About 1,300 years ago, the Korean Peninsula was divided into three kingdoms. The smallest of these kingdoms, the Silla, was constantly under invasion and harassment by its two more powerful neighbors (the Koguryo and the Paekje).
King Chin Heung of the Korean Kingdom of Silla established the Hwa Rang-Do, an elite officer's corps, approximately 1300 years ago. The Hwa Rang-Do was a young aristocratic and warrior class who trained not only with the spear, bow, sword, and hook, but also used a mental and physical discipline. Part of the physical discipline combined the art of hand and foot fighting. Won Kwang, a Buddhist monk and scholar, organized the five rules of conduct to guide the Hwa Rang-Do. The Rules were:
Be loyal to your king.
Be obedient to your parents.
Be honorable to your friends.
Never retreat in battle.
Make a just kill.
These rules are incorporated into the Moo Duk Kwon creed we use today.
The third king of the Yi dynasty (1401-1408) recruited Taek Kyon experts from the Hwa Rang-Do to form a strong army. They became known for their courage and skill in battle, and even gained a deep respect from their enemies. Taek Kyon was so respected that it began flourishing through out all of Silla, then spread to Japan and China.
Near the end of the Yi dynasty, an anti-military attitude was taken which came close to abolishing all of the martial arts. When the Japanese occupied Korea (1909-1945), Korean's were forbidden to practice any form of the martial arts. Taek Kyon was secretly practiced, and the art was handed down to a small number of students.
In 1945 Korea was liberated from the Japanese, and the new Republic of Korea Armed Forces was established on January 15, 1946. Second Lieutenant Choi Hong Hi started openly teaching the martial arts to his soldiers. Today all of the Presidential Protective Forces are trained in Taekwondo.
The name, Taekwondo, was chosen by a national martial arts board consisting of instructors, historians, and other prominent persons in 1955. The name was chosen since it explicitly describes the art: Tae (foot), Kwon (fist), Do (art). Taekwondo is defined as the art of hand and foot fighting.