Although the name "Taekwondo" is only about 55 years old, the martial art itself traces its origins in Korean history as far back as 57 B.C. "Tae" means to kick, "Kwon" means to strike with the hand, and "Do" means a philosophical way of life. The main feature of Taekwondo is that it is a free-fighting combat sport using bare hands and feet to repel an opponent.
The Taekwondo training regimen affects the individual wholly and involves more than just physical coordination and technique. Physical requirements such as flexibility, strength, stamina, speed, and balance are essential to Taekwondo and can only be gained through diligent practice. The training is composed of Poomse (basic forms), Kyorugi (sparring), and Kyukpa (breaking). Taekwondo requires great mental concentration and produces almost incredible power. Before the advent of protective gear, it was impossible to exercise the developed power against other living persons except at the risk of inflicting serious injury or death. Therefore, a method was sought to test such formidable power against non-living things like wood planks, roof tiles, or bricks. We must realize that anyone can properly develop and control this latent power.
Physical mastery of the kicking and self-defense techniques in the traditional training of the martial arts is balanced with the equally important aspect of mental discipline and character formation. As the student walks the traditional path of Taekwondo training and practice, he/she learns patience, discipline, perseverance, modesty, and respect. As the student gains proficiency and rank through their regular Taekwondo training and practice, he/she also gains self-confidence. The lessons taught and learned through traditional Taekwondo training must be practiced faithfully both inside and outside of the class room so that those lessons become integrated into the student’s everyday life.
It is the traditional values and ideals of patience, discipline, perseverance, modesty and respect that the USTW wishes to preserve, develop, emphasize and promote. These traditional values and principles go back to the ancient rules passed down to us from the earliest practitioners of Korean martial arts and may again be realized as we practice them and apply them to our daily lives in the modern world.
- Loyalty to Country…Have the proper patriotic love of your country and respect for legitimate authority.
- Obey your Parents…Exercise respect and obedience to parents and teachers and love of the family.
- Honor your Friends…Act with trust and brotherhood among friends.
- Perseverance…Develop courage to face and overcome all the trials and challenges of life.
- Integrity…Use the principles of justice, judgment and just cause in making all our decisions.
In following and teaching these principles of traditional Taekwondo martial arts a person must practice wisdom and courtesy, along with following the concepts of goodness, virtue, mercy and compassion. In short, the true traditional martial artist seeks to make himself or herself into a better person as they practice to become more experienced and skilled in Taekwondo martial arts.
The USTW seeks to promote the concept that the ancient codes of conduct and the traditional rules of etiquette are all central to the proper and complete understanding of Taekwondo as a martial art, and not simply as a popular sport. Indeed, the USTW proclaims that the true traditional Taekwondo martial arts history, philosophy, values and ideals are all are just as meaningful and important to our national and global societies now, in today’s world, as they have ever been.
A Brief History of Taekwondo and the United States Taekwondo Won
Since the establishment of the ancient Korean state in 2332 B.C., the Korean people have had to fight to protect their independence from neighboring invaders like the Chinese, the Mongols, and the Japanese. As did other fighting peoples, the ancient Koreans developed a systematic art of self-defense. The earliest known name of this martial art was Soo Bak, meaning "Punching and Butting."
In the Sixth Century A.D., three separate kingdoms developed on the Korean Peninsula: the larger kingdoms of Koguryo and Baek Je; and, the smaller kingdom of Silla. The larger kingdoms, along with Japan, constantly attacked Silla, which at the time was weak and disorganized.
The major turning point for Silla was during the reign of Chin Heung, the 24th King, who established the Hwa Rang. The Hwa Rang were warriors who were disciplined at an early age to endure all types of challenges and hardships, and were highly trained in swordsmanship and the use of the bow and spear.
As fighters, the Hwa Rang were legendary. The Hwa Rang further developed Soo Bak, which was primarily practiced as an art, by adding hand techniques and kicks. They added mental discipline and principles to transform a festival sport into a useful combat skill. This new art became known as Tae Kyon. With their fighting skills, the Hwa Rang began to become victorious over the larger kingdoms of Koguryo and Baek Je. Eventually, Silla subdued both kingdoms.
In 935 A.D., the name Koryo was given to the unified kingdom on the Korean peninsula. Tae Kyon prospered in Koryo, for 500 years, until the beginning of the Yi Dynasty. Under the Yi Dynasty, a new policy was established under which anything related to the military or military training was discouraged and outlawed. Instead of being eliminated by the ruling authorities, however, Tae Kyon was practiced in secret and passed on from generation to generation.
In 1909, Japan conquered what the Yi Dynasty had caused to become the weakened Korean society and began a military occupation that lasted until the end of World War II. During the Japanese occupation, the practice of all forms of martial arts in Korea was strictly banned, on pain of death. Consequently, Tae Kyon was taught and practiced in secret schools and locations to keep the Korean martial arts alive. After the Japanese occupation ended in 1945, exiled Koreans also returned to Korea with other forms of martial arts that they had learned and studied elsewhere.
This became the time of the founding of the original Kwans, or individual schools, in Korea. From these schools came many of the first Masters and Grand Masters who came to the United States. These original teachers founded schools continuing the traditional teachings they had brought from their founding Kwans. Then, in 1955, the new and general term “Taekwondo” began to be used in Korea to describe Korean martial arts. “Tae” means kick with the foot, “Kwon” means punch or strike with the hand, and “Do” means the way. So, in the present day, we have Taekwondo as the way of striking with the hand and foot.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s the push towards Taekwondo for sport competition and the Olympic Games came to the forefront of the Korean martial Arts community. These efforts were very successful and Taekwondo became known as an exciting Olympic fighting sport. The Masters who had emerged from the original Kwans, and who brought traditional Taekwondo to the United States, watched this change in Korean martial arts with both pride for the accomplishment and with concern for what was being lost. It is this concern that finally gave birth to the United States Taekwondo Won.
Today, we look forward to the USTW’s future. Our mission is to reach out to all who are dedicated to traditional Taekwondo martial arts history, philosophy, values and ideals which embody the true spirit of traditional martial arts teachings. The Grand Masters who founded the USTW left us a legacy of knowledge and structure for the future preservation and promotion of our traditional martial arts legacy now growing in the United States of America.
Let us continue to write a history and to leave a legacy that says we took the USTW founding Grand Masters’ beginning ideas and built those ideas into a USTW that will forever demonstrate and proclaim how the traditional Taekwondo martial arts history, philosophy, values and ideals remain relevant for the betterment of our future generations of martial artists in the United States of America and, indeed, in the world.
You can learn more about the history of the USTW by clicking on the USTW History tab.