A Very Brief History of Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that literally means "the way or art of the foot and fist". It traces its roots back to early 600 AD tribal and royal court fighting systems. Some early precursors to Taekwondo were soo bahk, tae kyun, and kwon bup.

Modern Taekwondo started to emerge in the late 1940's with the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation. Many martial arts Masters had exiled themselves from Korea or gone underground during the occupation. When Korea was liberated these Masters began teaching their arts openly again. Many had gone to China or been in Japan and incorporated martial arts techniques from these countries into their systems. This gave the Korean martial arts a unique flavor and style. There are open and closed hand strikes and blocks, straight line and circular techniques, hard and soft techniques, holds and grappling techniques. Of course, there are the kicks, oh boy are there kicks. Taekwondo is best know for its fantastic kicking style. stationary, spinning, jumping and flying. Kicks that come from all angles and all speeds. Almost all martial arts today have borrowed the Korean style of kicking and added them to their own.

The early do jangs (training halls) were called Kwans. There were five major Kwans to develop in the late 1940's early 1950's. They were Mu Duk Kwan, Ji Do Kwan, Chung Do Kwan, Chang Mu Kwan, and Song Mu Kwan. There were also several minor Kwans including Mu Sul Kwan, Yun Mu Kwan, Kang Duk Kwan, Han Mu Kwan, Oh Do Kwan (Korean Army) and Mun Mu Kwan (Korean Air Force). While the Kwans all practiced similar martial arts, there were philosophical and technical differences. In 1955 many of the Kwan leaders (called Kwan jang or directors) met and unified under the name Taekwondo. They formed the Korean Taekwondo Association and later the International Taekwondo Federation.

Modern Taekwondo has both a traditional self defense aspect and a modern sport aspect. Under the guidance of the World Taekwondo Federation (founded 1974), Taekwondo has been introduced as an Olympic sport (1988 in Seoul, Korean and 1992 in Barcelona, Spain). It became a full medal sport at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Steven Lopez of Sugarland, Texas took a Gold Medal for the US Team in Australia

Taekwondo has something to offer for everyone. There are forms (choreographed patterns), self defense, grappling and holds, hand techniques, and of course awesome kicking techniques. Taekwondo is for the young and not so young. The competitor, the fitness buff, the person looking for self defense, the parent looking for a good disciplined environment, and especially the family looking for a group activity can all find something in Taekwondo.

For more information, you can search Taekwondo on the web, but be prepared for thousands of hits. TKD is America's most popular martial art.

Dr. Steven Capener's History of TKD: Dr. Steven D. Capener (Professor at Ewha Women's University's Korean Culture Department) is the only non-Korean to learn and finally earn a Taekwondo Ph. D. in Korea. Professor Capener learned taekwondo throughout his teens and twenties, when at last, he took third place at the World University Taekwondo Championships in 1986, third place at the World Taekwondo Championships in 1987, and first place at the American Pan-Am Games in 1987.