Colorado martial arts classes

History of Taekwondo

The earliest forms of Korean martial arts date back roughly 2000 years, although the 1ancient martial arts were very different from modern Taekwondo. Cave paintings from the Koguryo dynasty show sparring postures that were likely linked with religious rituals of the time. The Silla dynasty (57 BC-AD 435) saw the birth of the famous Hwarang warriors, a military, educational and social organization of noble youths. Their code of honor had five key points that are still important to Taekwondo today. These included loyalty to the nation, respect and obedience to one's parents, faithfulness to one's friends, courage in battle and avoidance of unnecessary violence and killing. The influence of the Hwarang played an important role in unifying the three kingdoms of ancient Korea. At Kyongju, the ancient capital of Silla, two Buddhist images are inscribed on the inner walls of Sokkuram cave in Pulkuk-sa Temple. These two “Diamond Warriors,” protecting Buddhism from devils, are the inspiration for the poomse Keumkang.

1The next development in Korean martial arts saw the rise of Subak, which was practiced not only as a skill to improve health and as a sport activity, but also encouraged as a martial art during the Koryo dynasty. Subak reached its highest popularity during the reign of King Uijong, between 1,147 and 1,170 A.D.

Over the next few centuries, there was not much recorded development. The Japanese colonization of Korea was the next major event in the history of Korean martial arts. This thirty-five year occupation lead to many deep feelings of resentment in Korea, as can be seen in the meanings of the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) forms. The occupation brought the exchange of many ideas, however, and the Taekwondo of the period was almost indistinguishable from the Japanese Karate. Towards the end of this occupation many schools, or kwan, were established in Korea. On September 16, 1961, the Korea Taekwondo Association was established, in order to unify the kwans.

In the 1960’s, Korean instructors began going abroad to teach Taekwondo. This could be called a turning point in the history of Taekwondo. In 1966, the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) was formed and General Choi Hong Hi was elected president. General Choi was instrumental in spreading Taekwondo across the world with a series of demonstration trips. The late 1960s and early 1970s were tumultuous times for Korea in general and Taekwondo in particular. General Choi had a falling out with many of the other masters and in 1972 moved the ITF headquarters from Seoul, Korea to Toronto, Canada. In May 1973, representatives of nineteen countries met in Seoul and established the competing World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). Henceforth, the WTF was to focus more on the sport aspect of Taekwondo, while the ITF was to focus on the more traditional aspect. The world’s focus shifted to the WTF, which is more popular and recognized by more international sporting bodies.

Presently, member countries of the WTF total more than 160 and the global Taekwondo population is estimated at 30 million people. As of 2002, there were 5,025,206 people holding WTF Dan rankings worldwide. Spurred by the recognition of Taekwondo by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1980, Taekwondo has been rapidly becoming an international sport. It was adopted as a demonstration sport in the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Taekwondo was an official sport at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The United States won one medal there, a gold medal in the combined featherweight division by Steven Lopez of Sugarland, Texas. In 2004 Steven Lopez returned to win another gold in the combined welterweight division, and Nia Abdalla won a silver in the women's featherweight.

Taekwondo has quickly consolidated its position in the sports world. Aside from the continental championships, World and Women's World Championships, World Cup Taekwondo, CISM Taekwondo Championships and FISU World University Championships, Taekwondo is being played as an official sport in most international multi-sport games, such as World Games, Pan American Games, All Africa Games, Southeast Asian Games and Central American Games.

Taekwondo has had its growing pains in the Olympics, but will likely stay an official sport due to the fact that many countries have won their first or only Olympic medals through TKD.

You may also wish to visit the History of Taekwondo Section on wikipedia, or read Taekwondo: A Practical Guide to the World's Most Popular Martial Art.




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Korean Academy of Taekwondo 16850 E. Mississippi Ave Aurora, CO 80017 (303) 743-7767