Tae Kwon Do has a rich and interesting history, dating back to the first millennium. Tae Kwon Do is an amalgamation of unarmed combat styles developed by the three ancient Korean Kingdoms of Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje. These Kingdoms each developed their own methods of defence for use during their times of war.
As each kingdom fought for land and dominance, the small Kingdom of Silla started training warriors known as the HwaRang. These warriors were trained in taekkyeon and other early forms of martial arts like ssireum and subak. These formed the basis of Hwa Rang Do, which spread throughout the peninsula as the warriors travelled to learn more about other religions and people. These warriors were trained in armed and unarmed combat techniques to develop strength, speed, and survival skills. Their tough training and code of conduct saw them defeat the neighbouring kingdoms to form a unified ‘Koryo’ nation. As the nation spread into China, more skills were added and the martial arts developed strongly. Taekkyeon and Subak became the most popular forms of martial art and there was a great upswing in the popularity of martial arts.
However, during the Yi Dynasty (1392 A.D. - 1910), Korean society became highly centralized under Korean Confucianism and martial arts were poorly regarded in society. Formal practices of traditional martial arts such as subak and taekkyeon were reserved for sanctioned military uses. However, taekkyeon persisted into the 19th century as a folk game and was still taught as the formal military martial art. During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910–1945), all facets of ethnic Korean identity were banned and suppressed with taekkyeon and subak banned during this time. When the occupation ended in 1945, Korean martial arts schools (kwans) began to re-open in Korea. The influence of both the Chinese and Japanese neighbours began to filter into the local teachings. Some kwans still taught the traditional Korean Arts, but other taught martial arts based on Karate and other Japanese arts.
In 1952, at the height of the Korean War, there was a martial arts exhibition in which the kwans displayed their skills. Following this demonstration, South Korean President Syngman Rhee instructed General Choi Hong Hi to introduce the martial arts to the Korean army. By the mid-1950s, Syngman Rhee ordered that the various schools unify under a single system. Nine Kwans had emerged to form the basis of the new national martial art. The name "taekwondo" which means the way of foot and fist, was submitted and accepted on April 11, 1955. The Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed in 1959/1961 to facilitate the unification of the Nine Kwans.
In the early 1960s, taekwondo made its début worldwide, as the original masters of taekwondo visited various countries. Standardization efforts in South Korea stalled, as the kwans continued to teach differing styles. Another request from the Korean government for unification resulted in the formation of the Korea Tae Soo Do Association, which changed its name back to the Korea Taekwondo Association in 1965.
The K.T.A. was affected by political difficulties and in 1966, then president General Choi Hong-hi left and established I.T.F. (International Taekwondo Federation). In 1973, Kukkiwon, and later, the World Taekwondo Federation (W.T.F.) were founded. Kukkiwon is the official taekwondo governing organisation established by the South Korean government.
In 1980, W.T.F. was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) and became a demonstration sport at the Olympics in 1988. In the year 2000 taekwondo made its debut as an official Olympic sport.