A History of Taekwondo


In this section:

  1. Ancient Times
  2. Period of Three Kingdoms
  3. Koryo Dynasty
  4. Yi (or Chosun) Dynasty
  5. Japanese Colonisation of Korea
  6. Modern day Taekwondo
  7. Chung Do Kwan (the first School)
  8. The Lineage for Chun Ma Taekwondo
  9. Key Facts for Students

Previous < Ancient Times


Japanese Colonisation of Korea (1910AD ~ 1945AD) Up

Following a long term plan of increased financial and political influence resulting in various agreements to manage Korean affairs the Japanese government finally gained complete control over Korea on August 22, 1910, with the signing of the annexation treaty by the then Prime Minister. All of this happened without the approval of the Korean people and it was fully a week after the treaty was signed that King Sunjong was forced to issue a proclamation yielding up both his throne and his country.

The main reason Japan had annexed Korea was to enhance the prosperity of the Japanese people, and in later years serve as a springboard for Japan's invasion of China.

In the following years Japanese colonial rule tightened its' grip on the Korean economy and the people. Japanese businesses were given preferential treatment and took advantage of Korea's natural resources. Local Korean customs, particularly the practice and teaching of any form of martial arts were banned although many still practiced Taekwondo in secret.

During this period the Japanese took some of the Korean Masters to Japan and made them teach techniques to the Japanese military. In this way a number of Taekwondo techniques were introduced and incorporated into the Japanese martial art of Karate. Later, in 1943, after suppressing Korea's own martial art, the Japanese introduced Karate to Korea and allowed the teaching and practice of this martial art to the Korean people.

Following the end of the second World War, Japan also, at last surrendered unconditionally and on August 15, 1945, Korea was finally liberated from Japanese colonial rule.

Modern Day Taekwondo Up

Following the war, there were 5 principle schools (Kwans). These were:

  • Chung Do Kwan (founded in 1944)
  • Moo Duk Kwan (founded in 1945)
  • Song Moo Kwan (founded in 1946)
  • Jido Kwan (founded in 1946 formerly as Yun Moo Kwan)
  • Chang Moo Kwan (founded in 1947)

These closed during the Korean War and reopened when it ended in 1953. General Choi Hong Hi (founder of the International Taekwondo Federation) was a former member of Chung Do Kwan (the first school to open in 1944) as an honorary 4th Dan. This was rescinded by Son Duk Sung in a statement published on 15 Jun 1959 in the Seoul Shinmoon newspaper. General Choi formed the Oh Do Kwan school in 1954.

By the mid-1950's, a further three Kwans had emerged giving a total of nine. The additional three were: Jung Do Kwan (1954), Han Moo Kwan (1956) and Kang Duk Kwan (1956).

The founders of the first five kwans had tried and failed to form an association between World War II and the Korean War. On April 11, 1955 Choi presided at a naming committee meeting at which "Taekwondo" was first proposed. Son Duk Sung says that he passed a piece of paper to Choi suggesting it and Choi took credit for it. No one other than those two would really know. Regardless, although the committee accepted the name, the kwans did not, because only the Chung Do Kwan and Oh Do Kwan (a Chung Do Kwan offshoot) were represented at the meeting. Most of the other kwans wanted to use the name Kong Soo Do. During the war a Korea Kong Soo Do Association was formed by most of the kwan heads. But Hwang Kee (Moo Duk Kwan founder) left and formed his own Korea Tang Soo Do Association, later renaming it Korea Soo Bakh Do Association. Choi in 1959 created a Korea Taekwondo Association but again there was lots of political infighting (there were 14 kwans by this time), and despite the desire to unify all the kwans were basically doing their own thing. The Ministry of Defence requested that a single organisation be formed, and finally in September 1961 a series of unification meetings were held. The compromise name "Tae Soo Do" was agreed on (Tae from Taekwondo, Soo from Kong Soo Do), and the Korea Tae Soo Do Association was created. This time the unification took, despite Hwang Kee again leaving after a while to do his own thing. Finally Taekwondo had the organisation it needed to become the national sport of Korea.

When Choi became president of the KTA in 1965, he was able to get its name changed to the Korean Taekwondo Association (NOT the same as the former Korea Taekwondo Association). So over the period, there were 3 different KTAs, none existing at the same time.

Circa 1966 Choi formed the International Taekwondo Federation and left Korea and the KTA moving the headquarters to Canada.

On 30 November 1972, the Kukkiwon (also known as the World Taekwondo Headquarters) was established in the Gangnam-gu district of Seoul, South Korea.

The WTF (formed on 28 May 1973) governs the competition aspects of Taekwondo as the International Federation member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The Kukkiwon and the WTF are separate organisations, although the two are often confused with each other. The WTF was the bridgehead to promote Taekwondo sparring as an international sport, now having made it an official sport of the 2000 Summer Olympics (Sydney) after participation in the 1988 Summer Olympics (Seoul) and 1992 Summer Olympics (Barcelona) as a demonstration sport.

Next > Chung Do Kwan (1944 onwards)