History of taekwondo

The origins of the sport now known as taekwondo are unclear, but there are three established possibilities. One is that the sport goes back to Korea’s three-kingdom era (50 B.C.), when Silla Dynast warriors, known as the Hwarang, spread a traditional martial art known as tae kyon – meaning “foot-hand” – throughout the country. Another is that taekwondo began as a form of Chinese boxing, started at Shaolin Temple in 520 by Bodhidharma, the legendary Indian monk and founder of Zen Buddhism. The final is that taekwondo is an offshoot of Japanese or Okinawan karate. In general, it is believe that in some fashion, taekwondo is a blending of other Asian martial arts with a Korean form of punching and kicking.

However it started, there is no question that the sport became popular in Korea. When Japan occupied Korea in 1909, Korean martial artists claim to have played a key part in the resistance. During the war during the 1950s, Korean martial arts received more notice because many of the Korean troops had been trained in taekwondo. In 1955, leaders of some Korean martial arts schools tried to set up an authoritative-style of martial arts that could be promoted national and internationally. Taekwondo was chosen as the name, and the general of the Korean armed forces, Hong Hi-Choi, was designated as the official founder. The multi-volume encyclopedia of taekwondo he eventually published serves as the sport’s bible.

In 1973, the Korean government recognized the World Taekwondo Federation as the governing international body of the sport. Taekwondo was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and at the 1992 Games, before receiving full status at the Sydney Games.

How it works

A taekwondo contest involves two athletes, “Chung” (blue) and “Hong” (red), trying to earn points by landing kicks to the opponent’s head and body, or punches to the body. A contestant can win by knocking out the opponent (which is rare at the elite level), by scoring the most points, by default (if the opponent earns four penalty points), or by disqualification of the opponent. When there is a 12-point difference between the two athletes at the time of the completion of the second round, and/or at any time during the third round, the referee shall stop the contest and shall declare the winner by point gap. A contest consists of three rounds of two minutes each, with one-minute rest periods between rounds. At the start of a contest, the competitors stand at attention and bow to each other, on the referee’s Korean commands of “cha-ryeot” (attention) and “kyeong-rye” (bow) respectively. The referee then calls out “joon-bi” (ready) and the “shi-jak” (start) to begin the match.