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The History Of Taekwondo

Taekwondo is the art of self-defense that originated in Korea. It is recognized as one of the oldest forms of martial arts in the world, reaching back over 2,000 years. The name was selected for its appropriate description of the art: Tae  (foot), Kwon  (hand), Do  (art).

Taekwondo The History

After World War II, when Korea became independent, several kwans arose.

These kwans were:

• Chung Do Kwan
• Moo Duk Kwan
• Yun Moo Kwan
• Chang Moo Kwan
• Oh Do Kwan
• Ji Do Kwan
• Chi Do Kwan
• Song Moo Kwan

The Kwans united in 1955 as Tae Soo Do. In the beginning of 1957, the name Taekwondo was adopted by several Korean martial arts masters, for its similarity to the name Tae Kyon.

 General Choi Hong-hi required the army to train Taekwondo, so the very first Taekwondo students were Korean soldiers. The police and air force had to learn Taekwondo as well. At that time, Taekwondo was merely a Korean version of Shotokan   Karate. In 1961 the Korean Taekwondo Union arose from the Soo Bakh Do Association and the Tae Soo Do Association. In 1962 the   Korean Amateur Sports Association acknowledged the Korean Taekwondo Union and in 1965 the name was changed to Korean   Taekwondo Association (K.T.A.). General Choi was president of the K.T.A. at that time and was asked to start the I.T.F.  as the international branch of the K.T.A. The southern government was overthrown in 1961. General Choi Hong-hi left for America and established I.T.F. (International Taekwondo Federation) Taekwondo, as a separate entity, two years later.

Demonstrations were given all over the world. It took a while before real progress was made, but eventually, in 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation (W.T.F.) was founded. In 1980, W.T.F. Taekwondo was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) and became a demonstration sport at the Olympics in 1988. In the year 2000 taekwondo made its debut as an official Olympic sport. There were several attempts to unify I.T.F. and W.T.F. Taekwondo, but unfortunately, these failed.


  General Choi established ITF-Taekwondo (which practices a   more traditional form of taekwondo) while WTF-Taekwondo   (which has a strong emphasis on sparring) became an Olympic sport in 2000.

A goodwill trip to North-Korea in 1966 caused General Choi to fall in disgrace in the eyes of the South-Koreans. Choi resigned as president of the K.T.A. and founded the I.T.F. on March, the   22nd of that same year. The headquarters of ITF was established in Canada.

ITF started concentrating on the forms developed by General   Choi, while the KTA (which later, on May 28, 1973, became the WTF) concentrated on the Palgwe’s. Later the WTF abandoned the Palgwe’s and started concentrating on Taeguks. Slowly, the WTF emphasis turned to sparring. This is also the reason why a lot of people call (WTF) Taekwondo a ‘Martial Sport’ rather than a ‘Martial Art’.

The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) is a smaller organization, and has many similarities to the ITF. The ATA has a copyright on the forms of the organization, so these forms cannot be used on competitions by non-members. There are many organizations, but the three mentioned above have the most members.

ITF practices the so-called ‘semi-contact’ part of Taekwondo, while WTF practices the so-called ‘full-contact’ part. ITF focuses more on the ‘traditional way’ of taekwondo. Since the break-up, there have been many attempts to reunite WTF and ITF, so-far without success. There probably will never be a union within Taekwondo.

History Timeline Of Modern Taekwondo

  • 1945: Grand Master Byung Jick Ro opens Sang Moo Kwan school in an archery training building. The school is not successful.
  • 1945: Master Won-Kuk Lee founds the Chung do Kwan style.
  • 1946: Hwang Kee founds a martial art called Moo Duk Kwan, which later splits into Taekwondo style and Tang Soo Do style.
  • 1946: Taekyon is taught to police in Seoul, Korea.
  • 1946: Master Bryng Jick Ro opens another Sang Moo Kwan school, which closes during the Korean War.
  • 1946: Sang Sup Chun founds Yun Moo Kwan, the name of which is later changed to Ji Do Kwan.
  • 1946: Yon Kue Pyang founds Chi Do Kwan.
  • 1946: First Lieutenant Choi Hong Hi teaches his style of Taekyon to the military under his command.
  • 1950-1953: The Korean War divides the country in two.
  • 1952: President Syngman Rhee of South Korea watches a 30-minute demonstration of Taekyon and orders all soldiers to be trained in Taekyon. The responsibility falls to Captain Choi Hong Hi.
  • 1953: General Choi Hong Hi founds Oh Do Kwan and serves as its president.
  • 1953: Kang Duk Kwan is founded by Master Hong Jong Pyo and Master Park Chul Hee.
  • 1953: Master Byrung Jick Ro opens another Sang Moo Kwan school in Seoul, Korea and is successful.
  • 1953The Korean Taekwondo Association (K.T.A.), the precursor to the World Taekwondo Federation, is formed by nine kwans.
  • 1954: Jung Do Kwan is founded by Lee Yong Woo.
  • 1954: Han Moo Kwan is founded by Master Lee Kyo Yoon.
  • 1955: General Choi Hong Hi trains all the Korean military in his version of Taekyon.
  • 1955: The Chung Do Kwan conference is organized founded by Master Won Kook Lee.
  • 1955: Nine kwans (schools) of Korean martial arts, including Taekyon, agree to combine the arts and rename the Korean martial art Tae Soo Do.
  • 1957: General Choi recommends to the kwans that the name be changed to Tae Kwon Do. Adopted by the kwans.
  • 1958: Master Hwang Kee Hwang removes the kwan Tang Soo Do Moo Duck Kwan from the Tae Kwon Do umbrella. He forms the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do.
  • 1960: Organizations by the K.T.A. begin to dispatch Korean masters of Taekwondo to other countries to hold demonstrations and to open dojangs (schools).
  • 1960: General Choi sends a Taekwondo team from South Korea to North Korea on a goodwill mission. The South Korean government and general public are outraged and demand his resignation.
  • 1963: Master Duk-Sung Son (Chung Do Kwan) comes to New York City, United States, and founds the World Taekwondo Association.
  • 1965: General Choi retires from the Korean military to dedicate his life to developing Taekwondo.
  • 1966:General Choi founds the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) with support from Vietnam, West Germany, Malaysia, Turkey, Italy, United Arab Republic, Taiwan, and United States. The ITF is a separate organization from the Korean Taekwondo Association.
  • 1967: The US Taekwondo Association is formed.
  • 1968General Choi meets with Master Haeung Ung Lee and teaches him the forms.
  • 1969American Taekwondo Association is founded by Master Haeung Lee, based in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • 1971Dr Un Young Kim is elected president of the K.T.A.
  • 1971President Chung Hee Park of South Korea announces that Taekwondo will become the national sport of Korea and allocates funds for the promotion and building of Kukkiwon (WTF headquarters).
  • 1972: Kukkiwon building Is completed.
  • 1972General Choi leaves South Korea, moving ITF Headquarters to Toronto, Canada.
  • 1973The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is established, and dissolves all associations with the ITF. Kukkiwon becomes the official headquarters and training facility of the WTF. Chung Do Kwan aligns itself with the WTF.
  • 1973World Taekwondo Championships are held in Kukkiwon, with 19 countries participating.
  • 1974US Taekwondo Association is renamed the US Taekwondo Federation.
  • 1975The WTF affiliates with the GAISF (General Association of International Sports Federation).
  • 1976The International Military Sports Council (CISM) adopts WTF Taekwondo into the World Military Championships.
  • 1976The European Taekwondo’s Union’s inaugural meeting held in Spain with the first European Taekwondo Championships.
  • 1976The WTF English quarterly magazine was first published. The name changes to WTF Taekwondo in 1981.
  • 1976First meeting of the Asian Taekwondo Union in Melbourne, Australia.
  • 1977The nine different kwans (Chung Do Kwan, Ji Do Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, Soo Moo Kwan, Han Moo Kwan, Oh Do Kwan, Jung Do Kwan, and Kang Du Won) recognize the Kukkiwon and WTF as the promotional body of Taekwondo, and agree to the black belt certification process and certificates.
  • 1978Pan American Taekwondo Union holds its first Pan American Taekwondo Championships in Mexico City, Mexico.
  • 1979African Taekwondo Union holds first African Taekwondo Championships.
  • 1980The international Olympic Committee (IOC) recognizes the WTF at the 83rd session in Moscow, Soviet Union.
  • 1981WTF Taekwondo is accepted as a World Games event.
  • 1982ITF’s General Choi attempts to make ITF Taekwondo an Olympic sport by reaching out to the International Olympic Committee.
  • 1983WTF Taekwondo is accepted as a Pan American Games event.
  • 1984The ITF moves its headquarters to Vienna, Austria.
  • 1984General Choi and the ITF publish Encyclopedia of Taekwondo.
  • 1986The Federation International du Sport Universitaire (FISU) adopts Taekwondo as an event in the World University Championships.
  • 1986ITF sends demonstration team to China, a country which eventually embraces Taekwondo.
  • 1988Taekwondo is an exhibition sport in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
  • 1990Central American Sports Organization adopts Taekwondo as an official sport in the Central American Games.
  • 1991The Goodwill Games, Inc,, adopts WTF Taekwondo as an official sport for the third World Games.
  • 1992Taekwondo is again an exhibition sport at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
  • 1992Taekwondo is adopted by the Olympic Council of Asia as an official sport for the Asian Games.
  • 1994WTF Taekwondo is adopted as a full participatory sport for the 2004 Sidney Olympic Games.
  • 1996WTF Taekwondo is a exhibition event in the Atlanta Olympics.
  • 1997Taekwondo is adopted as an official sport for the second World Military Games, in Zagreb, Croatia.
  • 1998The general assembly of the Supreme Council of Sports in Africa (SCSA) includes Taekwondo as a official sport in the seventh All African Games.
  • 2000The IOC committee confirms that Taekwondo will be an official sport in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
  • 2002Membership of countries affiliated with the WTF reaches 168.
  • 2002General Choi, “Father of Taekwondo,” dies of stomach cancer.
  • 2002The selection of a successor to General Choi is controversial. The ITF splits into three branches: ITF Vienna, headed by Tran Trieu Quan (whom General Choi had named as his successor); ITF North Korea, headed by Chang Ung; and ITF Canada, headed by Choi Jung Hwa (General Choi’s son).
  • 2004Amidst charges of corruption, WTF President Kim resigns. Dr. Sun Jae Park is elected as acting president.
  • 2004 Chung Won Choue is elected as the new president of the WTF.
  • 2004Taekwondo is an official sport in the Athens Olympic Games.
  • 2005WTF Taekwondo is declared an official sport for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
  • 2006The World Taekwondo Federation includes affiliations of 182 different countries
  • 2008:Taekwondo participates as a official sport in the Beijing, China 2008 Olympics games.
  • 2012Taekwondo participates as an official sport for the London, England, 2012 Olympic games.
  • 2017:  Master Brendan O’Toole, president of the Irish National Taekwon-Do Association, was awarded the rank of ninth degree by the ITF. The Grand Master rank recognises a lifetime of dedication to the art.