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The History Of Taekwon-Do


The history of Taekwon-do ties in to Korea history. This is gona' be long. Taekwon-do is not the only style that is covered. However, it is tied into these other styles that I will mention.

This will be of major interest to ALL Korean styles, your roots start here.


Badhidharma, (in Japanese Daruma Daishi), learned that Buddhism was being taught in a mistaken form in China. He traveled there in 520 A. D. He met with Emperor Wu in Chin-lung, capital cityof Liang. As Badhidharma set out to teach proper Buddhism, Emperor Wu disagreed with his methods and had him expelled from his kingdom.
Badhidharma traveled northward to the kingdom of Wei, and arrived at the Shao-lin-ssu near the city of Lo-yang. Upon his arrival it is said he knelt down facing a bare cliff and remained in meditation for 9 whole years. The Buddhist legend says during this time he lost use of his arms and legs. He was a practitioner of yoga. Yoga and Buddism came to China at the same time. Yoga became knowen in China as Ch'an, derived from the Indian word dhyani, meaning meditation. In Japan it became knowen as Zen.

When Badhidharma went to China he took two books on military arts, I-Chin-Ching and Hsien- Sui-Ching. By combining practial methods and the techniques of Chinese hand fighting he formed the Shan-Lin-ssu. This became the ancester of later Chinese methods of hand-to-hand combat, including what is known today as karate.

At first only priests were taught the hand fighting. As times changed, temples were often burned and the remaining priests went thier own way. The land had many bands of thieves and robbers. The priests taught the people I-Chi-Ching as a means of protection against the thieves.

It was in this way the Zen link was broken and it began to develop as an independent combat technique and lost its original form.

The Greek martial art of Pankration, (pan-cray'shin), is believed by many historians to have been one of the first, if not the first, total martial art knowen to man! Pankration was practiced some 1200 years before Bodhidharma's time. Pankration means, "all power", and was a combination of the earlier forms of boxing and wrestling.

The armies of Alexander the Great practiced Pankration in 326 B .C., during a march over the Himalayas. This laid the ground work for kung fu in China.

Plato and Aristatle were Pankration fighters.


Pankration was part of he Greek Olympics for over 500 years. It was introduced in 648 B .C. to the games in Olympus.

Thier was another Greek martial art form called Pyrrhic. This form was similar to karate and was written about in 350 B .C.

As the priests traveled, they taught thier style of hand fighting. Merchants seking trade also learned the new styles. They in turn taught it and also added some of thier own styles to form a new style.

Think back 30,000 years. That is 6,000 years before the first recorded date, 7,000 years before the Chinese Linglum made the first flute from bamboo, and 8,000 years before Abraham left Chaldea on a promise form God that he would father a nation that would out number the stars. That is when Korea began!

China and Japan often fought over Korea. There were times the Korean Army was fighting China and Japan at the same time. In time of peace Korea sat at the cross roads. They could trade with both.

The history of Taekwon-do in Korea is based more on legend and speculation than on hard fact. Many records were kept at the Monasteries. However, when the Monasteries were captured and burned so were all the records.

Thus the only written link was lost. The only way to trace a fighting art was by word of mouth, from master to student. When the student becomes a master, he teaches new students. Thus keeping alive the style and passing along its history.

It is most generally agreed upon that the basis for hand and foot fighting came from China through trade and commerence.

However, we can place the birth of the fighting arts in the period of the three Kingdoms, about 1,300 years ago. This is when Korea was divided into three sections: Silla, Koguryo, and Baekche. (I also found the spellings Baek Je and Paek Che). Silla was the smallest and faced attacks from the other two as well as from Japan. Thier survival depended on a very strong army.

Park-Hyuk Gose founded Silla in 57 B.C. and made Kwang Ju its capital. In the early stages Silla was weak and disorganized. Park-Hyuk Gose laid the military foundations that would lead it to emerge as a power in he fourth century.

Most historians record 57 B.C. as tha begaining date of Korea proper.


Silla was the smallest of the three kingdoms in the forth century. By the sixth century it had grown three times in its size.

With the intense loyalty on the part of trible leaders, Silla's military might and leadership grew. They soon became superior to both Baekche and Koguryo. The Silla warriors were very practial men. They belivd that knowledge and action must balance. After you acquire knowledge, you must continue according to the knowledge that you have acquired.

This military power was directly attributed to the 24th King of Silla, Chin Heung. He organized a group called the Hwarang Do. This was an elite fighting corps which received the finest training in the use of he military weaponds of the day. They were also subject to severe physical and mental conditioning and put through severe hardships in order to prepare them for war.

Its purpose was to cultivate moral and patriotic ideals among Korean youth.
Membership was restricted to educated young men of noble birth.

At this same time a monk and scholar/philosopher named Won Kwang originated the five principles that still form the basis of the Taekwon-do philosophy.

They were: loyalty to lawful rulers, honor to parents and friends, bravery in battle, strength of heart and mind, and mercy mixed with justice in necessary killing.

The deeds of the Hwarang Do became legendary, not only on the field of battle, but in thier entire way of life.


The code of Hwarang Do became:
Loyalty to the king
Obedience to parents
Trust among friends
Never retreat in battle
Justice in killing


Through thier example the people of Silla learned to ward off thier enemies, to unite the clan leaders and to bring togather the Korean peninsula underthe Silla banner (A.D. 337-935). It is believed at this time the art of hand fighting, which was to become Taekwon-do, came under popular and enthusiastic study.

During the period when the land was divided into three kingdoms the Korean warriors were trained in a military art called Barando and Cha-Rywk.

Barando contained mainly head, elbow and foot techniques.
To refine techniques the ancient Korean warriors developed two special systems called borrowed strength and the other refering to a magical shortening of space.

Cha-Rywk--or borrowed strength. Through the word itself it indicates taking strength from some other source and adding it to a mans natural strength. This style has an intense training method. It makes things that seem impossible to ordinary common sense possible by seeking out the real ultimate limits of human strength. There are three methods in Cha-Rywk: spirital,medicinalandphysical.

In the Spirtual you would find a secluded place and seek stability of both mind and body. The practice in breathing, is so quiet that the exhaled air would not cause a thread to move. He becomes absorbed in meditations that bring unity to the soul and that leads to the Zen world of impassivity. He reaches a stage of unity with the great spiret, where his eyes no longer see and where he is one with the Universe.

The Medicinal technique depends on the 4,000 year-old Chinese medical system. Usually the medicine is used on the skin to stimulate cellular rejuvination, to promote resistance to bacteria and disease, and to develope a body strong enough to keep sickness from gaining a foot hold.

The physical training developed a strong flexable body and polish to one's martial art techiques. This involves rolling over huge boulders, running up mountains with heavy objects on the shoulders, swinging from branch to branch in trees, leaping over large stones, or freely swinging a 100 pound hammer front to back and side to side.

The Silla military used three main techniques: those to stun, those to render the opponent unconsious, and those to kill if necessary.

With the use of Hwa Rang Do or Tae Kyon, Shilla proved invincible to its enemies. Silla united the tribal clans and became superior to the combined power of Koyuryo and Baek Je.

With the occupation of Koyuryo and Baek Je this united the Korean peninsula for the first time.

In A.D. 935 the Silla kingdom was defeated and the Koryo Dynasty was founded. (Korea comes from the word Koryo). During this dynasty the art knowen as Tae Kyon flourished.

Genghis Kan increased the attacks that begain in the early 13th century. His grandson, Kublai Kan took over after the death of Genghis' successor and his uncle, Mangu.

The mongols countiess numbers and superior horsemanship proved unbeatable on the main land. States, cities, and whole tribes were completly destroyed. Where the mongols meet any resistance, they answered with terror and death.

They conqured Korea, and the Korean people only tolerated the mongols. The mongol power declined because of poor adminstration. They had crack units for war on land, but not at sea. They found this out when they attacked Japan.

A group of tribute-seeking mongols was attacked by bandits. In the fight a mongol offical was killed. This act brought the ten year guerilla resistance into open warfare. The Koreans were unsuccessful at first, but in 1368 the Koreans drove the mongols from thier land.

Because the attacks on Japan came from Korea, the Japanese struck back. They ravaged Korean coastal areas. The mongols forced the Koreans to build 900 ships.

Korea was co weakened by the mongol rule and the war that freed them, they could not keep thier coasts safe from Japanese pirates raids.

General Yi Song-gye, in 1388 won a decisive victory over the Japanese in the East and the Monchu raiders from the North . Thias led once again to the consolidation of the country, now renamed Choson.

In 1392 the General founded the Yi dynasty. This would last through two major Japanese invasions, the fall of the Ming dynasty, further Manchu guerilla raids and the entire span of the Ch'ing dynasty (1616-1909).

Evidence given by An Je San, noted Korean historian, stated that, "The Yoo Sul school of fighting (which was more of a jujutsu style than Taekwon-do) was knowen as Soo Bak Gi or Tae Kyon. Training in Tae Kyon was mandatory for any soldier who wanted to get a better job in the government. Since the art, having its roots in the religious discipline of Hwarang Do, received royal patronage, it became a permanent and important part of military and governmental life".

There was evidence that another form of handand foot fighting existed in the northern section of Korea, in Koguryo in 37 B.C.

In the royal tombs of Muyong Chong and Kakchu Chong, which date back to the Kingdom of Koguryo, which is now called Tungku, China. This is in Tung-Hau province of Manchuria. This is where Koguryo's capital existed. On the ceilings are mural paintings that show earl techniques of Taekwon-do.

Further evidence of hand fighting can be found in the Sok Kul An Temple. This small Buddhist cave dater back to A. D. 751 during the reign of King Hye-Gong (742-762). There was found a statue of Kumgang Yuksa who was a famous warrior. He is in a Taekwon-do fighting posture and guards the temple.

Another theory says Taekwon-do developed directly from China. It had no isolated start in Korea. Taekwon-do came from the ancient Chinese art of Kwon Bop. This style was introduced as a means of physical conditioning by the monk Bodhidharma.

Since Bodhidharma taught a very rigid self-awareness program, most of the other monks could not keep up with him. This is where he developed the I-Chin-Ching. This style was later to be called Shaolin Kung Fu.

It is on these methods that Kwon Bop was founded.


This is only in theroy. There is evidence that what I stated above is true. However, what was found in the Koguryo tombs discredits it.

The Record Book of Military Arts (Muye Dobo Tong Ji) written in 1790 contains illustrations that substantiate the theory that Taekwon-do developed into a sophisticated form of combat technique. Acording to this book the postures of drawings and statues were in advanced posistions, relative to similar arts at that time.

It is safe to beleive that he Chinese supplied a pattern and the Koreans changed it to fit thier physical abilities and national culture. Using these techniques Kwon Bop soon took on a new appearance and a new style was born.

In 1590 the Japanese decided to conquer China by way of Korea. Tai'ko Hideoshi was the Regent to the emperor. He landed three musket-equipped armies in Pusan. They made a raoid advance to the capital. Korea had no standing army that could meet the invadrers. Guerilla bands knowen as "Righteous Armies" were formed. They used the strength of martial arts, and drove out the Japanese.

In 1630 Manchu used supieror numbers on thier invasion and conquered Korea. This rule lasted untill the 1790's.

Three other forms existed in the early history. These arts were: Sando Musool (Tribal Martial Arts), The Buldo Musool (Buddhist Martial Arts), and Kung Joong Musool (Royal Court Martrial Arts).

Sando Musool -- This art can be traced to the Ko Cho Sun (old Korean form 2,000 B.C. to 57 B.C. )

Thier creed was:

1. The warrior who killed another would be executed.
2. The warrior who hurt another would pay with agriculture goods.
3. The warrior who stole another's property would be a slave to its owner.
4. The warrior who raped a woman would be executed.


Buldo Musool--This art was developed for helth, self defence, and defense of both monasteries and the nation.

Kyong Joong Musool--This art begain with the three kingdoms. Silla adopted the system of Hau Rang Do for training future military officers.

Thier creed was:

1. Be loyal to your king.
2. Be obedient to your parents.
3. Be honorable to your friends.
4. Never retreat from battle.
5. Kill justly.


For four more centuries the political fortunes of Korea declined as did interest in Taekwon-do. The final blow came in 1910 when the Japanese over ran Korea. The Japanese, were bent on destroying the national identity of the Koreans in hope that it would then be replaced by loyaty to them.

They also banned the practice of Taekwon-do. Thier orders were obeyed by all but a few. Only in the remote rural areas did men practice two ancient styles of Taekwon-do: Tae Kyon and Backchiki.

Finding life difficult at home many Koreans left to study and work in China and Japan. Since no restrictions on the martial arts existed there Taekwon-do was exposed to other forms of karate for the first time in over a thousand years.

Taekwon-do was originally knowen as Tae Kyon. Tae Kyon used 25 basic movements using hand, leg, jumping, falling, rolling and pulling techniques.

The end of World War II brought an end to Japan's 36 year old occupation of Korea. It also brought back thousands of Koreans who were fired by intense feeling of patriotism and national pride. They opened schools to teach karate. They proceeded to unify the various new and old styles. They taught many new techniques from all parts of the Orient.

New names representing new methods from the whole Tae Kyon were brought too. They were: Tang Soo Do, Kwon Bop, Kong Do, and Soo Bak.

The close of World War II broughtn other changes too Korea was divided again. The Russians took control of North Korea and the United States controlled South Korea. The country was divided at the 38th paralel.

The leaders of the schools searched for a new and more meaninful name for the Korean art of self defence.

On April 11th, 1955 the name Tae Kwon Do was adopted by a special board of teachers of the art. The name was suggested by Master Choi Kong Hi. This term describes the techniques of the self-defence method. Translated, the word Tae means kicking and smashing with the feet; Kwon means punching with the fiast; Do is the art of or the way of. Putting it all togather it is "The Art of destroying (or smashing) with foot and fist.

This name was a wise choice for several reasons. It sounds very much like the ancient name of Tae Kyon and provides continuity. It also describes both foot and hand techniques and is more accurate than the name karate.

The development of the art was hindered by differences among the major groups which practiced the art in Korea. In 1961 the new military government formed by decree the Tae Soo Do Association, the first real attempt to unify the major schools into a working association. It was not untill 1965 that all the differ5ences had been reached. A compromise was reached and The Taekwon-Do Association was formed. It is this group which now carries on the tradition of the martial arts in Korea.

On March 22, 1966, The International Taekwon-Do Federation was organized by Master Choi Hong Hi.

Although introduced only recently in the western world, the art of Taekwon-Do has become increasingly popular in all countries and with all age groups. Discipline and humility arise form one's dedication to the art. Without such spirit, the student's training is incompleate; with it he becomes the master of himself.

A student of Taekwon-Do must master the physical movements, but he must be trained in courtsey, patience, honor, humility, self control, and generasity.

In 1973 The World Taekwon-Do Federation was formed and Dr. Un Yong Kim, and he was chosen as president. This organization put Taekwon-Do in various international organizations and by reaching out for Olympic participation.

There is much talk about Taekwon-Do being an Art or a Sport. Either way it's still Taekwon-Do. Why can't s sport be an Art?

If every student in Taekwon-Do is taught in the true form and in the way the old masters wanted, it doesn't matter what name the organizations use. Or if it is an Art or a Sport, if full contact or no contact is used. Taekwon-Do teaches that each student is responsible to himself, his school, the art of Taekwon-Do, to do what is morally right, and to use his knowledge to thebetterment of society.

It was not untill the independence of Korea in 1945 that Taekwon-Do reached its present level of development.

Taekwon-Do is not just a technique of unarmed self-defense that utillzes the entire body, and is more than a physical fighting skill. It represents a pattern of thinking and a way of life which ewquires both strict mental and physical discipline. Taekwon-Do is a technique and the spirit of unarmed self-defense.

Taekwon-Do is considered better than karate. It's more powerful and dangerous becaysae it uses 80% kicks, karate uses 40%. The kick can be 90 times more powerful than a punch.

Taekwon-Do relies not upon muscular strength, but upon the knowledge of leverage and the weak points in the human anatomy.

In human anatomy there are 657 acupuncture attacking points, 364 striking points and 164 joints. This means that heavy or light, tall or short, there are 1,185 actual attacking spots.

Taekwon-Do uses 17 parts of the body to attack 54 vulnerable and critical spots on the opponent.

There are six schools in Taekwondo:
1. Chung Do Kwan -- young
2. Moo Duk Kwan -- Brave
3. Change Moo Kwon -- Creation of martial art
4. Ohg do Kwong --
5. Ch i Do Kwan -- Knowledge or wisdom
6. Jin Moo Kwan -- True martial art
The word Kwan means house.


In my school we use six colors of belts. Other schools use more or less depending 0n how they are set up.

White Belt -- the beginner, one who is pure in mind and knows nothing.
Gold Belt --- represents gold ore that must be dug from the ground and indicates one must work and dig to achieve.
Green Belt -- represents the green of trees, to indicate that the student, like the tree, is growing and wants to grow to great height.
Blue Belt -- represents the blue sky, which is higher than any tree and a desirable height of achievement to attain.
Red Belt --- the color of the sun, higest of all, which is looked up to by everyone for growth, life and warmth.
*Brown Belt - represents the ground where the roots are, where all life comes from, where your strength will come from.
Black Belt -- a combination of all the colors of the universe representing that the wearer has learned all, is the master.

* The brown and red belts are at the same skill level. Some Taekwon-Do schools use Red while others use Brown.

In some styles a red belt is for the master. There is also a red and white checked belt to denote a master. Then a Grand Master wears a red belt. The master can also wear a Black Belt if they choose.

As I stated before, much of the documentary evidence has been lost or destroyed. The techniques have been been passed down intact from master to student.

Since Taekwon-Do can be looked at as a type of karate, I'll explain where the word "karate" came from. Master Oyama Matsufatsu states in his book "This Is Karate": "In present day Japanese the word karate is written with the symbol Kara, meaning empty, and Te meaning hand.

Untill only fairly recently the accepted symbol for kara was one that ordinarily ment "China" and ment that karate was a Chinese method of fighting. Some Japanese ethnologists believe that the Japanese race originally came from Karak, which was at the southern end of the Korean Peninsula. This was also known in Japan as Mimana".

If this is true, it helps to show how the hand and foot fighting made its way accross China and Korea. It then went to Japan and was introduced to the arts there. New karate styles developed from them.

There are so many styles and systems, with some being thousands of years old. Some of these are just now coming into the light.

Each country has developed thier own styles. Some styles use only feet, some only hands. However, most combine the hands and feet.

Taekwon-Do is but one of the many hand and foot fighting systems. There are many "fly by night" schools. If a school can guarantee a student a cetrtain belt at a certain time, be careful!

Every student progress at a different rate. Some may develope problems in one area. They will need special help to get through it. It could be a mental block or a physical problem. The student could be handicaped and need a course designed for them.

Teaching Taekwon-Do, or any martial art, can be very rewarding. When a student comes to you and says, "I was in a fight today. I did like you said. I won the fight, by not fighting." Another student comes up to you and says, "I am going to be leaving town. I got a job as a profesional dancer. Thank you for the extra time you spent with me.. Taekwon-Do showed me the way. All I did was to follow. Like you said, there is no such word as can't. My training led to a job I really enjoy. Thanks again!"

Taekwon-Do can lead you in many ways. Through the many hours of drill you are taught mind discilple. In free fighting you are taught to have faith in your-self. Working with others you develope faith in others. When asked to put on a demostration, you can spread the word about Taekwon-Do and martial arts.

Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern day karate, and considered by many to be the Master's Master wote:

To search for the old, is to understand the new
The old, the new
This is matter of time.
In all things man must have a clean mind,
The Way:
Who will pass it on straight and well.


He was not only stating there was nothing new under the sun, but that there were few who could be relied upon to pass on this knowledge to the next generation.

Most people only believe what they have seen in the movies. They don't see the work, devotion, or the failures that go with the training. You must devote your-self to your art. And you will prosper in many ways.

To end, I leave this with you. Read it once, read it again. Close your eyes and see it. Now put it to use.

What ever you want to do,
don't be afraid to do it ,
for fear of failure.



This is one of the books I've written.
For research use only, no other use authorize.


Me in the late 70's.
This is me in the late 70s. A front free kick over my head.


Asian Award of Excellence



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