Taekkyon still exists. Its traditions were carried on by Song Tok-Ki (1893-1987), and it was organized as a sport in the 1970's. Taekkyon is unique to Korea. Other countries had martial arts around this time, however, taekkyon was not influenced by other countries' martial art styles. Taekkyon was acknowledged as Korea's Traditional Martial Art on June 1, 1983, and held as the 26th Intangible Cultural Asset. Modern taekkyon practitioners understand that its meaning is based on mutual prosperity through offense and defense within the boundaries of social ethics and moral codes. These codes include sound character, strong mind and strong body.
As an expression of respect, Up is used. Up is a half bow, done while training, because there usually was not enough space for a full bow. The other element of respect is chol. This was done at the start and end of training, in the direction of the flag, before the highest leader, and the opponent. Chol is based on the form listed in Karyejip'ram (Anthology of the Etiquettes), written by Kim Chang-Saeng in 1599.
Taekkyon is an art form that looks like a dance, but has much more power and agility. Some techniques are:
- Pumbalbk'ki. The basic stepping motion, where the feet are moved in a triangular motion (from the Chinese character "pum"). This follows rhythm and pattern, but changes by situation. The actual movement is done by taking one step forward, shifting weight to the other leg, and continue, back and forth. This can be done on the right or the left side, and has many variations.
- Hwalgaejit. This means, waving both arms. There are two intentions for this. First, is to prepare for the attack, and second to enhance the energy of the upper body. There are also many variations, such as othundulgi, cross-wave; kawijil, scissor like motion; matdulgi, simultaneous wave; tupal hundulgi, shaking both arms; and dolligi, spinning.
When Japan became involved in World War II, many Koreans, particularly those living in Japan, were forced into the Japanese military. Over half a million Koreans were taken to Japan to work, primarily in mining and heavy industry. Sixty thousand of these died in Japan during the war. Korean women were forced to serve as "comfort women" (prostitutes) for the Japanese Army. The Japanese took some Korean masters to Japan and made them teach techniques to the Japanese military. This led to taekkyon techniques being incorporated into the Japanese martial art of karate. Many Koreans were forced to flee Korea during the years before World War II; they predominately immigrated to the United States, China, Manchuria, and Siberia. The immigrants carried taekkyon with them and taught the art to their new neighbors.
The Japanese ban on the martial arts was obviously not entirely effective. In fact, Yeon-Hee Park and Bong-Soo Han believe the ban actually increased their practice. Martial arts training moved to the Buddhist monasteries, a traditional place of refuge for out-of-favor warriors. Taekkyon continued to be practiced at Tan O Nol (youth festivals) until the art was outlawed in 1920.
The ban on martial arts did not include members of the Japanese army stationed in Korea, and several important martial artists began their careers there. About the time of the Russo-Japanese war, British judo pioneer Gunji Koizumi studied kenjutsu and Jujutsu in Korea at a school run by Nobukatsu Yamada. Many years later, Teruo Yamaguchi began learning karate-do while stationed in Korea. The ban also did not include Koreans training in Japan.