Like many styles of martial arts, Tae Kwon Do traces its history back through time to India, two thousand years B.C. According to legend, Buddhist monks traveling throughout the East spread not only religious beliefs, but also primitive techniques of fighting using the head, hands and feet, which were developed for self-defense against wild animals and bandits.
In the sixth century A.D., a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma journeyed from India to China and founded the Zen Buddhist temple of Ko San So Rim. He demanded strict physical and mental discipline of his Chinese followers, and when many of them became exhausted by the intense regimen, he introduced a series of exercises to help them attain enlightenment. Working at these exercises, which were abstract forms of the Indian system of open-handed fighting, Bodhidharma monks became the most Formidable fighters in China. They named their style Kwon Bop, and it is thought that Kwon Bop was later spread throughout Korea, Japan, and Okinawa (a part of the Japanese Island chain) to become the base style upon which all other Asian martial art styles are modeled.
In Korea, around 1,400 years ago, a group of young aristocrats formed a fighting force called the Hwa Rang Dan to defend their Kingdom. They took the early method of self-defense and discipline taught by the Buddhist monks and added fighting styles learned from studying wild animals in the mountains to create Soo Bak Do or Tae Kyun (‘the art of kicking, punching & butting”).
Soo Bak Do gained in popularity through time, especially so in Koryo dynasty (935 A.D. to 1392 A.D.). It is from the Koryo dynasty that Korea gets its modern name. At one point during the Yi dynasty (founded in 1392) Soo Bak Do had become the national sport and anyone who wished military employment had to learn it, as it was part of the military service exam. Nevertheless, in the latter part of the Yi dynasty, literature and painting replaced martial arts in the public eye and became much less practiced.
From the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 through World War II, Korea was involved in constant military conflicts with China and Japan. During this time the foreign fighting styles affected those of Korea, and in 1945 many Koreans began to revitalize the Korean national sport, calling it Tae Kwon Do to differentiate it from Tang Soo Do and to have a sport more traditionally Korean. It was enthusiastically practiced and has spread around the globe as one of the most popular forms of martial arts in the world.
What is Tae Kwon Do?
Simply put, Tae Kwon Do (“the way of the hand and foot”) is a system of unarmed self-defense applications incorporating the abrupt, linear motions of Japanese Karate as well as the flowing, circular movements of Chinese Kung Fu. Tae Kwon Do is well known for its formidable repertoire of devastating kicks. Most of the exciting, jumping, spinning and flying kicks used in the movies today are Tae Kwon Do kicks.
There is more to the art than just fighting, though, it takes dedication and perseverance as well as focus, self-discipline, and self-control to excel in the martial arts. While learning to master their bodies through the Tae Kwon Do curriculum, students learn to master their minds as well.