The History and Origins of Taekwon-Do


Taekwon-Do, a dynamic and widely practiced martial art, has a rich history and a fascinating set of origins. This Korean martial art, characterised by its powerful kicks and striking techniques, has become a popular sport and a means of self-defence worldwide. In this blog, we will delve into the history and origins of Taekwon-Do, tracing its development from ancient Korean fighting styles to its status as an international sport.

Ancient Korean Martial Arts

The roots of Taekwon-Do can be traced back over two thousand years to the Korean Peninsula. Korea’s ancient martial arts were diverse, with various regions developing their own fighting techniques. These martial arts evolved to become an integral part of Korean culture, used for self-defence, military training, and personal development.

Hwa Rang Do and the Birth of Taekkyeon

One of the earliest forms of Korean martial arts that contributed to the development of Taekwon-Do was Hwa Rang Do. The Hwa Rang were an elite group of young warriors during the Silla Dynasty (57 BC – 935 AD). They followed a code of ethics emphasising loyalty, courage, and integrity. This code laid the foundation for the philosophical principles in Taekwon-Do.

Another significant influence on Taekwon-Do was Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art known for its fluid, flowing movements and emphasis on kicks. Taekkyeon’s graceful techniques contributed to the development of the art’s distinctive kicking methods.

The Japanese Occupation and the Influence of Karate

During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), martial arts were suppressed, and Korean culture was heavily influenced by Japanese customs and practices. Korean practitioners of traditional martial arts continued to train secretly to preserve their heritage.

The influence of Japanese martial arts, particularly Karate, was significant during this period. Many Koreans who had learned Karate in Japan returned home and began incorporating its techniques into their traditional Korean martial arts.

The Emergence of Taekwondo

The term ‘Taekwon-Do’ itself was officially coined in 1955 by General Choi Hong-Hi, who is often regarded as the father of Taekwon-Do. General Choi, along with other martial artists, sought to unify and standardise various Korean martial arts into a single system. The name ‘Taekwon-Do’ reflects its emphasis on foot (Tae), hand (Kwon), and way (Do) – the way of using hands and feet in combat and self-improvement.

International Recognition

Taekwon-Do began to gain international recognition in the 1960s and 1970s. The International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) formed in 1966. In 1973, the World Taekwon-Do Federation (WTF) was established, which aimed to promote Taekwon-Do as a sport and was responsible for the development of standardised rules and competitions. The sport’s inclusion in the 1988 Seoul Olympics marked a significant milestone, further elevating Taekwon-Do’s global profile.

Modern Taekwon-Do

Modern Taekwon-Do is known for its emphasis on high, fast kicks, spinning and jumping kicks, and powerful hand techniques. It is practiced for various reasons, including self-defence, physical fitness, and personal development. Taekwon-Do has a strong philosophical component, teaching practitioners about self-discipline, respect, and the importance of integrity.


Taekwon-Do’s history and origins are deeply rooted in ancient Korean martial traditions, with influences from Hwa Rang Do, Taekkyeon, and Japanese martial arts. The development of Taekwon-Do as a unified system and its international recognition have made it one of the most popular martial arts in the world. Beyond self-defence and sport, Taekwon-Do embodies a philosophy of self-improvement and discipline, making it a valuable practice for individuals seeking both physical and mental growth.

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