Taekwondo is a traditional Korean martial art, which means "the way of kicking and striking." In taekwondo, the hands and feet are used to overcome an opponent, but the trademark of the sport is its combination of kick movements. Its origins are not well known but three possibilities are often described. One traces taekwondo to Korea's three-kingdom era (ca. 50 BC) when Silla Dynasty warriors, the Hwarang, began to develop a martial art, tae kyon ("foot-hand"). Others feel that taekwondo began as a form of Chinese boxing, which was established at the Shaolin Temple in 520 BC by Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. A third possibility is that taekwondo developed from Japanese or Okinawan karate. It is now felt that taekwondo probably developed from other Asian martial arts combined with traditional Korean techniques of kickboxing.
Various Korean forms of martial arts have existed but in the early 20th century, taekwondo became the dominant form. In 1955, a group of Korean martial arts leaders chose taekwondo as the definitive Korean martial art in an attempt to promote its development internationally. In 1973, the Korean government recognised the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) as the legitimate governing body of the sport, and the first World Championships were held in that year.