Taekwondo is a Korean art of self-defense. It literally translates to "art of foot and hand", although it is much more than that. It is a martial art that benefits everyone who practises it. It includes physical and mental discipline, developing good coordination, building self-confidence and a strong body. All in all it is a great guide for moulding good character.
The Liaotung (Korean) Peninsula has always been caught in a power struggle of rising kingdoms in a bid to gain more territory. The tension from the neighboring Chinese developed the Korean tribe Koguryo into a well organized and determined opponent which made it impossible for the Chinese to have any real command of the area.
Amidst continual conflict with the Chinese, the Korguyo's culture became primarily military, having a ruling aristocratic warrior class. Even in time of peace combat training was a fact of life, engaging in unarmed combats and using similar techniques practiced in modern Taekwondo.
It is likely that this is where tae kyon started, an indigenous form of foot fighting. Living close to the Chinese and later, the Japanese, it was influenced by their styles also, especially with certain stances and circular movements.
By 107 B.C. the Han China had conquered the western side of the peninsula, dividing and claiming the Korean territory as far south as the Han River. Eventually, the determined resistance from the local population drove the Chinese militarily governed districts out of the Korean territories.
This withdrawal started the beginning of The Three Kingdoms period.
Three major kingdoms started to emerge, Paekche, Kya and Silla, located in the southern end of the peninsula was fighting to acquire more power and territory. This was also a crucial period in the history of the kingdom Silla, settled at the southern end of the Korean peninsula.
As the upcoming kingdoms fought and maneuvered to get more territory they aligned and realigned with each other in a series of alliances, in spite of their antagonistic pasts. It is through one of these alignments that Koguryo's knowledge of tea kyon likely reached Silla.
The formation of the Silla Dynasty, from 668 to 935 AD, was a significant turning point in Korean history and martial arts. Silla Kingdom became a fully centralized state, implementing a ranking system that essentially delineated the potential any noble had to serve in government. The other two kingdoms, Paekche and Koguryo had similar institutions but not the complexity of Silla's.
Loyalty to the king - Sa Koon Yi Choong
Fidelity, respect and obedience to one's parents and elders - Sa Chin Yi Hyo
Trustworthiness among friends - Kyo Woo Yi Shin
Never retreat in battle - Im Jeon Moo Tae
Never to make an unjust kill - Sal Saeng Yoo Taek
Sooner or later, the Silla Kingdom was replaced by the Koryo Dynasty, 935 AD - 1392 AD, when martial art became a royal art form. Although, in the Yi Dynasty, 1392 AD - 1910 AD, martial arts were discouraged and completely banned in some areas.
However, the never ending hostilities against each other, and this time also involving the Chinese, Japanese and the Turks, the military and the political situation for the kingdoms became even more complex than ever before.
The power struggle continued and by the end of the tenth century known as Koryo Kingdom unified the region. This time they stayed unified till the division of Korea following World War ll. Even if Koryo maintained a large and well-organized army, the study of martial arts declined, it was reinforced once again after the reorganization of military forces as Koryo's power increased.
Buddhism prospered under the Koryo government, even including a division of armed Buddhist monks called the Subdue Demons Corp. The monks gained great number of privileges and as they become wealthier, they found it necessary to be able to defend their wealth. Their growing wealth attracted great number of princes and other royalty to their ranks.
Koryo's aristocracy misused it's powers and the military rose and overthrew the regime in 1170, marking the beginning of the military rule in Korea . During this time, there were a series of popular uprisings and invasions by both the Mongols and the Japanese.
When Korea finally was liberated after the Japanese occupation at the end of World War II in 1945, Korean martial arts reappeared under different names such as Soo Bak Do, Tang Soo Do, Kwon Bop, Hwarang Do and many others. Their differences depended mainly on how much of the Chinese or Japanese martial arts influenced the various masters in the past.
Disagreement among the masters prevented any kind of regulation authority for the martial arts. Tae Kyon eventually became a regular part of military training in 1945. During the Korean War in 1952, South Korea decided to have Tae Kyon as an integral aspect of military life but it took another two years to finally settle for a single name for the Korean martial arts. However they finally recognized the name Taekwondo.
In 1961, The Korean Tae Kwon Do Association was formed, the art form became highly popular in Korea and dojangs were popping up everywhere. Masters traveled worldwide, and by 1973 The World Taekwondo Federation was formed. Since then Taekwondo has been successfully introduced to the 1988 Olympics as a demonstration sport. In year 2000, Taekwondo made its appearance as a fully official Olympic sport. It is actually the first martial art to appear in the Olympics since judo in 1964.