Taekwondo, which translates to “the way of the hand and foot,” is the oldest Korean martial art. It was born from combat techniques developed in ancient Korean villages, where young men of strong aptitude and honor would be trained as an elite group of warriors called The Hwarang. The Hwarang would train rigorously in the art of Taekkyon, an early predecessor of modern Taekwondo.
Taekwondo expanded beyond Korea in 1969 through the efforts of Eternal Grand Master Haeng Ung Lee. Lee, a martial arts instructor for the Korean military, forged a friendship with Master Richard Reed while teaching at a U.S. Air Force base. Lee returned to the United States with Reed, and the two set out to establish a standardized professional Taekwondo organization based on sound martial arts and business practices.
Today, the American Taekwondo Association unites more than 300,000 members worldwide in their continued practice of the martial art, including 53,000 black belts and 3,000 certified instructors. Taekwondo has risen to international prominence – it is one of only two martial arts featured in the Olympics – and continues to grow in influence and scope.