The History of Tae Kwon Do (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a 4-part essay on The History of Tae Kwon Do.

Modern Korea: Japanese Occupation

In 1910, Japan invaded Korea. Japan dominated Korea from 1910 until the end of World War II. During this time, the Japanese colonial government outlawed all traditional Korean games, including Subakki and Taekkyon. Subakki and Taekyon were therefore practiced in secret. Japan even outlawed the Korean language and the use of Korean family names. In what is known as the March First Movement, millions of Koreans conducted public, non-violent demonstrations for independence, but they had no foreign support, and Japan’s domination was too secure. The oppression of the Korean people ended only through the defeat of Japan in World War II.

Tae Kwon Do: The Foundation

The Kwans

At the end of World War II, several Kwans (martial arts schools) arose. Among these were “Chung Do Kwan”, “Moo Duk Kwan”, “Yun Moo Kwan”, “Chang Moo Kwan”, “Oh Do Kwan”, “Ji Do Kwan”, “Chi Do Kwan”, and “Song Moo Kwan”. Originally, each kwan practiced widely varying styles, some influenced by Chinese Kung-Fu, some teach modified versions of Japanese Karate-do, while others taught a mixture of techniques gathered from Chinese, Japanese and Okinawan influences, as well as the traditional Korean combat arts. In 1955, these Kwans united, initially under the name Tae Kwon Do (Foot Fist Way), then under the name Tae Soo Do (Foot Hand Way). Two years later, the name reverted to Tae Kwon Do and was universally adopted by the member kwans for its similarity to Taekkyon.

General Choi Hong-hi

General Choi Hong-hi required the Korean police, army, and air force to receive Tae Kwon Do training. The Korean Tae Kwon Do Association (KTA) was formed as a national governing body for the new Korean martial art, in 1962 with General Choi as its president. Its purpose was to unify the different kwans and their various styles under one organisation with standardised rules and a distinctly Korean character.

In Korea, the study of Tae Kwon Do spread rapidly from the army into high schools and colleges. In March of 1966 Choi founded the International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF), of which he also served as president. Growing uneasy at the growing influence of the government on the affairs of the KTA, he resigned as the KTA president and moved his ITF headquarters to Montreal, Canada, from where he concentrated on organizing Tae Kwon Do internationally. 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 Tae Kwon Do and that the world headquarters should be located there, he dissolved the ITF’s connection with the KTA and on May 28, 1973 created a new international governing body called the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), which coincided with the first World Taekwondo Championships that were held in Seoul, Korea. The WTF was later recognized by the International Olympic Committee, making its Olympic debut in the year 2000.