A Brief History of Taekwondo

According to legend, Taekwondo has its roots in ancient times when what we now know as the Korean peninsula was made up of three kingdoms: Koguryo, Baekje and Shilla. In the latter half of the 7th century AD the kingdom of Shilla, based in the south-east of the peninsula, eventually became the dominant force and, over a period of almost a three hundred years, unified the population into a single state. The strength of the kingdom of Shilla was based in its military might. The small and under-resourced kingdom had developed an aggressive and highly successful system of training the kingdom’s youth, known as Hwarangdo, that demanded a high level of loyalty, obedience and morality.

It is widely believed that taekwondo as it is practised today developed from a variety of sources, and may include martial techniques used by Hwarangdo. There is some evidence to support this including a depiction of two warriors in a taekwondo stance in the Bulguksa temple in Kyongju that dates back to the 8th century AD. Certainly the uniform or dobok worn today has its origins in the loose fitting jacket and pants and the system of coloured belts denoting rank used by Hwarangdo.

During the Japanese annexation of Korea during the first half of the 20th century, the practise of Korean martial arts was suppressed, however this ban was lifted in 1945. It took another 26 years for the Korean Taekwondo Association to be formed in 1972. The sport now known as taekwondo spread rapidly around the world and the first world taekwondo championships were held in 1973 with 17 countries taking part. The World Taekwondo Federation was formed in December of 1973.

Taekwondo became part of a rapidly growing martial arts scene in Australia during the mid 1960searly 1970s. The sport had its first Olympic appearance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney when an Australian, Lauren Burns, won gold, providing a massive boost in the sport’s public profile. Since 2000 the sport has continued to grow steadily, attracting people of all ages.

To learn more about the history of taekwondo, visit the Mountain Wolves website.

“The Complete Handbook of Taekwondo” by K. No, 1984, revised edition November 1992.
www.FightingArts.com includes a fascinating discussion of the history of taekwondo.


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