As a TaeKwonDo student myself, I’ve always been fascinated by the stories and legends of this martial art. TaeKwonDo has a unique blend of physical prowess, mental discipline, and spiritual development that makes it not just a sport, but a way of life.
But what really makes Tae Kwon Do stand out are the stories and legends that have been passed down through the ages. These tales have helped to shape Tae Kwon Do into the cultural phenomenon it is today, inspiring generations of practitioners and fans alike.
Even though each one of these could be an article in and of itself, in this blog post, I’ll just briefly explore 3 of these stories and legends and delve into what makes them so compelling to me.
1. The Legend of Hwarang
Hwarang was a group of elite warriors in ancient Korea, known for their impressive skills in martial arts, archery, horsemanship, and even poetry and music. These warriors were highly respected and revered in their time, and their legacy has endured for centuries.
According to legend, the Hwarang were originally formed in the 6th century by King Jinheung of Silla, one of the three kingdoms of ancient Korea. The king was concerned about the growing threat of neighboring kingdoms, and he believed that a group of highly trained and disciplined warriors could help to protect his people.
To create this elite group of warriors, King Jinheung recruited young men from noble families throughout the kingdom, and trained them in various martial arts and other skills. These young men were not only trained in physical combat, but also in moral and ethical principles, such as loyalty, filial piety, and justice.
Over time, the Hwarang became known not only for their impressive fighting abilities, but also for their high ideals and principles. They were admired and respected by people throughout the kingdom, and many young men aspired to join their ranks.
One of the most famous Hwarang warriors was a young man named Samyeong, who became known for his bravery and skill in combat. Legend has it that Samyeong once faced a fierce tiger in the mountains, armed only with his bare hands and his Hwarang training.
He was able to defeat the tiger using his quick reflexes and his knowledge of the tiger’s weaknesses, and became a hero in the eyes of his fellow warriors.
The Legend of Hwarang has endured for centuries, and has become an important part of the cultural significance and appeal of Tae Kwon Do.
Today, many TaeKwonDo schools around the world incorporate the principles and ideals of the Hwarang into their training, emphasizing not only physical strength and skill, but also moral and ethical values.
In addition to their martial prowess, the Hwarang were also known for their love of the arts, including poetry, music, and dance. They believed that a well-rounded warrior should not only be skilled in combat, but also in culture and the arts.
2. The Birth of the Flying Kick
The flying kick, also known as the jumping kick, is a move that involves leaping into the air and striking an opponent with a powerful kick. This move has become a hallmark of many martial arts styles, including TaeKwonDo.
The origins of the flying kick are somewhat unclear, but many believe that it can be traced back to the legendary Korean warrior, Yi Sun-sin. Yi Sun-sin was a naval commander during the Japanese invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, and is widely regarded as a national hero in Korea.
According to legend, Yi Sun-sin was once facing a group of Japanese soldiers on a narrow bridge. With no room to maneuver, Yi Sun-sin leaped into the air and kicked one of the soldiers in the head, knocking him off the bridge and creating enough space for his troops to escape.
This move became known as the “flying kick”, and was later adopted and refined by practitioners of Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts styles.
Another theory about the birth of the flying kick comes from the famous martial artist, Bruce Lee. Lee was a practitioner of Jeet Kune Do, a martial arts style that emphasized speed and efficiency. According to Lee, he was inspired to create the flying kick after watching a basketball game, where he saw players leaping into the air to make shots.
Lee believed that the flying kick could be a powerful weapon in martial arts, allowing a practitioner to surprise and overwhelm their opponent with speed and agility.
Today, the flying kick is a staple of many martial arts styles, including TaeKwonDo, Capoeira, and Kickboxing. Practitioners of these styles train extensively in order to master this difficult and complex move.
In addition to its practical applications, the flying kick has also become a symbol of the power and beauty of martial arts. When executed with skill and precision, the flying kick is a truly awe-inspiring sight, showcasing the athleticism and grace of the human body.
3. The Miracle of the Tong-Il
Finally, I want to tell you about a more recent legend that showcases the power of Tae Kwon Do to bridge divides and bring people together. In 1991, at the World TaeKwonDo Championships in Athens, Greece, the South Korean and North Korean teams faced off in the final round of the men’s team sparring competition.
The match was intense and closely contested, but in the end, the South Koreans emerged victorious.
What happened next, however, was truly remarkable. As a symbol of unity and reconciliation, the teams joined together and performed a demonstration of TaeKwonDo known as the Tong-Il, which means “unity” in Korean.
This incredible display of sportsmanship and goodwill captivated the world and showed how Tae Kwon Do can be used not just as a tool of physical combat, but also as a means of promoting peace and understanding between nations.
The Tong-Il demonstration has become a beloved symbol of the cultural significance and appeal of Tae Kwon Do, and serves as a reminder of the power of sport to transcend borders and bring people together.
In an era of increasing division and conflict, the example set by the South Korean and North Korean teams is more important than ever, and Tae Kwon Do continues to play a vital role in promoting unity and harmony.
The stories and legends associated with Tae Kwon Do are an integral part of the martial art’s cultural significance and appeal.
From the Hwarang warriors of ancient Korea to the modern-day miracles of the Tong-Il, these tales have inspired myself as well as generations of students and fans, and helped to shape TaeKwonDo into the dynamic and exciting martial art we know today.
Whether you’re a long-time practitioner or a curious newcomer, these stories are a testament to the enduring power and relevance of TaeKwo Do, and a reminder of the rich history and traditions that underpin this remarkable martial art.