Taekwondo is a form of martial arts that was developed in Korea. The origins of taekwondo, or taekwond-do, are murky as many in South Korea disagree about the history of the martial art form. The South Koreans have adopted taekwondo as their national sport, with the martial art form being the most popular in the world in terms of practitioners. Taekwondo has developed over the years into two different branches, traditional and sport. Traditional taekwondo refers to the martial art as it was established in the 1950s and 1960s as a training tool for the South Korean military. The style practiced by the military stresses power and self-defense. Sport taekwondo has emerged in the decades since then with a focus on speed and competition. The sport branch of taekwondo became an Olympic sport in 2000. Despite the different emphasis of the two styles, the distinctions between them are often blurred and are not considered mutually exclusive.
The technical differences between the two main styles and among the organizations that practice taekwondo have not taken away from the general focus of the art itself. Taekwondo focuses on the use of the legs, making use of the limbs’ greater reach and strength compared to arms. There is a particular emphasis on mobile stances and throwing kicks from these positions. Training in this form of martial arts generally includes open-handed strikes, blocks, kicks, punches, and differing take downs and leg sweeps. Some in the taekwondo art also include pressure points and self-defense techniques borrowed from other martial art forms.
The history of taekwondo can differ greatly depending on the source of the information. Some of Korea's taekwondo organizations believe that the art is derived from earlier Korean martial arts, while others insist it is a combination of earlier Korean martial arts and those of neighboring countries. Still others believe taekwondo was heavily affected by the Japanese martial art of karate after the Japanese occupation before and during World War II.