Tae Kwan Do

The Japanese Martial Arts of Tae Kwan Do

Japanese Culture Tae Kwan Do

Introduction to Tae Kwan Do

Taekwondo has evolved by combining many different styles of martial arts that existed in Korea over the last 2,000 years and some martial arts styles from countries that surround Korea. Taekwondo incorporates the abrupt linear movements of Karate and the flowing, circular patterns of Kung-fu with native kicking techniques. However, Taekwondo is famed for its use of kicking techniques, which distinguishes it from martial arts such as Karate or southern styles of Kung fu. The rationale is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, and kicks thus have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. One defining kick of Taekwondo is the Back Kick which is usually exclusive to Taekwondo.

The name Taekwondo, however, has only been used since 1957 while the arts' roots began 2,300 years ago in Korea. Known as a martial art and way of life, the evolution of Taekwondo was a direct result of the happenings in Korea long ago, and knowledge of the history is an important step in understanding Taekwondo. The earliest records of Taekwondo practice date back to about 50 B.C. During this time, Korea was divided into three kingdoms: Silla, founded on the Kyongju plain in 57 B.C.; Koguryo, founded in the Yalu River Valley in 37 B.C.; and Paekje, founded in the southwestern area of the Korean peninsula in 18 B.C. Archeological findings during these times, such as the mural paintings on the royal tombs during the Koguryo period, stone sculptures at pagodas during the Silla period and documents written in the Paekje period, show techniques and fighting stances that were probably the first forms of Taekwondo. The paintings from this period, which have been found on the ceiling of the Muyong-chong, a royal tomb from the Koguryo dynasty, show unarmed people using techniques that are very similar to the ones used by Taekwondo today.

Silla unified the kingdoms after winning the war against Paekje in 660 A.D. and Koguryo in 668 A.D. The Hwa Rang Do, an elite group of young noble men, played an important role at this unification. They devoted to cultivating mind and body and served the kingdom Silla. The HwaRang Do had an honor-code and practiced various forms of martial arts, including Taekyon and Soo Bakh Do. The old honor-code of the HwaRang is the philosophical background of modern Taekwondo. The honor- codes are:

1. Be loyal to your king

2. Be obedient to your parents

3. Have honor and faith among friends

4. Have perseverance in battle

5. Justice never to take a life without cause

What followed was a time of peace. In 936 A.D. Wang Kon founded the Koryo dynasty, an abbreviation of Koguryo. The name Korea is derived from Koryo. The Koryo Dynasty was a time for growth and development in the martial arts. During this time unarmed combat gained its greatest popularity. Martial arts were on an upswing and even new styles began to appear. One such style was TaeKyon(also called Subak), which was considered the earliest known form of Taekwondo. Tae Kyon involved many more and new kicking techniques and was designed as more of a fighting sport than a discipline.

Modern-day Taekwondo is influenced by many other Martial Arts. The most important of these arts is Japanese Karate. This is because Japan dominated Korea during 1910 until the end of World War II. During WWII, lots of Korean soldiers were trained in Japan. The influences that Japan has given to Taekwondo are the quick, linear movements that characterize the various Japanese systems.

Within Korea there were five major martial art academies or Kwans. They were called Mooduk Kwan, Jido Kwan, Changmu Kwan, Chungdo Kwan, and Songmu Kwan. The way of teaching and employing many of the techniques varied as much as the schools. The Kwans united in 1955 as Tae Soo Do. In the beginning of 1957, the name Taekwondo was adopted by several Korean martial arts masters, for its similarity to the name TaeKyon.

Taekwondo today is just as exciting as ever. Taekwondo, under the leadership of the World Taekwondo Federation has grown into an international art and sport practiced in over 190 counties worldwide.  

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