The term Taekkyon (also spelled taekkyeon, or taekyon) is used to refer to what is believed to have been an ancient Korean martial art. As with many Korean folk traditions, historical records regarding taekkyon are scant and ambiguous. For this reason, taekkyon is somewhat controversial; many historians note that we have very little factual information about taekkyon, other historians claim that more detail is known.
The first explicit written reference to taekkyon appears in the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty (between 1776-1800):
- "Byeon and Subak are Byeon, Gangnyeok is Mu and all these are called Tak-gyeon" (卞 手搏爲卞 角力爲武 苦今之탁견)
- - from the book Jaemulbo (also Manmulbo), written by Lee Sung-Ji during the reign of Jeongjo (1776–1800)
It is believed that there may have been multiple styles of taekkyon, with subak being an example of one style, but this is conjecture. Other sources claim that taekkyon and subak are synonyms, while others believe taekkyon was a style of subak. Still other authors believe that taekkyon may have been nothing more than a folk dance. Note that it is possible for both views to be correct: over centuries, a martial art can evolve to become a folk art, as with tai chi. (See Wikipedia for additional detail about the controversy.)
During the development of Traditional Taekwondo there was an effort by some of the Nine Kwans (especially Moo Duk Kwan) to ensure that traditional Korean influences were incorporated into the then-nascent martial art of taekwondo. Some claim that elements of taekkyon and Gwon Beop (to the extent that they were known) were intentionally incorporated into taekwondo, in part to distinguish it from karate. In fact, the name "taekwondo" was chosen in part as an allusion to taekkyon. Others claim that, stylistically, little or no taekkyon is evident in taekwondo.
To the extent that taekkyon has survived at all today, it is characterized as a martial art by fluid, dance-like footwork. It utilizes a wide variety of kicks, fist and elbow strikes, pressure point attacks, throws, and grapples. In Korea, taekkyon is registered as a National Intangible Cultural Asset. In 2011 taekkyeon was listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
See Wikipedia (below) for additional detail.