The History of Taekwondo

The History of Taekwondo: How It Came to Be and Why It Is Still Relevant Today

Today, taekwondo stands as one of the most popular martial arts in the world. It is practiced in over 180 countries and territories, with millions of practitioners and viewers. However, when we look back to its history, it’s hard to believe that such a famous sport emerged out of a humble past. Taekwondo has come quite a long way since its humble beginnings as an old Korean martial art called ‘Kwon-gup’. Read on to understand how taekwondo evolved from an obscure practice into one of the most popular martial arts today.

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Who Invented Taekwondo and When?

The origins of taekwondo are a little vague. As we have seen, the art has undergone many changes since its formation. While there are many claims about its origins, there are two individuals who are central to its formation – Rhee Tae-hak and H. W. Choi. – Rhee Tae-hak (the Father of Modern Taekwondo) – Rhee was an instructor at the Yoon-hee School of martial arts in Seoul (founded by Yoon Bok-hee in 1914). After witnessing the Japanese martial arts, he felt that Korean martial arts were lacking and began to develop a new martial arts system that incorporated elements of Japanese Karate and Chinese Kung Fu. Rhee eventually opened his own school, the Kang Duk Won School of Martial Arts, and began to promote his martial arts system as taekwondo. – H. W. Choi (the Master Who Put taekwondo on the Map) – Choi was a Korean martial arts student who travelled to Japan to learn Japanese martial arts. He returned to Korea and became an instructor at the Kang Duk Won School. He eventually split off with Rhee to form his own martial arts school. Choi’s school was known as the Choi Yong-hee School of Korean Martial Arts and he promoted his martial art as the “real taekwondo”.

Korean History: The Roots of Taekwondo

Korean history has a rich and deep martial arts tradition. It is said that the Koreans have practiced martial arts since the Bronze Age (around 2,500 B.C.). The most popular martial arts at that time were Hakk-Bong and Gwon-Gwan. Hakk-Bong, the earliest form of Korean martial arts, focused on strengthening the body, improving health and practicing meditation. Gwon-Gwan, on the other hand, was a form of combat fighting, very similar to present-day judo. However, these arts died out when the country was unified by Silla in 668 A.D. The next martial arts tradition that emerged in Korea came from the neighbouring Chinese, who had a rich martial arts tradition of their own. These arts were brought to Korea by Chinese traders and were popular among the upper classes. The arrival of the British and Japanese, who came to Korea as trading partners, brought western boxing and Japanese jujitsu to Korea, respectively. These two martial arts had a huge impact on the development of Korean martial arts.

The Growth of Taekwondo

The original art of taekwondo, as practiced by Rhee, was a very brutal, hard-hitting and fierce art. After the Korean War, the Korean government tried to consolidate and unify the many martial arts styles practised in the country by creating a single national style and pattern for all martial arts. The government asked Rhee to modify his art so that it would represent the Korean national style. Rhee was reluctant to give up his art, but he eventually agreed and modified his art, giving birth to the modern style of taekwondo. The new art was more focused on kicking and breaking, with less emphasis on punching. The Korean government then tried to promote taekwondo as the national martial art of Korea. However, because there were several other arts that were also trying to be promoted as the country’s official national art, a competition was created to see which martial art would be promoted. Rhee tried to promote his art, but the competition was won by H. W. Choi, whose style was more effective and efficient. Choi’s taekwondo was a combination of his own martial arts training and Rhee’s original taekwondo.

The Development of the Modern Taekwondo we know today

Taekwondo is one of the most popular martial arts in the world today. However, this wasn’t always the case. Taekwondo’s journey from obscurity to the mainstream wasn’t easy, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. However, with the help of dedicated martial artists, the sport finally got its due recognition. The first major breakthrough for taekwondo was in the year 1975, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed the sport to be a part of the Olympic Games. This was an extremely important milestone for the sport because it gave it legitimacy and credibility, as well as global recognition. Also, it is one of the only martial arts to be included in the Olympic Games. The second major milestone was in the year 2000, when taekwondo was granted full Olympic status. This meant that taekwondo would be a medal sport in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. It was also the first martial art to be included in the Olympic Games. The third breakthrough for the sport was when it was included in the Asian Games in the year 2006. The Asian Games is an important sporting event that is held once every four years and is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).


Taekwondo has come a long way since its origin as an old Korean martial art called ‘Kwon-gup’. It has undergone many changes since its formation, but it has emerged as one of the most popular martial arts in the world. It has made great progress in recent years and has been featured at many high-profile sporting events. These achievements are the result of the hard work and dedication of its practitioners, many of whom have given their blood, sweat and tears (and sometimes, their life) to create a martial art that could stand the test of time.

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