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. Some early precursors to Taekwondo were Soo Bahk, Tae Kyun, and Kwon Bup.
Modern Taekwondo started to emerge in the late 1940’s with the liberation of Korea from 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.
The early Do Jangs (training halls) were called Kwans. There were five major Kwans to develop in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. They were Moo Duk Kwan , Jidokwan, Chung Do Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, and Song Moo Kwan. There were also several minor Kwans including Moo Sul Kwan, Yun Moo Kwan, Kang Duk Won, Han Moo Kwan, Oh Do Kwan (Korean Army) and Mun Moo Kwan (Korean Air Force). While the Kwans all 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.
Modern Taekwondo has both a traditional self defense aspect and a modern sport aspect. Taekwondo made its first appearance 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.