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People in primitive ages, no matter where they lived, had to develop personal skills to fight in order to obtain their food and to defend themselves against their enemies, including wild animals.

They also had to invent weapons for more effective defense and easier subsistence. however, even after they learned to use weapons, they never stopped their efforts to promote the development of their bodies and minds by practicing various games, especially in the form f religious rites

The Korean ancestors who settled in several tribal states this land after the neolithic age had many of such activities. Yongko in puyo state, Tongmaeng in Koguryo. Muchon in Ye and Mahan, and Kabi in the silla dynasty are some of the striking examples of the "sports activities" wich ancient Kroeas practiced exercises to improve health of martial abilities.
The long experience of ancient people in defending themselves against the attacks of animals as well as their imitation of the defensive and offensive positions assumed by the animals slowly led the people to develop more effecctive skills of their own in the use of their hands in fighting, thus creationg a primitive form of Teakyon(an old name of Taekwondo).

The origin of Teakwondo in this country can be traced back to the Koguryo dynasty, founded 3B.C. since mural paintings to the Koguryo dynasty, founded 37B.C. since mural paintings foung in the ruins of the royal tombs built by that dynasty show scenes of Taekwondo practice. Muyong-chong and kakchu-chong are discovered by a group of archeologists in 1935. They were located Koguryo had its capital in Hwando province.

The ceiling of the Myong-chong carried a painting depiction two men facing each other in Taekwondo practice, while the mural paintings of Kakchu-chong show two men wrestling. In reference to this particular painting, Tatashi Saito, a Japanese historian, in the "Study of Culture in Ancient Korea", says:

"The painting either shows us that the person buried in the tomb practiced Taekwondo while he was alive or it tells us the people practiced it. along with dancing and singing, for the purpose of consoling the soul of the dead".
The construction of the above two tombs dates back to the period between 3 A. D. and 427 A. D., during which, historians say, Hwando province remained the capital of Koguryo. It can therefore be inferred that Koguryo people statred practicing Taekwondo during that period.

Taekwondo was also practiced during the Silla dynasty. Silla was a kingdom founded in the southestern part of the land some 20 years before Koguryo in the north. At Kyongju, the ancient capital of Silla, two buddhist imags are inscribed ofn the inner walls of Skkuram cave in Pulkuk-sa Temple. These two 'Diamond warriors' protectiong Buddhism from devils take Taekwondo stances.

Silla was famous for its hwarang. Korean culture and martial arts of the period were strongly influenced and enriched by the Hwarangdo, a military, educational and social organization and noble youths of the Silla dynasty. The code of honor on which the Hwarang was based was loyalty to the nation, respect and obedience to one's 'parents, faithfulness to one's friends, courage in battle and avoidance of unnecessary violence and killing.
The influence of the Hwarangdo played an important role in unifying the three kingdoms.

Many scattered descriptions in witten documents of the three kingdoms such as the Samguk Yusa, the oldest document of Korean history, show that Hwarangdo not only regarded the Taekwondo practice for their unarmed combat study as an essential part of physical and military trainding, but also recommended it as a recreational activity.

Archeologic findings such as mural paintings on the royal tombs of the Koguryo dynasty, the stone sculptures of pagodas of temples produced during the Silla period, and many scattered descriptions in written documents show that many studies of fighting stances, sills and formalized movements closely resemble the present stances and forms of Taekwondo. Therefore, it can be inferrod that people in the three kingdoms practiced an art very like the one we study today.


In the history of Koryo, Taekwondo which was then termed "Subak" was practiced not only as a skill to improve health and as a sport activity but it was also encouraged as a martial art of considerably high value.

Here are a few extracts from the historical record of Koryo that testify to the popularity of Taekwondo as a martial art. "King Uijong admired the excellence of Yi Ui-min in Subak and promoted him form Taejong (military rank) to Pyolchang".

"The king appeared at the Sang-chun Pavillion and watched Subak contests"., "The king watched Subak contest at Hwa-bi Place".
"The king watched Subak contest at Hwa-bi Place",
"The king came to Ma-am and watched Subak contests",
These records indicate that Subak in the Koryo dynasty was also practiced as an organized sport for spectators.
Subak is believed to have gained its highest popularity during the reign of King Uijong, between 1,147 and 1,170 A.D. This period roughly corresponds to the era that includes part of the chinese Song and Ming dynasties, during which the Chinese "Kungfu" became widely popular after this self-defense art was developed into two chiefly in that the one employs more defensive skills and the other more of fensive skills.

The above fact is worth noticing as it further shows that Taekwondo is not only of a pure Korean origin but it has achieved independent development throughout the long history of Korea.

What is very important about Subak in the Yi dynasty is that there was a book pulished to teach the game as a martial art and that it had been to a certain degree monopolized by the military in the preceding Koryo dynasty.

A historical record indicates that people from both Chungchong and Cholla provinces once gathered at the village of Chakji located along the provincial boundary to compete in Subak.

This record supports the motion that Subak played an Important role as a popular sport activity of the people in the dynasty.

Furthermore, people who aspired to be employed by the military department of the royal government were eager to learn Subak because it was included as one of the major subjects of the test to be taken by the apllicants.

Meanwhile, King Chongjo published "Muye Dobo Tongji, " an illustrated textbook on martial arts, which included Taekwondo as one of the major chapters.

It is obvious, therefore, that Subak became an important national sport and attracted much attention from both the royal court and the general public during the Yi dynasty.

However, in the latter half of the Yi dynasty, the importance of Subak as a martial art began to decline due to negligence of the royal court, which was constantly disturbed by strife between feuding political factions. As a result, Subak remained merely as a recreational activity for ordinary people.

Taekwondo in the first half of the 29th century:
Along with the deterioration of national fortunes, the fall of the military was accelerated by the dismantling of the army;
finally Japanese imperialists colonized Korea through an oppressive forceful invasion. The oppression of the Korean people by the Japanese Imperialists worsened, and the practicing of martial arts, which could have been used as a means of revolt, was forbidden.

However, Taekwondo persisted in the spirit of the Korean people as a physical and spiritual training method of anti-japanese organizations such as the Independence Army and the Liberation Army, and as a legacy which had to pass on to the younger generation.

After liberation from the Japanese invasion-1970s: After liberation from the Japanese invasion on August 15, 1945, those with an aspiration to revitalize the traditional art of Taekwondo taught their followers, and at last, on September 16, 1961, the Korea Taekwondo Association was established. On February 25, 1962, the Korea taekwondo Association became the 26th affiliate to join the Korea Amateur Sports Association. On October 9, 1963, Taekwondo became an official event for the first time in the development of 44th National Athletic Meet.. Its great leaps in the development of competition rules and protective equipment started with the 1963 National Athletic Meet 32 years ago.

Korean instructors began going abroad to teach Taekwondo in the 1960s, which could be called a turning point in the history of Taekwondo. Taekwondo made its way to the world sport though the 1st World Taekwondo Championships held in Seoul, Korea in May 1973 with 1973 on the occasion of the championships, representatives of those countries established the world Taekwondo Federation(WTF).

1980-1996: Presently, member countries of the WTF total 144 and the global Taekwondo population is estimafted at 30 million people. Spurred by the recognition of Taekwondo by the IOC at its 83rd General Session in 1980, Taekwondo has been rapidly becoming an international sport. It was adopted as a demonstration sport of the 24th Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the 25th Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Taekwondo was adoped as an official sport of 2000 Sydny Olympic Games at the 103rd Session of the IOC held in Paris, France on September 4, 1994. Taekwondo has consolidated its position in the world sport as fast as any other martial art sport. Besides inn continental championships hosted by four member regional unions of the WTF as well as in the World and Women's World Championships, World Cup Taekwondo, Taekwondo is being played as an official sport in most international multi-sport games such as World Games, Pan American Games, All Affica Games, Southeast Asian Games and Gental American Games.


Some people believe that Korean Taekwondo was originated from Kungfu, the Chinese self-defense art. According to a Chinese document. the Chinese art of self-defense is believed to have been initiated as a sort of physical exercise when the Bodhi Dharma taught the monks of Hsiaolin Temple in Tungpung Country, Honan Provice, China.

Bodihi Dharma, a great Indian Buddhist Zen master, came to China in 520 A. D. and spent nine years at Hsiaolin Temple where he introduced the art of self-defense.
However, if we recall that the mural paintings of Taekwondo in the ancient tombs of Koguryo belong to the period 3 A. D. to 427A. D., it cannot be said that the Korean Taekwondo owes its origin to the Chinese Kungfu.

No detailed record is available when Karate, the Japanese self-defense art equivalent to Taekwondo, was initiated. There are two-fold explanations about it. One explanation is that a Chinese named Chen Yuanpin, who lived in the late Ming dynasty, was naturalized as a Japanese and imparted the Chinese "Kungfu" to the Japanese people. The other explanation says that Karate is a developed form of "Okinawate," a self-defense art indigenous to Okinawa.

However, that time in Korea, "Subak", an old name of Taekwondo, has quained great popularity among the people, and therefore it is not unlikely that the envoys from Okinawa learned that game and introduced to their people.

This speculation is not too absurd when we recall the fact that "Nul", the Korean see-saw, was also adopted by the people of Okinawa from Korea.

It may be concluded that the Japanese Karate, in turn, derives from Taekyon or Subak, the primitive form of Taekwondo.

Taekwondo retained its popularity after the Koguryo and Silla dynasties through the Koryo dynasty, that was founded in 918 A. D., and continued for 475 years, and through the Yi dynasty.


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