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Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, ‘tae’ means "to strike or break with foot"; ‘kwon’ means “to strike or break with fist"; and ‘do’ means "way", "method", or "art". Therefore, taekwondo may be loosely translated as "the art of the striking with the foot and fist".

It combines combat techniques, self-defense, exercise, meditation and philosophy. In 1989, taekwondo was declared the world's most popular martial art in terms of number of practitioners. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Gyeorugi, a type of combat sparring, was introduced as a permanent Olympic event and with the development of technology within the protective garments, the sport’s evolution continues.

Gyeorugi, a type of combat sparring, has been an Olympic event since Sydney 2000.

There are two branches of taekwondo development:

"Traditional taekwondo" typically refers to the martial art as it was established in the 1950s and 1960s for the South Korean military; in particular, the names and symbolism of the traditional patterns often refer to elements of Korean history.

"Sport taekwondo" has evolved in the decades since then and has a somewhat different focus, especially in terms of its emphasis on speed and competition (as in Olympic sparring). Sport taekwondo is in turn subdivided into two main styles; One derives from Kukkiwon, the source of the sparring system sihap gyeorugi which is now an event at the summer Olympic Games and which is governed by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). The other comes from the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF).

Litte Dragon 1 Kick

Although there are doctrinal and technical differences between the two main styles and among the various organisations, the art in general emphasises kicks thrown from a mobile stance, employing the leg's greater reach and power (compared to the arm). Taekwondo training generally includes a system of blocks, kicks, punches, and open-handed strikes and may also include various take-downs or sweeps, throws, and joint locks. Some taekwondo instructors also incorporate the use of pressure points, known as jiapsul, as well as grabbing self-defense techniques borrowed from other martial arts, such as hapkido and judo.

   
Abdul Kick

When the Japanese occupation of Korea ended in 1945, Korean martial arts schools (kwans) began to open in Korea under various influences. There are differing views on the origins of the arts taught in these schools. Some believe that they taught martial arts that were based primarily upon the traditional Korean martial arts taekkyon and subak, or that taekwondo was derived from native Korean martial arts with influences from neighboring countries such as China and Japan. Others believe that these schools taught arts that were almost entirely based upon karate.

   
Statham's Combat

In 1952, at the height of the Korean War, there was a martial arts exhibition in which the kwans displayed their skills. In one demonstration, Nam Tae Hi smashed 13 roof tiles with a single punch. Syngman Rhee, South Korean President, was so impressed that he instructed Choi Hong Hi to introduce the martial arts to the Korean army. By the mid-1950s, nine kwans had emerged. Syngman Rhee soon ordered that the various schools unify under a single system. The name "taekwondo" was submitted by either Choi Hong Hi, of the Oh Do Kwan, or Song Duk Son, of the Chung Do Kwan, and was accepted on April 11, 1955.

   
 
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