondo is involved in the Seoul Olympic Games as a demonstration sport.
The WTF Taekwondo is involved in the Barcelona Olympic Games as a demonstration sport.
The WT and Taekwondo is involved in the Sydney games officially as a full medal Olympic event.