Approximately 1300 years ago (during the 6th Century A.D.), the Korean peninsula was divided into three kingdoms: Silla, Koguryo, and Baek Je. Silla, being the smallest of these kingdoms, was constantly under invasion and harassment by its two more powerful northern and western neighbors. During the reign of Chin Heung, twenty-fourth King of the Silla, the young aristocrats and warrior class formed an elite officer corps called Hwa Rang-Do. This warrior corps – in addition to the ordinary training in spear, bow, sword and hook – also trained themselves by practicing mental and physical discipline, and various forms of hand and foot fighting. To prepare their bodies for the task of defending their homeland, they climbed rugged mountains and swam turbulent rivers in the coldest of months.
The Hwa Rang-Do became known in the peninsula for their courage and skill in battle, gaining respect from even their most bitter foes. Many of these brave young warriors died on the battle field – as young as fourteen years old. However, their accomplishments inspired the people of the Silla to rise and unite. From the victories of the Silla, the Korean peninsula became unified for the first time in its history.
The Silla and Koryo dynasties marked a flowering of the martial arts in Korea. Soon after, however, the dynasties acquired an anti-military attitude. Though this began a period of civil enlightenment, anything dealing with the military was disgraced. By the end of the Yi dynasty the martial arts appeared to have ceased existing. The final blow came with the Japanese occupation (1909-1945), when it was forbidden to practice any of the martial arts. Taekwondo was secretly practiced by some dedicated followers and passed on to a handful of old students. Patrons of the art, such as Song Duk Ki and Han Il Dong, managed to keep the art alive.
With the liberation of Korea in 1945, the new Republic of Korea Armed Forces was organized on January 15, 1946. A Young Second Lieutenant, Choi Hong Hi, recently released from Japanese prison camp, began teaching his martial art to his soldiers. This is what resulted in what is today known throughout the world as Taekwondo. Modern Taekwondo differs greatly from other martial arts. In fact, no other martial art is so advanced with regard to the sophistication and effectiveness of its technique or the over-all physical fitness it imparts to its practitioners.
Taekwondo literally means ‘the way of the hand and foot’
Taekwondo is a way of life. Specifically, it is a version of unarmed combat designed for the purpose of self-defense. Translated literally, “Tae” stands for jumping or flying, to kick or smash with the foot. “Kwon” denotes the fist – primarily to punch or destroy with the hand or first. “Do” means an art or way. Thus taken collectively, “Taekwondo” is the “art of hand and foot fighting” and indicates the mental training and techniques of unarmed combat for self-defense as well as health. Taekwondo (or tae kwon do) literally means ‘the way of the hand and foot’. ‘Tae’ stands for jumping or flying, to kick or smash with the foot. ‘Kwon’ means punch or to destroy with the hand or fist. ‘Do’ is simply the way. Thus taken collectively, “Taekwondo” is the “art of hand and foot fighting” and indicates the mental training and techniques of unarmed combat for self-defense as well as health.
- ‘Tae’ stands for jumping or flying, to kick or smash with the foot. ‘Kwon’ means punch or to destroy with the hand or fist. ‘Do’ is simply the way.
- Taekwondo is more than a martial art, it is a way of life.
- It is a version of unarmed combat designed for self-defense.
- Taekwondo has for centuries been an integral part of Korean society.
- The art’s effectiveness comes from the development of body flexibility and fluid movements as well as pure strength.
- Techniques are based on the physics of movement in conjunction with an understanding of the body.
- Through intensive physical and mental training, students can gain ultimate use of the body’s facilities.
- Taekwondo has no equal in either power or technique.
- Taekwondo has gained world-wide popularity for its simple and effective self-defense applications as well as a means of keeping fit, staying healthy and controlling weight.