House of Korea
Kicking It in the Land of the Morning Calm
Taekwondo (Tae Kwon Do, Taekwon-Do) has become a popular art and sport in many countries. But its roots reach far back into ancient history. 1300 years ago the Hwa Rang warriors (young soldiers sometimes compared to the Japanese Samurai) developed an unarmed fighting art known as Subak and later, Taekyon. The fighting arts eventually became less popular and at one point were actually banned and survived only by being practiced in secret.
In 1910, Japan overran Korea and outlawed Korean customs and any martial practice. Many Koreans left the country to try and find better conditions in China or even in Japan itself. They were exposed to other fighting arts such as Chinese Kung Fu and Japanese Jujutsu and Karate. At the end of World War II Korea was liberated from the Japanese occupation by the USA and her Allies. Thousands came back home to openly practice both the traditional Korean systems and the other Asian styles. Several new martial arts schools sprang up.
In 1955 the leading teachers wanted to try and unify the many schools under one name. It is said that Korean army general Choi Hong Hi suggested the name Taekwondo (the “way of kicking and punching”) and it was eventually accepted by many Korean practitioners. Some refused however and continued to practice under their previous names—most notably Tang Soo Do (the “way of the China hand”—the Korean translation of the original name of Karate).
Although there are still several “styles” of taekwondo taught around the world, the “official” South Korean system was voted into the Olympics in 2000 and helped to make it one of the most popular martial arts around. Other Korean martial arts practiced today are Hapkido (a Korean version of Aikido), and Hwa Rang Do (a modern takeoff on the ancient style).