Origins of TaeKwondo

Taekwondo is a self-defense martial art the enables a practitioner to defend himself/herself and to build self-confidence. Taekwondo means "hand, foot, and way of life."

The rich tradition of this martial art began more than 2,000 years ago. The earliest records were in artifacts found in the kingdom of Koguryu Paekche, and Silla spanning the period of 18 BC to 936 AD. Excavated royal tombs contained murals depicting martial art stances and forms similar to modern Taekwondo.

During the Koryo dynasty, between 935-1392 AD, unarmed fighting gained great popularity. Various stances and techniques were brought together and organized by the leading masters of that time. Subak, a method with similarities to modern Taekwondo was practiced by both the members of the military and of the civilian population. It was promoted as a form of healthy exercise and as a spectator sport with competitions held in the royal court.

The Yi dynasty (1392-1910AD) brought a shift in the state religion from Buddhism to Confucianism. This led to a decline in popularity as the religious emphasis was now more in classical learning, not physical pursuits. The martial art existed mainly as a recreational activity pursued by ordinary people.

In 1910, the Japanese forcibly occupied Yi dynasty. The colonial government disbanded the military and banned traditional Korean martial arts, sports, games, cultural activities and the language to destroy Korean identity. Public practice ended for 35 years, but through continued instruction in the anti-occupation organizations, the martial art survived.

The ban was lifted in 1945 after the liberation of Korea. Many new schools opened and instructors began teaching a system derived from traditional forms – now known as Taekwondo. In 1961, the Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed and given membership in the Korean Amateur Sports Association. Since that time, the KTA worked diligently to unify and support the instruction and practice of Taekwondo worldwide.

Dr. Un Yong Kim was elected President of the KTA in January 1971. Under his guidance, the organization developed and advanced technically, physically and spiritually. In 1972, the Kukkiwan (Institute for the National Sport) was established and became the main facility for the KTA. The KTA became the World Taekwondo Federation in 1973.

The United States Amateur Athletic Union recognized Taekwondo as an official sport in 1974. Dr. Ken Min was elected the AAU Taekwondo Committee's first National Chairman. Through the work of the AAU Taekwondo programs, the sport was recognized by the International Military Sports Council and the General Assembly of International Sports Federation in 1976.

The 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea brought the introduction of Taekwondo as an exhibition sport. It retained this status in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. In 2000, Taekwondo became a full medal sport with Steven Lopez bringing home the Gold medal, in the featherweight division in Sydney, Australia. He is currently competing in the welter weight division at this year's Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece.

Today, more than 120 countries consisting of about 30 million practitioners are members of the World Teakwondo Federation.