Michael W Deem

Michael W Deem

Origin of Taekwondo

Dr. Michael W Deem, award-winning and world-renowned scientist formerly with Rice University, is known for his passion and skill in the martial art Taekwondo. Tae Kwon Do, often referred to as Taekwondo, originated over 5000 thousand years ago in the Korean Kingdom. It’s an empty-hand combat form that entails the use of the whole body in active movements. Tae means “to Kick” or “smash with the feet,” Kwon implies “punching,” or “destroying with the hand or fist,” and Do means “way,” or “method.” Taekwondo, thus involves the use of basic techniques of unarmed combat for self-defense that involves the skillful application of challenging techniques that include punching, jumping kicks, spinning kicks, blocks, dodges, parrying actions with hands and feet. It is more than a mere physical fighting skill, representing as it does a way of thinking and a pattern of life requiring strict discipline. It is a system of training requiring both the mind and the body. In turn, this places great emphasis on the development of the trainee’s moral character.

Taekwondo is a martial art that in “today’s” form of self-defense, has evolved by combining many different styles of martial arts that existed in Korea over the last 2,000 years. This also includes some martial arts styles from countries that surround Korea. Taekwondo incorporates the abrupt linear movements of Karate and the flowing, circular patterns of Kung-fu with native kicking techniques. Over fifty Chinese circular hand movements can be identified in modern Taekwondo. A few of the earlier martial arts styles that contributed to Taekwondo are T’ang-su, Taek Kyon, also known as Subak, Tae Kwon, Kwon Pup, and Tae Kwonpup. There are  influences from Judo, Karate, and Kung-fu as well.  Many of the original martial arts masters were known to study calligraphy as well–the seventh martial art.

The earliest records of Taekwondo practice date back to about 50 B.C. During this time, Korea was divided into three kingdoms: Silla, which was founded on the Kyongju plain in 57 B.C.; Koguryo, founded in the Yalu River Valley in 37 B.C.; and Paekche, founded in the southwestern area of the Korean peninsula in 18 B.C..” Tae Kyon ( also called Subak) is considered the earliest known form of Taekwondo. Paintings from this period have been found on the ceiling of the Muyong-chong, a royal tomb from the Koguryo dynasty. The paintings show unarmed people using techniques that are very similar to the ones used by Taekwondo today.  The first of the black belt Taekwondo forms is named after the Koryo dynasty of Korea, which saw an unprecedented flourishing in culture and arts with developments in architecture, ceramics, printing, and papermaking.  The Yi dynasty (Choson dynasty) followed, during which Confucianism replaced Buddhism as the official governing ideology.  During these 500 years, Confucianism’s conservative ethics and values dominated Korea’s social structure and attitudes.

In recent times, the original Five Codes of Human Conduct have been correlated into the so-called Eleven Commandments of modern-day Taekwondo.  These 11 commandments of Taekwondo are

Loyalty to your country                                     Finish what you begin

Faithfulness to your spouse                            Respect your parents

Respect your brothers and sisters                 Loyalty to your friends

Respect your teachers                                     Loyalty to your school 

Indomitable spirit                                              Never take life unjustly

Respect your elders

Michael W Deem

Michael W Deem

In 1909, the Japanese invaded Korea and occupied the country for 36 years. To control Korea’s patriotism, the Japanese banned the practice of all military arts, Korean language and even burned all books written in Korea. This ban during the Japanese occupation was responsible for renewed interest in Subak. Many Koreans organized themselves into underground groups and practiced martial arts in remote Buddhist temples. Other people left Korea to study martial arts in other countries like China and Japan.  Upon their return to Korea, they introduced aspects of those arts to the Korean martial arts.  In 1943 Judo, Karate and Kung-fu were officially introduced to the Korean residents and the martial arts regained popularity.  Kong Soo Do was a name given to several of the early Karate-based styles.  In 1945, Korea was liberated. In the last few years before liberation, there were many different variations of Subak/Taekkyeon in Korea. This was due to the other martial arts groups’ influence on it.

Taekwondo in recent times

Who created Taekwondo in modern times? The first Taekwondo school (Kwan) was started in Yong Chun, Seoul, Korea in 1945. Many different schools were opened from 1945 through 1960. The Korean Armed Forces were also formed in 1945 and in 1946 Second lieutenant Hong Hi Choi began teaching Taek Kyon as an art of unarmed combat at a Korean military base called Kwang Ju. Americans were first introduced to Taek Kyon when Choi Hong-hi instructed Korean Army troops and some American soldiers stationed with the 2nd Infantry Regiment. Later in 1949, Hong Hi Choi attended Ground General School at Ft. Riley near Topeka, Kansas in the United States. While in the U.S., Choi gave public Taek Kyon demonstrations for the troops. This was the first display of Taekkyeon in America.

The greatest turning point for Korean martial arts started in 1952. During the height of the Korean War, President Syngman Rhee watched a 30-minute performance by Korean martial arts masters. He was especially impressed when Tae Hi Nam broke 13 roof tiles with a single punch. After the demonstration, Rhee talked with Hong Hi Choi about martial arts. He then ordered his military chiefs of staff to require all Korean soldiers to receive training in the martial arts. This caused a tremendous surge in Taekkyeon schools and students.

On April 11, 1955, at a conference of kwan masters, historians, and Taek Kyun promoters, most of the kwan masters decided to merge their various styles for the mutual benefit of all schools. The name “Tae Soo Do ” was accepted by a majority of the kwan masters. Two years later, the name was changed again, this time to “Taekwondo”. The name was suggested by General Hong Hi Choi (General Choi is considered by many to be the father of Taekwondo).

Dissension among the various original kwans that did not unify carried on until September 14, 1961. Then by official decree of the new military government, the kwans were ordered to unify into one organization called the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), with General Hong Hi Choi elected as its first president. In 1962, the KTA re-examined all the black belt ranks to determine national standards, and also in 1962, Taekwondo became one of the official events in the annual National Athletic Meet in Korea. The KTA sent instructors and demonstration teams all over the world. Jhoon Rhee (who is considered the father of American Taekwondo) attended San Marcos Southwest Texas State College, and later taught a Taekwondo course at the college and formed a public Taekwondo club.

A Taekwondo demonstration at the United Nations headquarters in New York City in 1963, caused the formation of the U.S. Taekwondo Association in 1967, which later was superseded in 1974 by the U.S. Taekwondo Federation. In Korea, the study of Taekwondo spread rapidly from the army into high schools and colleges. In March of 1966, Choi founded the International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF), in which he also served as president. Choi later resigned as the KTA president and moved his ITF headquarters to Montreal, Canada, from where he concentrated on organizing Taekwondo internationally. His emphasis is on break self-defense techniques, not particularly on the sport. By 1974, Choi reported that some 600 qualified ITF instructors were distributed throughout the world.

Young-wun Kim was elected the new KTA president. Feeling that Korea was the mother country of Taekwondo and that the world headquarters should be located there, he dissolved the ITF’s connection with the KTA. On May 28, 1973, he created a new international governing body called the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), which coincided with the first World Taekwondo Competition that was held in Seoul, Korea. The World Taekwondo Federation has since made a major effort to standardize competition rules and organize world-class competitions. After the 2nd World TKD Championship in Seoul, the WTF became an affiliate of the General Assembly of the International Sports Federation (GAISF), which has ties to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC recognized and admitted the WTF in July 1980. In 1982 the General Session of the IOC designated Taekwondo as an official Demonstration Sport for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Since Modern-day Taekwondo’s official birth on April 11, 1955, its development as a sport has been rapid. Over 30 million people practice Taekwondo in more than 156 countries.  Taekwondo is an Olympic sport, and it has strong association as a South Korean martial art. Among the martial arts schools, there are many Taekwondo styles. Taekwondo world championships are held every other year.  

Michael W. Deem

Michael W. Deem

Korean Taekwondo vocabulary

There are a number of terms or taekwondo commands in the Taekwondo dictionary:

Hello / How are you – An Nyung Ha Sae Yo

Good bye – An Nyung He Gae Sae Yo

Thank you – Kam Sa Ham Me Da

Bow – Kyung Nae (Kyung in Korean)

Bow to Flags – Kuk Gee Eh Dae Han Kyung Na

Bow to Master – Kuan Jang Nim Kkae Kyung Nae

Taekwondo School – Kwan

Uniform – Dobok

Gym for practice – DoJang

America – Mi Gook

Korea – Han Gook

Korean Flag – Tae Guk Gi

American Flag – Mi Gook Gee

Attention – Chah-ryut (cha ryut pronunciation) (or charyot or Cha-ryeot)

Ready – Joon-bee

Begin – Si-jak

Yell – Ki-Yahp

Sparring – Gyoroggi

Self-defense – Hosinsool

A Round of competition – Jeon

A Point scored in competition-Jeum

Referee – Joo Sim

Attention – Chah-ryut

1st – 9th degree – Dan

Master instructor (above fifth degree black belt) – Kwan Jang Nim

Under 15 red/black belt- Poom

Forms, formal exercises – Poomse

Instructor (above fourth degree black belt) – Sabom Nim

Benefits of Taekwondo


Michael W. Deem

Michael W. Deem

Aside from other advanced techniques, the principles of Taekwondo techniques are based on the design of your body. For power, you develop the larger, powerful muscles of the torso. The speed of the techniques comes from the fast, agile muscles of the arms and legs. As you progress in Taekwondo, you will learn to get better in the accuracy of movements, coordinate this speed and power, and develop the concentration to focus all of your body’s strength into a small, hard striking surface like the edge of the hand or the heel of the foot.


When speed and power developed through Taekwondo, they were used against the vulnerable parts of the body of an attacker in a self-defense situation. In fact, the results can be unbelievable. As regards to this combat method, for instance, Taekwondo enables a woman to highlight many of her natural physical strengths, such as leg power, while learning how to defend herself effectively against a far larger opponent.


This naturally doesn’t happen to many people, but self-confidence can develop over a period of time. Through additional training in Taekwondo, you achieve new goals and increase your confidence. Taekwondo brings discipline and self-confidence to all aspects of your life.

 Let Michael Deem train you!

Michael W Deem is a world-renowned scientist.  He is currently a CEO and venture capitalist.  He started his career in venture at Khosla Ventures.  He was previously at Rice University as the John W Cox professor of Bioengineering and Physics & Astronomy. His academic journey started at Caltech, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1991. Dr. Deem later earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1994.  Michael completed a postdoctoral position in Physics at Harvard University. Deem joined UCLA in 1996 as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering. In 2002, he joined Rice University, becoming the John W Cox professor of Bioengineering, Physics, and Astronomy. 

His achievements and contributions has earned him significant respect among his peers, being honored with awards such as the Fannie and John Hertz Fellow at UC Berkeley (1991-1994); NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chemistry (1995-1996); Assistant and tenured Associate Professor, UCLA (1996-2002); NSF CAREER Award (1997-2001); Northrop Grumman Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award (1997); Visiting Professor, University of Amsterdam (1999); A Top 100 Young Innovator, MIT’s Technology Review (November 1999) (Profile and Original Profile); Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2000); Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2002); John W. Cox Professor, Bioengineering and Physics & AstronomyRice University (2002-2020); Allan P. Colburn Award (2004); Editorial Board Member, Protein Engineering, Design and Selection (2005-present); Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2005); Member, Board of Directors, Biomedical Engineering Society (2005-2008); Fellow, American Physical Society (2006); Member, Rice University Faculty Senate (2006-2009); Vaughan Lectureship, California Institute of Technology (2007); Member, Nominating Committee, Division of Biological Physics, American Physical Society (2007); Member, Board of Governors, Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (2007-present); Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (2009); BMES Representative on the FASEB Publications & Communications Committee (2009-2012); Professional Progress Award (2010) (Profile); Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010); External Scientific Advisor, Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (2010-present); Associate Editor, Physical Biology (2011-2018); Edith and Peter O’Donnell AwardThe Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (2012); Founding Director, Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology (2012-2014, raised $0.5M seed funding); Phi Beta Kappa, Visiting Scholar (2012-2013); Chair, Department of Bioengineering (2014-2017, raised $12M in external startup funding for new faculty); Editorial Advisory Board, Bioengineering and Translational Medicine, (2016-2019); Donald W. Breck Award for zeolite science (2019); and NACD Board Leadership Fellow and Directorship Certification (2020). He was an entrepreneur in Residence with Khosla Ventures (2021-2022) and is a General Partner with Smart Health Catalyzer (2023 to present).  His name has been synonymous with innovation and thought-provoking research for three decades.  He enjoys mentorship, vaccine design, and helping others invent the future.

For many years, Michael Deem has helped people learn the wonderful benefits of taekwondo and martial arts. We train our students to the best of their ability. Some students come to us in shape, while others have come to us 100 pounds overweight. Most come to us with limited flexibility. Adults start at any age, as we have had some adults who started as late as age 65 and have still earned their black belts. As a student, you are looked upon as an individual, never compared to anyone else. 

Our instructors will be there every step of the way. All that is expected is a willingness to try. Our real and proven Taekwondo/Martial Arts program can turn anyone regardless of age, gender, or previous experience into a more powerful and confident person. Throughout the years, we have produced thousands of champions in Sport and life.

Our programs are designed to provide the highest quality martial arts instruction in the country. Our classes provide a safe and fun atmosphere for people while teaching respect, and discipline. We have many programs that will fit everyone’s needs.

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