What is the history of taekwondo?
As World War II came to a close, several new martial arts schools began to open in Seoul, South Korea. These ‘kwans’ taught a unique mixture of mostly Japanese and Chinese forms. In 1952, President Syngman Rhee watched a demonstration and mistakenly believed it to be the ancient Korean style called ‘Taekkyon’; he insisted that the army learn this style of martial arts and unify under one name.
The Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed in 1959; in 1966, General Choi Hong Hi, who had developed his own version of the discipline, broke off to create the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). Aside from the differences in style, the ITF also wanted to branch into North Korea, which was unsupported by both the KTA and the South Korean government. Eventually the ITF relocated to Toronto and continued to develop its style.
In 1972, South Korea established their country’s official governing body at Kukkiwon. The first World Taekwondo Championships was held in 1973, featuring 200 competitors from 17 different countries. By 1974 Kukkiwon had established a permanent team. They are supervised by South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
Taekwondo at the Olympic Games
The first appearance of Taekwondo at the Olympics was a demonstration even in 1988, then again in 1992. It joined the ranks of other full medal sports in 2000, and has been a part of the games ever since.
South Korea has continued to dominate the event, with 12 gold, 2 silver, and 5 bronze medals. China comes in second with 7 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals.
What are the current Olympic Taekwondo events?
There are four weight classes for both men and women: flyweight, featherweight, middleweight, and heavyweight. Each tournament is single elimination, with a repechage match taking place to decide the bronze medal winner.