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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.



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