1. History of TaeKwonDo
Tae means "to strike with the feet."
Kwon means "destroying with the hand or the fist."
Do means "way" or "method."
Like many areas of the world, Korea was influenced by its neighbors. In the earliest of times, Chinese nomadic tribes formed outposts along the northern-most areas of the current Korean peninsula. These nomads experienced continual conflict with northern tribes as they attempted to create their own unique civilization. This warring caused these tribes to eventually form their own governing hierarchies.
The outcome was the formation of three powerful kingdoms: the Koguryo (37BC) in the northern region, the Paekche (18BC) on the southwestern area of the peninsula and Silla (57BC), located on the southeastern plains of the peninsula. This era is referred to as the Three Kingdoms Period dating from 18BC-AD668.
It was during the Three Kingdoms Period that native martial arts, one of which was called Taek Kyon, are believed to have begun on the Korean peninsula, specifically in the Koguryo kingdom. The leading evidence of this is a mural painting on the ceiling of the Muyong-Chong tomb, which dates from AD3-AD427 (See image above).
The mural seems to depict two warriors engaged in open hand fighting. Open hand fighting, or fighting without weapons, is the base idea behind the formation of all martial arts and is one root in the history of tae kwon do.
Taekwondo is believed to be one of the oldest Oriental arts of unarmed self-defense. In ancient times, the Korean people were forced to fight to protect or regain their independence from the Chinese, the Scytho-Siberians of Central Asia, the Mongol Hordes, the Marauders, and the armies of Japan. As a result, characteristics that serve as the source of Taekwondo were created in the Korean people. These consisted of a fierce warrior spirit, an intense national loyalty, and an indominable will to survive.
Taekwondo derived from other forms of martial arts, but uniquely has a style all its own. It is very different from other martial arts in a few select areas. First, Taekwondo is physically very dynamic with active movements that include a mirage of foot-work skills. Second, the kicking action has progressed and continues to transform into an unmatched level of preeminence. Third, the principle physical movements are in relation to the mind and life as a whole.
Taekwondo has flourished and spread in popularity becoming the national sport of Korea. It has now become a global sport and has gained international recognition. It is included as part of the school curriculum from first grade through college and is required in the military. In July of 1980, at the Eighty-Third International Olympic Committee Session meeting in Moscow, the World Taekwondo Federation was granted IOC recognition and became a member of the Olympic Games. It was held as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Games in Korea and served officially as a full medal sport in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
2. Taekwondo, the Traditional Art of Korea
Korea's traditional martial art taekwondo is a form of wholesome exercise that has taken its place as a sport in worldwide competition.
But taekwondo is more than just a sport. It is also a performing art infused with the Korean spirit. The beauty of art is of two kinds, stable and dynamic. Stability is expressed in the contemplation that forms the mental component of taekwondo training with its emphasis on stillness in repose. More than other sports or martial arts, the movement style of taekwondo places mental cultivation above the skill. It has less to do with offense and defense than with the unity of mind and body that arises from the movement itself. When the body moves in union with the mind, we experience stillness in motion and movement at rest. Within this movement lies a mind in repose.
Dynamism is the beauty that is manifested in movement. In that the movement of the body expresses the thoughts of the mind, it is founded on the same principle as dance. The taekwondo costume consists of a white jacket and pants tied with a belt. The belt is an important part of the uniform and comes in five colors indicating the levels of achievement: white, yellow, blue, red, and black. Worn with some variations, it forms a large tie-string for the pants.
The dynamic element in the technique of taekwondo lies in the basic movements of the hands and feet. The fist and limbs are used in the block, punch, thrust, and chop, and the feet in kicking, each with various standing postures.
Skill in taekwondo is measured with a grading system in which the learner progresses from an ungraded beginner to a grade holder and then a holder of a dan or level of accomplishment. The grades are counted in reverse from 10th grade (the lowest) to 1st grade (the highest), while the dan progress from level 1 to level 9. The terms dan and dan holder are applied only to competitors aged fifteen or older, while for younger students who have reached the requisite level, the term pum is used instead.
Subyeok chigi is a traditional martial art unique to Korea. In the Goryeo period (918-1392) it was called subak or "hand hitting," while in the succeeding Joseon era (1392-1910) the Chinese character for "hitting" (bak) was either read with a different pronunciation (byeok) or replaced with a different character pronounced byeok and meaning "accumulation" or "habit."
Subyeok chigi was a form of training or combat in which the opponent was attacked mainly with the hands, and in the Joseon period it became one of the necessary qualifications of a warrior, along with archery, javelin throwing, and polo.
The theory behind subyeok chigi is that when the body adopts a straight posture and brings the palms together naturally without bending the arms, the center line is properly formed and the energy of the body is focused on the center line.
The most important aspect of training in subyeok chigi is the attitude of the body and mind. First, a sloppy posture must be corrected to a balanced and orderly stance. Second, the breath must be calm and steady, not rough or heavy. Third, the mind must be at peace.
With a tradition stretching back 2000 years to the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. - 668 A.D.), taekgyeon could be described as the root of Korean martial arts. Its graceful and unhurried movements combine swaying and swaggering, kicking, and tripping the opponent's legs to make him fall.
The movement style emphasizes smooth, supple bends in which offense and defense come together simultaneously. With cries of exertion and shouts of "Stop!" "I've stopped!" and "Oh no!" the opponents' feet move as nimbly as flitting butterflies.
The unusual footwork and the swaggering and strutting movements aim to make the opponent lose his target and weaken the force of his attack, while the fluid, creeping motion of the body lessens the impact of the blows. All these things make taekgyeon a unique traditional martial art of Korea.