History (Yoksa)

The earliest historical traces of TaeKwonDo are dated to around 50BC, and evidence of this can be found in a mural on the ceiling of the Muyong-Chong royal tomb of the Koguyro Dynasty. This painting depicts two men in the fighting stances of Taek Kyon, putting the origins of TaeKwonDo 200 years before the Shaolin of Ancient China.

At the time the Korean peninsula was split into two and then three Dynasties (the Paekje originating as a tribe that separated early in Koguryo's history):

  • Koguryo (37BC - 668AD)
  • Paekje (18BC - 660AD)
  • Silla (57BC - 936AD)
By then the Koguryo Dynasty had already evolved a basic warrior caste known as the SonBae who, to some extent, practiced both of the early martial arts known as Taek Kyon (foot technique) and SooBak (hand technique). The SooSa, Paekje fighters similar to the SonBae, echoed this in another system known as SooByeokTa. It is thought that these martial arts were solely practiced for sport and training/fitness rather than actual fighting methods until much later.

Silla, the smallest and least developed of the three Dynasties, was under constant attack by Japanese pirates all down its coastline. King Gwahggaeto, the 19th monarch of Koguryo sent the SonBae to Silla's aid. It is thought that the SonBae warriors were the first to show Taek Kyon to the Silla nobility, and those trained were the origins of the Hwa-Rang.

The Hwa-Rang (Flowering Youth/Manhood) was a warrior caste, trained from Silla nobility, similar in approach to the way of the Japanese Samurai (Bushido). Their main training systems included:

  • History & Military tactics,
  • Confucian philosophy, Ethics & Buddhist morality,
  • Art, music & poetry,
  • Riding, Archery & Sword discipline,
  • Taek Kyon and SooBak.
The guiding principals of this system, to which they strictly lived their lives, and which was a considerable influence on the philosophies of modern day TaeKwonDo, was:
  • Be loyal to your King,
  • Be obedient to your parents/elders,
  • Be honourable to your friends/peers,
  • Never retreat in battle,
  • Never make an unjust kill.
In 668AD Silla unified the three Kingdoms by conquering Paekje and Koguryo with the support of the Chinese, although they were driven out around 676AD. During this time of peace the Hwa-Rang became more involved with poetry and art than fighting systems, and they dissolved as Silla eventually fell.

The ruler of Silla at the time, Queen Jinseong could not hold control over the local lords, and sovereignty reverted to what is known as the 'Later Three Kingdoms' of Silla, Hupaekje (later Peakje) and Taebong or Hukoguryo (later Koguryo).

Wang Kon, a minor lord of Taebong, overthrew the current ruler, Gung Ye and established Koryo in 918AD. After the annexation of Silla and defeating Hupeakje, Koryo was established as the ruling power over the whole region in 936AD. The western name for the country, Korea, emerged after foreign traders heard 'Koryo'. It was in this period that Taek Kyon was amalgamated with SooBak and used for military training. Contests of fighting skill, called Subakki, were held to select soldiers and for the existing military to prove their worthiness and gain promotion.

In 1238 Mongol Hordes invaded Koryo and after thirty years of hostilities the Koryo courts submitted. The Mongols stayed to interfere in life and politics in Koryo for around a century until the 1340s brought the decline of the Mongol Empire in the peninsula and enabled King Kongmin to gain true control over his Kingdom. This all ended in 1392 when Yi Seon-Gye, a Koryo General, overthrew the king in a coup and established a new Dynasty.

The Yi or Joseon Dynasty (1393-1910) brought change as the capital was moved to modern-day Seoul and the state religion was changed from Buddhism to Confucianism. This saw the downfall of the practice of martial arts in the Korean nobility, as Confucian law emphasises that phsyical activities such as sports should be left for the 'lower' classes while the nobles are left to pursue arts and music. If it were not for families passing SooBak and Taek Kyon down through their ancestory, TaeKwonDo may not exist today.

Modern TaeKwonDo history coming soon!


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