Koguryo Dynasty (37BC to 668AD)
Tae Kwon Do began in present day Korea, during the Koguryo Dynasty. In the capital, Tunsko, two ancient tombs were discovered that depicted two men engaged in Subak-ki fighting. This combat was different from the type of Tae Kwon Do that is practiced today, however. Tae Kwon Do has evolved over the years, becoming more scientifically systemized through each generation.
During the summer months, King Taejo organized festivals which included sword fighting, archery and Taek-Kyon - 'the old form of the present art'. The winners of these various events were honoured and denoted as "Son Bae", which means "Hermit with supernatural powers". The best and most skilled of these men were called 'Masters' and the master with the highest degree of skill was called "Do Dae Hyung"
Silla Dynasty (57AD to 935AD)
Taek-Kyon, as practiced by the Sonbae, eventually spread from the Koguryo Kingdom to the Silla Kingdom. The Silla Dynasty had a social, military and educational organization known as the "Hwa Rang Do" to establish strong minds and bodies. The Hwarang, literally meaning "Flower Knight", practiced Tae Kwon Do as a part of their regular curriculum. Organized by King Jin Heung in 537 AD, the Hwarang proved to be a vital part of the unification of the Korean peninsula during the Silla Dynasty.
An instructor of the Hwarang was a monk called "Won Kwang Bupsa", and he was also the author of the 'Sesokokye', the following five student commitments:
(1) Be loyal to your country
(2) Honor your parents
(3) Be faithful to your friends
(4) Never retreat in battle
(5) Use good judgment before killing living things
These commitments were the basic way of life for the Hwarang, and they are still practiced by Tae Kwon Do practitioners today.
The third king of the Silla Dynasty, Yoorie, held Soobakhee contests. Soobakhee was probably similar to Tae Kwon Do. The terms "subak" (hand technique) and "taek-kyon" (foot technique) appear together in the writings of the Silla dynasty. This suggests that hand and foot techniques were both used in Korean martial arts as they are used today in Tae Kwon Do. Additional evidence of this includes the bronze statues of the warrior Kumgang. The shapes of Kumgang's fists depict the kind of fists used in Tae Kwon Do today, and Kumgang also displays the use of legs and feet that are currently used in Tae Kwon Do
Baekjae (18BC to 600AD)
Tae Kwon Do was also an important part of the Baekje Kingdom (18 BC- 600 AD). Baekjae was a tribe that detached itself from the Koguryo Kingdom. The Soo Sa system of Baekjae was comparable to the Sonbae of the Koguryo Kingdom and the Hwarang of the Silla Kingdom. The Soo Sa also protected the Baekjae Kingdom militarily.
The Baekjae Kingdom also celebrated Soo-Byeok-Ta festivals which were held in local villages. The people would compete against each other in Soo-Byeok-Ta fighting (a predecessor of Tae Kwon Do). Occasionally, the winner of the contests became the leader of the village or a military general.
Koryo Dynasty (935AD to 1392AD)
It has been well documented that the Koryo Dynasty encouraged physical games and that martial arts were used in training of the soldiers. Subakki contests or Taek-kyon contests were held, as they were favoured by the kings of Koryo. Prizes were awarded to the winners. The Subakki was also popular among the public, which organized Subakki contests whenever the king went out to inspect and tour their villages.
Kookjakam was the Koryo national university, one of the highest educational institutions at that time. Kookjakam spread and scientifically systemized Subakki to its highest level. It was during this time period that Koryo began to trade with countries all over the world. Foreigners were captivated by Subakki, which then began to spread all over the world. Koryo was renamed Korea by foreign traders.
Yi Dynasty (1392AD to 1910AD)
During this period, Korean martial arts were not very popular and were not encouraged. However, many people continued to practice the techniques of 'Soo Bak' and 'Tae-Kyon'