What do you want to know about the Origins of Taekwondo?
The early origins of taekwondo are Korean.
But as you will discover on this page, martial arts from other countries influence taekwondo.
All martial arts started as fighting systems.
Systems to help people hunt animals for food.
To protect themselves and their loved ones.
And to fight wars.
did you know there were three kingdoms in Korea?
Korean martial arts developed in 3 main kingdoms. Koguryo (37 BC-668 AD), Silla (57 BC-918 AD) and Paekche (18 BC-660 AD).
Koguryo was the biggest kingdom. And the most aggressive. Koguryo's soldiers trained in Subak. Subak is an early Korean martial art. Koguryo fought against China and the other two kingdoms for hundreds of years.
Fighters wore loose trousers and a jacket held together with a belt round the waist. This is similar to the taekwondo uniforms worn today.
In Paekche, the military officers wore different coloured belts to indicate their rank. Again much like we do today!
Silla takes control
Silla struggled to defend itself against Koguryo and Japan. So Silla decided to train special warriors. The Hwarang youth military group. Their training was spiritual as well as very physical.
Hwarang improved Korean martial arts. They added mental discipline and more hand techniques or strikes. They also developed new kicking techniques. These are the early origins of taekwondo kicks we use today.
Also the modern taekwondo tenants use parts of the Hwarang code of conduct.
The Hwarang training gave Silla much more power. And Silla went to war with the other kingdoms And won.
A few years of relative peace followed. (668-918AD) And martial arts were part of sporting festivals and competitions. They were used in military training and education. A bit like modern-day taekwondo!
Silla became the Koryo Dynasty. Koryo is the name of the black belt poomse used in modern taegeuk taekwondo patterns.
During the Koryo era Korean martial arts became more aggressive. And lots of new foot techniques developed. One style of fighting that developed was taekkyon. Taekkyon is a Korean system of foot fighting.
Joseon or Yi dynasty
The next period was the Joseon (or Yi) Dynasty (1392-1910 AD). During this time governments disapproved of martial arts. Korean martial arts only survived because they were secretly passed down through generations of Korean families.
Koreans formed local guerrilla bands. And they successfully fought Japanese invaders.
In 1790 AD, the Muyedobo-tongji was written. This is a textbook giving details of Korean martial arts. It was the first book widely available on Korean martial arts (including taekkyon). The book helped Korean martial arts to survive.
From 1910 to 1945 Korea was controlled by Japan. Koreans were not allowed to practice martial arts for most of this time.
Once again ordinary Koreans allowed Korean martial arts to survive. Masters trained in secret with the local people. They often practiced in Buddhist monasteries.
modern taekwondo is born
After the end of Japanese rule martial arts became popular again. Masters who escaped from Korea during the Japanese occupation came back home.
They taught Koreans the techniques they had learned in other countries. Hand techniques from China and Japan became combined with Korea's foot techniques. To form new more modern styles of Korean martial arts.
A number of Kwans or schools sprang up. Each taught slightly different early forms of taekwondo. In 1953 the Kwans united. And in 1955, after much discussion, the name taekwondo was introduced.