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History of Taekwondo

The Korean martial art of Taekwondo has a distinctive and remarkable history. It can be literally translated as “the way of the empty foot and hand.” Long ago, early Korean warriors (called hwarang) developed a unique martial art to be utilized in unarmed self-defense and to complement their skills with weapons. They called this martial art “Taekyon.” The first recorded evidence of what was to become modern Taekwondo is found about two thousand years ago in Korean history. A mural painting from the Koguryu kingdom (37 B.C to 66 A.D.) was discovered in a tomb historians believe was built sometime during the period 3 to 427 A.D. This mural depicts figures practicing martial arts techniques similar to those in the modern Taekwondo curriculum. Historical written records from this Koguryu period also mention the practice of martial arts techniques.

Taekyon was the dominant Korean martial art form until the Japanese invasion and occupation of Korea in 1909. From 1909 to 1945, the Japanese suppressed Korean culture and traditions, and introduced Japanese customs and martial arts. During the Japanese occupation, the practice of Taekyon was banned. Although the practice of the art nearly vanished, Taekyon survived through secret underground teaching by Taekyon masters.

A Recent Timeline

The modern period of Taekwondo began with the defeat of the Japanese and the liberation of Korea in 1945. Korean martial arts masters wanted to eliminate any remaining Japanese influences. They began discussions on how to return to the traditional Taekyon-based Korean martial arts and on how to unite the various martial arts schools and styles into a single style and national sport. After several years of discussions, the name "Taekwondo" was chosen in April 1955 by the board of masters of various schools and they continued to unify throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

In 1972, the Korea Taekwondo Association Central Dojang was opened. A few months later, the name was changed to the Kukkiwon, which means "National Technique Center." The Kukkiwon remains the World Taekwondo Headquarters to this day. The following year, the World Taekwondo Federation was formed. The International Olympic Committee recognized the WTF and Olympic-style taekwondo sparring in 1980, and the sport was accepted as a demonstration event at the 1988 Seoul and the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games. It became an official medal event as of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Currently, Taekwondo is one of two Asian martial arts (judo being the other) included in the Olympics. From its native country of Korea, Taekwondo has grown into a well-established international sport and is one of the most popular martial arts in the United States and the world. It can be distinguished from other martial arts by its powerful and flowing kicks and strong forms curriculum.

Established in 1999, Rhode Island Taekwondo is a member of the World Taekwondo Federation and competes regularly in WTF-sanctioned events. Our Black Belt Certificates are processed through the Kukkiwon World Taekwondo Headquarters located in Korea. It is an honor for the instructors and students training at Rhode Island Taekwondo to continue the extraordinary history of Taekwondo inside our studio.