The exact origin of Tang Soo Do, as well as of any of the martial arts in general, is obscure though there are a number of historical theories. However, the most credible and traditional view is that martial arts originated not in any one country but in almost all parts of the globe, as they were needed by primitive people.
The ancestral art of Korean Tang Soo Do can be traced back to the period of the three kingdoms. At that time, Korea was divided into three kingdoms.
Koguryo was founded 37BC in northern Korea. The Silla was founded in 57BC in the southeast peninsula, and Paekche was founded in 18BC.
After a long series of wars, the Silla Dynasty united the three kingdoms in 668AD. During this perios of time, the primitive martial arts were very popular in warfare.
This is evidenced by mural paintings, ruins and remains, which depicted Tang Soo Do in those days.
Among the three kingdoms, the Silla Dynasty was most famous for tits development of martial arts. A corps formed by young aristocrats who were called “Hwa Rang Dan” was the major group who developed those arts. These warriors were instrumental in unifying the peninsula as the new Silla Dyansty (668AD-935AD), and furnished many of the early leaders of that dynasty. Most Korean martial arts trace their spiritual and technical heritage to this group. The names of some groups and arts reflect this, such as Hwa Rang Do or Hwa Soo Do. The Five Codes of Tang Soo Do, originated by Won Kwang, a monk, are part of their spiritual heritage.
The united Silla Kingdom was overthrown by a warlord, Wang Kun, in 918AD and a new kingdom, called “Koryo”, lasted for 475 years. In 1392AD the New Kingdom, Yi Dynasty succeeded and lasted about 500 years. Approximately a thousand year period elapsed between the two dynasties. Tang Soo Do became very popular among the military society. However, most importantly, this art also became popular with the general public. In those days it was called Kwon Bop, Tae Kyun, Soo Bahk, Tang Soo etc.
The very first complete martial arts book was written at this time. This most important book is called “Mooyae Dobo Tongil”. It was written in 1790AD and contained illustrations that substantiate the theory that “Soo Bahk Ki”, the formal name of Tang Soo Do, had quickly developed into a sophisticated art of combat techniques.