Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that began over 2000 years ago. Archaeologists have found drawings on the walls of ancient tombs that show
men practicing different blocks and punches. The existence of these murals allows historians to date the origins of what we now call Taekwondo to
around 50 BC.
In ancient times, Korea was divided into 3 kingdoms: Koguryo, Paekje, and Silla. Silla later unified the three kingdoms after winning the war against Paekje in 668 AD and Koguryo in 670 AD. The Hwa Rang Do helped in this unification. The Hwa Rang Do was an elite group of young noble men who devoted themselves to improving both their minds and bodies to better serve their kingdom of Silla. The Hwa Rang Do had an honor code and practiced various forms of martial arts, including Tae Kyon and Soo Bakh Do. These forms of martial arts are the origins of what we call Taekwondo today. Additionally, the honor code practiced by the Hwa Rang Do is the philosophical basis of modern Taekwondo.
Many years of peace followed the unification of the 3 kingdoms and allowed the people of Korea to learn and practice these martial arts. Unfortunately, in 1909 the Japanese invaded Korea and forbid the practice of their martial art, that was then being called Soo Bak. Fortunately,
people continued to practice Soo Bak in secret.
At the end of WWII, when Japan was driven from Korea, several different styles of martial arts began to develop. A style or school of martial arts was called a “Kwan”. Some of the different Kwans that developed were “Chung Do Kwan”, “Moo Duk Kwan”, “Yun Moo Kwan”, and “Ji Do Kwan”. Although they were similar in many ways, there were small differences. There was no unified way to bow, punch, kick, or compete. Eventually, the leaders of the separate kwans agreed that the different styles needed to unite in order to grow.
In 1955 the kwans unified and in 1957 the name Taekwondo was adopted. In 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was founded and in 1980 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized the WTF. The 1988 & 1992 Summer Olympics presented Taekwondo as a demonstration sport and beginning with the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia Taekwondo has joined Judo as the only two martial arts to be recognized by the IOC.