Although its roots can be somewhat traced back to ancient Korea, it is a historic fact that Taekwondo as an organized art is relatively modern. In fact, the only documented history begins in the mid 1900's.
The actual beginnings of Taekwondo are obscured by time, yet many historians believe it originated from a Korean martial arts form known as t'aekyon practiced over 1,300 years ago.
In the early 1900's the art evolved with the introduction of Chinese and Japanese techniques, a practice which concerned some because these influences did not demonstrate the incredible kicking power of the art nor its traditional values or philosophy.
The actual name (and art) of Taekwondo wasn't official until 1955. At that time Korean General Hong Hi Choi organized a movement to unify Korea's various martial arts styles (Called Kwans) and presented the name "Taekwondo" to a committee specially formed to select a name for the new art. On April 11, 1955, Taekwondo was recognized as the name for the newly unified, officially recognized Korean martial art.
As an interesting side note, the word Taekwondo itself is made up of three Chinese/Korean words: Tae, meaning to kick or jump; Kwon, meaning fist or hand; and Do, which means "the way." Loosely (if not literally), it can be thought of as "The Way of the Hand and Foot."
In the 1960's Taekwondo began to spread internationally and evolved throughout the late 1900's (along with most martial arts) into primarily a combat sport, although self-defense, fitness, and the philosophy of the practice (including self-discipline and self-knowledge) are still crucial elements of Songahm Taekwondo, the style of Taekwondo developed and supported by the ATA.
Taekwondo is currently the most popular martial art in Korea, and ranks among America's and the world's most popular martial arts.