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.

Written by Conrad Howard — November 22, 2012

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