Literally translated the word "Tang" refers to the Tang Dynasty of China, which reflects the shared cultural background between China and Korea (617-907 AD). "Soo" means hand and "Do" means way of life or art.
The exact origin of Tang Soo Do, as well as any of the martial arts in general, is obscure, though there are a number of historical theories. However the most credible and traditional view is that martial arts originated not in any one country, but in almost all parts of the world, as they were needed to defend oneself.
The ancestral art of Korean Tang Soo Do can be traced back approximately 2,000 years. At that time, Korea was divided into three kingdoms. Paekche was founded in 18 BC in southwest Korea, Koguryo in 37 BC, and northern Korea Silla in 57 BC in the southeast Korean peninsula. After a long series of wars, the Silla Dynasty united the three kingdoms in 668 AD. During this period of time, the primitive martial arts were very popular in warfare. This is evident by murals, ruins, and remains, which depicted the martial arts in those days. Among the three kingdoms, the Silla Dynasty was the most famous for development of the martial arts. A corps formed by young aristocrats who were called "Hwa Rang Dan" was the major group who developed those arts. These warriors were instrumental in unifying the peninsula as the new Silla Dynasty (668 AD - 935 AD), and furnished many of the early leaders of that time. Most Korean martial arts trace their roots to this group. Our five codes of Tang Soo Do originated by a monk "Won Kwang", is a part of their and our heritage. The unified Silla kingdom was overthrown by a warlord, Wang Kun, in 918 AD and a new kingdom called "Koryo" lasted 475 years. In 1392 AD the New Kingdom, Yi Dynasty, succeeded and lasted about 500 years. Approximately a thousand year period elapsed between the two dynasties. Tang Soo Do became very popular among the military. However, more importantly, this art also became very popular with the general public. The very first complete martial arts book was written at this time the "Mooyae Dobo Tongi". It was written in 1790 AD and contained illustrations that substantiate the theory that "Soo Bahk Ki" the formal name of Tang Soo Do, had quickly developed into a sophisticated art of combat.
The subsequent occupation of Korea by the Japanese military regime took place from 1909-1945. During this period, practicing and teaching martial arts was restricted. After World Was II, this restriction was lifted and several martial arts training schools began to emerge:
Moo Duk Kwan by Hwang Kee
Chi Do Kwan by Kwai Byung, Yun
Chung Do Kwan by Duk Sung, Son
Song Moo Kwan by Byung Jik, No
Chang Moo Kwan by Nam Suk, Lee
Yun Moo Kwan by San Sup,Chun
These Kwans organized their own organizations respectively and Master Hwang Kee organized the "Korean Soo Bahk Do Federation" on November 9th 1945. Beside the Soo Bahk Do Federation, there were various types of other martial arts called "Kong Soo" or "Tae Soo" existing in Korea. In 1965, all of these various systems were united into one organization, called the Korean Tae Kwon Do Federation and the art was called "Tae Kwon Do" uniformly.
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