Taekwondo is one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts. It traces its roots back to early 600 AD tribal and royal court fighting systems.
Taekwondo teaches more than physical fighting skills. It is a discipline that shows ways of enhancing spirit and life through training our body and mind. Today, it has become a global sport that has gained an international reputation and stands among the official games represented in the Olympic Games.
Ancient Hwarang warriors painting: The Hwarangs, or “flowering knights,” were an elite youth order of the Silla kingdom during the Three-Kingdoms Period in what is now Korea. They were mostly from aristocratic families, educated in artistic, academic, and martial fields of study, where Taekwondo originated.
What does Taekwondo mean?
Taekwondo, also spelled Tae Kwon Do, is composed of three parts, as is frequently shown in the English spelling, though it is one word in Korean.
“Tae” means “foot,” “leg,” or “to step on.”
“Kwon” means “fist” or “fight,”
“Do” means “the way” or “discipline.”
Combining these three parts shows us two important concepts behind “Tae Kwon Do.”
First, Taekwondo is the right way of using Tae and Kwon’s — fists and feet or all body parts represented by the fist and the feet.
Second, it is a way to control or calm fights and keep the peace.
This concept comes from the meaning of Tae Kwon, ‘to put fists under control’ (or ‘to step on fist’).
Thus Taekwondo means: “the right way of using all parts of the body to stop fights and help to build a better and more peaceful world.”
TAEKWONDO – “The Art of Kicking and Punching…for a better world!”
Modern Taekwondo started to emerge in the late 1940s with the liberation of Korea from the Japanese occupation.
Many martial arts Masters had exiled themselves from Korea or gone underground during the occupation. When Korea was liberated, these Masters began teaching their arts openly again.
Many had gone to China or Japan and incorporated martial arts techniques from these countries into their systems. This gave the Korean martial arts a unique flavor and style.
There are open and closed hand strikes and blocks, straight line and circular techniques, hard and soft techniques, holds, and grappling techniques. Of course, there are the kicks, and some of these kicks are simply amazing!
Taekwondo is best known for its fantastic kicking style: Stationary, spinning, jumping, and flying kicks from all angles and all speeds.
Almost all martial arts today have borrowed and added the Korean kicking style to their own.
The early Do Jangs (training halls) were called Kwans. Five major Kwans were to develop in the late 1940 and early 1950s. They were Moo Duk Kwan , Jidokwan, Chung Do Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, and Song Moo Kwan.
While the Kwans practiced similar martial arts, there were philosophical and technical differences. In 1955 many of the Kwan leaders (called Kwan Jang or directors) met under the direction of General Choi Hong Hi and unified under the name Taekwondo. They formed the Korean Taekwondo Association and later the International Taekwondo Federation.
Founder of modern Taekwondo: General Choi Hong Hi
General Choi Hong Hi, 6th Degree Black Belt and Founder of Modern Taekwondo (1918 – 2002)
“Pain is the best instructor, but no one wants to go to his class.”
General Choi Hong Hi
The utmost purpose of Taekwondo is to eliminate fighting by discouraging the stronger’s oppression of the weaker with a power that must be based on humanity, justice, morality, wisdom, and faith, thus helping to build a better and more peaceful world.“
General Choi Hong Hi
Modern Taekwondo has both a traditional self-defense aspect and a modern sports aspect. Taekwondo first appeared at the Summer Olympic Games as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Taekwondo was again a demonstration sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
There were no demonstration sports at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, USA. Taekwondo became a full medal sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, under the guidance of the World Taekwondo Federation Seoul, and has been a sport in the Olympic games since then.
Taekwondo has something to offer to everyone. There are forms or Poomses (choreographed patterns), self-defense, grappling and holds, hand techniques, breaks, and of course, awesome kicking techniques.
Taekwondo is for the young and not so young, the competitor, the fitness buff, the person looking for self-defense, the parent looking for a well-disciplined environment, and especially, for the family looking for a great group activity to participate in; they all can find something in Taekwondo.
For more information, you can search Taekwondo on the web, but be prepared for millions of hits since Taekwondo is America’s most popular martial art.