5 Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Taekwondo

Two boys competing in a taekwondo tournament.

Taekwondo is one of the most popular martial arts across the globe. Originating in South Korea, this fighting style is known for its head-height kicks and lightning fast moves. Here at Rocky Top Sports World, we love to host taekwondo tournaments at our 86,000 square foot indoor complex! To prepare for our latest taekwondo event, we have put together five interesting facts about the history of taekwondo:

1. Taekwondo Emerged After World War II

People in Korea have practiced martial arts since the prehistoric era! However, taekwondo has more modern origins. After the Japanese occupation of Korea ended in 1945, new martial arts schools known as “kwans” opened in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. These kwans were founded by Koreans who had studied in Japan during the occupation, where they were exposed to the Japanese martial arts of karate, kendo, and judo. Drawing on elements from Japanese martial arts, Chinese martial arts, and native Korean martial arts, the kwans developed new methods of self defense that would become taekwondo.

2. The President of South Korea Helped Unify the Country’s Martial ArtsA taekwondo class.

An important moment in the history of taekwondo occurred in 1952, when South Korean President Syngman Rhee watched a martial arts demonstration by the military. After the demonstration, President Rhee encouraged the kwans to take the various martial arts styles in their respective schools and merge them into one unified discipline. The Korea Taekwondo Association (founded in 1959) and the International Taekwon-Do Federation (established in 1966) both developed unified taekwondo styles.

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3. Taekwondo is a Very Logical Name

Taekwondo is actually a combination of three Chinese/Korean words. “Tae” means to kick or jump; “kwon” means fist or hand, and “do” means “the way”. Taken all together, the word taekwondo is sometimes loosely translated to “The Way of the Hand and Foot”.

4. Taekwondo Draws on Physics

Choi Hong Hi, the South Korean army general who founded the International Taekwon-Do Federation, based many of the principles of the martial arts discipline on physics. For example, General Choi drew on Isaac Newton’s laws of motion to determine that speed is more important than size when striking an opponent. Choi’s “theory of power” is still influential in taekwondo today.

A woman training in taekwondo.5. Taekwondo is One of Two Martial Arts in the Olympics

Taekwondo was featured in the opening ceremony of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, and in 2000, taekwondo became an official medal event. Taekwondo and judo are the only two Asian martial arts included in the Olympic Games. Since its addition to the Olympics, South Korea has won a total of 19 medals in taekwondo, while China has earned 10, and the United States has taken home 9.

If reading about the history of taekwondo piqued your interest in the sport, you’re in luck! Rocky Top Sports World will host The Forge III Taekwondo Competition on March 4, 2017. This awesome tournament will feature a variety of events, many of which include traditional and combat weapons. The competition is open to the public, and spectator admission is only $5. To learn more about the tournament, check out our Smoky Mountain Sports Tournaments & Events page!