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History of Tae Kwon Do

Chung Mu statueSilla unified the kingdoms after winning the war against Paekje in 660 A.D. and Koguryo in 668 A.D. The Hwa Rang Do played an important role at this unification. The Hwa Rang Do was an elite group of young noble men, devoted to cultivating mind and body and serve the kingdom Silla. The best translation for HwaRang would probably be "flowering youth" (Hwa ="flower", Rang="young man"). The HwaRang Do had an honor-code and practiced various forms of martial arts, including Taekyon and Soo Bakh Do. The old honor-code of the HwaRang is the philosophical background of modern Taekwondo. What followed was a time of peace and the HwaRang turned from a military organization to a group specialized in poetry and music.

It was in 936 A.D. when Wang Kon founded the Koryo dynasty, an abbreviation of Koguryo. The name Korea is derived from Koryo. During the Koryo Dynasty the sport Soo Bakh Do, which was then used as a military training method, became popular. During the Joseon-dynasty (also known as the Yi-dynasty. 1392 A.D. - 1910 A.D.) this emphasis on military training disappeared. King Taejo, founder of the Joseon-dynasty, replaced Buddhism by Confucianism as the state religion. According to Confucianism, the higher class should study the poets, read poems and play music. Martial arts was something for the common, or even inferior, man.

Modern-day Taekwondo is influenced by many other Martial Arts. The most important of these arts is Japanese Karate. This is because Japan dominated Korea during 1910 until the end of World War II. During WWII, lots of Korean soldiers were trained in Japan. During this occupation of Korea, the Japanese tried to erase all traces of the Korean culture, including the martial arts. The influence that Japan has given to Taekwondo are the quick, linear movements, that characterize the various Japanese systems. After World War II, when Korea became independent, several kwans arose. These kwans were:

  • Chung Do Kwan
  • Moo Duk Kwan
  • Yun Moo Kwan
  • Chang Moo Kwan
  • Oh Do Kwan
  • Ji Do Kwan
  • Chi Do Kwan
  • Song Moo Kwan

The Kwans united in 1955 as Tae Soo Do. In the beginning of 1957, the name Taekwondo was adopted by several Korean martial arts masters, for its similarity to the name Tae Kyon. General Choi Hong-hi required the army to train Taekwondo, so the very first Taekwondo students were Korean soldiers. The police and Air Force had to learn Taekwondo as well. At that time, Taekwondo was merely a Korean version of Shotokan Karate.

In 1961 the Korean Taekwondo Union arose from the Soo Bakh Do Association and the Tae Soo Do Association. In 1962 the Korean Amateur Sports Association acknowledged the Korean Taekwondo Union and in 1965 the name was changed to Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA). General Choi was president of the KTA at that time and was asked to start the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) as the international branch of the KTA. The southern government was overthrown in 1961. General Choi Hong-hi left for America and established ITF. Taekwondo, as a separate entity, two years later. Demonstrations were given all over the world. It took a while before real progress was made, but eventually, in 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was founded. In 1980, Taekwondo was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) and became a demonstration sport at the Olympics in 1988. In the year 2000 Taekwondo made its debut as an official Olympic sport.

There were several attempts to unify ITF and WTF Taekwondo, but unfortunately, these failed. Taken from a post in the Dojang-Digest the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) is the National Governing Body (NGB) for Taekwondo in the Republic of Korea (ROK), just like the United States Taekwondo Union (USTU) is the National Governing Body for Taekwondo in the United States of America.

The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) which was formed in 1973, is made up of Taekwondo NGBs. These NGB’s are members of the WTF, and not individuals. Individuals may be affiliated to the WTF through their NGB, but individuals cannot join the WTF directly. Dr. Un Yong Kim became the 5th President of the KTA in 1971. Dr. Kim subsequently became the 1st and only President of the WTF in 1973 and around 1990 he gave up the post of KTA President. Mr. Choi, Sae-Chang became the 6th KTA President after Dr. Kim stepped down due to his expanded responsibilities in the International Sports community. Mr. Choi was a former four star General in the Rebublic of Korea Army and also held the postion of the Defense Minister. Mr. Choi was replaced by Mr. Rhee, Pil Gon in 1996. The KTA is alive and well and probably is the largest, most active NGB for Taekwondo in the world. For more information, you can write to the KTA at the following address:

The Korea Taekwondo Association
#607, Olympic Center
88 Oryoon-dong, Songpa-ku
Seoul, Korea
Telephone: 420-4271
Fax: 420-4274

ITF logo WTF logo


As mentioned earlier, Gen. Choi established ITF-Taekwondo (which practices a more traditional form of Taekwondo) while WTF-Taekwondo (which has a strong emphasis on sparring) became an Olympic sport in 2000. A good-will trip to North-Korea in 1966 caused General Choi to fall in disgrace in the eyes of the South-Koreans. Choi resigned as president of the KTA and founded the ITF on March, the 22nd of that same year. The headquarters of ITF were established in Canada. ITF started concentrating on the forms developed by General Choi, while the KTA (which later, on May 28, 1973, became the WTF) concentrated on the Palgwe's. Later the WTF abandoned the Palgwe's and started concentrating on Taeguks. Slowly, the WTF emphasis turned to sparring. This is also the reason why a lot of people rather call Taekwondo a Martial Sport than a Martial Art.

The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) is a smaller organization, and has many similarities to the ITF. The ATA has a copyright on the forms of the organization, so these forms cannot be used on competitions by non-members. There are many organizations, but the three mentioned above have the most members. The ITF practices the so-called 'semi-contact' part of Taekwondo, while WTF practices the so-called 'full-contact' part. The ITF focuses more on the traditional way of Taekwondo. Since the break-up, there have been many attempts to reunite WTF and ITF, so-far without success. There probably will never be a union within Taekwondo.

Copyright (c) 1994-2009 by Barry Nauta (barry_at_nauta_dot_be, http://www.barrel.net/ or http://www.nauta.be). Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "Copyleft".

The earliest records of Martial Arts practice in Korea date back to about 50 B.C. These earliest forms of Korean martial arts are known as 'Taek Kyon'. Evidence that Martial Arts were being practiced at that time can be found in tombs where wall-paintings show two men in a fighting-stance. Others reject this evidence and say that these men could simply be dancing. Back then, there were three kingdoms:

1.Koguryo (37 B.C. - 668 A.D.)
2.Paekje (18 B.C. - 600 A.D.)
3.Silla (57 B.C. - 935 A.D.)

DoChangMu logo SongMuKwan logo ChungDoKwan Logo

The Students Oath

I shall observe the tenets of Tae Kwon Do

I shall respect the instructor and senior members

I shall never misuse Tae Kwon Do

I shall be a champion of freedom and justice

I shall strive to build a more peaceful world

Korean FlagThe Meaning of the Korean National Flag

The origin comes from the Oriental philosophy called Eum-Yang, in Chinese pronunciation Yin-Yang. In Korea, the symbol of 'Yin and Yang', and sometimes the flag itself, is called Taeguk and summarizes the thoughts of 'I Ching' ('Yeok'). The name means as much as the flag of 'Great Extremes'.

The flag consists of 3 parts: The white background, the red and blue circle in the center with four trigrams, one in each corner.

WHITE BACKGROUND - signifies Peace.

RED AND BLUE CIRCLE - 'Taeguk', the origin of all things in the universe. The central thought is perfect harmony and balance: A continuous movement within the sphere of infinity, resulting in one unit. The blue part of 'Taeguk' is called 'Eum' and represents all negative aspects of the balance that is typical for the symbol. The red part is called 'Yang' and describes all positive aspects.

FOUR TRIGRAMS - The corners ('Kwe') of the trigrams are heaven (upper-left) and at the other corner earth, water (upper-right) and at the other corner fire.

For the Korean people their flag of T'aeGuk-Ki is a source of pride and inspiration. During the Japanese occupation period beginning in 1910 the Korean flag was outlawed in public places and for about thirty five years the T'aeGuk flags were kept hidden until Liberation Day in1945. The Korean flag has been a symbol of this country's struggle for independence and freedom.


The oldest 'Yin/Yang'-symbol, which was described in stone, was found in Korea. At the end of the 19th century, Korea needed their own flag. It is believed that Young-Hyo Park came up with the first concept. At that time, Korea was under the influence of all sorts of colonists like the Japanese, Chinese and Russian.

The symbols

Yin means dark and cold, while Yang means bright and hot. A very old book called Choo-Yuk which is written by a Chinese claims all objects and events in the world are expressed by the movement of Yin and Yang. For example, the moon is Yin while the sun is Yang. Yin and Yang are relative.


American FlagThe Meaning of the American Flag

Colors of the United States of America Flag are Red, White and Blue.

Each color, star and strip has its’ own significance:

RED ~ For bravery, valor and the blood shed defending our nation.

WHITE ~ For purity, hope and the cleanliness of life.

BLUE ~ For color of heaven, reverence of God, loyalty, truth & justice.

WHITE STARS ~ For the States in a new constellation in the Heavens.

NUMBER OF STRIPES ~ Thirteen, for the thirteen original colonies.

NUMBER OF STARS ~ Fifty, one for each state in the Union

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