Taekkyon is a traditional bare-hand martial arts developed by the Korean people
and is recognized as the original form of bare-hand martial arts in Korea.
Before the 6th century, Taekkyon was practiced by the ruling classes and from the
9th to 12th century, became very popular, even among the common people. According
to the Koryusa, a Korean history book written in the 15th century, Taekkyon was
widely encouraged and practiced by everyone from the king himself to farmers. This
trend continued until the early Chosun Dynasty.
But as the society moved toward a system that encouraged education and literary
pursuits and discouraged military pursuits, the practice of Taekkyon declined. By
the 13 century, Taekkyon was considered a folk custom rather than an actively practiced
During the Japanese colonial period, Taekkyon was banned and nearly vanished. Fortunately
Song Duk-ki (1893-1987) preserved the art and handed it down to modern day Koreans.
After the independence of Korea, the practice of Taekkyon became considerably less
popular than the practice of Japanese based arts. The establishment of Taekwondo
after the Korean War and its subsequent popularity served to further overshadow
the practice of Taekkyon.
Taekkyon began to rise in popularity again in the early 1980s. It was designated
by the government as Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 76 on June 1, 1983
owing to the extensive efforts by Shin Han-seung (1928-1987), who learned Taekkyon
from Song Duk-ki. After the death of both masters, Lee Yong-bok, who learned Taekkyon
from these two masters in 1984, established the Korea Traditional Taekkyon Institute
to revive Taekkyon. Through his efforts, a resurgence in Taekkyon practice resulted
and on June 30, 1985, the first Taekkyon game in 80 years took place in Kooduk stadium
located in Pusan.
On Jan. 1, 1991, the Korea Taekkyon Association was established and on Nov. 30,
1998, Taekkyon became an official member of the National Sports Council for All.
On Feb. 2, 2001, the Korea Taekkyon Association entered officially into the Korea
Sports Council and Taekkyon (under the auspices of the Korea Taekkyon Association)
has been approved as a specialty sport by the Korea Sports Council. The Korea Taekkyon
Association now has clubs and schools throughout Korea and supports more than 160
institutions, 110 university circles and 120 citizens’ clubs. It also has
about 10 nationwide Taekkyon championship games every year.
Kyolryon Taekkyon is also called Kyolryontae. It was a folk custom in which villagers
were divided into two groups. Until the end of Chosun Dynasty, the citizens of Seoul
divided themselves in a western group, called Woodae, and an eastern group, called
Araedae, to play. On Tano day (the 15th day of the 5th lunar month), the two groups
gathered in a large field at dusk and began to play.
First, children matched up. This was usually called Aeki-Taekkyon. Afterwards, the
adults played. Of these people, the people with lower skills took turns first and
those with higher skills followed. The winner of each match could choose any new
challenger. In this manner, the matches became more exciting and interesting as
they progressed. The winner of the final match was called An-mageum Chang-sa, which
means the best player. No award was given to the winner, but he was celebrated as
a hero by both teams.
To win a match, the player has to take his opponent down by throwing or kicking
the opponent's head. The loser has to tap the ground with the palm of his hand to
admit that he has lost. The playing ground was usually made by laying two straw
mats. People also played on sandy grounds or on grass. This game was banned by the
Japanese police during the Colonial period and later vanished.
The practice of Kyolryon Taekkyon was been revived by Lee, Yong-bok (Chairman of
Korea Traditional Taekkyon Institute) in 1995 at Kyongbok palace with a large scale
competition and has been demonstrated regularly on Tano day (15th day of Lunar month
May) since that time.
The above article is copyrighted by the author. All rights reserved.