Taekwondo is the most popular Korean martial art and Olympic sport. Literally translated the Korean word, "Tae" means "to kick or smash with foot." But this is only literal meaning. It should be defined as the sytem of kicking techniques. The system of kicking techniques includes upper body movements, foot blocking movements, stepping movements, jumping movements, and flying movements. "Kwon" implies "fist." It can be defined as the system of hand techniques such as punching, striking, thrusting, and blocking. "Do" can be translated as "a way" or "art." Thus, "Taekwondo" means the art of intergrating the system of hand and kicking techniques to apply them to particular situations. However, Taekwondo is not merely a physical fighting. It is rather, a way of thought and life. Through strict discipline Taekwondo trains both the mind and body, placing great emphasis on the development of person's character. In other words, control of mind, self-discipline, kindness, and humility must accompany the physical strength.
Taekwondo is the Korean martial art which has been developed as a sport since the early 1960s and became an official Olympic Game from the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney in Australia. Like baseball which is the national sport of America, Taekwondo is the Korean national sport (martial art). Because the origin of Taekwondo is related to ancient age and the primary sources were lost or destroyed, it is necessary to approach the history of Taekwondo from many chronicles. After Gojoseon, the first Korean dynasty founded in 2333 BC, was defeated by the Han dynasty of China in 108 BC, it was subdivided into three kingdoms, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla. To protect the newly founded kingdoms, the development of specialized martial arts was crucial. Through the research of two royal tombs, named Muyongchong and Kakchuchong and located in Tangu, China in the Tunghua province of Munchuria where Goguryeo has its capital, how the development of Goguryeo's martial arts can be surmised.
The ceiling of the Muyongchong carried a painting portraying two unarmed men confronting each other. Through the date of construction of the tombs, the age of Taekwondo can be traced between the years 3 AD and 427 AD. Due to the complete destruction of Baekje's sources of martial arts, it is very difficult to examine the history of Taekwondo of Baekje, but some Korean martial art organizations claim that the Ssaurabi having literal meaning of "a father who fights" and from which the Japanese Samurai originated were warriors of Baekje (18 BC - 660 AD). Park Hyuk Gose founded the Kingdom of Silla (57BC - 935AD) and made Kyungju its capital. Because of its geographical location neighboring Goguryeo to north, Baekje to west, and Japan to south, it was unavoidable to organize a group of warriors. Jinheung, the twenty-forth king of Silla, assembled Hwarang Do, an elite fighting corps. The warriors in Hwarang Do received not only regular military training with the then known weapons of war, but learned a discipline of mind and body beyond this.
Needless to say, the deeds of Hwarang Do became legendary not only in the battlefield, but in their entire way of life. Based on major contribution of Hwarang Do, Shilla unified three kingdoms and the original martial of Taekwondo came under popular and enthusiastic study. It is sure that the unified Shilla continued to develop Taekwondo. At the entrance to the Seolgulam, a small Buddhist cavern temple dating back to 751 AD, is the statue of a figure in typical fighting posture. In 935 AD, the kingdom of unified Shilla was overthrown and the kingdom of Goryeo, from which the western name "Korea" came, was founded. During the Goryeo dynasty, Taekwondo flourished, as Goryeo's survival depended on its retaining a strong martial spirit. During this time the country produced some of its finest warrior heroes. In this dynasty, Taekwondo named as Taekkyeon in the dynasty was the mandatory military program. Taejo Yi Seong Gae, the general of Goryeo dynasty, overthrew Goryeo dynasty which had been lasting 500 years and found Joseon dynasty in 1392 AD. Because of anti-military politics, martial arts were not promoted in this dynasty. Only through martial art book, named Muyedobotongji and written in 1799 AD, we can postulate Taekwondo developed into sophisticated techniques. Due to the declination of military power (martial arts) and ignorance of western practical cultures, Joseon dynasty was occupied by Japan in 1910.