What Is Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is an amalgamation of Korean martial arts that have existed for thousands of years. One of the most prominent personalities of Taekwondo has been the originator of that name, Choi Hong Hi. Choi is a North Korean, who as a child was encouraged to study the old Korean techniques of Taekyun under the teacher Han Il Dong. As a student studying in Japan, he learned Karate over a period of two years, eventually attaining the rank of first dan black belt. This combination of Korean and Japanese knowledge was to form the basis of his teachings at the academy of martial arts he founded in 1953. The name of the academy was the Ohdo Kwan. This translated to “The School of My Way.” At the time there were other academies in being, and in the process of formation. All taught Japanese influenced systems. The names of these academies are still to be found in South Korea.

As a professional soldier, Choi was able to introduce the teachings of his system to the men under his command. As time progressed he rose higher and higher in the military ranks, and was eventually promoted to general of the Korean army. Through his military liaison with foreign units, General Choi spread the knowledge of his system until it became international. In 1954 he became the established head of the Chongdo Kwan and sat on the board concerned with the development of a unified martial art development program. His suggestion of the name “Taekwondo,” (“Hand/Foot Way”) was enthusiastically received and applied as title for all the various Korean systems then in practice.

As Choi’s system began to dominate in Korea, Choi was appointed President of the Korean Taekwondo Association, where he organized the first international demonstration tour. This tour led to the creation of the International Taekwondo Federation in 1966. Choi focused on the sporting aspects of the martial art, though it was much used in other areas such as military training. Through his efforts, Choi got sport Taekwondo accepted by the International Symposium of Military Sports.

Due to political turmoil in South Korea, Choi left the country to establish the ITF headquarters in Canada. With Choi out of the country, rival martial arts academies organized an international rival to the ITF, the World Taekwondo Federation. Since then, Taekwondo has not been a unified sport.