Efforts remove the Japanese Karate influence have left Taekwondo divided into two entities: a traditional martial art and a competitive sport. Traditional Taekwondo is still largely based on the training principles, kata, and philosophies of karate, while competitive Taekwondo, which originated in Korea, is considered a subset of traditional Taekwondo.
The concept of martial arts was developed in Japan beginning with the transformation of swordsmanship from a battlefield necessity to a form of philosophic human movement (tao). This philosophical concept, as applied to fighting skills, did not exist in Korea. As will be discussed later, physical activity, especially the fighting arts, became an object of scorn and a sign of low breeding during the latter years of the Joseon Dynasty. Korea's first exposure to the concept of martial arts was through training in Judo and Kendo during Japanese occupation of the early 1900's. The martial arts concept was further reinforced with the introduction of karate and other Japanese philosophies and methodologies.
Taekwondo not only has a physical history; it also has a spiritual history. It was created without spiritual components, but its origins were spiritually based. This spiritual aspect seems to be lacking in many dojangs in the United States, maybe because of the traditional relationship between Taekwondo and Buddhism. Since most occidentals do not understand or practice Buddhism, they usually ignore the spiritual aspects of Taekwondo. Understanding Taekwondo's spiritual aspects does not mean one needs to be a Buddhist, or any other religion for that matter. It only means that one understands the reasons behind the basic principles and traditions of Taekwondo, such as why students are taught to avoid unnecessary violence and why it is stressed that students use their fighting skills responsibly.