Taekwondo History

Fact and folklore tell us that the three kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula were unified in part by the actions of the Hwa-Rang Warriors of the Silla Dynasty. Like most warrior societies the Hwa-Rang upheld their own warrior code. Instilling a sense of morality, virtue, camaraderie, and internal strength in battle. Additionally, historians advise a rich history of martial arts in ancient Korea, to including the prominent arts of Subahk and TaeKyon.

In more recent times, Korea found itself occupied by Japanese forces from 1910 until the end of World War II (August 15, 1945). During this occupation the local martial arts were outlawed leading to what most would consider their almost complete annihilation. Fortunately, practitioners were able to keep these arts alive, at least in part by continuing underground during this dark time in Korean history. Others would receive formal educations in Japanese martial arts during their educational or military excursions to the Japanese mainland.

With the Korean liberation came a strong sense for security, and immediately martial arts gyms began to sprout up and migrate to the area we now know as the Republic of Korea. These gyms originally taught Japanese Karate closely associated with that of Funakoshi, Sensei’s Shotokan, and Chinese Chuan Fa’. Having a strong dislike for all things Japanese and a strong nationalist pride these kwans began formatting and modifying their curriculum to reflect the strength of the Korean people, by supplementing techniques with a uniquely Korean flare. These gyms would later be known as the original 5 kwans.

1. Chung Do Kwan – Grandmaster Lee, Won Kuk
2. Sang Moo Kwan – Grandmaster Ro, Byung Jick
3. Moo Duk Kwan – Grandmaster Kee, Hwang
4. Chang Moo Kwan - Grandmaster Yoon, Byung-In
5. Yun Moo Kwan* - Grandmaster Chun, Sang Sup

*Yun Moo Kwan was renamed Ji Do Kwan under the charge of Grandmaster Yoon, Gwae Byung.

Taekwondo HistoryAt the height of the Korean War, a large celebration was held in honor of the first President of the Republic of Korea, Rhee, Syng-man. It is at this celebration that a demonstration was held to display the strength and spirit of the newly formed Republic of Korea, Military. Nam, Tae Hi, a senior member of one of the original five kwans, serving under the command of Choi, Hong Hi, demonstrated the power of his fist by breaking 13 roofing tiles with a single punch. President Rhee was so impressed by this demonstration that Choi, Hong Hi was ordered to construct a training syllabus and open a military kwan for the compulsory training of all service members. General Choi, Colonel Nam, and many others worked diligently to finalize a new, uniquely Korean system to be taught at the Korean Military Kwan. The Ohdokwan was opened in 1954 as the official kwan of the Republic of Korea Army. One year later on August 11, 1955 President Rhee, Syng-man accepted the name Taekwondo as the official new Korean Martial Art.

The Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed in 1959 with General Choi, Hong Hi named as President. Under the command of General Choi, the KTA would send the “12 Original Masters” across the globe displaying the power and spirit of both Korea and spreading Taekwondo throughout the world! Because of his efforts, General Choi is often noted as the founder of Taekwondo. However, we most certainly must include the efforts of all the “Early 6 Kwans” and the “Original 12 Masters” as the ultimate driving force for the great success of Taekwondo!

Today, the art of Taekwondo exists around the world, practiced my millions who adhere to a variety of standards, whether set forth independently, by their kwan of origin, or by the many international organizations of Taekwondo!

To learn more about the two main organizations of Taekwondo please refer to either Taekwondo-WTF or Taekwondo-ITF.