Taekwondo is a martial art from Korea that emphasizes striking techniques in both forms and sparring. It is the official sport of South Korean and TKD sparring has been an Olympic event since 1988. Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on kicking. The reason is because TKD practitioners recognize the leg’s superior power and reach over that of the arms. While punching techniques are used in sparring and forms, the legs are trained in much greater detail. Because of this, Taekwondo is popular with both men and women independent of age or size - the legs of a small woman have plenty of power to stop someone much larger and more powerful if the kick is placed skillfully.
The history of Taekwondo starts in the Three Kingdoms period of Korean history. Archeological evidence dates this period to be from about 57 BC until around 668. The Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla Kingdoms all had regional martial arts styles. Subak, an art form that originated in the northern kingdom of Goguryeo, was heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts since that kingdom often was warring with neighboring Chinese Kingdoms. It was a mostly weaponless martial art using kicks, punches, joint locks, and throws. As the Goguryeo kingdom’s power grew, it began to try to exert influence over the southern Silla Kingdom. The Silla Kingdom had a variation on Subak called Taekkyon and was practiced by an elite warrior class called the Hwarang.
The Three Kingdom period ends with Goguryeo’s defeat by the Silla Kingdom around 668. The martial arts of these kingdoms continued to be handed down through history in the military and in families. While the Joseon Period brought a decline to all Korean Martial arts styles, the Japanese occupation and attempted cultural suppression brought about a renewed interest or Korean History, Culture, and Martial Arts among the Korean people. In the mid 1950s, the South Korean Government encouraged the smaller martial arts schools in Korea to unify under one governing body to promote and refine a national martial art system. On April 11, 1955, the name Taekwondo was accepted and the process of unification began.
There are two main promotional bodies in Taekwondo - The International Taekwondo Federation (unofficially headquartered in Pyongyang, North Korea) and the World Taekwondo Federation (recognized by the Olympics and closely tied to the Kukkiwon in Seoul, South Korea). Our school does all of its certification through the World Taekwondo Federation.
The World Taekwondo Federation website can be found here.