The History of Ho-Am TaeKwonDo and the ITA
By: Stephanie Lamm - A Johnson's TaeKwonDo Blackbelt
Evidence of martial arts date back to 3000 B.C. when paintings of fighters using hand and foot techniques were found on ancient Egyptian tombs. Plato also mentions fighting without an opponent which is much like the modern day patterns TaeKwonDo artists practice. Though all of this led up to modern day martial arts, formal training can be dated back to 4000 years ago with the HwaRang warriors.
Before North and South Korea there was Korea, and long before that there were three kingdoms. They were the Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje. These kingdoms were constantly at war with one another and needed armies to defend themselves. The Silla dynasty during the sixth century was the first to develop martial arts to protect themselves. A group of soldiers called HwaRang were taught Taek Kyon, an early form of TaeKwonDo. They were well educated on battle plans and other military tactics as well as educated in their martial arts training. The lived by King Jin Heung's tenants which were: be loyal to your country, honor your parents, be faithful to your friends, never retreat in battle, and never to take a life without a just cause.
The art form later spread to public use and became a sport that was practiced on special occasions. The competitions were called Soobakhee. It was an important part of their culture and was treated with great respect. Sometimes they would use these contests to scout for future HwaRang warriors. Much fighting occurred during the time of the three kingdoms and eventually, thanks to the HwaRang and their strong military force, Silla came out on top in 688 A.D. This unified Korea and Taek Kyon became widely practiced as a recreational sport among the people of Korea.
The last dynasty of Korea was the Yi dynasty which ruled Korea from 1392-1910 and took an anti-military approach to their ways of life. Thus all martial arts practices were banned. The Taek Kyon artists would not give up though. Some martial arts schools went underground and practiced in secret. Since almost all communication was lost between the schools many different forms of present day TaeKwonDo were formed. When the Yi Dynasty was over martial arts was practiced openly again, but it was not as organized as before since all schools were practicing different slightly different styles. This caused much confusion and the sport became less popular among the citizens.
Once the separated groups started to merge, the Japanese invaded Korea and put an end to all "folklore-ish" practices such as Korean martial arts. TaeKwonDo was yet again forced to go into hiding and the groups drifted further apart. Once Japan withdrew from Korea there were many divisions and types of TaeKwonDo and it was much different from school to school. A man named Lee Won-Kuk was the first to organize TaeKwonDo and get all the separate groups to agree on a name, techniques, and philosophy that would become modern day TaeKwonDo.
TaeKwonDo still varies because of separate organizations such as the International TaeKwonDo Alliance, World TaeKwonDo Federation, and the American TaeKwonDo Association as well as many others. The basic movements are the same, but there are slight variations in belt ranks, philosophy, and location. TaeKwonDo is now a widely practiced and well respected art form. It contains remnants of its past and honors its roots, but has been modernized to accommodate the growing world around it. TaeKwonDo has an interesting history and has stood the test of time for over 4000 years.