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Korean Martial Arts – a brief history

Korean Martial Arts – a brief history

Korean Martial Arts

The history of Korean martial arts, often referred to as “Muye” or “Muyedobotongji,” is rich and diverse, with a lineage that dates back thousands of years. They have been influenced by various factors, including indigenous Korean fighting systems, Chinese martial arts, Japanese martial arts, and more.

Here’s an overview of the history of Korean martial arts:

  1. Ancient Korea:
    • Korea has a long history of indigenous martial arts, some of which were documented in ancient texts such as the “Samguk Sagi” and “Samguk Yusa.” These texts mention the use of martial arts in battles and competitions as far back as the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC – 668 AD).
  2. Influence from China:
    • During the Three Kingdoms period, Korean warriors were exposed to Chinese martial arts techniques through cultural exchanges and conflicts with Chinese forces.
  3. Silla Dynasty:
    • The Silla Kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD) is known for developing a unique martial art called “Hwa Rang Do.” The Hwa Rang were an elite group of young warriors who trained in various combat skills, ethics, and philosophy.
  4. Goryeo Dynasty:
    • The Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) saw further development of Korean martial arts. The “Muyejebo,” an illustrated manual, documented various martial techniques, weapons, and training methods during this period.
  5. Joseon Dynasty:
    • The Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) contributed significantly to the codification and organization of martial arts. The “Muyejebo Beonyeok” (1599) and “Muyedobotongji” (1790) are important texts that outlined the various martial techniques of the time.
  6. Japanese Occupation:
    • During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), many aspects of Korean culture, including martial arts, were suppressed. Some Korean martial arts masters continued to practice in secret.
  7. Post-World War II:
    • After World War II and the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule, martial arts experienced a revival. Various martial arts schools and organizations were established. Taekwondo, a Korean martial art known for its high kicks and dynamic movements, was officially recognized in 1955.
  8. International Recognition:
  9. Other Korean Martial Arts:
    • Besides Taekwondo, there are many other Korean martial arts with distinct styles and techniques. Some of these include Hapkido, Tang Soo Do, Kuk Sool Won, and more.
  10. Modern Developments:
    • In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional Korean martial arts and their historical roots. Efforts to preserve and promote these arts continue.

Korean martial arts are diverse, encompassing striking techniques, grappling, self-defense, and traditional weapon forms. They emphasize not only physical prowess but also mental discipline and moral values.

Their history reflects the nation’s cultural heritage and its enduring commitment to preserving these ancient traditions.

korean martial arts

What are some of the characteristics of the different martial arts of Korea ?

  1. Taekwondo:
    • Kicks: Taekwondo is renowned for its high, fast, and powerful kicks, including the roundhouse/turning kick, sidekick, and axe/downward kick.
    • Emphasis on speed and agility: Taekwondo practitioners focus on quick and precise movements.
    • Forms or Patterns (Poomsae / Tul): Practitioners learn a series of choreographed movements to develop technique and discipline.
    • Competitive Sparring: Taekwondo features Olympic-style sparring (WT), with points awarded for controlled and accurate kicks or Traditional type sparring (ITF) which also features more emphasis on hand techniques as well as kicks.
  2. Hapkido:
    • Joint locks and throws: Hapkido places a strong emphasis on joint manipulation, throws, and locks for self-defense.
    • Circular motions: Techniques often use circular movements to redirect an opponent’s force.
    • Pressure points: Hapkido practitioners may target specific pressure points for incapacitation.
    • Practical self-defense: Hapkido is known for its practical and versatile self-defense applications.
  3. Tang Soo Do:
    • Hand and foot techniques: Tang Soo Do incorporates both hand and foot techniques, often focusing on powerful strikes.
    • Forms (Hyung): Forms help develop discipline, balance, and technique.
    • Traditional uniforms: Practitioners wear doboks with specific belt colors to denote rank.
    • Focus on discipline and respect: Tang Soo Do emphasizes the mental and spiritual aspects of martial arts.
  4. Kuk Sool Won:
    • Comprehensive system: Kuk Sool Won encompasses a wide range of techniques, including strikes, joint locks, throws, and weapons.
    • Forms (Hyung): Practitioners learn forms that include various techniques and combinations.
    • Weapons training: Kuk Sool Won includes training with traditional Korean weapons like the staff, sword, and fan.
    • Healing techniques: It incorporates traditional Korean healing methods and acupressure.
  5. Gumdo (Kumdo):
    • Swordsmanship: Gumdo focuses on the use of the Korean sword, known as the “katana.”
    • Forms (Hyung): Practitioners learn various forms that simulate combat scenarios with the sword.
    • Cutting practice: Students often practice precision cutting with a sharp blade on bamboo or straw targets.
    • Emphasis on discipline and etiquette: Gumdo places importance on the mental aspects of martial arts.
  6. Sunmudo:
    • Meditation and breathing: Sunmudo combines martial arts with meditation and deep breathing exercises for physical and mental well-being.
    • Circular movements: Techniques involve circular motions and flowing forms.
    • Stress relief and relaxation: Sunmudo aims to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
    • Minimal contact sparring: Sunmudo typically avoids heavy sparring, focusing more on meditation and energy cultivation.

These are just a few examples of Korean martial arts, each with its own unique characteristics, techniques, and philosophies. Additionally, there are many more traditional and modern variations within the Korean martial arts spectrum.

Happy 68th Anniversary Taekwondo

Happy 68th Anniversary Taekwondo

Happy 68th AnniversaryOn April 11th, 2023 we celebrate the Happy 68th Anniversary Taekwondo with practitioners from around the World and on social media.

The name Taekwondo is derived from the Korean word “Tae” meaning foot, “Kwon” meaning fist and “Do” meaning way of. So, literally Taekwondo means “the way of the foot and fist”.

Whilst various versions of Taekwondo history would have it dating back centuries, the name Taekwondo, however, has only been used since April 11th, 1955.

CHECK OUR TAEKWONDO HISTORY PAGE

It is important to note, this is several years before the formation of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), and even more years before the existence of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF).

This original TaeKwonDo began as military training tool for actively serving forces, which later became a martial art accessible to the public, and today features a large sports component, as can be evidenced by the many tournaments, including the Olympic Games.

While a combination of politics, nationalism and other factors saw Taekwon-Do split into these 2 major streams decades ago, not to mention the abundance of offshoots and variations that exist today, we should embrace that it is a celebration for us all.

We were fortunate in Australia to have had the opportunity to attend many General Choi Hong Hi seminars, Happy 68th Anniversaryparticularly through the 1990’s, when he was a regular visitor to our shores, and then with the next generation of grandmasters and pioneers, as well as his son own Grandmaster Choi Jung Hwa.

Today thousands of instructors carry on the legacy of those original pioneers in all varieties of Taekwondo, whether as a sport or martial art, or a combination of both.

Visit the General Choi Hong Hi seminars page to view some of those seminars, as they are archival in nature, sound and picture quality may vary, we hope you will enjoy them.

Subscribe to our YouTube page to see more seminar clips as we launch them, along with lots of other great items.

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ITF Taekwon-Do

ITF – Happy 57th Birthday

ITF – Happy 57th Birthday

ITF Taekwon-Do logo

The International Taekwon-Do Federation, ITF,  is the first international taekwondo organization, founded on March 22, 1966, by General Choi Hong Hi, the Founder of Taekwon-D0, in Seoul, South Korea.

The ITF was founded to promote and encourage the growth of the Korean martial art of Taekwon-Do.

ITF General Choi Hong HiGeneral Choi Hong Hi served as the Inaugural President of the ITF from 1966, until his death in 2002.

The main functions of the ITF include coordinating tournaments, conducting technical seminars, setting the technical standards for the teaching of General Choi’s art, working with affiliated member organizations, to oversee promotions in Degree rank and ITF certifications.

In 1965 General Choi, a retired two-star general, was appointed by the Government of the Republic of Korea to lead a goodwill mission to West Germany, Italy, Turkey, United-Arab Republic, Malaysia, and Singapore.

This trip is significant in that for the first time in Korean history,  Taekwon‑Do was declared as the national martial art of Korea.

ITF PlaqueThe international promotion of Taekwon-Do was the basis not only for establishing National Taekwon‑Do Associations in these countries, but also the formation of the International Taekwon‑Do Federation (ITF).

On the 22nd of March, 1966, the International Taekwon‑Do Federation was formed with associations in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, the United States, Turkey, Italy, Arab Republic of Egypt and Korea.

In the proceeding years, affiliated National Organizations were set up in many more countries around the World.

In 1971, the South Korean president Park Chung Hee began to use Taekwon-Do as anti-communist political propaganda. General Choi, feeling fiercely against this, went into exile in Canada, and the ITF Headquarters was relocated.

General Choi continued to teach Taekwon-Do throughout the world, and in 1974 he organised the first Taekwon-Do World Championship in Montreal.

The administrative headquarters later relocated again, to Vienna, Austria, where it was for the remainder of General Choi’s lifetime.

See General Choi bio

general choi hong hi seminar

General Choi Death Anniversary

General Choi Death Anniversary

General Choi Death Anniversary

General Choi Hong Hi – Founder of Taekwon-DoToday marks another General Choi Death Anniversary marking a further year since the passing of the legendary Founder of Taekwon-Do, General Choi Hong Hi.

Grandmasters, Masters and students around the globe will reflect on the General’s influence and continue to keep his legacy alive through the continued promotion and growth of ITF Taekwon-Do

In 2000, General Choi, the Founder of Taekwon-Do, was announced by Taekwon-Do Times magazine, as the most influential martial artist on the century.

General Choi ITF Taekwon-Do

General Choi Hong Hi

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General Choi is regarded as the Founder of Taekwon-do and served as President of the International Taekwon-do Federation (I.T.F.) for many years. He sadly passed away in June 2002, after a long battle with cancer.

The Taekwon-Do Founder, General Choi Hong Hi (dec) was born on November 9th, 1918 in the rugged and harsh area of Hwa Dae, Myong Chung District, in what is now D.P.R of Korea . A sickly but willful child, he was expelled from school at the age of 12 for leading a protest against the occupying Japanese.

Later, Choi Hong Hi travelled to Japan, where he studied English, mathematics, and karate. In Kyoto, he met a fellow Korean with the surname Kim, who was a karate instructor and taught Choi this martial art. Choi also learned Shotokan under Gichin Funakoshi,  the founder of Shotokan karate-do, perhaps the most widely known style of karate, and is known as a “father of modern karate”

Just before he had left Korea, Choi had a disagreement with a wrestler named Hu, and the possibility of a future confrontation inspired him to train. In his own words, he said “I would imagine that these were the techniques I would use to defend myself against the wrestler, Mr. Hu, if he did attempt to carry out his promise to tear me limb from limb when I eventually returned to Korea”.

With two years of concentrated training, Choi attained the rank of first degree black belt, and then 2nd Degree soon after. These techniques, together with Taek Kyon (foot techniques), were the forerunners of modern Taekwon-Do.

General Choi’s military career began in 1937, when he was forced, as were all Korean soldiers, to join the Japanese army as a student volunteer, during Japan’s occupancy of Korea.

On his return to Korea in 1942, he hid to avoid conscription into the Japanese Army, but was eventually caught, and in October 1943 began his basic training. He was soon arrested during an attempt to escape and join the underground Korean Liberation Army. Sent to Pyung Yang prison for treason, he was due to have been executed on August 18 1945, three days after Korea was liberated.

While in prison, to alleviate the boredom and keep physically fit, Choi began practicing this art in the solitude of his cell. In a short time, even his cellmate and jailer became students of his.

In 1945, Choi enrolled in the Koreans Military Academy, later to be commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant in 1946. By 1948, he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was a Taekyon instructor for the military troops of the R.O.K. and the American Military Police School based in Korea.

On the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, Choi hurried back to Korea, where he was ordered to set up an officer training academy. In 1952 he was appointed chief of staff of the First Corps, and soon found himself briefing General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the United Nations troops, on the situation at the front line.

From 1946 to 1951, Choi received promotions to first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and then brigadier general, becoming Chief of staff to the Korean Army.

The year 1953 was an eventful one for the General, in both his military career and in the progress of the new martial art. He became the author of the first authoritative book on military intelligence in Korea.
 
He organized and activated the crack 29th Infantry Division at Cheju Island, which eventually became the spearhead of Taekwon-Do in the military and established the Oh Do Kwan (Gym of My Way) where Korean soldiers were trained in General Choi’s new martial art to become the pioneer Taekwon-do instructors. It was also a opportunity to develop the Taekyon and Karate techniques into a modern system of Taekwon-Do.
 
He went on to command Chung Do Kwan (Gym of the Blue Wave), the largest civilian gym in Korea; 

In 1954 Choi was promoted to the rank of Major General.

During his military career, General Choi constantly researched various martial arts, mainly Taekyon, Kung Fu and Karate – drawing from each to create the original version of Taekwon-do.

In 1955 General Choi led the Korean Army’s Taekwon-do demonstration team on a tour of China and Vietnam to promote his form of unarmed combat. After breathtaking displays, both these countries adopted General Choi’s Taekwon-do as an integral part of their soldier’s military training.

In 1961, the Korean Taekwon-do Association was formed with General Choi as its President. During the next few years, he led Taekwon-do demonstration teams throughout the world. In 1965, the South Korean government gave approval to General Choi’s martial art and declared it as Korea’s National martial art.

On March 22nd, 1966, General Choi Hong Hi (dec) formed the International Taekwon-do Federation (I.T.F) in Seoul, Korea. At the time it had associations in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, America, Turkey, Italy, Egypt and Korea. Taekwon-Do was taken up by several foreign armies, and was taught at West Point in America. During the Vietnam War, the Taekwon-Do training of Korean and other foreign soldiers was said to have had a demoralizing effect on the Viet Cong.

In 1971, the South Korean president Park Chung Hee began to use Taekwon-Do as anti-communist political propaganda. Choi, fiercely against this, went into exile in Canada. He continued to teach Taekwon-Do throughout the world, including in North Korea, and in 1974 he organised the first Taekwon-Do world championship in Montreal.

All the while he had to endure death threats from Korean Central Intelligence, attempts to kidnap him and attempts on his life by armed assassins. On one occasion his son and daughter, who had stayed behind in South Korea, were kidnapped and their lives threatened if Choi did not return to Korea. His response was “I choose Taekwon-Do over my son”. They were freed.

General Choi died of cancer on 15 June 2002 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Choi is listed in the Taekwondo Hall of Fame with various titles: “Father of Taekwon-Do,” “Founder and First President of the International Taekwon-Do Federation,” and “Founder of Oh Do Kwan.” Choi is survived by his wife, Choi Joon Hee; his son, Choi Jung Hwa; two daughters, Sunny and Meeyun; and several grandchildren.

We ask that you take a moment on the occasion of General Choi Death Anniversary to reflect on how Taekwon-Do has impacted your own life.

– excerpts from ‘Taekwondo – The Korean Art of Self Defence’ – General Choi Hong Hi

General Choi ITF Coin
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