Tae Kwon Do is art of self defense that originated in Korea. It is recognized as one of the oldest forms of martial arts in the world. Though its tradition is ancient, reachign back over 2,000 years, there is no one account of its development. The details presented here have been gathered and arranged froma number of different sources.
One of the earliest clues to Tae Kwon Do'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 Tae Kwon Do-style stance. Additional drawings in the tomb show figures performing blocks and wearing uniforms similar to those used in modern day Tae Kwon Do training.
There is little question that the advancement of Tae Kwon Do and its techniques developed as the country of Korea developed. There are examples and history of Tae Kwon Do 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 "Hwarong" or "Flower of Youth."
The Hwarong 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 Hwarong were taught no only the importance of developing their bodies, but their minds and spirits as well. In addition ot 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 Tae Kwon Do training, which provides self-defense skills as well as improved character, self discipline, and confidence that can be applied to any task.
Following the Sila dynasty adn the times of the Hwarang Do came the Kory dynasty (935 AD-1352 AD) from which Korea takes its name. At that time, martial arts practice known as Subak Do, became popular as an organized sport, with detailed rules. The royal family sponsored competitions and demonstrations. martial arts became deeply rooted in Korean culture.
A setback occurred during the Ui Dynasty which began in 1303 AD. At the time the ruling class de-emphasized the importance of physical and military training and the Tae Kyon began to lose popularity. However, one significantcontribution occurred in 1790 when the Yi Dynastymonarch, Oborgio, ordered one of his generals to compile a reference book of all forms of martial arts in Korea. Known as Muye Dobo TOngi, this book is one of the first of its kind. It is comprised of texts and illustrations describing methods of practicing martial arts.
The end of the Yi Dynasty came in 1909 and was fllowed with the Japanese occupation of Korea and a ban on the practice of martial arts. The training that existed was extremely secretive.
With the end of World War II came the end of the Japanese occupation, and the need and opportunity to formally organize the Korean martial arts. In 1955, a group of instructors and historians convened and settled on the title of Tae Kwon Do. The name was selected for its appropriate description of the art: Tae (foot) Kwon (hand) Do (art) The name also bore a close resemblance to the ancient name Tae kyon.
The introduction of Tae Kwon Do in the United States also began during the 1950's when a handful of pioneering master instructors travelled to America to spread the art.
Throughout the next few decades, Tae Kwon Do, grew in popularity, not only as a martial art, but as an international sport.
In 1973, Korea hosted the first Tae Kwon Do World Championships. In that same year, the World Tae Kwon Do Federation was established as the international governing body for the sport aspects of Tae Kwon Do. Today the WTF counts 120 separate countries as its members, representing 20 million practitioners. These numbers earn Tae Kwon Do the distinction of being the most practiced martial art in the world.
Tae Kwon Do first gained acceptance as a Olympic sport appearing as a demonstration event in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Beginning with the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Tae Kwon Do will be included as a medal sport in the Summer Olympic Games.