The History of Tae Kwon Do (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a 4-part essay on The History of Tae Kwon Do.

Early Korea: Unification


During the Koryo Dynasty (918AD – 1392), the martial arts were used in military training. In the beginning of Koryo, martial arts abilities were prerequisite for all military personnel. Young cadets who mastered Taekkyon techniques could be promoted to be military officers by competing for the positions.

The kings of Koryo loved the sport too. They often held Subakki and Taekkyon contests, awarding prizes to the winners. The Subakki was also popular among the public, which organized Subakki contests whenever the king went out to inspect and tour their villages.

Kookjakam was the Koryo national university, one of the highest educational institutions at that time. Kookjakam spread and scientifically systemized Subakki to its highest level. It was during this time period that Koryo began to trade with countries all over the world. Foreigners were captivated by Subakki, which then began to spread all over the world. Koryo was renamed Korea by foreign traders.

Chosun (or Yi)

The Yi Dynasty was the last dynasty of Korea, beginning in 1392 and ending in 1910. Like Koryo and Baekjae, the Yi dynasty held Subakki contests for the purpose of selecting soldiers. However, the Yi Kingdom began to place more emphasis on the literary arts than the martial arts. It was during this era that the Mooyae Doba Tongjee, the first martial arts textbook, was published (1790). The Mooyae Doba Tongjee contains illustrations that portray each Subakki technique, and the fourth volume of it contains 38 illustrations of hand techniques that, it is claimed, are almost identical to today’s Tae Kwon Do techniques.