Taekwondo
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Taekwondo Overview  

What is?  | History | Philosophy

1. What is Taekwondo 

Taekwondo is one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts, which teaches more than mere physical fighting skills.
It is a discipline which shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind. It is also a modern sport that has gained an international reputation, and stands among the official games in the
Olympics.
Let's take a closer look at the meaning of the word Taekwondo.
It is composed of three parts as shown in the English spelling, though it is
one word in Korean. Tae means "foot," "leg," or "to step on," and 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  Taekwondo.

First, Taekwondo is the right way of using Tae and Kwon 'fists and feet,' or all the parts of the body which are represented by fists and feet. Second, Taekwondo 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' (literally 'to step on fists'). Thus the comprehensive meaning of Taekwondo would be "the right way
of using all parts of the body to stop fights and help to build a better and more peaceful world."
  

With this peace-keeping spirit, Taekwondo has been developing with the 5000-year long history of Korea, being called by several different names in the course. In Korea, Taekwondo was begun as a defense martial art called "Subak" or "Takkyeon," and developed as a way of training body and mind
in the ancient kingdom of Koguryo, under the name of "Sunbae." In the Shilla period, Taekwondo had become the backbone of Hwarangdo which aimed at producing leaders of the country.
  

Taekwondo today is similar to the martial arts in other Oriental countries and shares some features
with them, because in the course of its evolution it has gained many different styles that existed in
the martial arts of the countries surrounding Korea, like Japan and China.
 

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But Taekwondo is very different from many such oriental martial arts.
First, physically it is very dynamic with active movements, that include a mirage of foot skills. Second, the principle of physical movements are in simpatico with that of the mind and life as a whole. Third, it possesses dynamic poses.

From another perspective, Taekwondo can be characterized by unity: the unity of body, mind, and life, and the unity of the pose ("poomsae") and confrontation, and cracking down. When you do Taekwondo, you should make your mind peaceful and synchronize your mind with your movements, and extend this harmony to your life and society. This is how in Taekwondo the principle of physical movements, the principle of mind training, and the principle of life become one and the same. On the other hand, the right poomsae lead to the right confrontation, which will eventually produce great destructive power.

How come we reach such a unity in Taekwondo? Taekwondo is a way of life, much like having a job, raising a family, fighting for a cause, or any one of numerous raison d'etre. What makes Taekwondo different from these is that Taekwondo is an activity for survival in extremely antagonistic situations.
One must always overcome the enemy that is trying to cause one harm. But simply winning a fight is not enough to guarantee one's safety, because the enemy may recuperate and attack again. Moreover, there may be many other enemies than the one that was just defeated. One cannot ever
feel safe unless one gains permanent peace. To attain this permanent or lasting peace, one needs unity. This is what Taekwondo aims for. Otherwise Taekwon would be no different from any other street=fighting skills. Taekwondo pursues harmonious growth and improvements of life through its unique activities. This is why one could say Taekwondo is a way of life.
To ultimately enable ourselves to lead more valuable lives, we would do well by finding the guiding principles deeply hidden in Taekwondo.

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2. History of Taekwondo
 

1. Tangoon Chosun (Ancient Chosun) period (B. C 2333-)

Martial art activities organized as means of national defense. Korean Mandolin bronze swords used.Social martial arts raised to artistic martial arts with the Jecheon (Heaven Worship) ceremony. Simple fighting skills combined with dance. Ideas of a developing Sinseondo (Hermits' Teachings) incorporated into Taekwondo.
 

2. The period of Power Struggles (B.C 140~)

Martial arts for national defense developed through the power struggles among nations like North Buyeo, Jolbon Buyeo, East Buyeo, Nakrang, Dongye, Samhwan. Jecheon ceremony developed: Yeonggo of Buyeo, Mucheon of Dongye, October Festivities of Samhwan lead to the diversification
of martial arts
.

3. The Three kingdoms period

a. Koguryeo
The warrior group `Seonbae' was formed. (Also called as Seonin, Jo'eui Seonin) An alliance of Jecheon ceremony were organized. Scholarship and military arts treated on equal terms.
The division of Ssireum (Korean traditional wrestling) and Taekwondo. 

b. Shilla 
Pungwoldo reconsolidated and intensified as Hwarangdo. Sesog Ogye (Five Teachings for Worldly Life) developed. Palgwanhoe organized as a Jecheon Meeting of folk faiths with military, disciplinary, and festive functions. 

c. Baekje 
The warrior group `Saurabi' organized.

4. Koryo period

a. Gaya 
Some of the martial arts skills passed to Japan becomes Karate (Originally Kayate, meaning
Gaya's = Kaya's) Hand, changed into Karate, now meaning Empty Hand). 

b. koryo period 
The ancient Taekwondo, being acknowledged as a martial art, developed to Subakheui ('Hand
Striking Skills'), becomes one of the indispensable skills for warriors. Subak developed to Obyeong ('Five Soldiers') Subakheui as a type of group competition. Taekwondo started to develop as a game
or a sport. (as a Subak Game) A professional model for Subakheui completed. Subag popularized among citizens.

5. Chosun period

Subakheui chosen by Byeongjo (the Department of National Defense) as part of a national exam to select soldiers. Relative importance of Taekwondo as a national defense martial art decreased with
the development of weapons like gunpowder and Jochong ('bird-guns').
Military systems reconsolidated and general martial arts systematized after the Imjin war (Japanese invasion in the year of Imjin). Subakheui incorporated into the martial art system for national defence. (Department of Military Training in Seoul, and Sogogun in other areas) The section of the martial arts open in the Gwageo (National Exam for Selecting Government Officials), encouraging the training of martial arts. The martial art text book Muye Dobotongji published. Taekwondo secretly handed down
to people under oppression Japanese colonial rule. 

6. Korea

a. Various names of ancient Taekwondo unified into Taekwondo'.(1965)

b. Korea Taekwondo Association joined Korea Athletic Society as a member organization. (1962)

c. Taekwondo designated as a national sport. (1971)

d. Kukkiwon ("National Skills Institute") founded. (1972)

e. The World Taekwondo Federation (W. T. F.) founded. (1973)

f. The 1st World Taekwondo Championship Games held. (1973)

g. The World Taekwondo Federation became an acknowledged organization by I.O.C. (1979)

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3. Philosophy of Taekwondo

Philosophical principles of Taekwondo

The philosophy of Taekwondo is very special, but what makes it
so special? If we learn philosophy from books, we tend to forget it
as soon as we leave them, because it is not related to our actual lives. But since Taekwondo is connected with our lives like every movement of ours is, we can never forget its philosophy.

That is, Taekwondo philosophy is one of actions which can be learned from other actions, and our everyday activities.
Taekwondo philosophy represents the principles of the changes
and movements in things and human beings.
It also represents the principles of our lives, since life consists of
our movements. Therefore, we can say Taekwondo is a philosophy in itself. We can understand the philosophy of Taekwondo by doing Taekwondo, and this understanding should lead to better understanding and enhancement of our life.
The principles of Taekwondo can be explained in several ways but here we will explain it simply with the principle of Sam Jae (Three Elements) and that of Eum (the Negative or Darkness) and Yang (the Positive or the Brightness). Sam Jae refers to Cheon (the Heaven), Ji (the Earth), and In (the Man)
and the principles concerning them. In oriental countries, it has been recognized as the central principle which explains the changes of everything in the world. Sam Jae and the changes of Eum
and Yang constitutes the Eight Trigrams for Divination in the Book of Changes.
The principle of Sam Ja has been emphasized in oriental countries, especially in Korea. If you understand Taekwondo, following the principle, you could understand all the skills and spiritual depth of Taekwondo. The principle of Eum and Yang has also been emphasized in oriental countries as the central principle of life. It maintains that everything has an opposite side.
This principle explains various forms of changes, but it comes from Taegeuk (the Great Absolute), which represents the ultimate claim that Eum and Yang were the one and the same thing. If we understand Taekwondo according to this principle, we will find a solution, and by continuously changing skills, we will never get stuck, in any situation. After we understand these philosophical principles of Taekwondo, we can find proper ways to understand and develop our lives.

The historical development of Taekwondo Philosophy.

What is the philosophy of Taekwondo? Taekwondo contains thoughts which Han (Korean) people had developed through a long history. Its philosophy is easily explained with Hongik-ingan, Jaese-ihwa, or Hwarangdo spirit. Hangik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa were not only ideologies of Tangun Chosun's foundation, but also a fundamental thought of Han people. With time, these ideas developed into the Hwarangdo spirit and today Taekwondo's philosophy. Now, let's look at, the principles contents of the philosophy.

Hongik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa
'Hongik-ingan' means a universal welfare of mankind. It was the idea of the national foundation by Dangun, and Taekwondo spirit, too has inherited the idea of Hongik-ingan. It is easily confirmed from the fact that the word of Taekwondo, itself means to suppress fighting and induce peace. On one hand, Jaese-ihwa means that the world is educated in accordance with the reason of heaven. Taekwondo is a principle, not a simple connection with movements. It is the Korean traditional martial art characterized by the trinity
of body, mind and life. Thus, the principle is the reason of all creation,and so it refers to the reason of heaven in Jaese-ihwa.
Therefore, human beings can be educated in accordance with the reason of heaven through correct training of Taekwondo. That's the very meaning of Jaese-ihwa. Hongik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa appear clearly in the myth of the Korean foundation. According to it, "In the early age, Hwan-Wung, the son of Heaven established a nation called Baedal (earliest name of Korea). He then announced the purpose of the national foundation as Jaese-ihwa (the world educated in accord with the reason of heaven.) and Hongik-ingan (an universal welfare of mankind).

The Spirit of Hwarangdo

 

 

Like this, the idea of Dangun's national foundation affected various martial
arts ( the old forms of Taekwondo ) and their groups.
Also, it greatly contributed to the development of Silla's Hwarangdo. The Hwarangdo spirit was based on the idea of Sinseondo with the integration
of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. It contained the 3 virtues loyality, filial piety and trust, 5 principles of the world and 3 virtuous conducts of modesty, frugality and restaint. Now, let's look at the contents in details.


        ( 1 ) Loyalty, Filial piety, Trust

  • Chung (loyalty) : It refer to the loyalty to the nation.
  • Hyo (Filial piety) : It means the filial piety to the parents.
  • Shin (Trust) : It means to have trust among human beings.

    ( 2 ) Sye-Sok-Oh-Kye : 5 Principles of the world
  • Sa-kun-lee-chung : to follow a nation and a king with loyalty.
  • Sa-chin-lee-hyo    : to respect parents with filial piety.
  • Kyo-u-lee-shin       : to make friends with trust.
  • Lim-cheon-mu-t'wi : not to withdraw on the battle field.
  • Sal-saeng-yu-taek : not to take another life, unless an unavoidable situation requires it.

    ( 3 ) Three kinds of beauty (Sam-mi) of Hwarangdo
           
    Three kinds of beauty refer to three virtuous conducts

    *Modesty : Modesty means the virtue to know courteous refusal. That is, it refers to services done for society without personal interests on gains. Also, it refers to the spirit to contribute to social development rather than that of an individual.

    *Frugality : Frugality means not to waste. If we live with the abundant materials without extravagance or waste, we will not suffer if difficult times come around. Also, such frugality generates room to help needy people in society.

     *Restraint : Restraint refers to self-denial. It means to win over one's self or ego. Through restraint, people do not fight each other, rather, they live together in harmony.

As mentioned above, the Hwarangdo spirit is to systematize the thoughts led by Hongik-ingan and Jaese-ihwa concretely. Thus, Kukiwon said, "Taekwondo spirit was developed as the tradition and thoughts of Korean people through the old ages. Then, it was developed as Hwarangdo spirit which made it the spirit of Shilla's people. Hongik-ingan and Jease-ihwa are the core of Taekwondo's thought. Before Hwarangdo, they were already systematized as the traditional thoughts of Han the people, and they developed into the idea of Sinseondo.
Also, they were called "Poongryudo " The idea of Sinseondo is the core of Oriental thoughts, simultaneously, it is a very profound philosophy. Movements embody the spirit physically, and the
spirit is the inner working of movements. Thus, it is natural that the thoughts and Taekwondo have developed together.

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