2009, Volume 5, Issue 1

Historical Aspects of T'aekwŏndo

Willy Pieter1

1Department of Physical Education, University of Asia and the Pacific, Pasig City, Philippines

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The roots of t’aekwŏndo as portrayed in the popular literature seems to be at odds with the evidence available in the historical scripts. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to clarify selected concepts that have been mentioned as related to the “history” of t’aekwŏndo. Secondary and tertiary historical sources in (classical) Korean, English and German were used as well as etymological analysis. According to the historical sources, the hwarang were not an exclusively military group. They were entertainers for the royal family with a clear religious character. T’aekkyŏn, always claimed to be the forerunner of t’aekwŏndo, was a game that was also known in Japan in which the participants tried to unbalance or trip each other by leg sweeps or by pushing. However, the original word was t’akkyŏn, pushing (with) the shoulders. Based on current historical evidence it seems reasonable to conclude that there is no historical legitimacy of t’aekwŏndo as an age-old martial art. Just like in any other sport, winning in t’aekwŏndo is paramount and competitors may rely on sport scientific support to optimize their performance.

Key words: hwarang, history, t’aekkyŏn, t’aekwŏndo, wŏnhwa, karate