Soo Bak-Gi in the Koryo Dynasty

The following is a version of an article released in the weekly magazine of the Chosun daily newspaper by Dr. Lee Sun Kun, Presiden of Kyung Puk University in 1969 and one Korea's most noted historians.

"Dr. An Ja San has stated in his book of ancient Korea, Chosun Moosa Yoongoung Jun, the biography of Korean warriors, that the Yoo Sul school (which should now be considered Jujitsu) was known under the name of Soo bak-Gi or Taek Kyon."

Annually, during the month of may, the king, in person, held a match of this form of unarmed combat at the Kak Chon pavilion on Ma Am Mountain. The winner of this contest was awarded a prestigious government post. The king also made the contest compulsory for all soldiers. Thee of the winners of this annual contest, Lee Yi Min, Jang Joong Boo, and Sa Kang Sung eventually became leading generals during the Koryo Dynasty. It appears that the King held more than a passing interest in the art.

There were twenty five fundamental movements or postures used by practitioners. These postures incorporated hand, leg, jumping, falling, rolling, and pulling techniques.

Certainly the Silla and Koryo Dynasties marked a flowering of the martial arts in Korea. Soon after however, these Dynasties acquired anti military positions. Though this began a period of civil enlightenment, anything dealing with the military was debased by the end of the Yi Dynasty. The martial arts seemed to have disappeared.

The final blow came with the Japanese occupation (1909-1945) when it was forbidden to practice any of the martial arts. Taek Kyon was secretly practiced by some dedicated stalwarts and passed on to a handful of students. Proponents of the art, such as Song Duk Ki, San II Dong and a few others, managed to keep the art alive.

After the liberation of Korea in 1945 the new Republic of Korea - Armed Forces were organized on January 15, 1946. Choi Hong Hi, a young second lieutenant recently released from a Japanese prison camp, began teaching his martial art to some of his soldiers. The rest is history resulting in what is now known throughout the world as the martial art of TaeKwon-Do.

In 1955, "TaeKwon-Do" was chosen as the new name of the national martial art by a board of instructors, historians and other prominent persons.  The name submitted by General Choi was unanimously sleected for the description of the art; Tae (foot), Kwon (fist), Do (art). This new name bore a close similarity to the ancient name of Taek Kyon.  It gave a new sense of nationalism to the art.  The prevalent names of Dang Soo and Kong Soo were connected to Chinese or Japanese martial arts.

The years of research and development by General Choi resulted in the Chang Hun style (pen name of the author) of TaeKwon-Do.  Though this style is primarily based on Taek Kyon, Soo Bak-Gi and Karate techniques, many new techniques have been added, especially in the variety of had techniques and perfection of foot techniques.

The Chang Hun style is based on 24 patterns, ranging from the white belt pattern Chon-Ji to the hightest, Tong_Il, each perfected and polished by General Choi Hong Hi and his colleagues.  After 1300 years, this Korean martial art has reached full maturity and has spread from a small band of aristocratic warriors to millions of students and practitioners in more than sixty countries.  The combination of the old classical techniques and new modifications has resulted in a form of self-defense and meoerent.  Funakosi Kijin (commonly known as the father of Japanese Karate) wrote a book in 1958, claiming that Karate is the traditional martial art of Okinawa.  He stated that it had been developed since the 9th century A.D. under the name of 'Te' (hand).  When the Okinawan techniques were modified by collaboration with Chinese Kempo (fist method), the art became known as 'Dote' (Chinese hand).  The first exhibition of this martial art took place in 1917 and in subsequent years it rapidly gained popularity on the Japanese mainland.  In the early 1930's, the word 'Do' (China) was replaced by the word 'Ku' (empty) to distinguish Japanese Karate from Chinese Kempo.  In Sino-Japanese writing, 'Do' or 'Kara' means China.  NNagandoni, who also wrote a book about Karate, states that according to legend and myth, there was a type of open had fighting that resembled present day Sumo (Japanese wrestling) and Judo in Japan about 2,000 years ago.  Some theories are more highly developed than others, but the continuing arguments about the origins of open hand and foot fighting are unlikely to be resolved.

There are many theories as to how, where and why the martial arts originated. A dispute over which country could claim the first use of fire would hardly be more pointless.  The Chinese theory is the most readily accepted because China was the cradle of Oriental culture.  However, it does not necessarily mean that this is where martial arts originated.  Open hand and foot fighting probably did not originate in any one country.  It is more than likely a natural development that occurred in different places, as the need arose for a systematic method of defense.  Thus the home of each martial art will definately depend on the nationality of its founder, not the history of a country.

 TaeKwon-Do Yoksa (Gen. Choi)

Although the origins of TaeKwon-Do are shrouded in mystery, we consider it an undeniable fact that from time immemorial, there have been physical actions involving the use of the hands and feet for the purposes of self-protection.

If we were to define these physical actions as "TaeKwon-Do", any country might claim creidit for inventing TaeKwon-Do.  There is however, scant resemblance between TaeKwon-Do, as it is practiced today, and the crude forms of unarmed combat developed in the past. Modern TaeKwon-Do differs greatly from other martial arts. In fact, no other martial art is so advanced with regard to the sophistication and effectiveness of its techniques or the overall physical fitness it imparts to its practitioners.  Since the theories, terminology, techniques, systems, methods, rules, practice, and spiritual foundation were scientifically developed, systematized, and named by the author, it is an error to think of any physical actions employing the hands and feet for self-defense as TaeKwon-Do. Nor is any other martial arts system entitled to call itself TaeKwon-Do.  Only those who practice the techniques based on the author's theories, principles, and phlosophy are considered to be students of genuine TaeKwon-Do.

The following is a description of both the origin and nature of the martial art of TaeKwon-Do by its originator, General Choi Hong Hi.

"A combination of circumstances made it possible for me to originate and develop TaeKwon-Do. In addition to my prior knowledge of Taek Kyon, I had an opportunity to learn Karate in Japan during the unhappy thirty-six years when my native land was occupied by the Japanese.  Soon after Korea was liberated in 1945, I was placed in a privileged position as a founding member of the newly formed South Korean Armed Forces.  The former provided me with a definate sense of creation, and the latter gave me the power to disseminate TaeKwon-Do throughout the entire armed forces, despite furious opposition.

The emergence of TaeKwon-Do as an international martial art in a relatively short periodd of time was due to a variety of factors.  The evils of contemporary society (moral corruption, materialism, selfishness, etc.) had created a spiritual vacuum.  TaeKwon-Do was able to compensate for the prevailing sense of emptiness, distrust, decadence and lack of confidence.

In addition these were violent times, when people felt a need for a means of protecting themselves, and the superiority of TaeKwon-Do techniques came to be widely recognized. My social status, the advantage of being TaeKwon-Do's founder, and my God-given health also contributed to the rapid growth all over the world of TaeKwon-Do.

My involvement with the martial arts did much to supplement the health that God gave me.  I had been born frail and weak and was encouraged to learn Taek Kyon at the age of fifteen by my teacher of calligraphy.  In 1938, a few days before I was due to leave Korea to study n Japan I was involved in an unexpected incident that would have made it difficult to return home wiht risk of reprisals.

I resolved to become a black belt holder in Karate while I was in Japan.  The skills I required were, I felt, sufficient protection against those who might seek to do me harm.  Not onl was I able to return to Korea, but I subsequently initiated the national liberation movement known as the Pyongyang Student Soldier's Incident.  Like so many patriots in the long course of human history, my actions aroused the wrath of those in positions of power.  I was imprisoned for a time in a Japanese army jail.  In January of 1946, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the fledgling army of the Republic of Korea and posted to the 4th infantry regiment in Kwangju, Cholla Namdo Province as a company commander.  I began to teach Karate to my soldiers as a means of physical and mental training.  It was then that I realized that we needed to develop our own national martial art, superior in both spiri and technique to Japanese Karate.  I strongly believed that teaching it throughout the country would enable me to fulfill the pledge I had made to three of my comrades, who had shared my imprisonment by the Japanese.  'The reason that our people suffer in this way at the hands of the Japanese,' I had said, 'is that our ancestors failed to rule wisely.  They exploited the people and, in the end, lost the coutry to foreign domination.  If we ever regain our freedom and independence, let us not become the rulers of the people.  Instead, let us dedicate ourselves to advising those who rule.'

It was with this ambition in mind that I began to develop new techniques, systematically, from March of that same year.  By the end of 1954 I had nearly completed the foundation of a new martial art for Korea, and on April 11, 1955, it was given the name of TaeKwon-Do.

On the spiritual level, TaeKwon-Do is derived from the traditional, ethical, and moral principles of the orient and, of course, from my personal philosophy.  Even though I am only five feet tall, I pride myself on having lived in strict accordance with my moral convictions.  I have tried to fight on the side of justice without fear of any kind.  I believe that this was possible for me only because of the formidable power and indomitable spirit instilled by TaeKwon-Do.

The physical techniques of TaeKwon-Do are based on the principles of modern science, in particular, Newtonian phusics which teaches us how to generate maximum power.  Military tactics of attack and defense have also been incorporated.  I wish to make it clear that although Karate and Taek Kyon were used as references in the course of my study, the fundamental theories and principles of TaeKwon-Do are totally different from those of any other martial art in the world.

In March of 1959, I led the military TaeKwon-Do demonstration team on a tour abroad.  We visited South Vietnam and Taiwan.  It was the first such visit in the history of Koarea.  On this occasion, I renewed my resolution to leave my personal legacy to the world, in the form of TaeKwon-Do, and I formulated the following basic ideals for the TaeKwon-Do practitioners:

  1. By developing an upright mind and a strong body, we will acquire the self-confidence to stand on the side of justice at all times.
  2. We shall unite with all men in a common brotherhood, without regard to religion race, national or ideological boundaries.
  3. We shall dedicate ourselves to building a peaceful human society in which justice, morality, trust and humanism prevail.

I also resolved to dedicate myself to the world-wide propagation of TaeKwon-Do, in the sincere hope that it would provide the means by which the unification of the divided halves of my fatherland would become possible.

My study of TaeKwon-Do proceeded in two parts, spiritual discipline and technical perfection.  Because the human spirit belongs to the realm of metaphysics, what I mean by spiritual discipline is not easy to describe.  One cannot touch, see or hear the spirit of man.  It is wider and deeper than anything we can perceive.  In this respect, I, myslelf, am only another student participating in a continuing and never ending learning process.  I have come to define the spiritual dimensions of TaeKwon-Do as fusing oneself with the ideals of TaeKwon-Do and attaining and understanding the full meaning of the TaeKwon-Do patterns.  If we consider ourselves as one with TaeKwon-Do, we will respect it as we respect our own bodies and TaeKwon0Do will never be used in a dishonorable way.

The names of the patterns are derived from the most illustrious people to have been produced by nearly five thousand years of Korean history.  A proper understanding of the patterns leads, inevitably, to the realization that TaeKwon-Do is a martial art to be used only for self-defense and only in the case of justice.  The history of Korea contains not a single sample of its military forces being emplyed for the invasion of its neighbors or for any other purpose except national defense.  In the technical area I created a wide variety of techniques that can be used in almost ay situation.  They are based on the following priciples:

  1. All movement should be designed to produce maximum power in accordance with the scientific formulas and the priciple of kinetic energy.
  2. The priciples behind the techniques should be so clear that even those ignorant to TaeKwon-Do will be able to distinguish correct from incorrect movement.
  3. The distance and angle of each movement should be exactly defined in order to achieve more efficient attack and defense.
  4. The purpose and method of each movement should be clear and simple, in order to facilitate the teaching and learning process.
  5. Rational teaching methods should be developed so that the benefits of TaeKwon-Do can be enjoyed by everyone young and old men and women.
  6. Correct breathing methods should be devised, enhancing the speed of each movement and reducing fatigue.
  7. Attack should be possible against any vital spot on the body and it should be possible to defend against all varieties of attack.
  8. Each attacking tool should be clearly defined and soundly based on the structure of the human body.
  9. Each movement should be easy to execute, enabling the student to enjoy TaeKwon-Do as a sport and recreation.
  10. Special consideration should be paid to promoting good health and preventing injuries.
  11. Each movement should be harmonious and rhythmical so that TaeKwon-Do is aestheically pleasing.
  12. Each movement in a pattern must express the character of the person it is named afte

Adherence to these basic priciples is what makes TaeKwon-Do a martial art, an aesthetic art, a science and a sport.

2024  Dragan Caoin Taekwondo