History of Taekwondo

The True History of Tang Soo Do and Taekwondo by Elmer D. Garrido

Korea’s Ancient History

The beginings of Tang Soo Do and Taekwondo have nothing to do with the long dragged-out history of Korea’s period of the three kingdoms, Koguryo, Silla, or Paekche nor any of their wars or their eventual union nor the indiginous fighting arts developed during that time.

I propose that these Korean arts are a branch of the Japanese Shotokan Karate style mixed with the Korean indiginous fighting art called Taekkyeon. Taekkyeon is a Korean fighting style characterized by a wide vereity of high standing, flying and acrobatic kicks.Taekwondo_kids_at_China

TaekkyeonWikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Koreans Learn Shotokan Karate in Japan

The backdrop and social and economic environmental conditions during the occupation of the Japanese in Korea (Japanese Colonial Rule 1910-1945), is what lead to the Shotokan karate system being taught to the youth of affluent Korean families. The practice of the martial arts was not allowed in Korea at the time of occupation and many practitioners practiced their indiginious fighting systems underground. The Japanese where very oppressive and ruled heavy-handedly through their military. Many of the Korean affluent families sent thier youth to attend schools in Japan. This increased the chances of thier children being successful with a good education and being away from the Japanese oppressed Korea.

Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi – Heian Nidan

Several Koreans attended high and college university schools in Japan. Several of these, very well documented, Japanese educated Koreans attended the Central University of Tokyo (Chuo University). While in college they joined the university karate club and studied Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi and his son, Gigō Funakoshi, the head instructor.

Much of this documentation is provided by the Japanese educated Korean’s themselves via interviews, written books and articles. It can all be found on the Internet, links will be provided at the begining or end of each topic. The following is a list of some of these Koreans and the proof found on sites all over the Net and written on thier own Kwans and Schools web sites.


Byung Jick Ro(Ro, Byung Jick)
Founder of Song Moo Kwan March 11, 1944
One of the original Five Kwans

A short history of Song Moo Kwanhttp://www.songmookwan.com/index.php/hist-of-smk/short-history-smk-menu

Written On his own Kwan website; He traveled to Japan to attend college, Central University of Tokyo (Chuo University) and in May of 1936 he began training under Funakoshi and earning his black belt in Shotokan. In February of 1944 he returned to Korea where he founded the Song Moo Kwan in March 11, 1944, one of the oldest of the Five Kwans.

Wikipedia – The five original Taekwondo kwans – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwan_(martial_arts)

Won Kuk Lee(Lee, Won Kyuk)
Founder of Chung Do Kwan in 1944
One of the original Five Kwans

Wikipedia – Chung Do Kwan – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chung_Do_Kwan

Lee studied Taekkyon in Korea, karate with Sensei Gichin Funakoshi in Japan, and kung fu in Henan and Shanghai in China. Lee earned a black belt in Shotokan karate.


“a black belt in Japanese karate and pupil of Gichin Funakoshi. He introduced karate in the Republic of Korea (1944), creating his own style of Karate known as Tang Soo Do Chung Do Kwan style, which became known as “Tae Kwon Do” as of 1955.”

In 1926 Won Kuk Lee attended high school and later attended the Central University of Tokyo (Chuo University) specializing in Law. Wile in school, he trained in Karate-Do Shotokan style, under Gichin Funakoshi and his son, Gigō Funakoshi, who was the instructor in charge of the karate club of the Central University of Tokyo. “ It was there that Won Kuk became one of the first students of karate in Japan, obtaining the highest rank for a person who was not a Japanese national.”

Lee was one of the first Koreans to study karate in Japan and later returned to Korea with a first or second degree black belt. “Many schools were founded at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s, calling the martial art “Korean Karate””

This story is also supported in the following links;
Won Kuk Lee Interview – https://sites.google.com/site/cdktkd/won-kuk-lee-interview

“Of course, in the days of occupation, it was forbidden by the Japanese to teach or study any martial arts including Tang Soo Do, a Korean style. When I went to university in Japan seventy years ago Tang Soo Do training was very popular there. I was very interested in it. While attending the university, I practiced Tang Soo Do and came to realize that this type of skill was very important to have. I became aware that our Korean national history and legacy of martial arts were being kept from us. I felt very bad about this. Outside Korea, I was allowed to study Japanese and Chinese martial arts.”

Storming the Fortress: A History of Taekwondo – By Eric Madis http://fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=661

In the above article, the author has supporting documentation that Lee could have studied Shotokan karate at The Chuo University karate club between 1928 and 1935. He also writes, that a well known Shotokan karate instructor, at the university during that time, Taiji Kase, remembers one Korean student who recieved a 2nd dan rank that later returned to Korea, but was not able to remember the Korean’s name. Also that after returning to Korea, Lee opeed his own school Chundokwan at the Yungshin School gymnasium in Seoul and that he called his art tangsoodo (“Way of China Hand”).

Hwang Kee
Founder of Moo Duk Kwan in 1945
One of the original Five Kwans

Of all the Kwan founders, Kee is the most controversial.

– Claims to have learned Shotokan from one of Gichin Funakoshi’s books while working on a railroad in Manchuria, China. Although he admits making several visits to Won Kuk Lee’s Chun Do Kwan school. Lee claims Kee was his student, Kee denies this. Kee named his art first Hwa Soo Do, then Tang Soo Do, and then Soo Bakh Do. I don’t beleive you can learn karate from a book sufficient enough to teach others let alone open a school or start a large organization.

Beck Martial Artshttp://www.beckmartialarts.com/ctkdfaq.html
Wikipedia – Hwang Keehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwang_Kee

“Master Won Kyuk Lee of the Chung Do Kwan, claimed that Kee was a student at his kwan, gaining the equivalent of a green belt.” Won Kyuk Lee was the first Korean who called his art Tang Soo Do and it’s interesting that Hwang Kee, who claims he studied Shotokan by reading a book and did not study under Lee called his art Tang Soo Do as well.

– Karate background unclear
– Claims to have climbed, by himself, the wall of China. I have no comment on this!

I can however understand, that being Korean and having learned Japanese Karate, that after experiencing an explosive popularity in this new karate in your country, that the Korean government and the Kwans would suppress the true Japanese(their former oppressors) origins of Tang Soo Do and Taekwondo from the world.