The Tae Kwon Do | What is Taekwondo | Taekwondo History | Taekwondo Description | Introduction to Taekwondo | Origins and Evolution | Philosophy of Taekwondo | Taekwondo Ethics | Taekwondo Organizations | Taekwondo Patterns | Taekwondo Vital Points | Competition and Ranks | Five Tenets | The Taeguk | The Theory of Power | Founder of Taekwondo | The Life of Choi Hong Hi
Tae Kwon Do is practiced in over 140 countries world-wide. It’s no surprise that it’s so popular. But Tae Kwon Do is not very young. In fact, some of the earliest found proof of Tae Kwon Do practice dates back to around 50 B.C., which is almost 2050 years ago. Korea (the founding country) was split into three parts then: Silla, built on the Kyongju plains, Koguryo, built near the Yalu River Valley, and Baekche, built in Southwest Korea.
Pictures of the oldest known form of Tae Kwon Do, Taek Kyon, have been found painted on the walls and ceilings of a royal Koguryo tomb, Muyong-chong. These (along with other murals found) have depicted people displaying stances, punches, kicks, and other techniques that are very similar, if not identical, to the ones we now use today. Some of the murals display use of the knife hand, or son-nal chi-gi, and fist, or joomock.
Even though Tae Kwon Do was first introduced in the Koguryo Kingdom, Silla’s nobility warriors, the Hwarang, are probably most responsible for the spread and growth of Tae Kwon Do in ancient Korea. Of the three kingdoms, the smallest and least civilized, Silla (which was the first to be built and inhabited) was repeatedly under assault by nearby traveling Japanese pirates.
After Silla requested assistance from the other kingdoms, King Gwanggateo (who was the 19th monarch in a family line) gathered, organized and sent a large army of 50,000 troops into the neighboring Silla. That’s when Taek Kyon comes in and is introduced to the Sillan warriors in strict secrecy.
These trained Taek Kyon warriors became known as the Hwarang. The Hwarang-do (meaning way of flowering manhood) was established only as a military school for the younger royalty of Silla. The Hwarang-do welcomed this new way of fighting as a normal part of their daily lives.
The extremely talented group consisted of leaders, or the previously mentioned Hwarang. They were chosen from the sons of royalty between the ages of 16 and 20. The Nangdo, or cadets, were assembled from the remaining nobility and who were not chosen for the Hwarang. The population of this group totaled somewhere between 200 and 1,000 at any given time. These Nangdo were trained in many different areas, such as Taek Kyon, military tactics, sword-play, archery, riding, Buddhist morality, ethics, Confucian philosophy, and history. The main points of Hwarang-do were centered upon the Five Codes of Human Conduct. These etiquette laws, which were established by the Buddhist philosopher, Wonkang, are:
The 5 Codes of Human Conduct:
Be Loyal To Your Country
Be Obedient To Your Parents
Be Trustworthy To Your Friends
Never Retreat In A Battle
Never Make An Unjust Kill
In affiliation with the Five Codes, Taek Kyon was taught so that it became a way of living to the young men. They respected it as a way of regular behavior that existed to help them in their lives and also to apply in their Taek Kyon training. Today, these Five Codes of Human Conduct have been matured into the Eleven Commandments of Tae Kwon Do. These Commandments are used to help and guide the students in their over-all development. With the Five Codes, and Eleven Commandments as well, only the student who knows, understands, and applies them should hope to ever grasp the true meaning of the art.
The Commandments are as follows:
Loyalty To Your Country
Respect Your Parents
Faithfulness To Your Spouse
Respect Your Brothers And Sisters
Loyalty To Your Friends
Respect Your Elders
Respect Your Teachers
Never Take Life Unjustly
Loyalty To Your School
Finish What You Begin
Included with their training in basic education and military skills, the Hwarang were also talented in dancing, poetry, and singing, and were often encouraged to travel to various areas of the Korean Peninsula to learn more about the society, people, and culture of other residents of Korea. These “nomadic” warriors were credited with being responsible for the spreading and popularity of Taek Kyon through the duration of the Silla dynasty. During this reign, Taek Kyon was thought of only as a sports and recreational activity; designed only to improve physical health. It was not until the Koryo dynasty that the original point of the art was redesigned. In that time, Taek Kyon was renamed and was called Subak, and during the reign of King Uijong it transformed entirely into a respectable fighting art of self defense as well as aggressive offense.
The first actual book on the art that was widely available was published during the Yi dynasty to increase the art among the residents in general. Before the book, the art had been bottled up mainly to the military royalty’s use. The availability of this book and the amazing increase in popularity of the art among the general public were credited with the survival of Subak during this age. This is because during the second half of the Yi dynasty, political arguments and the lack of enthusiasm for military achievements favored more educational achievements. This led to a respectable reduction in the practice of the art. Records of Subak practice were becoming more and more rare during this time, but the art again returned to its former role as a recreational activity to build physical fitness, though it was the main population that maintained the art instead of the nobility, as was before. Subak as an art became more broken up and remote around Korea, and its practice continued to decrease until only incomplete remains were left. Limited information on Subak was handed down among families generation to generation, and was generally practiced secretly.
It was not until 1909 that Korea’s fighting arts went through an important revolution. In 1909 the Japanese took over Korea, capturing it under their power for the next 36 years (until 1945). In this time, the Japanese resident general officially banned all practice of any fighting or military art, whether Subak or a different one, for all native Koreans. Incidentally, this sudden act started a new interest which helped the renewed growth of Subak begin. Koreans, pushed by the loathing of their captors, gathered themselves into groups and traveled underground to remote Buddhist temples to study and practice the martial art. Still others moved out of their native Korea and into nearby China or even Japan, where they learned and were revealed to the fighting techniques common in those countries. In Korea, Subak/Taek Kyon was kept alive, fed through the efforts of a great portion of well-known masters of the Korean fighting arts. Eventually, the secret underground ways of the martial arts in Korea were changed when, in 1943, Judo followed by Karate and Kung-Fu were officially introduced to the country from Japan. The next two years underwent an incredibly heightening increase in an interest in the martial arts throughout Korea. But it was not until Korea’s 1945 Liberation that its own personal fighting techniques finally took root and began to spread very rapidly. For many years to come, a wide range of Korean martial art styles survived throughout the country. These martial arts were varied depending on two logical components: how much emphasis each master had received from the numerous Chinese and Japanese styles of martial arts, and to what extent the native Subak/Taek Kyon had been modified and remodified over the years.
The first kwan, or school, to teach a native Korean fighting art was opened in 1945, called the Chung Do Kwan. This dojang, or martial arts gymnasium, was built in Yong Chun, Seoul, Korea. That same year, the Yun Moo Kwan and the Moo Duk Kwan opened in Seoul, given courage by the previously opened kwan. The Chi Do Kwan, founded after the building of the Chang Moo Kwan, was opened the following year, 1946. Between the years of 1953 and the early 1960s, seven other major schools were founded. The three most successful schools between that seven years, the Ji Do Kwan, the Oh Do Kwan, and the Song Moo Kwan, were all opened between 1953 and 1954. Even though all of these kwans claimed to teach the traditional Korean fighting art, each one put a different emphasis on a different factor of Subak/Taek Kyon. This, eventually, led to various names formed to fit each one. Some styles became referred to as Dang Soo Do, Tae Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, Kwon Bop, and Soo Bahk Do. Some schools also claimed to have taught the traditional martial art, Taek Kyon.
Disagreements between the different schools opposed their forming a large administering group for ten years. However, during those ten years the martial arts received a small footstep to the newly founded Korean Armed Forces in 1945, with Taek Kyon becoming a ordinary part of military training. In early 1946 masters of the art began teaching Taek Kyon to troops situated in Kwang Fu. This set the base of the building blocks for the great turning point in the history of the art in 1952. In that year, the height of the Korean War encouraged Korean martial arts masters to perform in front of President Syngman Rhee. President Rhee was so impressed by the demonstration that he decided that Taek Kyon should be admitted to the troops as a regular part of military life. This single demonstration was to have a very far-reaching effect on the Korean Martial arts. Later in that same year, a master was sent to Fort Benning in Georgia to work on a project relating to radio communications. The master was one of the few to perform for President Rhee, and Rhee took notice of his special abilities prior to his Georgia assignment. During his time in Georgia, the master demonstrated his abilities to both the military and general public, which further publicized Korea’s military fighting art. Back in Korea, special commando clusters of martial artists were grouped together to face the oncoming communist forces of North Korea. Probably the most famous for its actions would be the Black Tigers, who staged many episodes on which they fought across the border into many a hostile country. Occasionally they attempted an assassination. Many well-known great martial artists lost their lives in these such battles. Among the dead included the founders of the Yun Moo Kwan and the Chang Moo Kwan.
Prior to the end of this war around 1953, the 29th Korean Infantry Division was established on the island called Chen Gu. This unit was accepted as responsible for all Taek Kyon practicing in the Korean Army. Two years later, on the 11th of April, 1955, a small meeting was convened to unite the various kwans under a common name. The name of Tae Soo Do was accepted by the majority of the kwan masters, who then agreed to join the several different types of martial arts for the mutual well-being of the various kwans. However, two years later the name was again changed, forming the now familiar Tae Kwon Do. Tae Kwon Do was chosen for the name for two reasons: it blends the style of using hands and feet (the definition of Tae Kwon Do being “the art of kicking and punching”, it stands to reason), and the fact that it is remembrance of the former Taek Kyon. Tae Kwon Do has been the recognized name for Korean fighting arts since that day when it was changed. However, since the majority of kwans merged under the common name of Tae Kwon Do, there were still those few kwans who did not. It has been a long time, and the names of those eight kwans who decided to join under Tae Kwon Do in 1955 have been lost. Still, the names of those who did not merge, only Hapkido is left as remains of the formerly individual kwans. Even though the historic merging did solve and stop some problems, arguments were still an issue on how to combine the many different styles of fighting. Until the formation of the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association on the 14 of September, 1961, and indeed for a few years after the founding, there was still a great amount of animosity between different masters.
The original leaders of the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association saw the chance for the spreading and popularity of Tae Kwon Do and used it wisely. They used their authority to send various masters and gifted demonstrators of Tae Kwon Do to different places all over the world, which spread the art to almost every continent. In Korea, the study of Tae Kwon Do became more and more common, spreading from military bases to colleges and high schools. Dojangs for the general public sprang up everywhere. Tae Kwon Do had begun to bloom. In an extremely short time, Tae Kwon Do had developed an outstanding reputation as an effective fighting art for the world. During the Vietnamese War, the South Vietnamese Government requested masters, instructors, and fighters trained in Tae Kwon Do from Korea to teach in their country. By the beginning of the 1970′s, Tae Kwon Do was becoming very popular world-wide.
On May 28th, 1973, the World Tae Kwon Do Federation, a new world-wide organization, was founded. This group was formed to coordinate all Tae Kwon Do activities outside of Korea, and since that day, has been successful. The first biennial World Tae Kwon Do Championships were also held in May of 1973 in Seoul, acting as an introduction to the recently formed World Tae Kwon Do Federation. Since then, world championships have taken place in different countries from around the world, such as the United States, Denmark, South America, and Germany.
It was its remarkable fame that brought Tae Kwon Do to the attention of the General Association of International Sports Federation. The General Association of International Sports Federation, an organization of international sports (both Olympic and non-Olympic) had very visible connections with the International Olympic Committee. Under the promises of General Association of International Sports Federation, Tae Kwon Do was introduced to the International Olympic Committee as a sport, which admitted and recognized the World Tae Kwon Do Federation in July of 1980. Following this direct contact, at the General Session of the International Olympic Committee (May 1982), the crowning achievement was seen when Tae Kwon Do, as a sport, was assigned to be an official demonstration sport for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea.
You might also like:
In the years of the World Tae Kwon Do Federation’s being, Tae Kwon Do has spread and grown as a world-wide sport at an incredibly unpredictable rate. Now, Tae Kwon Do is only one of two (the other is Karate-Do) to be studied and practiced, bragging of an amazing population of over 20 million students, teachers, and masters, spreading to more than 140 countries. This is what makes it the most practiced martial art style in the world!