A brief history
Taekwondo is a Korean word meaning the ‘way of the foot and fist.’ The self-defence art started in Korea more than 2,300 years ago, and its evolution was in sync with the country’s development. The highest level of Taekwondo was achieved in the small kingdom of Silla, which had to deal with consistent attacks from larger Kingdoms. As a result, King Jin Heung established an Elite Squad of Warriors trained in various aspects of military combat, including unarmed combat.
The elite group, the Hwarang, trained to develop their bodies, spirit and mind. Apart from the fighting techniques, the young warriors obtained an education in various areas such as poetry, history, and philosophy. The modern-day Taekwondo follows in the footsteps of this training where, in addition to self-defence training, there’s a focus on self-discipline, improved character and confidence-building.
Taekwondo as a type of martial arts
Taekwondo is a stand-up martial art where practitioners defend themselves by striking. Acts of defence include punches, blocks, kicks and use of elbows and knees. Students may also break boards and focus on improving footwork as well as their stance. There is a tremendous improvement in flexibility when training in this form of martial arts.
The primary goal of Taekwondo is to render the offending party powerless by striking them. It is similar to karate, but the footwork and blocks are also meant to avoid strikes until an opportunity to take down the opponent presents itself. There’s much focus on kicking techniques in Taekwondo.
The different styles of Taekwondo
Although it is hard to specifically pin down the number of Taekwondo styles due to its impressive diversity across the world, here are two of the most popular branches of the sport and how they differ.
World Taekwondo (WT): The style used in the Olympics, this style of Taekwondo is seen as the most traditional. In most dojos, WT focuses more on sport sparring than other styles do. It was established on May 28th, 1973, and presides as the go-to form of Taekwondo for most beginners.
International Taekwondo Federation (ITF): After WT, this is the second most popular style of Taekwondo. It was founded in 1966 by Gen Choi and has a shift in focus towards the defence side of Taekwondo. There are also subtle differences in technique between ITF and WT, as seen for example in kicking methods.
One common ground between these two styles of Taekwondo is their shared ethos. Both styles, and indeed most if not all styles of Taekwondo, practise fair play, personal development and discipline, and the encouragement of a sound mentality and inner peace during the sport. There are more styles besides ITF and WT; these are just the most common.
Taekwondo in Australia
The story of the development of Taekwondo in Australia would not be complete without the mention of the scrupulous efforts of Ke-Hyung No. Ke-Hyung No came to Australia by invitation of Victoria Judo Federation in 1965 and established regular Taekwondo classes.
Ke-Hyung No was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Taekwondo Association (ATA) and was elected president of the body. The main objective of the Taekwondo Association was to oversee the success of the martial art in Australia.
Under Ke Hyung’s stewardship, Australian Taekwondo was incorporated into the Gold medal programme of the Australian Olympic Committee in 1994. Ke Hyung resigned in 1995 but continues to offer classes in Taekwondo. The self-defence art is prevalent in Australia and continues to grow, and it’s all thanks to Ke Hyung.