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Taekwondo History and Theory

Taekwondo Theory

Read on below for a history of Korean martial arts or explore the rest of the theory section including a modern history, belts, pairwork and Korean language.

Modern Taekwondo History

Learn more about Taekwondo since the 1950s.


Find out more about the belts and their meanings.


- Three step sparring

- Two step sparring



- Basic terminology

- Full A-Z

The History of Korean Martial Arts

The history of the Korean martial arts con be documented to around 50 BC. During this time Korea was divided into three kingdoms.


Koguryo, was the first of the tribal people, the Pyon-Han, to mature into a kingdom. It was founded in 37 BC, and was initially the largest and most powerful of the three kingdoms.

Silla was originally the least developed state,and this was founded in 57 BC by the Chin Han people. The kingdom eventually grew to prosper and become the most powerful kingdom in the Korean peninsular, and the Silla dynasty reigned for nearly 300 years (661 to 935 AD}.

The third kingdom, Paekche, was founded by the Man-Han tribes, around 18 BC.

Paintings on the ceilings of the Muyong-Chong royal tomb from the Koguryo Dynasty, have given evidence of the practice of martial arts. This early martial art was probably Soo Bak (Do), this was the early predecessor of the fighting art of Toe Kyon. Which in turn was a major influence in the creation of the modem day martial art of Taekwondo.

The development of Toe Kyon is credited to Won Kong Bopsa, a famous Buddhist priest. Tae Kyon, or Korean foot fighting, survived for centuries, and flourished in the reign of Queen Song·Duk of the Silla Dynasty, who was the first female ruler of the Korean peninsular. The

wise queen created the famous Hwa-Rang warriors, Korea's elite fighting force.

The Hwa-Rang were selected members of the Korean nobility. Hwa-Rong means "flowering youth", and they were taught to become

models of culture and chivalrous warriors (they are sometimes referred to as Korea's equivalent of Japan's Samurai).

The Hwa-Rang were taught the art of armed and unarmed combat for use on the battlefields, and this included Tae Kyon (it possibly included other stylised combat arts as Kwon Bup and Soo Bak).

Tae Kyon used the legs to attack and defend with, and this possibly has Northern Chinese influences, as the Northern Shaolin Boxing uses the legs more than its Southern counterpart. This is partly due to the amount of rivers in Southern China, and therefore the primary transport was the punt for use on the river - so the populous tended to hove stronger arms and therefore used them for fighting.

The Northem peoples travelled by horse and had stronger legs so this is a theory why the legs were developed into fighting tools.

Seeing as the Korean peninsular is attached to the mainland by Northern China, the Korean people would have taken their influences from here and there-after developed the leg fighting style as their primary weapon.

The Korean martial arts were developed and refined through the Koryo and Yi Dynasties and contin­ued to be practiced until the Japanese occupation of 1910, when the arts were driven underground by the strict ruling of the Japanese. No Korean martial art was allowed to be practiced as was other Korean customs. Any martial art practice was done with the utmost secrecy and it was not until 1945, when Korea was liberated that the Korean arts surfaced once more.

In post war Korea, with brutal Japanese occupation lifted, Korea went through o period of cultural revitalisation . During this process, the martial arts, which were banned by the occupying forces, found o new resurgence. The Korean people,. who swore to never be over powered again, embraced the proliferation of the martial arts throughout the nation. From this, came the birth of the modem Korean martial arts.

Lee, Won-kook opened the first martial art school in post war Korea in the Yong Chun district of Seoul in 1945. He founded Chung Do Kwan or the Chung Do school of martial arts. Soon ofter this, also in Seoul, Hwang Kee established Moo Duk Kwan, which later become more popularity

known as known as Tong Soo Do (Way of the Knife Hand). In that some year Sup, Jun-sang estab­lished Yun Moo Kwan. In 1946, Chong Moo Kwan was founded by Yun, Pyung and Chi Do Kwan was created by Pyang, Yon-kue . These were the five original Kwans of the modern Korean martial arts which laid the foundation for what was to become Taekwondo.

In 1953 Yoon, Gae Byong founded Ji Do Kwon ("The way of Wisdom"), Byung, Chik-ro created Song Moo Kwon, and in 1954 Choi, Hong Hi, in association with Nam, Tae-hi founded the Oh Do Kwan.

These modem Korean martial art Kwans were created by integrating a combination of ancient indigenous Korean martial arts, mainly Tae Kyon, and the various schools of Japanese and Chinese martial arts which the founders were exposed to during Japanese occupations. Though each of  these new schools possessed their own individualised techniques, their reliance on Tae Kyon gave them more similarity then difference.

Ilyokwan Black Belt Academy

I train at the Ilyokwan Black Belt Academy in Dursley, Gloucestershire, UK.


Read more for further details or take a look at the Ilyokwan Black Belt Academy website here

TaeKwonDo in Korean
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