Brief written histories of Taekwondo may either claim the martial art was either developed in the 1940s or has a history dating back 5000 years. This apparent contradiction overlooks the complexity of an evolving art-form. Several martial art schools did appear in South Korea after the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945. These schools were founded by Korean martial artists who had been strongly influence by Japan’s martial arts. At the same time the country has its own tradition of martial arts stretching back many centuries. Taekwondo is the product of this long history and the modern influence of Japanese martial arts.
The various Korean martial arts schools of the 1940s and 50s were all distinctly different; the term Taekwondo was not coined till the late 1950s, and it took several years for this to be accepted as a general term for all these varied martial art practices. The word ‘taekwondo’ roughly translates as ‘foot and fist way’ or ‘to step on and fight way’.
The various different school styles were merged at the insistence of (then) South Korean President Syngman Rhee. Politics affected the administration of the practice, as the South Korean government did not want the North Koreans involved. The official Korean Taekwondo Association and International Taekwondo Federation were formed, despite the South Korean government’s lack of support. These have spilt as the original founders have retired. There are now at least three separate South Korean Taekwondo federations operating under the same name.