Although there are many myths and legends in regards to the roots and origins of Martial Arts, it had been generally accepted that the concept Martial Arts was introduced by an Indian Buddhist Monk called Bodhidharma (448-529 AD)
It was said that Bodhidharma traveled from an Indian Monastery to China, his purpose, to teach and instruct the Chinese in the area of Buddhism (Zen). Bodhidharma traveled to the Shaolin temple, there he introduced Buddhist monks to a form of mental and physical conditioning. Bodhidharma introduced a method of training that involved the incorporation of 18 set postures. These set postures imitated the positions, stances and forms of various Temple idols.
As a result of Bodhidharma’s training methods, these monks became formidable, the most formidable fighters in all of China. This style adopted by those within the Shaolin Temple was later to become known as Shaolin Boxing.
Just as Buddhism spread from India to China, it spread from China to other Asian countries as it grew in popularity. Countries such as the Philippines, Korea, Japan and Indonesia began to incorporate this idea within their culture.
This widespread adoption allowed similar widespread diversification between country to country in the way they used, practiced and implemented this new from of fighting. Furthermore, Martial Arts prompted increased interaction between nations, allowing for comparison and a further development of diversity and uniqueness between different styles.
It now became apparent, that different countries had incorporated martial arts not just into their culture, but also their culture into martial arts.
The history of Martial Arts within Korea can be traced back many hundreds of years to the three major kingdoms, Silla, Koguryo and Baek Je (6 th Century AD). During this time there was not only violence between opposing nations like the Japanese, but violence between kingdoms. Therefore, this further divided Martial arts not between nations but between countries, as different kingdoms incorporated their own theories and ideas in order to immerge the stronger. This was because the survival of a kingdom or a country was depended on the development of a strong army, and a strong army needed a strong method of fighting. It therefore became the duty of every warrior to master the fighting skills provided by their culture or face certain death.
During the Silla Dynasty, a very famous group of soldiers emerged, this group was to be known as the Hwa Rang warriors. What was unique about these warriors, is that they underwent as much mental as they did physical training. Furthermore, all the physical training they underwent required great strength in mind, activities like swimming in turbulent freezing cold rivers, climbing high hazardous mountains. It was understood by this unique group of soldiers that mastery of the body come as a result of mastery of the mind. Therefore the punishing of their bodies was not a test of their physical strength, but that of their mental. These men showed tremendous courage, ability and skill on the battlefields, combined with their undying loyalty and devotion to honour and philosophy made them legends. These Warriors gained the fear and respect of their most bitter of enemies. However, many of these brave warriors died in battle as young as 14 or 15.
The Hwa-Rang warrior took and oath and lived and died by a code, just as every true Taekwon-Do practitioner should:
Be Loyal to your King
Be obedient to your parents
Be honorable to your Friends
Never retreat in battle
Make a just Kill
This group of young warriors dominated this period of Korean military history, and despite being the smallest, contributed greatly to the Silla dynasty prevailing the most powerful out of the three Korean kingdoms. The arts of Taekyon and Soo Bak Gi flourished during the Koryo Dynasty (935 AD), after their defeat of the Silla Kingdom. During these times training
in Taekyon was compulsory for all soldiers, and its mastery was the only way of recognition, promotion and honour. Soldiers were given the opportunity to prove their skill at annual competitions which where held at the Kak Chon temple.
A mans fighting skill determined a great deal, not only did it determine his position within the military, but also Major Governmental positions.
Over the next thousand years, Martial arts within Korea remained deeply incorporated within its culture, however, it could be said that it became less pronounced, apart from military uses. In 1909 the Japanese occupied Korea, and with this they attempted to remove Martial Arts from the Korean sphere of life by banning its practice. This forced many Koreans to practice in secret, many traveled to other countries and tested the only major surviving martial art Taekyon, against other Martial Arts. This of course resulted in the improvement of the practitioners, but also the learning of new techniques from styles such as Jujitsu, Karate, Judo, Kung Fu and Tai Chi. During this occupancy our own father General Choi Hong Hi was imprisoned for 7 years, for an attempt to overthrow the Japanese military during his compulsory service into their armed forces. General Choi Hong Hi was later sentenced to death during his sentence, scheduled to take place on August 18th, 1944.
On the 16 th August 1944 Korea was liberated from Japanese occupation. Many Korean’s returned to their homeland, bringing back with them the knowledge gained from other styles abroad. Simultaneously the Republic of Korea (R.O.K) armed forces were formed. General Choi Hong Hi then a 2 nd Lieutenant and 2 nd Degree Shotokan Black Belt, began to instruct the soldiers of the Korean Military in unarmed combat. It is said that many other countries attempted to imitate our founders style of instruction for the benefit of their armed forces.
General Choi Hong Hi assembled the R.O.K demonstration teams, who where later to become famous for their amazing skills and their promotion of Taekwon-Do around the world, many of today’s famous Masters where among General Choi Hong Hi’s demonstration team.
It was not until 1955, that Taekwon-Do was officially given birth and to Korea’s national Martial art was named. A panel of instructors, politicians and historians most notably General Choi Hong Hi, gathered and gave the name to the world’s most dynamic, powerful, scientific and great art. It was here that the founder and father of Taekwon-Do was named, General Choi Hong Hi. Thus Taekwon-Do was named on the 11 th April 1955.