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Dive into the fascinating world of Taekwondo history, exploring its ancient roots, evolution, and global impact on martial arts today.

Let’s kick off!

Taekwondo History Summary

  • ⏳ Origins and Evolution: Taekwondo’s rich history traces back to ancient Korea, where martial arts like Taekkyon and Subak laid the foundation. In the mid-20th century, various Korean martial arts schools unified under the name Taekwondo, promoting its distinctive techniques and philosophy.
  • πŸš€ Rise to Prominence: Taekwondo’s international reach grew rapidly, thanks to demonstrations by Korean masters, military training, and sports diplomacy. The World Taekwondo Federation (now World Taekwondo) was established in 1973, propelling the martial art to a global stage.
  • πŸ₯‡ Noteworthy Growth and Adaptation: With its inclusion as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and as an official Olympic event in 2000, Taekwondo’s popularity soared worldwide. Embracing technological advancements, like electronic scoring systems, the martial art continues to evolve, adapt, and thrive.

Taekwondo History Timeline

Ancient Korea

The origins of Taekwondo date back to ancient Korea over 2,000 years ago, where martial arts like Taekkyon and Subak were practiced. Murals in ancient tombs, such as the Muyongchong, Goguryeo, and Silla dynasties, depict warriors showcasing fighting stances and techniques similar to those in modern Taekwondo.

During the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE), each Korean kingdom developed its unique form of martial arts. The Silla Kingdom’s elite youth warrior group, known as Hwarang, practiced Subak and contributed significantly to Taekwondo’s early development.

1940s – 1950s

After World War II and the Korean War, various Korean martial arts schools, or kwans, sought to unify their practice. In 1955, the Korea Taekwondo Association was formed, and the name “Taekwondo” was chosen to represent the unified martial art. General Choi Hong Hi, one of Taekwondo’s founding fathers, played a crucial role in the merging of kwans and promotion of the martial art.

Beyond unification, South Korean military forces began incorporating Taekwondo in their training, demonstrating its effectiveness as a self-defense technique. Shortly after, Taekwondo also became a part of physical education programs in schools across South Korea.

1960s – 1970s

Taekwondo’s global influence expanded during the 1960s, when Korean masters started traveling and performing martial art demonstrations worldwide. Foreign militaries, particularly in Southeast Asia and the United States, adopted Taekwondo for self-defense training.

In 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), now known as World Taekwondo (WT), was established. The first-ever World Taekwondo Championships were held in Seoul, South Korea, in the same year, solidifying Taekwondo’s recognition as an international martial art.


In 1980, the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), founded by General Choi Hong Hi, gained recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This marked a significant milestone for Taekwondo, bringing it closer to Olympic participation.

Eight years later, Taekwondo made its Olympic debut as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The event showcased the martial art’s grace, power, and unique techniques to a global audience, further increasing its popularity.


Taekwondo continued to gain momentum in the 1990s, becoming a demonstration sport once again in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Meanwhile, the number of countries practicing Taekwondo rose dramatically, with over 120 nations joining World Taekwondo by the mid-1990s.

As the martial art gained international prominence, World Taekwondo shifted its focus towards the standardization of techniques and forms, known as poomsae. This facilitated consistent teaching and judging in competitions globally.


Taekwondo made its debut as an official Olympic sport in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. This inclusion significantly boosted the martial art’s global appeal, leading to rapid growth in participation and institutional support worldwide.

With increased global attention, World Taekwondo initiated advancements in safety equipment and electronic scoring systems to enhance the fairness and accuracy of Taekwondo competitions.

2010s – Present

Technological advancements continue to shape modern Taekwondo. The introduction of the Instant Video Replay system at the 2012 London Olympics enabled judges to make more accurate decisions during competitions, maintaining the integrity of the sport.

Today, Taekwondo is practiced in over 200 countries, with millions of practitioners worldwide. Organizations like World Taekwondo and the International Taekwondo Federation remain committed to promoting the martial art’s core values of self-discipline, respect, and perseverance, preserving Taekwondo’s rich history and ensuring its growth in the future.

Learn about the physical and mental challenges that make it such a demanding sport in our article on why taekwondo is the hardest sport.


Who invented Taekwondo?

General Choi Hong Hi of the South Korean military is often credited with founding Taekwondo in the mid-20th century, integrating martial arts techniques from different Asian countries.

How did Taekwondo become so popular?

Taekwondo gained popularity worldwide due to its inclusion in the Olympics, effective fitness and self-defense benefits, and international outreach by the World Taekwondo Federation.

Where did Taekwondo originate?

Taekwondo originated in Korea, combining aspects of native Korean martial arts, like Taekkyon and Subak, with other Asian fighting styles.

Wayne is a travel blogger who loves to write about the best attractions, restaurants, and resorts in Florida and the southeastern U.S. When he is not writing, he is running outdoors, spending time with family, or planning his next trip.

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