Taekwondo, "the way of foot and fist," is based on ancient Korean methods of self-defense. It emphasizes flexibility and kicking techniques, but hand techniques are also widely employed. A means of self-defense, physical conditioning, recreation, and mental discipline, Taekwondo is recognized not only as a martial art, but also as an exciting sport with powerful kicks and punches that emphasizes continuous action, endurance, skill, and sportsmanship. This rapidly developing martial art has become a major international sport. Introduced to the Olympic games in Seoul, Korea, in 1988, Taekwondo was also at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, as a medal event.
The five original Korean kwans ("schools") were: Chung Do Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan (the art of Tang Soo Do), Yun Moo Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, and Chi Do Kwan. These were founded in 1945 and 1946. Three more Kwans were founded in the early 1950's - Ji Do Kwan, Song Moo Kwan, and Oh Do Kwan.
After fifty years of occupation by Japan (which ended in 1945) and after the division of the nation and the Korean War, Korean nationalism spurred the creation of a national art in 1955, combining the styles of the numerous kwans active within the country (with the exception of Moo Duk Kwan, which remained separate - therefore Tang Soo Do is still a separate art from Taekwondo today). Gen. Hong Hi Choi was primarily responsible for the creation of this new national art, which was named Taekwondo to link it with Tae-Kyon (a native art). Earlier unification efforts had been called Kong Soo Do, Tae Soo Do, etc. Many masters had learned Japanese arts during the occupation, or had learned Chinese arts in Manchuria. Only a few had been lucky enough to be trained by the few native martial artists who remained active when the Japanese banned all martial arts in Korea. Choi himself had taken Tae-Kyon (a Korean art) as a child, but had earned his 2nd Dan in Shotokan Karate while a student in Japan.