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I have heard two things about Taekwondo from different sources:

A) The founder of TKD (Choi Hong Hi) trained in Shotokan Karate and TKD is based on Shotokan.

B) Taekwondo is based on pre-existing Korean martial arts, i.e. Taekkyon.

From what I've read, both things are probably true to one extent or another. I'm looking for a more complete understanding of the history of TKD's development. What is the history of Shotokan's incorporation into Taekwondo?

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See the translation of Taekwondo entry in Japanese Wikipedia. According to this article, in 1940s during the Japanese rule of Korean Peninsula, Karate (空手) was taking hold under the name Kongsoodo (공수도, 空手道) and Tangsoodo (당수도, 唐手道).

To backtrack on these namings, we need to understand the origin of Karate. Sakukawa Kanga (佐久川寛賀) from Ryukyu Kingdom (today's Okinawa) studies in China and developed martial arts called 唐手 (read "Tudi"), which translates to Chinese (Tang) hands. When Ryukyu Kingdom incorporated into Japan, Tudi faced extinction, but Anko Itosu kept it going by introducing it to local elementary and junior high schools. At the time, Tudi was renamed to Karate, which is the Japanese way of reading 唐手. As an educator Itosu thought emphasis should be placed more on 型 (kata).

As Karate gained popularity in mainland Japan, Gichin Funakoshi (船越義珍) of Shotokan (松濤館) changed the Chinese characters of Karate from 唐手 (Chinese hands) to 空手 (empty hands). The character 道 (way; read "doh") was appended, similar to Judo. This reflects the consideration to militaristic time in the 20s. By the way Funakoshi was also school teacher from Okinawa and he was also really into 型 (kata).

When Karate was introduced to Korean Peninsula, some used politically correct 空手道 (Kongsoodo), and others the original 唐手道 (Tangsoodo). In 1944 Won Kuk Lee (이원국, 李元國) a pupil of Funakoshi opens Chung do kwan (청도관, 靑濤館) the first Tangsoodo school in Korea. Apart from the known fact that Lee studied under Funakoshi, the fact that 靑濤館 borrows a letter from Shotokan (松濤館) signifies that it's meant to be a direct lineage from Shotokan Karate. Choi Hong Hi (최홍희, 崔泓熙) also studied Shotokan Karate in Japan and has 2nd dan.

Choi kept practicing Karate after he went back to Korea, and later in Korean Army. In 1954, at the height of Korean War, Choi with 29th Infantry Division performed a demonstration in front of President Syngman Rhee. The legend goes that President praised the demonstration convinced that it was Taekkyeon. Fully aware of anti-Japanese sentiment, Choi had said that it was his original martial arts. Other account says that President has ordered the kwan leaders to unify to a single system so it could be introduced to Korean military. On April 11th of 1955, President Rhee certifies Taekwondo as the name selected by a committee headed by Choi, and on September 3rd of 1959 Choi renames Korean Kongsoodo Association to Korea Taekwondo Association. In other words, Karate was renamed to Taekwondo for political reasons, like Japanese renamed Chinese hands to Karate.

This by no means is meant to undermine the originality of Taekwondo relative to Shotokan Karate. As noted above, the lineage of Shotokan was influenced by educators who wanted to turn Karate into exercise. Meanwhile Taekwondo was introduced as practical combat martial arts to Korean army. So I'd imagine many modifications were needed.

Another interesting twist is the post-war internationalization and attitude difference towards sports. While the Japanese Karate stuck to traditions and kata, Taekwondo did not shy away from sparring and turning it into point-based sport, especially the South Korean WTF branch. This allowed Taekwondo to be included into Olympics wearing gloves and all while Karate remains not included.

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+1 For those more interested in the real history of TKD, read A Killing Art by Alex Gillis –  Sean Patrick Floyd Dec 12 '13 at 8:42
    
@Eugene Yokota very detailed answer. The analysis of the kanji was especially appreciated. Thanks. –  The Wudang Kid Dec 12 '13 at 13:32
    
@SeanPatrickFloyd Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into it. –  The Wudang Kid Dec 12 '13 at 13:32
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Sorry I'm not able to give a more academic answer to your question. As a former black belt in TKD and a bit of a martial arts history buff, I took an interest in this question myself at one point in my past. Here are my observations and thoughts on the matter.

Taekwondo forms used to be entirely from Shotokan karate. This comes about because many Koreans who served in the Japanese military during the occupation of Korea returned to Korea after the occupation and brought with them their knowledge of Japanese martial arts. These early TKD forms were actually the same ones as Shotokan karate, just with Korean-ized names. So "Bassai" becomes "Passai", "Tekki" becomes "Chulgi", etc.

Not too long after Taekwondo was born, the founder (general Choi) decided that TKD needed its own, unique set of forms (under pressure to disassociate with anything Japanese). So he made them up. But he based them all on the original Shotokan karate forms. You'll see individual techniques up to a series of 3 or 4 movements strung together in each form that can be traced back to one of these Shotokan karate forms. They're often jokingly referred to by others as the "blender forms". These earlier TKD forms demonstrate almost none of the kicking style that TKD is famous for.

Some TKD schools still practice the original Shotokan forms, usually in addition to the new forms. Other TKD groups created their own unique forms after parting ways with general Choi and forming their own brand of TKD. These TKD groups typically emphasize kicking and other aspects of Korean style that were lacking in the early TKD and original Shotokan karate forms.

As for Taekyon, I think its influence on TKD is overemphasized by the Koreans who want to further distance themselves from Japanese karate and other styles. Was there direct transmission? Maybe, but in a very limited way.

It's hard knowing what the historical facts are, though. That's because during the Japanese occupation of Korea, much of Korean culture, especially martial arts, were suppressed or wiped out. The Koreans resented the Japanese for it, and many still do. As a result, there was and still is a good amount of historical revisionism taking place in Korea, downplaying Japanese influences on their culture and over-emphasizing or outright inventing links to their own cultural heritage prior to the Japanese occupation. That's from my observation anyway.

So whatever you do, take everything with a grain of salt. And check the sources, twice. My advice to you.

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+1 A well thought out post. –  The Wudang Kid Dec 19 '13 at 12:24
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Taekwondo started out as the two ancient forms of martial arts in korea (back in the day when there were the 3 kingdoms of gogurieo, pakje, and silla). Those were Taekkyon and subak.

After the japanese invaded korea, and banned martial arts, the koreans formed these underground gyms to train the people in martial arts. THese were called the "kwans". There were 8 kwans.

After korea was liberated, the Kukkiwon was created in 1972(?) to reunite the 8 kwans. Song duk-ki lived through the entire korean invasion, and lived to tell all his knowledge.

heck, save me some time, and read this: https://www.kukkiwon.or.kr/english/information/information01.jsp?div=01

It's straight off of the kukkiwon website.

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