Essay: The History of Taekwondo

Taekwondo has been practice around the world for hundreds of years, but it was invented approximately at 50 B.C (2,000 years ago). Korea at the time was divided into three kingdoms, the Silla kingdom which was found in the Kyongju plains in 57 B.C, the Koguryo kingdom which was founded in the Yalu River Valley in 57 B.C, and the Paekche kingdom which was founded in the southwestern area of the Korean peninsula in 18 B.C. There was a group called the Hwa Rang Do which was an elite group of young nobles who devoted their lives into serving the Kingdom of Silla. The best translation for Hwa Rang is flowering youth. These men had a very strict honor code, an also practiced may forms of martial arts such as Tae Kyon and Soo Bakh Do. The honor code that the Hwa Rang Do followed is the background of modern Taekwondo. Their honor code was Serve your lord with loyalty, Serve your parents with full respect, trust your colleagues, never retreat from a battle you’re already in, and when taking your life, be selective. The modern commandments are Loyalty to your country, Respect your parents, Faithfulness to your spouse, Respect your brothers and sisters, Loyalty to your friends, Respect your elders, Respect your teacher, Never take life unjustly, Indomitable spirit, Loyalty to your school, Finish what you have begun. After this, there would be a time of peace and HwaRang turned from learning about all these different martial arts, to put more time into poetry and music. Silla (the smallest out of the three kingdom) was usually under siege by Japanese pirates. Silla wanted to drive out the pirates, so with the help of king Gwanggaeto and his soldiers, they drove the pirates out. The kingdom Silla unified the kingdoms until it went to war and won the war against the Koguryo kingdom in 668 A.D. During the fight with the pirates, a few soldiers were allowed to be taught Taekwondo by the early masters of it. When they finished their training, they started to be called Hwarang warriors. The Hwarang warrior’s also learned about Confucian Philosophy, ethics, and military tactics. The Hwarang warriors were also extremely loyal, fulfilled their duties, were trustworthy, and believed in justice. During the Silla dynasty which was in 668 A.D through 935 A.D, taekwondo was usually used as a sport and a recreational activity. The original name of taekwondo was actually Taek Kyon but the name was changed to taekwondo during the Koryo dynasty which was in 935 A.D through 1392 A.D. When a man named Uijong went to throne from 1147 through 1170, he changed taekwondo from a fitness sport to a primarily fighting art. Also during this time, they replaced Buddhism, their main religion back then, with Confucianism as the state religion for everyone. According to Confucius’ teachings, higher class or wealthier people should study the art of poetry, read poems and play fine music. Martial arts was not mandatory, but very common to men back then. The first book that was made about taekwondo was during the Yi dynasty which was from 1397 A.D through 1907 A.D. This book taught the general concept of taekwondo to the public. Before this book, taekwondo was only taught to the military. During the second half of the Yi dynasty, taekwondo was almost extinct when Korea’s government argued whether to use debate instead of military actions.

In 1909 however, Japan invades Korea and occupies it for 36 years. Because Japan dominated Korea during 1910 through the end of World War 2, a lot of Korean soldiers were trained in Japan. Japan actually tried to erase all traces of Korean culture. The Koreans wanted to rebel but they couldn’t because Japan was way too powerful at the time. To control Korea’s patriotism, The Japanese started to ban Korean’s to speak their language and to practice taekwondo. The Japanese even burned most of the books that were written in Korean. The Koreans didn’t like that, so they had underground taekwondo lessons in temples or places secret. Some of the Koreans even left Korea to study other martial arts like Kung-Fu in China or Karate in Japan. In 1943, Karate, Kung-Fu, and Judo were officially introduced to the Korean residents. That’s when martial arts became more popular again in Korea because when the Japanese didn’t allow the Koreans to do taekwondo, most Koreans just lost hope in martial arts. In 1945, they were liberated from the Japanese and were really rejoiced about that. The most influential martial art to taekwondo was Karate, the Japanese martial art.
Few years before the liberation, there were many different types of styles of taekwondo due to all the other martial arts that influenced the people to add moves to the original taekwondo. This is why there are many different names for each taekwondo studio. The first recorded school that was in Korea was started in Yong Chun, Seoul, Korea. They started in 1945, right after the Japanese left them. In 1945 and 1946, the KMF (The Korean Armed Forces) were formed. Part of the armed forces was second lieutenant Hong Hi Choi. He started to teach the army taekwondo at the army’s base. The base was called Kwang Ju. The first time when Americans found out about Taek Kyon (taekwondo) was when Hong Hi Choi was teaching the Korean troops, and some American soldiers were stationed with the troops at Kwang Ju, so they started to take lessons with the Korean soldiers and started to get the hang of the martial art and began to do taekwondo more often. In 1949, Hong Hi Choi attended a general school at Fort Reily near Topeka, Kansas. While Hong Hi Choi was in the United States, he taught several pubic classes of taekwondo to the soldiers and residents. This was the first class in America that had the chance to do taekwondo. In 1952, Korean martial art (taekwondo) was about to have its greatest turning point since it started. During the Korean War, President Rhee (a Korean statesman that ended up being the first president for the Provisial Government) started to watch martial art performances. Then one day, he saw a thirty minute demonstration with taekwondo art masters. He was amazed and astonished of what these martial artists can do. He was really amazed when a man named Tae Hi Nam broke 13 roof tiles with one single punch. President Rhee started to talk to Tae Hi Nam about taekwondo. After this conversation, President Rhee orders his military chiefs and commanders to require all Korean soldiers to start learning the art of Korean Martial Art (taekwondo). This action that President Rhee said must happen made a tremendous and skyrocket surge for taekwondo schools and students, so over amount of time, there was a high demand of instructors and taekwondo studios. After the taekwondo industry skyrocketed, President Rhee sends Tae Hi Nam to Fort Benning, located at Georgia, to do radio communication training classes. When Tae Hi Nam was in America, there were many martial arts demonstrations that Tae Hi Nam instructed to the American people. Since he taught the people the ways of taekwondo, he was granted a lot of media publicity (he was very popular from the radios). During the same time but in Korea, Korea started to form special commando groups of Korean martial arts trained soldiers to fight of the communist forces from North Korea. One of the more famous groups of trained soldiers was called The Black Tigers. Once the Korean War ended in 1953 and it was brutal. It is said that the casualties are somewhere from three million to ten million, we are not certain because not all soldiers were given proper burying and were not counted on the amount of casualties. In 1954, General Hong Hi Choi organized the twenty-ninth infantry on Che Ju Islands. Che Ju Islands are located at the coast of Korea. They did this as the headquarters or the center for taekwondo to be trained to the Korean military. In April 11, 1955, in a conference that taekwondo masters, historians, and taekwondo promoters came to, they all decided to merge their various styles for mutual benefits for each other and all of their schools. This led to the name, Tae Soo Do, which was accepted to be the name from most of the Kwan masters. Taekwondo wasn’t the name of the Korean martial art until 1957, this time Korean General, General Hong Hi Choi, was the one who suggested to change the name. He changed the name to Taekwondo because it resemblances Taek kyon, the original name of the Korean martial art. This way, it can somewhat maintain tradition and also describes foot and hand techniques. In September 14, 1961, this was the date till the Kwan studios taught really different techniques in taekwondo (they taught different stuff because the Japanese banned the practice of taekwondo when they were in control of Korea). After 1961, the Kwan masters started to group together and soon enough they made a group called the KTA or the Korea Taekwondo Federation. The Korea Taekwondo Federation or KTA started to reexamine all of their techniques, especially their black belts techniques, so they can make a national standards for all taekwondo schools. After that, Taekwondo elected a president for KTA. They elected the man who gave them the name taekwondo, General Hong Hi Choi. In the year 1962 (one of the most memorable years for taekwondo), taekwondo became an official event in the annual National Athletic Meet in Korea. This sparked a lot of excitement from KTA. They started to send taekwondo demonstrators all of the world to show the art of taekwondo (most people didn’t even know what taekwondo was back then). 1there was a man named Jhoon Rhee, known later to be father of American Taekwondo, attended one of these demonstrations in San Marcos Southwest Texas State College. After the show that he saw, he was so fascinated by the techniques and moves that the demonstrators did, that he even made his own taekwondo club. One taekwondo demonstration at the United Nation headquarters in New York City in 1963, caused the formation of the United States Taekwondo Association in 1967, which later was superseded in 1974 by the United Sates Taekwondo Federation. Later in Korea, Taekwondo studios and the study of taekwondo is spreading rapidly from the army in Korea, to the education of high schools and colleges in Korea. This was a major impacted because now kids were allowed to do taekwondo freely and don’t have to go to the military. In March of 1966, General Hong Hi Choi wounded one of the most popular taekwondo group, The International Taekwondo Federation or the ITF. Since General Hong Hi Choi founded this organization, the International Taekwondo Federation, General Choi became the president of this organization. Soon after he founded The International Taekwondo Federation, he resigned from being the president of KTA or the Korea Taekwondo Federation. He did this because he wanted to be more focused for the International Taekwondo Federation instead of Korea Taekwondo Federation. His first major move for the International Taekwondo Federation was to move their main headquarters all the way to Montreal, Canada. He moved his headquarter in Montreal because he wanted to focus more on organizing and spreading popularity about taekwondo internationally. While he was at the headquarter, General Hong Hi Choi started to emphasize about the self- defense methodology or a set of rules and strict concepts that need discipline, but not particularly about the sport but the student’s spirit for the sport. By the year, 1974, General Hong Hi Choi reported that he had some six hundred qualified and well trained International Taekwondo Federation instructors that were all dispersed out throughout the whole world. When General Hong Hi Choi resigned from his spot of president for the Korea International Academy, there was a man named Yong-wun Kim who was elected the new president for the Academy of Korea’s taekwondo. The reason that Yong-wun Kim wanted to be president of the KTA or Korea Taekwondo Academy was because of many reasons such as he wanted a leadership positions and he had an overall bond with the Korean martial art. Yong-Wun Kim thought many things about taekwondo. He thought that Korea was the mother land of Taekwondo and that taekwondo would always be better in Korea. Since he thought this, he located Korea Taekwondo Academy’s or KTA’s main headquarters in Korea. He then decided to stop connections with KTA because he thought his academy was the true taekwondo and that they are a disgrace. This event happened in on May twenty- eighth, 1973. They also made a new international governing body for taekwondo called World Taekwondo Federation or called WTF. This organization coincided with the first world championship for taekwondo in Seoul, Korea. At first, it was inaugural meeting, Un Yon Kim was elected the first person of the brand new organization WTF (world taekwondo federation). He was very honored for being the first person to be the president for this organization. After he was nominated president, he created a roster or a chart for the peoples to organize this organization with him. The WTF or world taekwondo federation is only official organization recognized by the Korean Government as an international regulating body for the Korean martial art. The World Taekwondo Federation or WTF has since had a major effort to standardize tournament rules and organize world class competitions. They have put many years to making taekwondo really popular and they have partially succeeded. After the second annual taekwondo championship in Seoul, Korea, the world taekwondo federation or WTF became an affiliate of the General Assembly of International Sports Federation or IOC. This organization recognized and designated taekwondo as an official demonstration sport for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. Taekwondo became an Olympic sport in Korea first because it was the founding place where taekwondo was. The Kwan names were replaced by serial numbers. The Kwans (some of which considered affiliates of others), in order from 1st Kwan to 9th Kwan, are: Songmookwan, Hanmookwan, Changmookwan, Moodukkwan, Odokwan, Kangdukwan, Jungdokwan, Jidokwan, and Chungdokwan. With the KTA placing more emphasis on the sport applications of Taekwondo, many Korean masters traveled abroad to America to retain their individual styles and self-defense methodology. In the short space of a few year, Dr. Kim and the World Taekwondo Federation has made major progress toward taekwondo receiving official status as an international amateur sport, both in the U.S. and other countries. Since the formulation of the WTF and its charter, a major effort has been made to standardize tournament rules and procedures, and to organize world class competitions. This standardization made it possible for taekwondo to enter the Olympic Games first as a demonstration sport in 1988, followed by full medal recognition in the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney, Australia. The interest in Asian martial arts has greatly increased in the United States over the last thirty years. Many American servicemen returning home after being stationed in Japan or Korea, and studying karate or taekwondo there, brought their interest in the martial arts home with them.
There were very few qualified Taekwondo instructors in America, however, until the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Jhoon Rhee introduced taekwondo in the United States in 1957 when he began teaching a non-accredited course at the San Marcos Southwest Texas State College. Rhee founded his first public Taekwondo club in San Marcos in 1958. Other Korean masters followed, due to the growing interest in taekwondo among Americans. Among these early pioneers offering highly qualified instruction were Ki Whang Kim in the Northeastern States, Dae Shik Kim in Georgia, Henry Cho and Richard Chun, as well as approximately twenty-five other master instructors. In 1969, Haeng Ung Lee founded the American Taekwondo Association (ATA). The ATA is one of the largest martial arts organizations in the U.S., along with the U.S. Taekwondo Federation (an ITF affiliate), the Amateur Athletic Union Taekwondo organization, and the U.S. Taekwondo Union (a WTF affiliate). The ATA is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. Its organizational structure offers training resources in each individual school from higher-ranking masters, and offers its own unique ATA patterns (forms).From this beginning in the late 1950’s, the practice of taekwondo has increased dramatically, both as a sport and self-defense ideology. Today, there are over 1,200 Korean master instructors in the U.S., and the total number of students has increased accordingly. A number of regional Taekwondo associations were formed in the early 1970’s to handle organizational problems and promote local tournaments. In addition, colleges and universities in the U.S. formed associations of their own. In 1972, the American Collegiate Taekwondo Association was formed to sponsor tournaments and insure quality taekwondo instruction at American universities. When karate was accepted as an official sport of the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in 1972, the karate leaders required taekwondo participants, instructors, and students to follow karate tournament rules and administrative guidelines. Ken Min, of the University of California at Berkeley, and a few other taekwondo leaders approached the AAU to request independent recognition. In 1974, the AAU National Taekwondo Committee was created, electing Ken Min as chairman. The U.S. Congress passed the Sports Act of 1978, following the lobbying efforts by the National Committee for Amateur Athletics (NCAA). At the time, the AAU was the sole National Governing Body (NGB) for all amateur sports with the recognition and sanctioning of the U.S. Olympic Committee. According to the new Bill, any organization involved in multiple amateur sports would no longer be able to receive NGB status. In November of 1981, Ken Min and leaders of the AAU Taekwondo organization broke off to form a National organization for Taekwondo as a WTF affiliate. This new organization was renamed the United States Taekwondo Union (USTU) in 1982, with Dr. Dong JA Yang as President. On April 7, 1984, during the House of Delegates meeting of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), the USTU was approved as a “Group A” member. As such, the USTU sanctions tournaments and meets, administers national championships and reports to the WTF and USOC as the National Governing Body for Taekwondo in the United States. Each state in the Union has its own representative USTU organization, such as the California State Taekwondo Association (CSTA). The qualifying tournaments for the U.S. National team and Olympic team tryouts are made up of competitors who before qualified in the Championships held by their respective State associations. In the years following the loss of NGB status for amateur sports, the Amateur Athletic Union began the re-formation a number of its former sport committees, such as the AAU Judo Committee and the AAU Gymnastics Committee. In 1991, under the leadership of Mike Friello, the AAU Taekwondo Committee was re-formed. While continuing to focus primarily at the local level, the AAU began holding Regional and National level Taekwondo championships of its own. While recognized primarily for its Point-style sparring methodology, the AAU Taekwondo program has recently made major strides in the development of International/Olympic style sparring competition. In 1998, following the lobbying efforts of Taekwondo masters such as Prof. Bill Dewart of the AAU Pacific Region, the AAU National Committee adopted Olympic style Taekwondo rules and procedures that paralleled those standardized by the WTF and USTU. In 1999, the AAU received “Class B” recognition status within the NGB and the USOC. As such, competitors who qualify in the AAU Nationals are now eligible to compete in the U.S. National Championships. And in the year 2001, the AAU sent its first Taekwondo team abroad to compete internationally. Taekwondo is the national sport of South Korea and sparring, kyeorugi, is an Olympic sporting event. In Korean, derived from Hanja, tae means to destroy with the feet; kwon means to strike or smash with the hand; and do means “path”, “way” or “method”. Hence, taekwondo is loosely translated as “the way of the feet and fist”. After this, taekwondo got to appear in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. On September 4, 1994 during the 103rd IOC Session in Paris, taekwondo was accepted as an official medal sports for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Taekwondo was then included in the official program at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Taekwondo has been continuously evolving into a fair, exciting and media-friendly sport with all the demands and expectations associated with any Olympic sport. Taekwondo has continued to show progress in both its technical and its operational aspects. During London 2012 Olympic Games, the taekwondo competition was staged successfully with the participation of 128 athletes from 63 countries ‘ the largest number of participating countries in taekwondo Olympic history. WTF has introduced a series of major changes in its competition rules to further ensure complete fairness and transparency in the judging and enhance its dynamism to make it more appealing to the general audience by adopting cutting edge technologies and reinforcing the education of its referees and judges.

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