Taekwondo is a Korean fighting style created in the 50's, based from the fusion of several South Korean schools inspired by Shotokan Karate and certain characteristic elements of Korean martial arts (in particular Taekkyon). Its main characteristic are its spectacular foot techniques.
Its creation also had the aim of exalting the young South Korean nation.
Named 'Taekwondo' by Choi Hong Hi in 1955, it has become an Olympic sport since 2000.
Taekwondo may be translated as "the way of the foot and the hand". Tae means "to strike or break with the foot", kwon signifies "to strike or break with the fist" and do corresponds to "way of life".
Its techniques are characterized by a set of blocks, kicks, punches, and open-handed strikes and includes several take-downs or sweeps, throws, and joint locks. Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on high kicking and fast hand techniques.
There are two main current associations:
- ITF - International Taekwondo Federation
It represents the martial style.
- WT - World Taekwondo, former World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)
Representing the competitive style, it is the most widspread and is represented in the Olympics.
Competitions within ITF also exist, but make use of less safety equipment.
ITF credits Choi Hong Hi (also known as General Choi) as sole founder, while WT claims that Taekwondo was a collaborative development by a council consisting of members from the nine original kwans (schools) .