Introduction To Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a system for training the body, soul and spirit, with an emphasis on the development of moral character. Modern Taekwondo is a combination of the (hyung) patterns of its ancestral combative arts, and incorporates the linear movements of karate and the flowing circular movements of kung-fu, with native kicking techniques. In modern times, hand techniques have become increasingly more important in Taekwondo. However, the use of the feet remains its trademark and beauty.  
When a new student enters a dojang, he becomes part of a family in which he is the youngest member. The instructor is the head of the family, and all the students are children at different levels of development, but each with the same importance to the family.   

Taekwondo kicking techniques are divided into direct and circular movements. Unlike Okinawan karate systems, Taekwondo advocates a broader array of kicks, with an emphasis on the spinning kicks. Taekwondo is famous for its flying kicks.

Early Historical Significance  

The origins of Taekwondo can be traced to the Koguryo Dynasty, founded in 37 B.C. A royal tomb painting of that period depicted two men facing each other in Taekwondo practice and wrestling. The construction of other tombs dates to the period between three and 427 A.D. where Taekwondo was apparently taught and used. Taekwondo was also practiced during the Silla Dynasty (668-935). Silla was famous for its Hwrang warriors. These knights trained by devoting themselves to hunting, studying, and the martial arts, and was an essential part of Silla’s struggle to unify the country. The Samguk Yusa, the oldest Korean document, shows that the Hwrang practiced Taekwondo in their basic training. Taekwondo maintained its popularity after the Koguryo and Silla dynasties, through the Koryo Dynasty (935-1392). During this time, Taekwondo, as subak was practiced as a skill to improve health, as well as a martial art. Subak's popularity peaked between 1147 and 1170, the period of the Sung and Ming dynasties.

People who aspired to be employed by the military of the royal government were eager to learn subak, because it was one of the major subjects the test taken by the applicants. It was in 1945 that a move was made to unify the fighting arts of Korea under one name, in an effort to revitalize the traditional Korean art of subak. Ten years later, in 1955, a conference of chung do kwan masters decided to standardize the term Taekwondo, which had been submitted for acceptance by General Choi Hong Hi. The name was chosen because of its resemblance to taekyon. In 1952, during the Korean War, a demonstration before President Syngman Rhee turned into the most significant turning point for Korean martial arts. Rhee watched a 30 minute performance by Korean martial arts masters, and was impressed when Tae Hi Nam broke 13 roof tiles with a single punch. When the demonstration was finished, Rhee asked Choi Hong Hi some questions regarding the art. Rhee was so impressed that he ordered his military chiefs to have his soldiers receive training in these arts. This accounted for a great surge in the number of schools.

Nam, who had impressed Rhee with his tile breaking was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia for training. On April 11, 1955, it was decided to adopt the term Taekwondo as a means of providing continuity to the arts of Korea.

In September 1961, when the groups once again organized into a single association (Korean Taekwondo Association), with General Hi as the elected president. On March 22, 1966, the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) was formed and General Hi served as president. General Hi moved the ITF headquarters to Montreal, Canada, from where he has concentrated on organizing internationally. Taekwondo's international expansion began with the Republic of Vietnam in 1962, then to Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong in 1962-63, Europe in 1965, West Germany and the Netherlands in 1966, and Taiwan in 1967. Mass expansion began in the United States in the early 1960's. In 1968 the United Kingdom Taekwondo Association was formed followed by many other countries.  

Young-wun Kim was elected the new KTA president. He dissolved the relationship between the KTA and the ITF on May 28, 1973, and formed the World Taekwondo Federation. By 1980 under the expansion of General Hi's programs, a reported 15,000,000 were studying Taekwondo in 62 countries! The WTF is the body recognized by the Korean government.

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