The Beginning – around 37 BC: Tae Kwon Do, often referred to as Taekwondo, originated over two thousand years ago in Korea. Three ancient kingdoms have been identified as central to the origin of Tae Kwon Do: Kokooryo, Baekjae and Silla. The Kokooryu Kingdom, founded by Kojoomong, existed from approximately 37 BC to 668 AD. Paintings of men engaging in what appears to be martial arts have been discovered in Korea, and have been dated back to the Kokooryu Kingdum.
The Silla Kingdom was founded by Park Hyuk Kusae in 37 BC and lasted until approximately 935 AD. Although the Silla Kingdom was the smallest of the three kingdoms and somewhat primitive, the origin of Tae Kwon Do is traced back to this kingdom. The Hwa Rang Do, a military organization consisting of noble youth, practiced martial arts. Most historians credit the Hwa Rang Do with originating Tae Kwon Do. The honor code of the Hwa Rang Do is believed to have given rise to the philosophical basis of Tae Kwon Do.
The third kingdom, Baekjae, existed from approximately 18 BC until 600 AD. The Baekje tribe, led by Onjo, fled the Kokooryo and formed its own kingdom. The Soo Sa system of Baekjae is believed to have been comparable to the Hwa Rang Do, and participated in the kingdom’s defense through the use of martial arts.
The early forms of Tae Kwon Do differed from kingdom to kingdom, and were referred to by various names,including Soobak, Kwonbak, Bakhi, Dangsoo, Taesoo and Kongsoo. Soobak was the predominant form of Korean martial art from 600 AD until 1400. Starting in the 1300′s, Soobak became Taekyon. Taeyon remained the predominant Korean Martial Art until 1909, when Japan invaded Korea. During the Japanese occupation, Korean martial arts were suppressed, and Japanese style martial arts were promoted.
Upon Korea’s liberation from Japanese occupation in 1945, the modern history of Tae Kwon Do began. Korean martial artists sought to rid their art of Japanese influence, and to return to their own traditions. Numerous styles of Korean martial arts developed, including 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. Starting in 1955, the various schools or kwans merged under the name Tae Soo Do. The name Taekwondo was chosen in 1957 by the heads of the kwans, or martial art schools. Some historians describe the Tae Kwon Do of that time as a Korean version of the Japanese martial art Shotokan Karate.
Members of the Korean army were among the first students of Tae Kwon Do, joined soon thereafter by the Korean air force and police. In 1961 the Korean Taekwondo Union was formed by the Soo Bakh Do Association and the Tae Soo Do Association. The name was changed the following year to the Korean Taekwondo Association. The International Taekwondo Federation was started in 1963. Tae Kwon Do continued to grow, and by the 1970′s was a popular form of martial art worldwide. The World Tae Kwon Do Federation was started in 1973, and the first World Tae Kwon Do Championship was also held that year.
Tae Kwon Do was introduced as a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games held in Seoul, Korea in 1988. Tae Kwon Do became an official Olympic sport at the 2000 Olympic Games.