The Birth of Tae kwon do

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Korea was occupied by Japan. This annexation was not lifted until Japan's defeat at the end of World War II. With brutal Japanese occupation lifted, Korea went through a period of rapid cultural revival.

During this process, the native martial arts, which had been banned by the occupying forces, experienced a renewal. The Korean people, swearing never to be overtaken by a foreign power again, embraced this spread of the martial arts throughout their nation. From this came the birth of the modern Korean martial arts.
"Tae Kwon Do has gone through a long process of evolution since its foundations began to be laid at the end of World War II. It took many years for the various Korean martial arts instructors to finally unite their individual kwans, or "schools," under the banner of tae kwon do. To understand this process, we can look at the history of the modern Korean martial arts.

The History of Tae Kwon Do

The FOUNDATIONS of Tae Kwon Do can be traced back thousands of years. Korea possesses a long and illustrious history of developing and refining advanced systems of martial arts.

This history was idealized by the Hwa Rang warriors of the fifth century B.C. It is said that the "Flowering Youth," as they were known, brought an end to regional conflict, united the kingdoms on the Korean peninsula, and spread their understanding of Buddhism and warfare to the island nation of Japan. This historic transmission of knowledge helped to give birth to Japanese samurai culture. Although martial culture on the Korean peninsula dates back to the beginning of recorded time, the system of martial arts that came to be known as Tae Kwon Do is less than a century old.

The Philiosophy of Tae Kwon Do

Most systems of martial arts promote the philosophy that practitioners should constantly be aware of their environment and be at one with nature. The philosophy of taekwondo is designed to teach practitioners to raise their body and mind to a new level of physical and mental awareness. "These abstract concepts are lost to the minds of most modern practitioners of the martial arts.

The philosophy of taekwondo, however, is rooted in reality. First, it trains the body of the practitioner. The mind then naturally falls into place. Through taekwondo's refined physical training, the practitioner is no longer dominated by the fears that plague modern society—such as being accosted on a dark street corner or being overpowered by a bully. From the knowledge that one can protect oneself comes the experience of assuredness. Those who are self-assured are not swayed by the need to prove that they are better and stronger than others, or that they can overpower someone else. Instead, the taekwondo practitioner can embrace self-confidence without the need for conflict or confrontation. From this arises a oneness of body and mind, which causes the taekwondo practitioner to enter a state of physical harmony. As time progresses this harmony is projected from the individual, thereby making the world a better place.

The Kwans

It was the hope of the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association that all of the original Korean Kwans would merge, drop their names, and move Tae Kwon Do forward under the guidance of one overseer organization. To some degree, this did occur. Most notably, the name "Tae Kwon Do" was accepted by all of the original Kwans, and most Kwans practice the same set of WTF preset training forms—now most commonly known by the Korean word poomse.

What also occurred, however, was that virtually all of the original Kwans held onto their names and continued to promote their own unique interpretation of Tae Kwon Do. They never wholly dissolved. In some cases, the original founder of the Kwan is still alive. In other cases, an elected president runs the Kwan. Thus, the Kwans are still very much inexistence and continue to issue rank and instructor certification. Virtually all of the remaining original Korean Kwans are associated with the WTF. In some instances, both the Kwan and the WTF certify a black-belt Kwan member. More commonly, however, especially in the West, this is not the case. Rank certification comes solely from the Kwan. As the WTF no longer recognizes Kwan certification, certified Kwan members must then go through additional testing at Kukkiwon if they wish to hold WTF rank or instructor certification.

The propagation of the kwans has also continued. Many Tae Kwon Do masters, originally certified by a Kwan, have created organizations all around the world that bear the name of the original Kwan but are no longer directly linked to it. These organizations commonly provide rank and instructor certification sanctioned solely by the individual association.


There are two primary branches for the art of taekwondo.
They are: The World "Tae kwon do Federation (WTF), headquartered at Kukkiwon in Seoul, South Korea, and the International Tae kwon do Federation (ITF), originally based in Canada. Of these two, the WTF possesses substantially more members.

The Differences and Similarities

The differences between these two primary branches of tae kwon do principally involve their emphasis on self-defense. Whereas ITF taekwondo has kept its primary focus upon self-defense, with competition as its secondary concentration, WTF taekwondo has come to place its primary emphasis upon competition. WTF taekwondo has caused many of the traditional taekwondo techniques to be streamlined, refined, and focused upon a minimum of movement. This is not to imply that the WTF student does not learn self-defense, however, because what a student actually learns in the various schools affiliated with one of these governing bodies is largely determined by the instructor.

These two institutions prescribe different sets of forms for their students, to practice. However, although these differ in defensive and offensive implementation, they both utilise the same style of techniques. The language of the two groups is also somewhat different. The various fighting techniques are often times referred to by different Korean terminology. The essence of these techniques remains the same, however.
Ultimately, there are more similarities than differences between these two primary branches of taekwondo. The techniques they teach are based upon the same fundamental understanding of self-defense, and the martial philosophy is very much the same.
Although the WTF and ITF are the two largest branches of taekwondo, there are an untold number of smaller organizations that exist to promote the art of taekwondo throughout the world. Of these, perhaps the most noteworthy are the original kwans.

The World Taekwondo Federation

Deputy director of the Republic of Korea Presidential Protective Forces Dr. Kim Un Yong, was elected the president of the Korea Tae kwon do Association on January 23, 1971. Although he initially declined the position due to the continued conflicts within the organization, he was asked by the Korean government to accept and to cleanse the association. This he accomplished with great success.

Believing that taekwondo was a Korean martial art and its governing body should be based in Korea, Dr. Kirn dissolved the relationship between the Korea tae kwon do Association and the International Taekwondo Federation. In 1973 the World Taekwondo Federation was formed, and Dr. Kim was elected its president. This organisation has led the martial art of taekwondo into its status as an Olympic sport.

The International Tae kwon do Federation

Tae kwon do was given its name by General Choi Hong Hi in 1959.

In 1965 General Choi Hong Hi returned from Malaysia to South Korea. Soon after that, he was elected president of the Korea Tae Soo Do Association. He called together the General Assembly and proposed a vote to change the name of the organization back to the Korea Taekwondo Association. The name won by one vote. By 1966 General Choi had formed the International Taekwondo Federation to help taekwondo spread across the globe. In that same year, due to many internal political factors, he left South Korea, moving himself and the headquarters of the International Tae kwon do Federation to Canada.

The Moo Duk Kwan

Moo Duk Kwan can translate as "The School of Military Virtue."

The founder Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan was Hwang Kee. Hwang was an expatriate of Korea during much of its Japanese occupation. He details that he first secretly studied the Korean arts of soo bak do and tae kyon in his homeland, before leaving Korea in 1936 to work for the Southern Manchuria Railroad in China.

In early interviews, Hwang Kee stated that he studied numerous systems of Chinese martial arts while living in China. Later, it was revealed that he had also studied a system of karate while he was there. Is it significant that this was revealed later—or it is at least notable.
Hwang returned to Korea near the end of Japanese occupation and formalized his system of self-defense on his birthday, November 9, 1945. In 1946 his system began to be taught at the Yong San Railway Station in Seoul. It was called Tang Soo Do Bu, and he titled his martial arts organization Kyo Tong Bu Woo Hae. The Korean term tang soo literally translates as "knife hand," and the Japanese character used to depict this term is the same one used for karate. Since Hwang Kee's first school was in a railway station, many of his first students were railway employees. The school flourished for many years. Then, like most schools of martial arts on the Korean peninsula, it was closed on June 25, 1950, at the onset of the Korean War. In 1953, when the school reopened, Hwang Kee had changed the name of the system to moo duk kwan. He also changed the name of his organization to the Korea Soo Bahk Do Association. By 1955 this organization had ten gymnasiums, but its central headquarters remained near Seoul Station. During this same year, the Korea Soo Bahk Do Association hosted its first Sino-Korean martial arts championship.

By 1965, the various kwans of the modern Korean martial arts were merging under the banner of Tae Kwon Do. Hwang Kee resisted this trend, wishing to maintain control over his organization. As a result, two of his advanced students—Im Young Tek and Hong Chong Soo—broke away from their teacher, formed their own branch of moo duk kwan, and became a part of the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association. From this act, two distinct systems of self-defence, both called moo duk kwan, emerged.
Many advanced practitioners of tang soo do moo duk kwan followed this lead and broke away from Hwang Kee. They each became part of the Tae Kwon Do branch of moo duk kwan. Although the two moo duk kwans are relatively similar in style and structure, and most Korean moo duk kwan masters draw their lineage from Hwang Kee, the two moo duk kwans possess different forms and a some what different focus. The Tae Kwon Do branch of moo duk kwan does, however, possess substantially more members—approximately 500,000.
One interesting note is that tang soo do, unlike the other Korean martial arts, does not use the traditional black belt in its ranking system. Hwang Kee believed the black is the color in which all other colors merge—that is, any color that mixed with black also becomes black. If an individual wears a black belt, means that he has mastered the art. However, no one can ever truly master the martial arts, because they are a continual learning process. Therefore advanced tang soo do practitioners wear a navy blue belt.


The Chung Do Kwan

The name Chung Do Kwan means "The School of the Blue Waves'.

The Chung Do Kwan was founded by Lee Won Kuk. This was the first school of martial arts to be established in modern Korea and was the first school to begin laying the foundations for what was to become Tae Kwon Do.

Lee Won Kuk began his career in the martial arts in 1926, at the age of nineteen, when he moved to Japan to attend college. Whilst at university he studied Shotokan karate directly from its founder, Gichin Funakoshi. Lee eventually returned to Korea and began teaching karate in September of 1944.

During the Japanese occupation, it was virtually impossible for a Korean to open a school of karate in his homeland. Due to Lee's close relationship with the Japanese governor general of Korea, however, he was one of the very few people who were allowed to do so. It was believed that he must be a Japanese sympathizer, or he would not have been allowed to open his school. This distrust ran so deep that in 1945, when Korea was liberated, Lee was put on trial for his Japanese affiliations and had to temporarily close the doors of his school.
Lee was not convicted, however. Upon his acquittal, he became very proactive in his stance about Korean independence. Lee formed a tight alliance with the Korean National Police. So much so, that when his Chung Do Kwan was reopened in Seoul, in April of 1946, it became known as the National Police Dojang.

The second grandmaster of the Chung Do Kwan was Son Duk Sung who took over in 1951.

Ji Do Kwan


The Chosun Yun Moo Kwan — Ji Do Kwan.
The evolution of Chosun Yun Moo Kwan began in 1931 when Lee Kyung Suk, a Korean who taught judo, established the Chosun Yun Moo Kwan school in Seoul. He successfully operated this school of judo for several decades.

At the end of World War II, Lee Kyung Suk asked Chun Sang Sup to set up a course of kwon bop at his school. This program was named Chosun Yun Moo Kwan Kwon Bup Bu.

Chun Sang Sup began his martial arts training in judo while in high school. He then moved to Japan to attend Dong Yang Chuck Sik College. It was during this period that he was exposed to Shotokan karate, and he is believed to have earned a black belt. Upon returning to Korea, Chun is believed to have secretly taught Shotokan karate to private students, beginning in approximately 1940. Because privately teaching karate was outlawed by the Japanese occupying forces, his teaching  was  not  formally recorded until he established his training method after World War II. Chun Sang Sup enlisted the help of Yoon Byung In to teach karate at the Chosun Yun Moo Kwan. Yoon was a fourth-degree black belt in Shotokan karate.
Yoon Byung In taught at the Chosun Yun Moo Kwan for becoming independant and forming his own school, known as the Chang Moo Kwan. Chun Sang Sup again returned to full-time teaching responsibilities. Chun’s instruction continued until an evil twist of fait found him kidnapped and imprisoned by the North Korean military during the Korean War. He was never heard from again and is believed to be dead. Upon the loss of Chun, Chosun Yun Moo Kwan Kwon Bup Bu teaching passed to the hands of Yoon Kwe Byung, one of Chun's senior students. He renamed the school Ji Do Kwan, "Wisdom Way School."
During the 1950s, when the various Kwans of the Korean martial arts began attempting to merge under one banner, Yoon Kwe Byung was against unification. Yoon wanted the Ji Do Kwan to remain free from organizational control, but the other senior members of the Ji Do Kwan disagreed. As a result, Yoon was ousted from his presidency, and Lee Chong Woo was elected the new president of the Ji Do Kwan. Lee Chong Woo forged the Ji Do Kwan into one of the leading schools of martial arts in modern Korea. Its practitioners were noted for their consecutive wins at South Korean tournaments. Lee also went on to hold several pivotal positions within the   'Korea Tae Kwon Do Association and the World Tae Kwon Do Federation.


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