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Korean Martial Arts History

Like many other countries’, Korean martial arts history begins outside Korea. The first martial art to be practiced in Korea was a form of Mongolian wrestling called ssirum, which was created in 770 B.C. and introduced to Korea by the Chinese in the late 400s B.C.

Hundreds of years later, during the Tang dynasty in China and the Three Kingdoms period in Korea (57 B.C.-A.D. 668), fighters called Forest Devils helped the Chinese-backed Silla defeat the Japanese-backed Paechta and became known as sulsa assassins. The Silla honored the Tang emperor by creating tangsu martial arts, the forerunner to tang soo do. Tangsu was then taught to the fabled Korean Hwarang warriors, prompting the birth of hwa rang do.

During Korea’s Yi period (900-1050), the Chinese introduced two more martial arts to Korea: subak, eventually renamed taekyon; and kwonbeop, which became the standard art for Korean warriors. Taekwondo arose in the 1950s when several Korean martial artists combined Japanese karate with taekyon. And when Korean martial artist Choi Yong-sul returned from Japan after World War II and taught a style of karate, it was later renamed hapkido.

  1. Ancient Korean Swords and Sword Arts (Part 2)

    Ancient Korean Swords and Sword Arts (Part 2)