The very first evidence of this ancient form of Korean martial arts appeared during the Three Kingdom era (57 BC-935 AD) as Hwa Rang Do. The art was taught as an empty handed technique for training warriors for combat. Since then 2,000 years have passed. The indigenous martial arts quietly developed through generations of the Korean people. During some eras it flourished and other times it diminished, according to the political, economic or cultural environment. The art was known by various names throughout the eras as Hwa Rang Do, Moo Sul, Kyuck Too Ki, Soo Bahk Ki, Soo Byuck Ki, Taek Kyun etc. respectively.
In the early part of the 20th century, Korea was occupied by Japan, and historical Korean martial arts were purged. Masters who had learned the styles of Taek Kyun and others went into hiding, or learned the new Japanese style arts that were brought into the country by its occupiers.
Following 1945 Korean independence, the Korean martial arts were again brought back to prominence, and were merged with the current martial arts of the day. The Korean masters integrated traditional Korean techniques with the Japanese influenced arts like Karate. The results flourished throughout the entire Korean Peninsula. Many organizations were founded with various names such as Soo Bahk Do, Tang Soo Do, Tae Soo Do and so on.
At the beginning of the modern era of the Korean martial arts, Tang Soo Do was the most popular term for these arts, however, at that time, the Korean political leader was concerned about establishing Korean value based on Korean nationalism. The political leaders recognized the popularity of Korean martial arts around the world, but were opposed to the use of the name Tang Soo Do for the art, as it sounded like a Chinese martial art, because the first word “Tang” could be interpreted as representing the Chinese Tang Dynasty (617-907 AD). In 1964, a government sponsored small group created a new name for the Korean martial arts: Tae Kwon Do.
As time progressed, Tae Kwon Do further evolved to become much more focused on kicking techniques, and to evolve the art into more of a competition sport. Taekwondo became a demonstration sport in the 1988 Olympics, and the art became very focused on teaching techniques that would allow students to win at competitions, not necessarily to defend them selves from an attacker.
This was considered to be a great political achievement, to bring strength and prominence to the Korean government in International politics. True Martial Arts lovers had no place within these Tae Kwon Do dojangs to continue to pursue traditional martial arts because they abandoned many valuable aspects of true Martial Arts to become a simple competitive sport.
The World Tang Soo Do Association still respects the original term, Tang Soo Do, and intends to preserve its heritage and value as a traditional way or path. The techniques as designed and taught for centuries are still the foundation for our program. We have not changed it to fit within a sport competition.
We, as World Tang Soo Do practitioners are striving to maintain traditional values of respect, discipline, self control, self improvement, etiquette and ultimately live a healthy and harmonious life, physically and mentally.