The martial art style known as Tae Kwon Do or Taekwondo is richly imbued with Korean history, though some of that history is a little murky because of conflicting stories of early times and the longtime Japanese occupation of Korea. The name “Tae Kwon Do” is derived from the Korean words Tae (meaning “foot”), Kwon (meaning “fist”), and Do (meaning “method” or “way”). “Tae Kwon Do” literally means “the way of foot and fist” but a better way to describe the idiomatic expression is that the martial art includes every weapon on the body from head to toe (including the brain).
Tae Kwon Do is the national sport of South Korea and is known for its almost gymnastic striking and athletic kicking. Because of the outflow of many of the great Masters in the late 50’s through the early 70’s Tae Kwon Do has become very popular worldwide, as there are more people practicing Tae Kwon Do today than any other martial arts style. Estimates are that over 70 million students practice Tae Kwon Do worldwide and it is also has been an Olympic event.
Like many culturally linked martial arts in Asia we can see that Tae Kwon Do got started during ancient times in Korea. Approximately around the first centuries in Korea there were three rival kingdoms of this time period (from about 18 B.C. to 938 A.D.) called Koguryo, Silla, and Baekje. It was during those warring periods that the indigenous forms of Korean martial art (Subak, Yusul, Taekyon, Kwonpup) really started to develop. Later, in the 17th century and after, there was a lot of influence in the native styles from Chinese and Japanese martial art systems which resulted in the more modern Korean martial arts styles we see today.
During the first half of the 20th century Korea endured an occupation by the Japanese military. During this period the public practice of martial arts was prohibited. Martial art training did occur but it was in secret with students and teachers often not exchanging names. After the end of World War II the Japanese left Korea and martial arts training became a public practice and was a popular pastime. In the late 40’s and early 50’s there were 9 separate schools that emerged (there was some interchange) giving rise to the modern Tae Kwon Do systems we see today. Those 9 Kwans (Schools) were as follows:
Chung Do Kwan
Moo Do Kwan
Song Moo Kwan
Chang Moo Kwan
Ji Do Kwan
Han Moo Kwan
Oh Do Kwan
Kang Duk Kwan
Jung Do Kwan
The first Kwan to open (Chung Do Kwan) was founded and taught by Won Kuk Lee. Here at Blue Wave we look at Won Kuk Lee as our direct Great-Grandmaster. One of Lee’s early students was Yong Taek Chung. Chung later left Korea and taught in Japan for 20 years before ending up here in the United States. Master Chung opened his school in Kansas City, Missouri (Chung’s Karate School) where he taught until he retired. One of his students is the owner and instructor here at Blue Wave – Master David Blevins.
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