Taekwondo (/ˈtaɪˈkwɒnˈdoʊ/) is a Korean martial art with a heavy emphasis on kicks. Taekwondo was developed during the 1940s and 1950s by various Korean martial artists as a blend of the indigenous Korean fighting styles of taekkyeon, gwonbeop, and subak, with influence from foreign martial arts, such as karate and Chinese martial arts.

The oldest governing body for Taekwondo is the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), formed in 1959 by a collaborative effort by representatives from the nine original kwans, or martial arts schools, in Korea. The main international organizational bodies for Taekwondo today are the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), founded by General Choi Hong Hi in 1966, and the World TaeKwonDo Federation (WTF), founded in 1973 by the KTA. Gyeorugi ([kjʌɾuɡi]), a type of full-contact sparring, has been an Olympic event since 1992. The body known for taekwondo in the Olympics is the World TaeKwonDo

General Choi Hong Hi

Taekwon‑Do was devised, studied and completed by Gen. Choi Hong Hi of Korea and brought into the world as modern martial arts.

Gen. Choi Hong Hi had to practice Karate of Japan because Korea was under its colonial occupation for over 36 years. Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.

In 1946, he made up his mind to create the martial arts of Korea which will outshine over all other martial arts in both spiritual and technical aspects so as to demonstrate the spirit and wisdom of the Korean nation to the whole world.

He devoted his everything for ten years to study, devise and develop new techniques of attack and defense, comparing with other martial arts, on the basis of the excellent technical movements of “Soo Bak Gi” and “Tae Kyon”, the traditional martial arts of Korea, with its spiritual basis on ethics of the East, by which one can generate his/her strength to the maximum in the principle of modern science, different from the existing technical movements.

It was late in 1954 that he completed the fundamentals of Taekwon‑Do.

Hereby on 11th April 1955, the Session of Naming Board consisting of notorious historians and leaders of society deeply versed in martial arts decided to name the martial arts so far studied and completed by Gen. Choi Hong Hi after Taekwon‑Do on the basis of his proposal.

Taekwon‑Do began to spread throughout the world with the visit of Taekwon‑Do demonstration team consisting of 19 pioneers headed by Gen. Choi Hong Hi to Vietnam and in Taiwan in 1959.

Afterward Gen. Choi Hong Hi introduced Taekwon‑Do to the United States of America in 1960 while attending Missile Course in Texas, USA.

In 1962, he introduced and disseminated Taekwon‑Do to Malaysia and South-East Asia, as a result of which Taekwon‑Do association was formed in Malaysia in 1963 and in Singapore in February 1964. And it was spread also in Brunei to lay down the foundations for forming its NGB (National Governing Body).

In 1965, he toured Germany, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia and Singapore with his Demonstration Team for staging Taekwon‑Do demonstrations and organizing Taekwon‑Do NGB in every country he visited thus laying down the foundations to form The International Taekwon‑Do Federation.

On this basis, Gen. Choi Hong Hi founded the International Taekwon‑Do Federation on 22nd March 1966 comprising 9 Taekwon‑Do associations of Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, USA, Turkey, Italy, Arab Republic of Egypt and South Korea and was elected as first President of ITF. The establishment of the ITF was of great significance in the history of Taekwon‑Do.

The International Taekwon‑Do Federation developed rapidly over past decades overcoming all difficulties since its foundation. It has now expanded and developed into a huge international organization with 50 million practitioners in 128 member countries.

Gen. Choi Hong Hi who created Taekwon‑Do and founded the ITF as its first President, dedicated his all to Taekwon‑Do till last moment of his life, passed away to our great sorrow from his gastric cancer in Pyongyang, DPR of Korea on 15th June 2002.

All Koreans owe a debt of gratitude to Gen. Choi for spreading Taekwon‑Do globally, which also put Korea on the map as well as give Korea a warm face to the world.

All Taekwon‑Do students owe a debt as well to General Choi, as for without him there would not be a Korean Martial Art called Taekwon‑Do.

Taekwondo in the United States

The introduction of Taekwondo in the United States began during the 1950’s when a handful of pioneering master instructors traveled to America to spread the art. Throughout the next few decades Taekwondo grew in popularity, not only as a martial art, but as an international sport.

In 1973, Korea hosted the first  Taekwondo  World Championships. In that same year, the  World Taekwondo Federation was established as the international governing body for  the sport aspects of Taekwondo. Today the WTF counts 120 separate countries as its members, representing 20 million practitioners. These numbers earn Taekwondo the distinction of being the most practiced martial art in the world.

Taekwondo first gained acceptance as an Olympic sport when it appeared as a demonstration event in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Taekwondo became a full medal sport competition beginning in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics.

History of Korean Martial Arts

One of the earliest clues of Taekwondo’s existence is a mural painted on the wall of a tomb that was built in the Korean kingdom of Koguryo, between 37 BC and 66 AD. The drawing shows two unarmed figures facing each other in a Taekwondo style stance. Additional drawings in the tomb show figures performing blocks and wearing uniforms similar to those used in modern day Taekwondo training.

The advancement of Taekwondo and its techniques developed as the country of Korea developed. There are examples and history of Taekwondo training in virtually all the records of the different kingdoms that existed within the country throughout the centuries.

The highest form of the ancient art was achieved in the kingdom of Silla. This tiny kingdom constantly faced attacks and opposition from larger and stronger areas. As a result the ruler of the kingdom, King Jin Heung, established an elite group of warriors called the “Hwarang” or “Flower of Youth”.

The Hwarang consisted of the sons of nobles within the kingdom. They were carefully selected and formally trained in all aspects of military skills including unarmed combat, which at the time was known as Tae Kyon. It is significant that the Hwarang were taught not only the importance of developing their bodies, but their minds and spirits as well. In addition to fighting techniques, the young warriors were instructed in history, poetry, and philosophy. The entire body of study was known as Hwarang Do. The Hwarang gained skills not only for battle, but for daily life. This relates directly to modern Taekwondo training, which provides self defense skills as well as improved character, self-discipline, and confidence that can be applied to any task.

Following the Silla dynasty came the Koryo dynasty (935 AD – 1352 AD) from which Korea takes its name. Martial arts practice, known as Subak Do, became popular as an organized sport with detailed rules. The royal family sponsored competitions and demonstrations, and martial arts became deeply rooted in Korean culture.

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