The history of Taekwondo is more easily traced than many other forms of martial arts. Since it is a newer and more recent martial art, the origins are fairly well documented and allow for thorough study of its origins and history. Taekwondo is primarily a Korean martial art, having been created during the early years after the end of the Korean War. Before this modern inception of Taekwondo, however, early forms of martial arts similar to Taekwondo and having served as the basis of Taekwondo were running rampant.
If one is looking that far back (to the earliest ancestors to Taekwondo), it is there that the history does, in fact, get a little murky. Taekwondo is such a universal art and it has “borrowed” techniques from many other martial arts during the years (and centuries) that the “parent” art of Taekwondo is not well known at all. Taekwondo is better thought of as a culmination of many Korean, Japanese and Chinese influences (however, the influences are mainly Korean) to form one very well-rounded and well thought out martial arts curriculum.
One of the reasons that Taekwondo’s parent arts are obscure is that many of them were banned during the years in which Japan had control over the majority of Korea (between 1910 and 1945). For example, the strictly traditional Korean martial arts such as Subak and Taekkyon were prohibited from being practiced or taught in Japan’s effort to force Korea to assimilate to Japanese culture (Koreans were also forced to disregard their own language and take on Japanese names in place of their own). Subak and mainly Taekkyon were still practiced and taught in secret, however, many moves and techniques may have been changed to alter the style enough so that the Koreans would not get caught.
Of course, after the Korean war, modern Taekwondo (it was at this point that Taekwondo received its current name) began to take its place among Korea and other countries as well. It was around the year 1955, after many Taekwondo schools became popular in Korea that Taekwondo began gaining popularity in the United States as well. No one really expected Taekwondo to become as popular as it did in the Western world, and as a martial art form, it is as well known and well practiced in the United States as Karate and Kung Fu.
Even more proof towards the gaining popularity of Taekwondo is that it is one of two martial arts to be an official Olympic game the other martial art is Judo. Some dojangs focus more on practicing and teaching their students the martial art of Taekwondo to prepare them for tournaments and competitions and other dojangs focus more on learning the martial art itself. It is important that anyone interested in Taekwondo find the proper dojang for his or herself. While emphasis on philosophy and virtues are not as prevalent in Taekwondo as in other martial arts, they are present and go back to the original inception of Taekwondo itself.