Taekwon-do is a modern Korean martial art designed for self-defense, without weapons. It was created at the middle of 20th century by General Choi Hong Hi – born on 09. 11. 1918 in Korea. He founded the Oh Do Kwan School and laid the groundwork for a new army soldier training system based on Japanese martial arts (Karate) and traditional Korean fighting styles.
At 11 April 1955 gen. Choi officially announces the new Korean martial art called “TAE KWON DO”. In literal translation “Tae” means kick with the foot, “Kwon” – punch with the hand (with a fist), and “Do” – the way or in translation “The way of strikes with legs and hands”. It is known as the “Chang Hon” style – the name of patterns (tul) system, created by Gen Choi. In Korean philosophy, “Do” is also interpreted as “Way of Life”. Subsequently, Gen. Choi changed the pronunciation of “Taekwon-do” to emphasize the need for a balance between physical training (Taekwon) and philosophy (Do).
On 22 March 1966 in Seoul, South Korea was established the International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF) with President Gen. Choi Hong Hi, uniting the countries of Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, USA, Turkey, Italy, Egypt and South Korea. The ITF organization developed and distributed Taekwon-do style “Chang Hon”, gaining popularity as “ITF Taekwon-do”.
Korea was divided into North and South in the late 1940s. Taekwon-do was established and developed in South Korea, and in North Korea was invaded in 1980. This allows ITF to have office in Vienna, Austria and access to many talented instructors who subsequently helped spread Taekwon-do around the world.
In the 1980s, the ITF published the Taekwon-do Encyclopedia. This extensive work contains 15 volumes, where “everything” about Taekwon-do is described. It contains approximately 5,000 pages and 30,000 photos. The first edition was printed in 1985. The encyclopedia was originally written by General Choi Hong Hi in 1983, the last edition with the direct participation of General Choi is from 1999. Volumes 8 to 15 are devoted to the 24 patterns (tul), contain photos and descriptions of movements, showing possible applications of the techniques. A one-volume Condensed Encyclopedia is also available.
General Choi Hong Hi died on June 15, 2002, but Taekwon-do continues to exist and develop. After the death of Gen. Choi division in the ITF is total – the organization breaks down into three:
- ITF-C or ITF Canada – in 2001 Choi Jung Hwa, the son of Gen. Choi, who was elected president of the ITF, came into conflict with the North Koreans. This led to his separation along with a large group of supporters. He settled in Canada and worked independently. In 2014, the Korean branch of ITF-C separated and began to operate as an independent organization ITF-K or ITF Korea.
- ITF-NK or ITF North Korea – these are the North Koreans to which Gen. Choi “bequeathed” the ITF with his last words in 2002. They exist until today and are considered the “real” ITF because they managed to win a number of lawsuits with the other ITF’s.
- ITF-V or ITF Vienna – these are the “believers in democracy” taekwondoists who voted for GM Tran to became President in 2003.
Separately, there are many smaller international organizations administering Chang Hon Taekwon-do of Gen. Choi Hong Hi. Despite the differences in their orientations, visions and politics, they preserve the traditions passed down from teacher to student, while Taekwon-do is constantly evolving and adapting to the modern world. All this defines Taekwon-do as a modern and developing martial art.