From ancient warrior traditions to the global sport we know today, Taekwondo has an extensive and fascinating history. But beyond the awe-inspiring kicks, this martial art also encompasses a rich philosophy focused on diligent training, indomitable spirit, and pursuit of excellence.
In this blog post, I spotlight the 5 best books that provide insightful perspectives on the origins, evolution, techniques, and guiding principles underlying Taekwondo.
Whether you’re a martial arts enthusiast looking to deepen your knowledge or simply curious about this iconic Korean tradition, these must-read books deliver a wealth of history, wisdom, and practical instruction.
From Kyong Myung Lee’s authoritative modern history in A Modern History of Taekwondo to Doug Cook’s philosophical lessons in Taekwondo: A Path to Excellence, dive into our top picks for the most illuminating books on understanding and improving your practice of Taekwondo.
5 TaeKwonDo History Books You Need to Read
1. A Modern History of Taekwondo” by Kyong Myung Lee and Kang Won Sik
In A Modern History of Taekwondo, authors Kyong Myung Lee and Kang Won Sik provide an authoritative examination of the origins and evolution of the Korean martial art from 1909 through 2000.
The book meticulously traces Taekwondo’s development into a modern sport and global phenomenon, from its roots in ancient Korean martial traditions to the key players, organizations, and sociopolitical factors that shaped its growth across the 20th century.
Especially insightful is the analysis of Taekwondo’s spread as a source of Korean national pride during the post-war period. Combining extensive research with unprecedented access to primary documents and key leaders, A Modern History of Taekwondo delivers a comprehensive modern history of this culturally iconic martial art.
2. The Complete History of Taekwondo by Dr. He Young Kimm
In The Complete History of Taekwondo, Dr. He Young Kimm offers an exhaustive record of the origins and evolution of Taekwondo over the past two millennia. Drawing from rare historical texts and his extensive knowledge as a renowned martial arts historian, Dr. Kimm traces Taekwondo’s lineage back to Korean martial arts dating back to 50 BCE.
He details the various schools, figures, political factors, and international exchanges that shaped Taekwondo’s development through the ages, from the Three Kingdoms Period all the way to its growth as a global sport.
The book covers the art’s diversification into different styles while analyzing their shared foundations and unique influences. For those looking for a comprehensive reference on Taekwondo’s vast history, Dr. Kimm delivers an authoritative and illuminating resource.
3. Taekwondo: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique” by Marc Tedeschi
In Taekwondo: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique, author and Taekwondo master Marc Tedeschi offers an expansive guide covering not only the martial art’s history but also its philosophical underpinnings and technical intricacies.
Tedeschi provides a well-researched overview of Taekwondo’s origins in ancient Korean martial arts before delving deeply into the values, mental disciplines, and codes of conduct at the heart of Taekwondo philosophy. The book’s extensive illustrations and detailed breakdown of stances, forms, sparring tactics, and self-defense techniques make it an invaluable technical reference.
Tedeschi also examines Taekwondo’s cultural impact and modern evolution as both a competitive sport and a vehicle for self-improvement. For comprehensive coverage of the mental, technical, and cultural facets of Taekwondo, this book provides an illuminating resource.
4. Taekwon-Do: Origins of the Art: Bok Man Kim’s Historic Photospective (1955-2015)” by Alex Gillis and Bok Man Kim
Taekwon-Do: Origins of the Art offers a unique visual perspective on the history of Taekwondo through the lens of General Bok Man Kim, one of its pioneering founders. Created by Alex Gillis based on personal conversations with Kim, this photographic journal spans 1955-2015 and documents Kim’s crucial role in spreading Taekwondo across the globe.
The extensive collection of rare photos, many never published before, are complemented by Kim’s personal anecdotes, insights, and reflections. Readers gain an intimate understanding of Taekwondo’s journey to worldwide prominence as Kim chronicles his experiences organizing demonstrations, establishing federations, and training instructors overseas.
Capturing six pivotal decades of growth through riveting photos and narratives, this historic photospective delivers an illuminating insider’s view of Taekwondo’s origins and development.Copy
5. Taekwondo: A Path to Excellence” by Doug Cook
In Taekwondo: A Path to Excellence, author Doug Cook takes an in-depth look at the philosophical dimensions underlying the martial art. Rather than focusing solely on technical skills and history, Cook delves into the cultural values, mental discipline, and ethical considerations integral to Taekwondo and its potential as a way of life.
Drawing from extensive research and experience, he discusses concepts such as indomitable spirit, perseverance, courtesy, and integrity. Cook provides thoughtful perspectives on how tenets like self-control and diligent training can enable practitioners to incorporate lessons from Taekwondo into their daily lives.
The book provides inspiration and guidance for using Taekwondo principles to pursue excellence not just physically, but mentally, morally and spiritually. For thoughtful insights on Taekwondo as a path to self-betterment, Cook delivers an illuminating read.
The world of Taekwondo, with its rich history, intricate techniques, and profound philosophy, has been documented in numerous texts over the years. However, some of the most valuable and insightful books on the subject remain elusive to the general public.
Whether they were limited edition releases, authored by renowned grandmasters in small batches, or written in times or regions where publication was challenging, these rare books can be a treasure trove of knowledge for the passionate practitioner.
While the hunt for such books can be challenging, requiring patience and sometimes deep dives into specialized bookstores or private collections, the reward of acquiring them is immense.
These texts offer nuanced perspectives, deepened understanding, and sometimes, techniques and philosophies not found in mainstream publications. For the devoted Taekwondo enthusiast, securing such a book is akin to finding a rare gem – hard to locate but absolutely worth the effort.
For students and teachers alike, these books are invaluable guides to the origins, values, and techniques that define the heritage of Taekwondo.