Modern Taekwondo differs greatly from other martial arts. In fact, no other martial art is so advanced with regard to the sophistication and effectiveness of its technique or the over-all physical fitness it imparts to its practitioners.
The modern art of Taekwondo traces its history back many centuries to the three ancient kingdoms of Korea, Silla, Koguryo and Baek je. Murals and rock carvings dating to the 6th century AD depict activities that resemble Soo Bak and Taek Kyon, the native fighting methods of the Korean peninsula. Early chronicles also make mention of these systems.
Through the centuries China, and in later times Japan, included the culture of Korea in many ways. Chinese developments in the martial arts likely filtered over and were incorporated into the Korean systems, though little documented evidence of this exists. Unlike its neighbors, Korea went through a period of over 400 years during which all martial and military activities were looked down upon. No real developments occurred during this time and the roots of Taekwondo nearly died out.
The climax of this period came with the Japanese occupation of Korea at the end of the 19th century. All elements of Korean culture were suppressed. In these more recent times, the Okinawan and Japanese derived developments in the martial arts which exerted a strong influence on the few young martial arts practitioners that secretly carried on their Korean fighting methods.
Following the Japanese defeat in World War II, Korea once again controlled its own society. At this time, amid the strong upsurge of national pride, Korean martial arts resurfaced. A series of schools opened, and a movement led by General Choi Hong Hi developed to unify the varying methods into one national martial art. This was accomplished in 1955, and the name “Taekwondo” (a name proposed by Gen. Choi) was decided upon for its meaning and its resemblance to the name of the traditional, native art Taek Kyon. Since then, the art has spread across the world and can proudly claim millions of practitioners from virtually all nations.