Although many myths and legends exist about it’s origins, martial arts, or bare-hand combat, has been generally accepted as being introduced by an Indian Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma (448-529 AD)
He reputedly travelled from an Indian monastery to China instructing in the areas of Buddhism (Zen). During his visit he introduced Buddhist monks, in the Shaolin Temple, to a form of mental and physical conditioning and training involving a set of 18 postures (similar to Tai Chi) imitating temple idols.
As a result these monks became the most formidable fighters in China. Their style later became knownas Shaolin boxing.
As Buddhism became increasingly, popular, it spread throughout other Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. An increased interaction between these countries allowed for some comparisons and further development of their fighting styles, and also variations in styles became apparent between countries.
Korean fighting styles can be historically traced back many hundreds of years to the three major Kingdoms of Korea: Silla, Koguryo, and Baek Je (6th Century AD)
These times were rife with constant and violent feuding between the Kingdoms and also their bitter enemies, the Japanese. The survival of these Kingdoms was dependant upon the development of strong armies. For these ancient warriors, mastery of the fighting skills was paramount, as any mistake would result in almost certain death.The famous Hwa-Rang Warriors, an elite fighting core, were formed during the Silla Dynasty. These individuals underwent the most intensive training rituals and severe physical and mental conditioning, including mountain climbing, swimming turbulent rivers in freezing conditions, as well as training in fighting weapons including spear, bow, sword and hook. They placed as much emphasis on training the mind as well as punishing their bodies, and ultimately discovered that mastery of the body comes as a result of mastery of the mind.
Each soldier strictly followed the Hwa-Rang Warrior Code:
Be loyal to your King
Be obedient to your parents
Be honourable to your friends
Never retreat in battle
Make a just Kill
Be of their superior courage, ability in the battlefields, and their strict loyalty and philosophy, their deeds became legendary (many of them died in battle as
young as 14 or 15 year of age). The Hwa-Rang Warriors gained the respect of even their most bitter enemies.
Due to the dominance of these warriors, the Silla Dynasty, although the smallest, became the most
powerful of the three Korean kingdoms. The arts of Taekyon and Soo Bak Gi flourished during the Koryo Dynasty (935 AD), after their defeat of the Silla Kingdom. During these times, training in Taekyon was compulsory for all soldiers, and perfection was the only way of being promoted through the ranks. Soldiers had to prove their mastery at an annual competition at the Kak Chon temple. Major governmental positions were determined by performance in these Fighting skills.
Over the next thousand years, the martial arts generally became less pronounced in Korea, apart from their military uses, and finally in 1909, with Japanese occupation of Korea, the practice of martial arts by Koreans was forbidden. The only, major survivor of this catastrophe was Taekyon, with much training carried out in secret, many Koreans made their way to foreign lands during these times, where they could test their art against other styles including Karate, Jiujutsu, Judo, Kung Fu, Tai Chi. This enabled them to improve their own style and gain techniques from other styles.
In 1945 Korea was liberated form Japanese rule, and many Koreans returned to their homeland, bringing back with them the martial arts knowledge gained from abroad. At this time, the Republic of Korea (R.O.K) armed forces were formed.
In 1946, after his release from Japanese prison camp, 2nd Lieutenant, Choi Hong Hi began teaching his style of unarmed combat to these forces. Choi was primarily responsible for the fighting training of these soldiers, and later soldiers of most major countries armies adopted General Choi’s teaching.
The R.O.K demonstration teams, led by Choi, were later to become famous for their amazing skill displays while spreading the arty across the world, initially Vietnam, Malaysia and other Asian areas. Many famous Taekwon-Do masters of today were members of these
demonstration teams. In 1955 a panel of instructors, politicians and historians most notably General Choi Hong Hi (dec), decided upon the name Taekwon-do to represent Korea’s national martial art. General Choi was credited with the development of Taekwon-Do and is universally referred to as the Founder and father of Taekwon-Do. General Choi deeply researched and developed a modern martial art differing from any former art terminology, created techniques, systems, methods, rules, practice suits and philosophy on the basis of his self confirmed theory and conviction.
Thus Taekwon-Do was named on the 11th April 1955.
Read one of General Choi's first interviews about Taekwon-Do in 1974 here : -
Since then, the martial art Taekwon-Do has been improved in the sophistication and effectiveness of its techniques and overall physical fitness it imparts to its practise.
The definition of Taekwon-Do in the encyclopaedia ‘Britannica’ reads as follows:
‘’Korean art of unarmed combat that is based on
the earlier form of Korean self-defence known as Taekyon and Karate. The name Taekwon-Do
was officially adopted for this martial art in 1955 after that name had been submitted by South Korean General Choi Hong Hi (dec), the principal founder of Taekwon-Do.”
United ITFNZ roots come from the leadership of Mr Blair Martin with over 30 years of continuous Taekwon-Do experience. Mr Martin started Taekwon-Do in Fielding New Zealand as a 7 year old boy in the early 80's. After moving to Palmerston North in the mid 80’s, Mr Martin linked up with a club who was under the international leadership of Master Yun and national body, International Taekwon-Do Foundation of New Zealand. After Graduating to 1st degree black belt in 1992 Mr Martin moved to Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. Upon arriving to Upper Hutt he found there were no Taekwon-Do Clubs under his original national body, then ITFNZ.
This is the time where Mr Martin was introduced to Mr Harry Hemana, 5th Degree black belt and founder of south pacific Taekwon-Do New Zealand, whom was one of New Zealand's pioneers of Taekwon-Do. Mr Hemana was a very humble man. Mr Hemana fought for NZ in the Vietnam war and was well known as the drill Sergeant. Mr Hemana’s club at the time was Rimutaka Taekwon-Do Club.
Upper Hutt's Harry Hemana, was one of the top instructors of Taekwon-Do in New Zealand, and he was awarded the International Star of Excellence by the founder. Hemana became one of only two New Zealanders to have received the star when he travelled to Hungary to accept it from General Choi Hong Hi. He said General Choi passed on concerns about unqualified instructors teaching the sport he founded. With more than 30 years of Taekwon-Do experience, Hemana was asked by General Choi to "clean up" the art in New Zealand on behalf of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF).
"I know that I must clean out my own backyard before looking any further", Hemana said.
Due to age and illness Mr Hemana looked to Mr Martin at the age of 19 to take over the running of his club with its existing members. The club was renamed and re founded as United Taekwon-Do in 1992, and the new journey had began.
Mr Martin was privileged enough to become a close friend in both Taekwon-Do and personal life with Mr Hemana. During the 10 years of working together Mr Hemana and Mr Martin built some very strong relationships with many different martial arts organisations both in NZ and internationally. Work was under way with the alliance with Master Muleta from Austraila. Due to the passing of Mr Hemana this work remained incomplete. Before Mr Hemana’s passing the clubs were drawn back under the governance of ITFNZ and remained so, until 2012 when Mr Martin had decided that after 30 years his Taekwon-Do journey was not over, and he was committed to carrying out the work of Mr Hemana to ensure New Zealanders have the right to be associated with the roots of Taekwon-Do.
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