Modern Korean people trace their origins to the founding of the Gojoseon (ancient Korean) state. To research the establishment of Gojoseon, one must look back over four thousand years into the clouded past where history and myth begin to blend. The legendary beginning date of Gojoseon depends upon the source used. The myth "Tan-gun" sets the date at 2333 BC, while the myth "Ki-ja" sets the date at 1122 BC. The actual date is unknown. The Gojoseon patriarch was Dangun Wanggom. Gojoseon first developed with the Liaoning district as its center and gradually rose as a center of the East. The Gojoseon ended in 57 BC with the traditional beginning of the Three Kingdoms Era.
The Korean Peninsula is believed to have been first inhabited by Tungusic tribes from central Asia in about 3000 BC. These ethnically homogeneous Mongoloid people had a Paleolithic culture (used stones as tools) and followed a shamanistic type of religion.
Martial arts started as a natural outgrowth of techniques used by primitive people to find food and to protect themselves and their families from wild animals Therefore, different areas of the world developed different kinds of combative arts based on their indigenous hunting and protective techniques. From many parts of the Korean Peninsula stone swords, stone knives, stone spears, stone arrowheads, stone axes, etc. have been unearthed. The range of the finds extends from Kyunghung Province; Hae Ju and Anak in Hwanghae Province; Yangyang and Choon chun in Kangwon Province; Ansung in Kyung-gi Province; Puyo in south Choonchon Province; Andong and Kyungju in North Kyungsang Province; and Mirang in South Kyungsang Province. It is reasonable to assume that early Koreans used these stone weapons for both hunting and self-protection against wild animals and savage enemies. The stone-throwing techniques of prehistoric Koreans have survived to present day where they are known as Too-suk-sool (stone-throwing arts). The effectiveness of these stone-throwing techniques was displayed in the battles at Hangjin and Chinju mountain fortresses during the Japanese invasions into Korea in the late 15th century under Hideoshi. Members of the royal family and high-ranking scholars of the Shilla Dynasty enjoyed a game developed for amusement called doo-ho (pitching arrows into a pot).
In early Korean history, three major tribes of "Tonkin" people dwelled on the Korean peninsula. Gojoseon rose on the banks of the Taedong River in the northwestern corner of the peninsula and prospered as a civilization possessing a code of law and a bronze culture. Leaders of Gojoseon bore the title of "Tan'gun Wanggom." The name suggests a religious and political function combined in a single person. Gojoseon combined with many other walled-town states to create a large confederation, the head of which was designated as king.
As human civilization advanced in Korea, an agricultural society gradually emerged. Ancient Koreans, who had originally lived around Mt. Bektu (between the borders of modern day North Korea and Manchuria), began to migrate southward and settle where the living environment was more attractive. Because of an increased awareness of and a greater fondness for territorial possession, it may be assumed that it was necessary to cultivate new and improved types of combative skills. A sedentary lifestyle led to a collective social body. In the communal system, clan units merged together into tribal units with clear distinction between the leaders and the followers. Feuds and struggles with other tribal units naturally resulted. Under these conditions, each clan would surely try to be mightier than other clans. To attain and maintain superior strength, people trained through running, wrestling, swimming, hand-to-hand fighting, and other such activities. It is natural to assume that the development of such weapons as staff, spear, swords, bow, and ax took place around this time.
The Gojoseon people gradually extended their influence not only over other tribes in the vicinity, but also to the north, conquering most of the Liaodong Basin. However, the rising power of the feudal state of Yen in northern China (1122-225 BC) not only checked Gojoseon's growth, but eventually pushed it back to the territory south of the Ch'ongch'on River, located midway between the Yalu and Taedong rivers, and took over the territory vacated by Gojoseon. The Chinese had discovered iron by this time and used it extensively in farming and warfare. The introduction of iron brought a variety of changes to Korea; iron hoes, plowshares, and sickles increased the ability for food production, thus, the gap between the ruling class, who monopolized the new sophisticated tools, and the poor increased.