Taekwondo is a combat sport characterized by the emphasis on various kicking techniques. Taekwondo traces its roots to the 1940s and the 1950s when Korean martial artists developed the sport. The originators of taekwondo were well versed in other martial arts such as Karate, Gwonbeop, and Subak. Since its introduction, taekwondo has become one of the most popular forms of martial arts all over the world, and in 2000 the sport was first played at the Olympics.
History of Taekwondo
After the end of the Second World War, several martial artists began opening schools referred to as Kwans within Seoul. At the time, the phrase taekwondo had yet to be developed, and each school taught a different form of martial arts.
In 1952, Syngman Rhee, the president of South Korea at the time, witnessed a martial arts demonstration carried out by the Korean military, and he had the idea to combine the various martial arts techniques taught in the Kwans. The leaders of the Kwans began meeting in 1955 to look at the possibility of merging their unique styles. Initially, the leaders chose the name Tae Soo Do to refer to the combined martial arts; however, Choi Hong Hi, one of the generals of the South Korean army, was against the name. He urged the other leaders to name it taekwondo.
The Korean Taekwondo Association was formed in 1959 to aid in the merging of the various martial arts styles in Korea. In 1966, Choi Hong Hi left the association and founded the International Taekwon-Do Federation to popularize the sport. The government of South Korea wished to avoid the influence of the North Korean government on the sport; however, Choi Hong sought help from many nations including North Korea. Because he aligned himself with North Korea, the South Korean government stopped supporting Choi Hong and the International Taekwon-Do Federation. Choi Hong later went on to publish the Encyclopedia of Taekwondo. The government of South Korea established a national academy for taekwondo referred to as Kukkiwon. The style of taekwondo taught at Kukkiwon is often referred to as Olympic-style Taekwondo.
In 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation was established to promote the sport as an international sport. In 2017, the federation's name was changed to World Taekwondo.
Features of Taekwondo
The most defining characteristic of taekwondo is the heavy emphasis on kicking techniques. In international competitions, additional points are often awarded when competitors use variations of spinning kicks and kicks aimed at the head. Taekwondo is distinct from other martial arts because the practitioners typically use narrower stances than in martial arts like karate which reduces their stability. Taekwondo experts believe that an increase in agility counterbalances the decreased stability. Choi Hong believed that speed was more important than size and urged taekwondo practitioners to focus on improving their speed over their size. Choi's beliefs had been influenced by his understanding of Newtonian physics and biomechanics. Choi also urged taekwondo practitioners to only tense their muscles when performing techniques to conserve energy.
Famous Taekwondo Practitioners
Several practitioners of taekwondo have become famous all over the world such as Hadi Saei and Steven Lopez. Hadi Saei is famous because he won two gold medals and a bronze medals at the Olympics as well as two gold medals in the World Championships. Steven Lopez has also won several gold medals particularly at the World Championships where he won 5 gold medals.