Archaeological findings in Korea found that an early form of taekwondo was practiced as far back as 2000 years ago. During the long history of Korea, taekwondo (originally called Subak and Takyon) evolved from a survival fighting system to a complete martial art. It became the ethical, mental and physical foundation of the Hwarang, the legendary warrior-knights of the Silla Dynasty.
Through the centuries, the art of taekwondo was preserved as part of the cultural and martial heritage of the nation. It was handed down from one generation to the next, and was refined and strengthened in the process. When invaders outlawed the practice, it was kept alive secretly, often in secluded monasteries.
The name taekwondo was officially adopted in 1955.
There are two main branches of taekwondo:
- ‘Traditional’ taekwondo generally refers to the martial art as it was established in the 1950s. The symbolism and traditional patterns represent elements of Korean culture, history and religious philosophy.
- ‘Sport’ taekwondo has developed in the decades since the 1950s and has a different focus from earlier forms, especially in terms of its emphasis on competition and speed (e.g. Olympic sparring).
Taekwondo is popular around the world and is the first national sport of Korea. It is included in the Korean school curriculum from first grade to college and it is a required practice for the Korean police and the military.
Today taekwondo is a traditional martial art, a self-defence system and a sport practised by millions of people across many countries.