Taekwondo is form of Korean martial arts and combines combat and self-defense techniques with sport and exercise. It was developed as a variety of Korean masters during the 1940s as combination of Okinawan karate, Chinese martial arts, and the ancient Korean traditions taekkyeon and gwonbeop.
In 1946 after the conclusion of the Japanese occupation new martial arts schools called kwans were formed in Seoul. The martial arts practiced in kwans was heavily influenced by shotokan karate and Chinese martial arts. South Korea President Syngman Rhee advised the martial arts styles of the kwans to be merged after witnessing a martial arts demonstration by the military in 1952. As a result the leaders of kwans started discussing the possibility of developing a unified Korean martial arts form. In 1957 Choi Hong Hi prescribed the name Taekwondo for the unified form of Korean martial arts.
In 1959 Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA) was established to facilitate the unification of Korean martial arts. After seven years of negotiation under the sponsorship of KTA, the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) was built to be the governing body of the first unified style of this art.
The political and military tensions of the 1960s and 1970s complicated the adoption of ITF-style of the sport as a unified style. The South Korean government tried to avoid North Korean influence while ITF looked for support for the martial art from all quarters, including North Korea. This led to the withdrawal of KTA’s support from ITF but ITF continued to work as an independent association and headquartered at Toronto, Canada.
In 1973, after the withdrawal of KTA support of the ITF, the South Korean government’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established the Kukkiwon as the new national academy for the art. Kukkiwon-style taekwondo is less combat-oriented and more sport-oriented than either traditional or ITF-style.
Taekwondo, apart from judo, is the only Asian martial arts included in the Olympics from 2000.