Although the origins of the martial arts are shrouded in mystery, we consider it an undeniable fact that from time immemorial there have been physical actions involving the use of the hands and feet for purpose of self-protection.
If we were to define these physical actions as "Taekwon-Do", any country might claim credit for inventing Taekwon-Do. There is, however, scant resemblance between Taekwon-Do, as it is practiced today, and the crude forms of unarmed combat developed in the past.
Modern Taekwon-Do differs greatly from other martial arts. In fact, no other martial art is so advanced with regard to the sophistication and effectiveness of its technique or the over-all physical fitness it imparts to its practitioners.
Since the theories, terminology, techniques, systems, methods, rules, practice suit, and spiritual foundation were scientifically developed, systematized, and named by General Choi Hong Hi, it is an error to think of any physical actions employing the hand and feet for self-defence as Taekwon-Do. Only those who practice the techniques based on General Choi's theories, principles and philosophy are considered to be students of genuine Taekwon-Do.
WHEN AND WHERE DID TAEKWON-DO BEGIN?
A combination of circumstances made it possible for Genral Choi to originate and develop Taekwon-Do. In addition to his prior knowledge of Taek Kyon, he had an opportunity to learn Karate in Japan during the unhappy thirty-six years when my native land was occupied by the Japanese. Soon after Korea was liberated in 1945, he was placed in a privileged position as a founding member of the newly formed South Korean Armed Forces.
The former provided him with a definite sense of creation, and the latter gave him the power to disseminate Taekwon-Do throughout the entire armed forces, despite furious opposition.
The emergence of Taekwon-Do as an international martial art in a relatively short period of time was due to a variety of factors. The evils of contemporary society (moral corruption, materialism, selfishness, etc.) had created a spiritual vacuum. Taekwon-Do was able to compensate for the prevailing sense of emptiness, distrust, decadence and lack of confidence.
In addition, these were violent times, when people felt the need for a means of protecting themselves, and the superiority of Taekwon-Do technique came to be widely recognized. General Choi's social stature, the advantage of being Taekwon-Do's founder and his wonderful health also contributed to the rapid growth of Taekwon-Do all over the world.
General Choi had been born frail and weak and was encouraged to learn Taek Kyon at the age of fifteen by his teacher of calligraphy. In 1938, a few days before he was due to leave Korea to study in Japan he was involved in an unexpected incident that would have made it difficult to return home without risk of reprisals.
He resolved to become a black belt holder in Karate while he was in Japan. The skills he required were sufficient protection against those who might seek to do him harm. Not only was he able to return to Korea, but he subsequently initiated the national liberation movement known as the Pyongyang Student Soldier's Incident. Like so many patriots in the long course of human history, his actions aroused the wrath of those in positions of power. He was imprisoned for a time in a Japanese army jail. In January of 1946, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the fledgling Republic of Korea army and posted to the 4th infantry regiment in Kwangju, Cholla Namdo Province as a company commander.
General Choi began to teach Karate to his soldiers as a means of physical and mental training. It was then that he realized that they needed to develop our own national martial art, superior in both spirit and technique to Japanese Karate. With this in mind that he began to develop new techniques systematically. By the end of 1954 he had nearly completed the foundation of a new martial art for Korea, and on April 11, 1955, it was given the name "Taekwon-Do".
On the spiritual level, Taekwon-Do is derived from the traditional, ethical and moral principles of the orient and, of course, from General Choi's personal philosophy. The physical techniques of Taekwon-Do are based on the principles of modern science, in particular, Newtonian physics which teaches us how to generate maximum power. Military tactics of attack and defence have also been incorporated.
Although Karate and Taek Kyon were used as references in the course of study, the fundamental theories and principles of Taekwon-Do are totally different from those of any other martial art in the world.
General Choi formulated the following basic ideals for the Taekwon-Do practitioners:
- By developing an upright mind and a strong body, we will acquire the self-confidence to stand on the side of justice at all times;
- We shall unite with all men in a common brotherhood, without regard to religion, race, national or ideological boundaries;
- We shall dedicate ourselves to building a peaceful human society in which justice, morality, trust and humanism prevail;
The spiritual dimensions of Taekwon-Do can be defined as fusing oneself with the ideals of Taekwon-Do and attaining and understanding the full meaning of each of the Taekwon-Do patterns. If we consider ourselves as one with Taekwon-Do, we will respect it as we respect our own bodies and Taekwon-Do will never be used in a dishonorable way.
The names of the patterns are derived from the most illustrious people to have been produced by nearly five thousand years of Korean history. A proper understanding of the patterns leads, inevitably to the realization that Taekwon-Do is a martial art to be used only for self-defence and only in the cause of justice.