TaeKwonDo Intel


The actual background of modern TaeKwonDo can be traced to just after the Korean Liberation in 1944. Various martial art schools were immediately formed, free of restrictions, incorporating centuries old teaching traditions with a desire to produce a truly indigenous Korean Art, with the largest style commonly termed as TangSooDo or "Way of the China Hand". Unfortunately, due to the circumstances at the time, the majority of the styles taught were in actuality Japanese Shotokan. Most of the patterns and techniques were taken directly from Japanese KarateDo. This, while being understandable, given the long occupation of Korea by the Empire of the Rising Sun, did not sit easily with the majority of the Masters, who craved a more "Korean" identity and character.

Before we proceed, there are 2 important points to consider: firstly, virtually ALL the founding members of the great Kwans were certified and proficient mostly in Japanese Karate (mainly Shotokan, itself a spin-off from its predecessor, Okinawan Shorin-Ryu) which they naturally used as their platform or "kernel" for their individual styles. These founding Masters included LEE Won Kuk (ChungDoKwan); Yoon Byung In (ChangMooKwan); HO Byung Sik (SongMooKwan); CHOI Hong Hi (OhDoKwan) and even arguably LEE Hwang Kee (MooDukKwan). While some of the masters may have had knowledge of other arts (e.g. Judo, Kendo, etc.) these were also ALL virtually Japanese, with Karate as the main essence.

The second important point to note is that the main source of the Karate learnt is from the introducers of Okinawan Karate to Japan, and their knowledge base. The main introducer of Karate to Japan was Ginchen Funakoshi, whose instructor was Itosu Yasutsune, a Shorin-Ryu master in Okinawa. Itosu himself was a school teacher, and wanted a system of Karate that could be taught safely to elementary level school children. This system could be referred to as a "dumbed down" version of classical Karate, and was promoted via a platform known as the Pinan Kata which consisted of 5 forms which were created from combining and modularizing 2 older forms called Kushanku (Korean: KongSangKoon) and ChiangNan (Korean: JaeNam).


GM Ginchen Funakoshi

GM Itosu Yasutsune


This made the system taught simpler, safer and easier to teach. Of course other innovations were incorporated to enable the execution of this simplified system of Karate like the method used to form a striking fist for children as opposed to adults. Another direct link now nearly lost) would be the traditional beginner patterns used by the old schools called "Kicho" (1-3). It can thus be argued that classical TKD has its direct roots from simplified Japanese Karate which was itself developed from a system to teach elementary school children.

The five largest martial art gym systems at the time were: ChungDoKwan™ (the oldest and most established), JiDoKwan, MooDukKwan (most related to TangSooDo and then the subsequent name change to SooBakDo), ChangMooKwan and SongMooKwan.

A brief description of each major Kwan (over 200 were consolidated into 9 + 1 Kwans, with 5 original and outstanding ones) is as follows:


ChungDoKwan™ (CDK) was founded by GM LEE, Won Kuk in 1944. He received instruction directly from Ginchen Funakoshi Sensei, founder of Japanese Karate. Noted graduates of CDK include Uhm Woon Kyu, Nam Tae Hee, Han Cha Kyo, Kim Bong Sik, Jhoon Rhee and Choi Hong Hi (ITF). CDK (under Son, Duk Sung) has the dual distinction of giving GM Choi his first known TKD (4th Dan) certification as well as his only rejection (6th Dan). CDK means "School of the Blue Wave".

GM LEE, Won Kuk


JiDoKwan (JDK) was originally named Chosun YunMooKwan KongSoo Do Bu, and was founded by GM CHUN, Sang Sup who studied judo and Karate. It specializes in sparring, and noted graduates include Bae Young Kee, Lee Chong Woo, Lee Kyo Yoon and Kim Bok Nam. JDK means "Wisdom Way School".

GM LEE, Won Kuk


MooDukKwan or "Institute of Martial Virtue" (MDK) was founded around 1947 by GM LEE, Hwang Kee. Lee studied Karate and some Chinese fighting systems, and originally taught (unsuccessfully) under the name of HwaSooDo. He then received GM Lee Won Kuk's (CDK) permission to teach under the name TangSooDo, and the rest is history. MDK was called the "Railroad Dojang" due to its proximity with the YongSan Railroad Station. Some notable graduates were Kim Woon Chang, Hong Chong Soo, Yoo Kwa Young, Kin In Suk and Hwang Jin Tae.

GM LEE, Hwang Kee


ChangMooKwan (CMK) or YMCA KwonBup Bu was founded in 1946 by GM YOON, Byung In who was adept in both Chinese systems and Japanese Karate where he received a 5th Dan. Noted graduates were GM Lee Nam Suk (previous Head, passed away in 2002), GM Kim Soon Bae (current Head), Hong Jung Pyo and Park Chul Hee.

GM YOON, Byung In


SongMooKan (SMK) or "School of the Martial Pine" was founded by GM RO, Byung Jik, in 1946. GM Ro was a martial art adept who trained together with CDK founder GM Lee. He stressed power executions of both kicks and punches. Graduates included Lee Young Sup, Kang Won Sik, Lee Hwae Soon and Kim Hong Bin.

GM RO, Byung Jik


OhDoKwan (ODK) or "My Way Gym" was founded by GM CHOI, Hong Hi, as the military equivalent of CDK. It was not an original Kwan. In fact, it actually encouraged and received many CDK members, helping Choi to extend his influence. The Kwan itself was actually run by one of CDK's top instructors, GM Nam Tae Hee.

The term TaeKwonDo can either mean the "Way of Foot and Fist Fighting" or "Way of (smashing with) the Foot and Fist". The name was chosen at a 'highest-level only' meeting of Korean Masters, Military, and Government officials, around 1953, to promote an image of a cohesive and united indigenous Korean National Martial Art. Implementation of TKD unity was notorious slow with shifting loyalties and many hidden agendas. The first National Governing Body was called DaeHan KongSooDo, then DaeHan TaeSooDo, then finally DaeHan TaeKwonDo (Korea or National TaeKwondo Association), but always fighting political battles with the DaeHan TangSooDo!


The first international body of TaeKwonDo, the International TaeKwonDo Federation (ITF), was formed around 1966, with Choi Hong Hi as its President. It subsequently moved to Canada, then Austria, and after the demise of CHOI in 2002, split between his son, Jung Hwa, in Canada, Tran in Austria and Ung in North Korea. This was sadly mainly attributed to politics.

Again, Great GM LEE, Hwang Kee (MDK), also passed away in 2002. His legacy lives on in at least 3 distinct bodies; the TKDMDK, now part of the KTA (WTF), the original TSDMDK, now split around the world, and SooBakDo MDK, now led by his son.

Great GM LEE, Won Kuk (CDK) also passed away in early 2003.


In order to ensure that only correct and true Korean TaeKwonDo be promoted world-wide, the World TaeKwonDo Federation (WTF) was formed in 1973, with its headquarters being permanently located at the KukKiWon (KKW) in Korea. The KukkiWon means "National Sports Institute", and was originally named the Korea TaeKwonDo Dojang or DaeHan TaeKwonDo Hyop Hwe Chang Ang Dojang. On February 6th, 1973, its name was changed to the World TaeKwonDo Headquarters or SaeGye TaeKwonDo BonBu.

On the 20th May 1976, the KTA officially eliminated the names of the Kwans and replaced them with numbers, i.e.:
#1, SongMooKwan;
#2, HanMooKwan;
#3, ChangMooKwan;
#4, MooDukKwan;
#5, OhDoKwan;
#6, KangDukKwan;
#7, JungDoKwan;
#8, JiDoKwan;
#9, ChungDoKwan™
#10, KwanRiKwan.

A notable point is that there was a 10th Kwan (#10), termed KwanRiKwan or Administrative Managing Kwan. This was done to cater for many MDK members who were separated from that Kwan. How the actual numbers were assigned is still not clear.

Kwan unification steps began in earnest in 1977, and were driven mainly by LEE, Chong Woo (JiDoKwan), LEE, Byung Ro and KANG Won Sik (both of ChongBonKwan). The Kwan system was effectively ended 18 months later, on 07 August, 1978.


Prior to the establishment of the KukKiWon, all regular TaeKwonDo affairs were still carried out by the main gyms via the Korea TaeKwonDo Association. After a period, while divested of their main administrative powers, the main gyms still had the right to issue WTF Dan grades to deserving practitioners besides National Governing Bodies around the World. This was in recognition of their contributions to the development of TaeKwonDo, and unique in the set up of the WTF.


Other than the above, only individuals specially appointed (by minimum 6th Dan rank) as Master Instructors and registered direct with the KukKiWon had this authority. These days, only the KukKiWon has the power and authority to issue WTF Dan certificates for international recognition, via either National Governing Bodies or KukKiWon registered Master Instructors' recommendations. Having said that, there is a distinct movement back to traditional TKD, away from the sport or KukKi TKD, and this can be traced back to the KTA.

TaeKwonDo today, under the WTF, is practiced in over 175 countries, and is rapidly being accepted as a full Olympic sport. It is Korea's national sport, and over 75% of all Koreans are versed in this art. It is capable of being practiced by persons of all ages, from 6 years to 80 years, and by either sex. Regular training has been scientifically proven to increase suppleness, posture, oxygen flow, reflexes, strength, muscle and bone structure, general constitution levels and mental health. It has also demonstrated abilities to automatically improve character, in terms of patience, discipline and understanding of our environment and fellow humans. While other TaeKwonDo styles exist, notably ITF, and 1st, 2nd and even 3rd generation splinter groups of the former, it is only the WTF that has a continuous research and development maintenance growth program for continued safe development and official recognition of various ranking achievements.

Progress in TaeKwonDo is a constantly progressive process, and is reflected by various ranks or grades, denoted firstly by Geup grades (usually 10 in number, but sometimes from as low as 5 to as high as 15) and secondly by Dan grades (Black 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. to 10th Dan). The average time from beginner to the Black Belt (basic level of overall proficiency) based on twice or thrice weekly training should be approximately three to four years, depending on the individual's input. Assistant instructors (Cho Ryo) can be appointed at Blue or Red belt levels; instructors (Boo Sa Nim) at 1st and 2nd Dan, Senior Instructors (Sa Boom Nim) at 3rd and 4th Dan, Master Instructors (Kwan Jang Nim) at 5th, 6th and 7th Dan, and Grand Masters from 8th, 9th and 10th Dan. Junior Black Belt holders (under eighteen years old) are called Pooms (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th).

The combat characteristics of TaeKwonDo are short but powerful bursts of explosive power, in mostly linear or angular directions, with some circular ones. The primary weapons are the feet, with a good percentage of attacks done utilizing jumping or skipping techniques. The feet are preferred over the hands because of the advantages of greater distance mastery (reach) and potential power generation (weight of attacking tool multiplied by distance traveled to target impact, speed being constant). Also, as an art, it is much more difficult to physically master utilizing the feet as attacking/defensive tools than any other part of the body. TaeKwonDo practitioners gather from all over the globe every 2 years to participate in the bi-yearly World Championships. TaeKwonDo (under the WTF) is also a sporting event under the following recognized governing umbrella organizations – G.A.I.S.F., C.I.S.M., F.I.S.U., O.C.A., O.D.E.P.A., and is a full sporting event at some of the most prestigious international sport events, e.g.: World Games, Pan American Games, World Cup, Pan African Games, Asian Games and the Olympics.

KukKiWon (KKW) Headquarters, Seoul, South Korea

Training Hall in KukKiWon Headquarters