Taekwon-do is Korean for foot (tae), hand (kwon) and way,
or art (do). It can thus be rendered, "the art of fighting
using the hands and feet." The word "do", essentially the
key to the art itself, implies a totally dedicated way of
life, the pursuit of excellence.
Strictly speaking, the nomenclature, Taekwondo, is relatively
recent, being coined by the Father of Taekwondo, General Choi
Hong-hi in 1957, but its roots go back over 2000 tears to
c.60 BC to the art of Taek Kyon. Taek Kyon was developed,
like karate and Kung-fu, as a devastating, surprise tactic
against the depredations of marauders, ironically, in this
case, Japanese pirates.
The Japanese were both directly and indirectly responsible
for Taekwondo's development. Indirectly, as they banned martial
arts during their Korean occupation from 1909 until World
War 2, forcing Taek Kyon, also known as Subak, to be pursued
secretly in Buddhist temples. At the onset of war, the Japanese
forced Korean subjugates, to learn karate in Japan, where
Choi, himself, became proficient in Shokotan karate, later
attaining the grade of 2nd Dan.
tae kwon do accordingly involves many of the rigours of
karate, thanks to Choi, typically, intense body-conditioning
and muscular development. It's a hard style involving direct,
forceful blocks, powerful, linear attacks, and angular movements.
Its also an amalgam of T'ai Chi, Kung-fu, judo, and other
styles, incorporating spinning motions, punching, high jumping
kicks, dodges, and parrying with both hands and feet.
For Taekwondo students, its military background is crucial.
Latterly, as it was incorporated into the military training
of both the Korean, and US forces. But far more importantly,
because of the ancient parallels with the Roman legions, the
quintessential martial artists.
Initially, worshipping Mars in his most brutal, slaughtering
aspect, as Ares, the legions' beliefs progressed through Mars
Ultor -" the Avenger"- to their ultimate devotion to Mithras,
the Zoroastrian god of battles and victory. However, for Taekwondo,
it's as god of oaths, mutual obligation between the king and
his warriors, protector of the righteous, and arch-foe of
the powers of evil that he's most significant.
Ultimately, Mithras represented friendship, integrity, harmony,
and all that successfully maintains order in human existence.
He thus accords with the highest martial art principles, extolled
by the ancient promulgators of Taek Kyon, the HwaRang - "the
Flowering of Youth".
It's to this aristocratic elite that the latter 11 point honour-code
of Taekwondo - respect, loyalty, and fidelity i.e. deference,
adherence to the law, allegiance, and oath-keeping to country,
ancestors, spouses, siblings, friends, and school - owes its
origin; representing the most arduous task for the student.
But it's the Buddhist respect for life, inherent in the HwaRang's
oath never to take life unjustifiably, the attainment of indomitability
of spirit, and the completion of what one has begun that students
will derive the greatest benefit from. Plus taking to heart
the HwaRang's Confucian directive that the noble man should
study poetry, the arts, and play music, as martial arts are
best left to the common, or even inferior, man!
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