This is Part 4 of a 4-part essay on The History of Tae Kwon Do.
Tae Kwon Do: Today
ITF vs. WTF
With the formation of two separate governing bodies for Tae Kwon Do, the art itself evolved into two distinctly different styles.
The WTF sparring style is easily identified from the ITF style due to its large emphasis on kicking, whereas the ITF style has more of a balance between hand and foot techniques. Competitors in ITF style competitions generally compete under rules similar to semi-contact kickboxing and wear safety equipment suitable for this purpose, while WTF competitors, referred to as “players” (highlighting the style’s sporting emphasis) strike with full contact attacks and, for the sake of safety, wear padded body armour on the torso.
The patterns of the ITF and WTF are also different; the ITF use forms referred to as “Tul” developed by General Choi and his associates, while the WTF concentrate on “poomsae” developed by masters within their own organisation. There have been many attempts by various groups to unite ITF and WTF Tae Kwon Do, but these endeavors have proven unsuccessful.
Throughout the history of Tae Kwon Do, many schools have parted ways with the ITF/WTF organisations and have begun to operate independently of these bodies. Due to internal politics or stylistic differences; a large number of schools throughout the world are now teaching similar syllabi to those of the ITF and WTF, but are no longer affiliated to these groups.
Schools teaching the patterns originally devised by the ITF, often refer to their style as “Chang Hon” Tae Kwon Do, rather than “ITF” Tae Kwon Do, so as to differentiate the style from the organisation. “Chang Hon”, meaning “Blue Cottage”, was the pen-name of General Choi.
Although some Korean instructors had taught the art in Ireland previously, the first Tae Kwon Do organisation to officially establish itself in Ireland was the Republic of Ireland Tae Kwon Do Association: a national branch of the ITF formed in 1972 under the supervision of Rhee Ki Ha (now a Grandmaster). Over the years, the organisation grew but, eventually, a number of groups moved away from the R.I.T.A. and formed independent groups.
One group to pull away from the ITF organisation was Great Southern Tae Kwon Do, based in Cork. This organisation was where Messrs Dan and Barry O’Mahony commenced their training, as well as any Warrior Tae Kwon Do students who began training prior to 2008.
In the mean-time, a number of new international governing bodies began to appear. Some of these groups opened schools in Ireland while others accepted memberships from independent clubs that were already established. G.S.T. was to eventually join one of these organisations: Tae Kwon-Do International, under the presidency of Master David Oliver.
The ITF itself fell into disarray around the time of the death of General Choi in 2002, with the group splitting into three rival factions, each claiming to be following the legitimate successor to the General. Presently each of these groups still dispute the legitimacy of the others, while further groups have since emerged.
Disagreements eventually led to rifts forming within our former association, which resulted in the departure of a number of other instructors over the years that followed. Some of these instructors formed new associations or affiliated to existing groups, while our own schools also separated from G.S.T and, under the name “Warrior Tae Kwon Do”, formed a neutral, independent organisation.
We made the decision not to directly merge with any larger governing body, but to retain our own identity, on the grounds that we believe that such associations would not be capable of looking after our students’ best interests. We want our students to have the freedom to train and compete to the best of their ability at the highest levels possible, without the hindrance of political divisions. It is our view, as the instructors of these schools, that regardless of any affiliations currently held by our schools, or any which may form in the future, the independence of Warrior Tae Kwon Do will not be compromised in any way and we will continue in our efforts to build and run an organisation that serves the best interests of our students.