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Taekwondo (태권도) is a traditional Korean martial art, self defence system and Olympic sport. Taekwondo is South Korea's national sport and is the world's most popular martial art with an estimated 70 million practitioners world wide.
'Tae' (태) means to jump, kick or smash with the feet, 'Kwon' (권)
means to block, punch, strike or smash with the hand or fist and 'Do' (도) means the 'Art' or 'Way'. Thus, Taekwondo translates as
'The Way of the Hand and Foot' or 'The Art of Hand and Foot Fighting'.
Taekwondo training offers many benefits; improve fitness, focus
and self esteem. Lose weight and increase muscle-tone, strength
and flexibility, all whilst learning valuable self defence skills and improving confidence.
A Brief History
Records of the earliest known forms of Taekwondo, known as
Taekkyon and Subak, date back to about 50 B.C. During this time, Korea was divided into 3 kingdoms; Silla, Koguryo and Paekche. Paintings from this time period have been found in tombs and caves, depicting Taekkyon practitioners using techniques that are virtually identical to some of those used in modern day Taekwondo.
Warriors from these 3 kingdoms used their martial arts skills to defend against frequent attacks from Japanese, Chinese and Mongolian armies. An elite group of Sillan warriors, known as the 'Hwarang' are credited with the early growth and spread of Taekkyon / martial arts throughout Korea.
The practice of Korean martial arts was banned during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1909-1945). Many Koreans organised
themselves into underground groups and practised the martial arts in remote Buddhist temples. In 1945 Korea was liberated and the first Taekwondo school (Kwan) was opened in Seoul. Many schools, with various different names, then emerged - each emphasising a different aspect of Korean martial arts. In 1955 many of these schools and masters decided that it would be mutually beneficial to merge their various styles. The schools united and the name 'Taekwondo' was introduced.
Taekwondo's surge in popularity continued as it spread rapidly
from the Korean Armed Forces to High Schools and Universities throughout Korea. In 1961 the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was established and the various Kwans were unified under one organisation. The KTA dispatched instructors and demonstration
teams throughout the world.
In 1966 a few members of the KTA broke away and formed the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), relocating to Canada.
The KTA severed ties with the ITF and established the 'Kukkiwon',
World Taekwondo Headquarters, in Seoul in 1973, creating a new
international governing body, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF).
The WTF was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1980, with Taekwondo making its debut as a demonstration sport at the Seoul 1988 Olympics and then again in Barcelona 4 years later. Taekwondo became a full Olympic Sport at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The WTF continues to promote, expand and develop the worldwide practice of Taekwondo as well as sanction international Taekwondo competition and events globally.