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What is Taekwondo?


The word Taekwondo is composed of three parts:

"Tae" means "foot," "leg," or "to step on"
"Kwon" means "fist," or "fight"
"Do" means the "way" or "discipline"

If we put these three parts together, we can see two important concepts behind "Tae Kwon Do":

  1. Taekwondo is the right way of using Tae and Kwon 'fists and feet,' or all the parts of the body that are represented by fists and feet.

  2. It is a way to control or calm down fights and keep the peace. This concept comes from the meaning of Tae Kwon 'to put fists under control' [or 'to step on fists']. Thus Taekwondo means "the right way of using all parts of the body to stop fights and help to build a better and more peaceful world."



Taekwondo originated in Korea over 4000 years ago. One of the martial arts was Taekkyon which is where Taekwondo originated from. It was developed by the people as a means of defending oneself against intruders and wild animals as well as a means of building strength. In the ancient times, the martial art was valued to the extent that the youth who mastered the skills of Taekkyon were selected to become military officers.

Early in the 20th century Japanese soldiers invaded the Korean Peninsula. Korean soldiers put up a strong resistance using their Taekkyon techniques on many occasions thus the Japanese banned its practise since it threatened their rule. The martial art nearly became extinct if it were not for the few men who practised and taught secretly. Once Korea became liberated from Japan after World War II, Taekkyon experienced a huge boom in popularity. It was at this time the name Taekwondo was adopted for this art.

In 1971, Taekwondo was recognised as the national martial art of South Korea by gaining government support. The following year saw the founding of Kukkiwon in the capital city Seoul. This was set up as a central gymnasium as well as the site for various Taekwondo competitions. In 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was established with 108 nations as its members.

The popularity of Taekwondo saw it enter the Asian Games as an official sport in 1974. In 1980, the WTF became an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognised sports federation with Taekwondo entering the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a demonstration sport. The Sydney Olympics in the year 2000 saw Taekwondo make its debut as an official Olympic sport. In 2017 the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) changed its name to World Taekwondo (WT).

This is how Taekwondo, the most practiced traditional martial art in the world, has evolved into the sport and martial art as we know it today.

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Taekwondo demonstration at the Open Ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Olympics

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