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The Birth of Tae Kwon Do

Even though the Japanese banned the study of Korean Martial Arts, many Koreans practiced arts such as Soo Bak and TaeKyon in secret. During the occupation many Koreans studied Japanese Martial Arts.

Although generally banned by the occupying Japanese, the Korean Martial Arts of Soo Bak, Tae Kyon, Kong Soo and Hwa Soo and others survived by being practiced in secret, whilst in later years, the Japanese martial arts were often learnt by Koreans from their invaders. Tae Kyon was secretly practiced and passed onto a handful of students by men like Han Il Dong and Duk Ki Song. Another

student of the outlawed arts was Hwang Kee, the future founder of Tang Soo Do and the Moo Duk Kwan (martial arts School). By the age of 22, Kee had become expert in Soo Bak and Tae Kyon and in 1936 he travelled to Northern China to study the "T'ang method". He then worked until 1945 to combine the Korean and Chinese styles into Tang Soo Do (the way of T'ang hand).

The original meaning of the term Karate was "T'ang Hand", Te meaning hand and Kara an ideogram to describe the Chinese T'ang. In 1936, Okinawan Masters got together at the behest of a newspaper to change the ideogram Kara to the one meaning "empty", as it has the same pronunciation.

In the later part of the Japanese occupation many Koreans went to Japan to further their education and to learn Martial Arts. One of these was Choi Yong-I, born in Korea in 1923 and started studying Korean Kempo at the age of nine. He went to Japan in 1938 to study aviation using the name Masutatsu Oyama but put more of his energies into the study of Karate to become, many decades later, the founder of Kyokushinkai Karate.

Another Korean, Choi Hong Hi, went to Kyoto, Japan in 1937 to study calligraphy. Choi had been studying calligraphy and Tae Kyon in Korea under Han Il Dong and upon arrival in Japan he started to study Shotokan Karate as a student of a Korean named Kim, and after two years of intensive training he was presented with a first Dan Black Belt in Shotokan.

He then went onto Tokyo University where he gained his second Dan and became an instructor at the YMCA. During WW 2, whereas Oyama stayed in Japan, Choi was forced to enlist in the Japanese army and was posted to Pyongyang in Korea where he became involved in the Korean Independence Movement, resulting in his imprisonment. Until his liberation at the end of the war he practiced and developed much of his martial art, later to be named Tae Kwon Do.
History | Way of Life | Ancient Martial Arts | The Birth