Early Korean History

The earliest records of Martial Arts practiced in Korea date back to about 50 B.C. These early indigenous forms of the Korean martial arts were known as Taek Kyon. Other Archeological evidence of early Martial Art practice, including two stone carvings dating from the seventh century A.D., were found in a cave in southern Korea. These carvings represent a famous warrior, Kumkang-Yuksa, apparently executing a martial arts technique. Another early Korean Martial Art was known as Soo Bakh, meaning ‘Punching and Butting’.

Early Asian History

In the sixth century A.D., a Zen Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma journeyed from India to China and established Zen Buddhism at the Shoalin Temple in Hunan Province. He had instituted such a harsh method of training his students in the Buddhist Precepts that many of his followers fell in exhaustion. So Bodhidharma began to teach these students another method of physical and spiritual exercise to enable them to free themselves from exhaustion and achieve enlightenment. The essence of this doctrine was one of humility, to shun material desire, power, greed, and vanity. Later, this training method became a defensive fighting system named Kwon Bop. It is believe that Kwon Bop was spread throughout China, Korea, Okinawa, and Japan by traveling Zen Monks, where it may have commingled with local indigenous forms of the martial arts.

Origins of Modern TaeKwon-do

Japan occupied and dominated Korea from about 1910 until the end of the Second World War. During this time, the Japanese tried to erase all traces of the Korean culture including the Korean martial arts. The practice of martial arts in Korea did continue during this period, but had to be done in secret. As a boy in Korea, Choi, Hong Hi began his martial arts training to improve his rather frail condition. He was encouraged to learn Taek Kyon at the age of fifteen by his Calligraphy Master. Then, in 1938, he traveled to Japan to attend Tokyo University. Training in martial arts was permitted for Koreans living in Japan and while in Tokyo, Choi obtained his Black Belt (2nd Dan) in Shotokan Karate. On return from Japan he was imprisoned for a time in a Japanese Army jail because of his involvement in a Korean national liberation movement. Later he rose to the Rank of General in the Korean Army. That is how he became commonly known as “General Choi”.

After World War II, Korea became independent and several martial arts schools, called Kwans, arose. These were: Oh Do Kwan (founded by General Choi), Yun Moo Kwan, Chung Do Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, Ji Do Kwan, Chi Do Kwan, and Song Moo Kwan. The Kwans united in 1955 as Tae Soo Do. Then in 1957, General Choi proposed the name Taekwon-Do, because of its similarity to the name Taek Kwon. Some of the other Masters joined their schools in a new structure called the Korean Taekwon-Do Association with General Choi as President. Hence, today, General Choi is known as the Father of modern day Taekwon-Do.

Traditional Tae Kwon-do

The current form of Traditional Taekwon-Do was systematized by General Choi in the mid 1950’s . It was a natural progression from Taek Kyon and General Choi’s training in Karate. During this time, a special demonstration team of masters, led by General Choi, performed spectacular demonstrations throughout the world. These demonstrations introduced more and more people to the martial art known as Taekwon-Do. Master Kwon, Jae-Hwa was one of this elite group of masters selected to be a part of the goodwill mission. His team was assigned to bring Taekwon-Do to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. After the tour, Master Kwon remained in Germany and became the chief instructor of the German Taekwon-Do Association. He is known as the founder of European and Middle Eastern Taekwon-Do.