The earliest records of Martial Arts practice in Korea date back to about 50 B.C. These earliest forms are known as 'Taek Kyon'. Evidence that Martial Arts were being practiced at that time can be found in tombs where wall paintings show two men in fighting-stance. Others reject this evidence and say that these men could be dancing as well. Back then there were three kingdoms:

1. Koguryo (37 B.C. - 668 A.D.)

2. Paekje (18 B.C. - 600 A.D.)

3. Silla (57 B.C. - 936 A.D.)

Silla unified the kingdoms after winning the war against Paekje in 668 A.D. and Koguryo in 670 A.D. The Hwa Rang Do played an important role at this unification. The Hwa Rang Do was an elite group of young noble men, devoted to cultivating mind and body and serve the kingdom Silla. The best translation for HwaRang is "flowering youth" (Hwa ="flower", Rang="young man"). The HwaRang Do had an honour-code and practiced various forms of martial arts, including Taekyon and Soo Bakh Do. The old honour-code of the HwaRang is the philosophical background of modern Tae kwon do.

What followed was a time of peace and the HwaRang turned from a military organisation to a group specialised in poetry and music. It was in 936 A.D. when Wang Kon founded the Koryo dynasty, an abbreviation of Koguryo. The name Korea is derived from the name Koryo.

During the Koryo Dynasty the sport Soo Bakh Do, which was then used as a military training method, became popular. During the Yi-dynasty (1392 A.D. - 1910 A.D.) this emphasis on military training disappeared. King Taejo, founder of the Yi-dynasty, replaced Buddhism by Confucianism as the state religion. According to Confucianism, the higher class should read poets and play music. Martial arts were something for the common, or even inferior, man.

Modern-day Tae kwon do is influenced by many other Martial Arts. The most important of these arts is Japanese Karate. This is because Japan dominated Korea during 1910 until the end of World War II. During WWII, lots of Korean soldiers were trained in Japan. During this occupation of Korea, the Japanese tried to erase all of the Korean culture, including the martial arts. The influence that Japan has given to Tae kwon do is the quick, straight-line movements that characterise the various Japanese systems.

After World War II, when Korea became independent, several kwans arose. These kwans were: "Chung Do Kwan", "Moo Duk Kwan", "Yun Moo Kwan", "Chang Moo Kwan", "Oh Do Kwan", "Ji Do Kwan", "Chi Do Kwan" and "Song Moo Kwan". The Kwans united in 1955 as Tae Soo Do. In the beginning of 1957, the name Tae kwon do was adopted by several Korean martial arts masters, for its similarity to the name Tae Kyon.

General Choi Hong-hi required the army to train Tae kwon do, so the very first Tae kwon do students were Korean soldiers. The police and air force had to train Tae kwon do as well. At that time, Tae kwon do was merely a Korean version of Shotokan Karate. In 1961 the Korean Tae kwon do Union arose from the Soo Bakh Do Association and the Tae Soo Do Association. In 1962 the Korean Amateur Sports Association acknowledged the Korean Tae kwon do Union and in 1965 the name is set to Korean Tae kwon do Association (K.T.A.). General Choi was president of the K.T.A. at that time and was asked to start the I.T.F. as the international branch of the K.T.A. The southern government was overthrown in 1961. General Choi Hong-hi left for America and established I.T.F. (International Tae kwon do Federation) Tae kwon do, as a separate entity, two years later.

Tae Kwon Do was first introduced to the United Kingdom on July 2nd 1967 by the then Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha, 9th degree black belt.

Demonstrations were given all over the world. It took a while before real progress was made, but eventually, in 1973, the World Tae kwon do Federation (W.T.F.) was founded. In 1980, W.T.F. Tae kwon do was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) and became a demonstration sport at the Olympics in 1988. There were several attempts to unify I.T.F. and W.T.F. Tae kwon do, but unfortunately, these failed. In the year 2000 W.T.F. Taekwondo goes Olympic.

General Choi Hong hi is known as the founder of Tae kwon do.

History Names and Dates

Founder Of Taekwon-do- General Choi Hong Hi, 9th Degree (11th November 1918 - 15th June 2002)

Korea Was Free From Japenese Occupation In - 1945

Korea Was Divided Into North & South At The Intervention Of President Trueman in 1950

Inaugural Date Of Taekwon-do Worldwide- 11th April 1955

Date the I.T.F. Was Formed- 22nd March 1966

Tae Kwon Do introduced to the UK - 2nd July 1967

British Taekwon-do Council (B.T.C.)- Formed in 1988

I.T.F. plaque takes the shape of a turtle to symbolise longevity

The Three Kingdoms
of Early Korea

Dynasties of Korea

Korguryo Dynasty 37BC - 668AD

Silla Dynasty 668 - 935

Ko Ryu Dynasty 935 - 1392

Yi Dynasty 1392 - 1909

Japanese Occupation 1905 - 1945

Korean Independence 1945

Divided Into North & South 1950

The Founder of Tae Kwon Do General Choi Hong Hi

Korean National Flag

The Korean National Flag: the symbol of the Republic of Korea South Korea, is named "T'aegukki." The name was derived from the taeguk circle in the centre.

The circle: is divided equally and in perfect balance. The red upper section represents the yang and the blue lower section stands for the yin. According to traditional Oriental Philosophy, the two symbolise the great cosmic forces, which oppose each other but achieve perfect harmony and balance.

The taeguk circle: stands for the eternal principle that everything in the universe is created and develops through the interaction between yin and yang; thus it symbolises creation and development.

The four trigrams: surrounding the circle denote the process of yin and yang going through a spiral of change and growth. The three unbroken lines at the upper left represent heaven (kun), the three broken lines at the lower right represent earth (kon), the two broken lines with an unbroken line in the middle at the upper right represent water (kam), and the two unbroken lines with an broken line in the middle at the lower left represent fire (yi).

The white background: of the flag symbolises the purity of the Korean people and their peace-loving spirit. The flag as a whole is symbolic of the ideal of the Korean people to develop forever together with the universe.

© Copyright Tae Kwon Do Schools of Excellence