According to Wikipedia, Japanese karate was first practiced in 1936:

Funakoshi had trained in two of the popular branches of Okinawan karate of the time, Shorin-ryū and Shōrei-ryū. In Japan he was influenced by kendo, incorporating some ideas about distancing and timing into his style. He always referred to what he taught as simply karate, but in 1936 he built a dōjō in Tokyo and the style he left behind is usually called Shotokan after this dōjō.

South Korean tae kwon do was first practiced in 1966:

As a response to this, along with political disagreements about teaching Taekwondo in North Korea and unifying the whole Korean Peninsula, Choi broke with the (South Korea) KTA in 1966, in order to establish the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF)— a separate governing body devoted to institutionalizing his Chan Hon-style of Taekwondo in Canada.

And Chinese kung fu was first practiced in 1979:

In 1979, the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force to revaluate the teaching and practice of Wushu.

Is the invention of South Korean tae kwon do based on Japanese karate? And then what about the invention of Chinese kung fu? Is kung fu based on either karate or tae kwon do?

I have tried to do some research online, but have not been able to find an answer.

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    Your claim that Chinese kung fu originated in 1979 is wrong by more than a 1000 years according to the very wikipedia page you linked.
    – quarague
    Jun 14, 2023 at 6:46
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    @quarague Haha. I think Arunabh meant it was the first time kung-fu was practiced in Korea by their physical education organization. It was likely practiced in Korea throughout the past several hundred years, as Korea and China were trading partners and shared a good amount of culture and knowledge. It just wasn't seen as a contributor to some official national martial art of Korea. Jun 14, 2023 at 15:04
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    I fixed your link for you. I think part of the confusion, is that you are using dates when a government standardized version of the martial art was established, rather than when it was actually started. Aug 15, 2023 at 21:30
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    Please do not completely change your question by editing, especially since it is answered with an accepted answer already. If you have a new question, ask it as a new question.
    – mattm
    Jan 23 at 17:55
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    Can you give an example of the authoritative sources you are looking for? Are you looking for quotes from primary sources (Head of WTF TKD stating what they know about the origin of their art, or a Shaolin monk talking about how their style started with an Okinawan soldier demonstrating his "empty fist"), scholarly articles ("Origins of Wu Shu and Possible Influences from Okinawan Peasant Wrestling"), something else? Jan 24 at 13:41

3 Answers 3


The origins of Tae Kwan Do are mildly controversial, in part due to politicization. To quote the Wikipedia article:

The historical influences of Taekwondo is controversial with a split between two schools of thought: traditionalism and revisionism. Traditionalism holds that the origins of Taekwondo can be traced through Korean martial arts while revisionism, which has become the prevailing theory, argues that Taekwondo is rooted in Karate. Traditionalism has mainly been supported by the Korean government as a concerted effort to divorce Korean martial arts from their Japanese past to give Korean a "legitimate cultural past".

As regards Kung Fu, the influence likely went the other way with Karate.

Members of the Okinawan upper classes were sent to China regularly to study various political and practical disciplines. The incorporation of empty-handed Chinese Kung Fu into Okinawan martial arts occurred partly because of these exchanges and partly because of growing legal restrictions on the use of weaponry. Traditional karate kata bear a strong resemblance to the forms found in Fujian martial arts such as Fujian White Crane, Five Ancestors, and Gangrou-quan (Hard Soft Fist; pronounced "Gōjūken" in Japanese). Many Okinawan weapons such as the sai, tonfa, and nunchaku may have originated in and around Southeast Asia.

That said, it's a pretty fundamental rule in martial arts that everyone borrows from everyone, and that there are only so many ways to propel your hands and feet into another body, so the primary differences are often more philosophical than a matter of that "this style originated this technique, which was acquired by this other style". And, of course, almost every martial art style has had a long history of development before someone sat down and said "We're going to call it this name and agree on a standard set of movements", so the definition can be very fluid, with iconic techniques often being added much later in the usage of the style, and the techniques of a style often narrowing due to agreement on an official set of recognized techniques, particularly once competitions start becoming prominent.

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    Sorry I didn't find any better sources. But honestly, as Steve points out, and as per the linked Wikipedia pages, the evidence is pretty strong that Tae Kwan Do picked up most of its movements from Karate. Jan 30 at 2:44

You can read my answer at the following link which goes over the history of how Taekwondo came directly from Shotokan karate: Main differences of Karate & Taekwondo

As for kung-fu arts, no. There was no transmission directly from Chinese kung-fu to Taekwondo. The only transmission was indirect by way of kung-fu to Okinawan karate to Shotokan karate to Taekwondo.

There have been a number of Korean styles over the years which have claimed to have come in part from Chinese kung-fu. For example, Tangsoodo, Kuk Sool Won, and Hwa Rang Do. These styles often look nothing like the Chinese kung-fu arts they say they have in their system. What they have from kung-fu often looks like pretty basic kung-fu. Their performance of kung-fu often lacks "whole body" power generation mechanics, so it tends to look kind of weak. And they often can't provide any definitive documentation connecting their styles with the kung-fu arts they say they're connected to.

So I would take those claims of kung-fu connections with a grain of salt and just ask yourself if what you're seeing looks useful or interesting on its own merit.

I analyzed Kuk Sool Won's kung-fu connection here: What martial arts are part of Kuk Sool Won?

As for Taekwondo, you're not going to see anything that resembles kung-fu in it (aside from its karate technique). If you do see a Taekwondo group doing some kung-fu, it's because the teacher went out and studied it separately on his/her own.

Hope that helps.


I do some research that Taekwondo WTF is Base on Northern Chinese Martial Art is call Long Fist Kung Fu was created by Zhao Kuangyin and Shotokan Karatedo FSKA is originally from Southern Chinese Martial Art also created by Fang Qinian.

  • Can you share your research please?
    – Huw Evans
    Jan 23 at 18:28

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