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Taekwondo history is important to those who are interested in it. For those who are not interested in it, they do not care about it at all. I know students who have trained in taekwondo for decades and are superb martial artists, but who know nothing about taekwondo history. However, if you are a taekwondo student, especially a black belt, you should know what taekwondo is and how it came into being. After all, black belts should know about the craft of which they claim to be an artist.

Taekwondo history is sketchy

Although it is often disputed by the different organizations, modern taekwondo history may be documented with reasonable accuracy since it only officially began in 1955 after having its origins in the 1940's just after World War II. However, taekwondo is loosely based on ancient Korean martial arts and other countries’ martial arts that have existed in one form or another for thousands of years. The history of these roots of taekwondo is sketchy since little documentation has survived from Korea's early years that covers the martial arts. The same holds true for the roots of martial arts in other counties. Most taekwondo organizations agree on the known facts about ancient taekwondo history, but they often disagree on the interpretation of these facts.

This history topic attempts to document as accurately as possible the history of taekwondo from its ancient roots up to its present form, including its oft-ignored, but equally important, roots in Japanese karate.


Countries disagree with the interpretations of their histories by other countries. Historians within countries differ as to what are the true histories of their respective countries. I am not a historian of any country, I am merely a martial artist trying to help other martial artists understand the history of taekwondo, so no matter which version of history I present, it will offend someone.

Many martial art styles, taekwondo included, cannot agree amongst themselves who is correct in descriptions about their style or its history. This history of taekwondo tries to be all-inclusive; using information from many sources and from all sides, but it still will not please everyone.

Links to rare taekwondo documents

  • Taekwondo Teaching Manual (in Korean and Chinese, 1959, pdf). Published in October of 1959 and written by General Choi Hong-Hi, the disputed founder of taekwondo. This is the first book ever written on taekwondo, which was officially named in 1955. It was written using Korean Hangul and Chinese Hanja, which was common at the time. It contains the first five taekwondo patterns, hwa-rang, chung-mu, ul-ji, u-nam, and sam-il. 
  • Taekwondo Demonstration Team Program (in Korean and English) (1959) (pdf) In March 1959, the first ever taekwondo demonstration team, led by General Choi, traveled outside of Korea to perform the original taekwondo in other countries. This is a rare copy of the program used for the demonstration.
  • Taekwon-do (English version, 1965, pdf) First English book on taekwondo, written by General Choi. Shows taekwondo the way it was intended to be. Spanish version
  • Republic of Korea Army Taekwondo Manual (in Korean, 1966, pdf). Written by General Choi for the South Korean army to use for training soldiers.

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