Taekwondo history: how the sport came about

The history of Taekwondo is still quite young and only goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. The martial art from Korea was inspired by karate and enjoys great popularity today, and is also recognized as an Olympic discipline.

Taekwondo story

Creation of Taekwondo

The history of Taekwondo is closely linked to that of karate or Japan. We try to present the essential stages.

1910 – 1945 Taekwondo originated as such in the time when Korea belonged to Japan from 1910 to 1945. This is by no means due to the fact that there were no martial arts in Korea before. On the contrary: the practice of martial arts has always been represented as an important element of society in Korea and a martial arts teacher in Korea enjoyed a great social reputation.

The emergence of Taekwondo from karate can rather be related to the fact that the Japanese occupiers forbade everything that belonged to the culture of their oppressed. Coupled with the fact that the Japanese forcibly dispersed any gathering of Koreans for fear of rioting, this meant that the original Korean martial arts nearly died out. Many Koreans were expelled or chose to flee on their own.

[1945 Only after Korea gained independence in 1945 did some of them return and bring not only new courage but also knowledge of various martial arts. Lee Won-Kuk and Ro Byung-Jik, for example, had trained under the legendary karate style founder Gichin Funakoshi. At this point the 5 large “Kwan Schools” emerged, from which today’s Taekwondo emerged. The sport that was taught there they called Dangsudo, which is equivalent to a Korean pronunciation for the word karate.
1953 In 1953, Dangsudo was introduced to strengthen the body of all soldiers in the military.
1955 The word “Taekwondo” was first used on April 11, 1955 by Major General Choi Hong-Hi and its pronunciation is reminiscent of the Korean martial art Taekgyeon, even if there is no relationship. As a result of various disputes between the 5 Dangsudo schools and Choi Hong-Hi, this was not the starting shot for an internationally successful martial art, but just another small step.
1961 It was not until September 1961 that the Korean Taesoodo Association (KTA) was founded, the name Taesoodo being chosen as a compromise from various proposals.
1981-94 In 1981 Taekwondo was recognized as an Olympic discipline by the IOC. In the following Olympics in 1988 and 1992 in Seoul and Barcelona, ​​it was performed as a demonstration sport and is now a full-fledged Olympic sport.

It is interesting that Taekwondo was geared towards competition from the start. Due to the decades of disputes between the two large associations, however, several Taekwondo styles developed, which are still operated separately today. National associations can usually be assigned to one of the two large organizations WTF or ITF.

1. Verband: International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF)

In 1965 Choi Hong-Hi became KTA President, immediately changed the name to Taekwondo and sought international dissemination. A year later, in March 1966, he resigned because of increasing disputes and became president of the newly founded International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). The “Kukkiwon”, which is the “headquarters of Taekwondo”, was built in 1972 and the then KTA President Kim Un-Yong became its chairman.

The ITF prefers a style that provides only light contacts and therefore only needs hand and foot protection. Foot and hand techniques are performed in many variations on the head and torso.

2. Association: World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)

After Choi Hong-Hi had relocated the ITF headquarters to Toronto in Canada due to tensions, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was founded in Seoul in 1973 on the occasion of the first World Cup in Kukkiwon. Kim Un-Yong also became president. In the following years, Kim worked harder to dissolve the 5 original “Kwan schools” in order to bring uniformity to Taekwondo and was, despite resistance, successful.

The WTF style is most popular in the world as an Olympic competitive sport with over 200 associations and over 300 million members. In order to be accepted as an Olympic discipline, techniques had to be sorted out. Full contact with full protection is fought, with hand techniques to the head and foot techniques against the legs are forbidden.

The disputes with Choi and the ITF, however, lasted for decades and were never finally settled. Today, however, both organizations are represented worldwide. Traditional Taekwondo styles prefer to fight without protection. Almost all techniques that Taekwondo knows are allowed, except for very dangerous techniques that attack the neck, for example. As in karate, the attacks are stopped in front of the opponent.

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