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Psychological Considerations

Taekwon-do's Modern History

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Taekwon-do's Modern History

They say that Taekwon-do can be dated back a few thousands years and as such probably can or it would be better to say it has its roots in ancient arts from the past.

Also transcribed as Taekwondo or Tae Kwon Do is a Korean Martial Art developed during the 1940's and 1950's by various Korean martial artists and is a combination of karate, Taekkyeon, Gwonbeop and Subak.

Taekkyeon is a traditional Korean martial art first explicitly recorded in the Joseon Dynasty. Taekkyeon is characterized by fluid, dynamic footwork and utilizes a wide variety of kicks, fist and elbow strikes, pressure point attacks, throws, and grapples.

Gwonbeop is the term for unarmed methods in Korean martial arts as developed in the Joseaon era (15th to 19th centuries).

Subak is either a specific or generic ancient Korean martial art. Historically this term may have specified the old Korean martial art of taekkyeon, but it is unsure.

The oldest governing body for Taekwondo is the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) which was formed in 1959 by a collaborate effort by representatives from the nine original kwans, or martial arts schools, in Korea. The main international organizational bodies for Taekwondo today are the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), founded by General Choi Hong Hi in 1966, and the World TaeKwonDo Federation, founded in 1973 by the KTA. Gyeorugi, a type of sparring has been an Olympic event since 1992. The body known for Taekwondo in the Olympics is the World Taekwondo Federation.

In 1955, Choi Hong Hi advocated the use of the name Tae Kwon Do. The new name was initially slow to catch on among the leaders of the kwans. In 1959 the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was established to facilitate the unification of Korean martial arts. In 1966 Choi established the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) as a separate governing body devoted to institutionalising a unified style of taekwondo.

Cold War politics of the 1960s and 1970s complicated the adoption of ITF-style taekwondo as a unified style, however. The South Korean government wished to avoid North Korean influence on the martial art. Conversely, ITF president Choi Hong Hi sought support for the martial art from all quarters, including North Korea. In response, in 1973 South Korea withdrew its support for the ITF. The ITF continued to function as independent federation, then headquartered in Toronto, Canada; Choi continued to develop the ITF-style, notably with the 1987 publication of his Encyclopaedia of Taekwondo. After Choi's death the ITF split in 2001 and then again in 2002 has well has the establishment of ITF HQ Korea to create four separate federations each of which continues to operate today under the same name.

In 1973 the South Korean government's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established the Kukkiwon as the new national academy for taekwondo. Kukkiwon now served many of the functions previously served by the KTA, in terms of defining a government-sponsored unified style of taekwondo. In 1973 the KTA established the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) to promote taekwondo specifically as a sport. WTF competitions employ Kukkiwon-style taekwondo. For this reason, Kukkiwon-style taekwondo is often referred to as WTF-style taekwondo, sport-style taekwondo, or Olympic-style taekwondo, though in reality the style is defined by the Kukkiwon, not the WTF.

Taekwon-do can be loosely translated as hand and foot way but its meaning really goes much deeper. 

Competition between the ITF and the WTF, along with cold war competition between North and south Korea reflected in Taekwon-do, believed to be the worlds most popular martial art by its number of practitioners and so its definition became a little more complicated. With the Seoul backed WTF and Pyongyang backed ITF.

However the martials arts continual growth and the return of the ITF to South Korean for the 2004 ITF World Championships, (Choi Jung Hwa, Group).  Along with both organisation competing side by side in the 2008 and 2010 World Taekwon-do Festivals

For a long time the WTF was simply regard as South Korean Taekwondo and the ITF as North Korean Taekwondo. The rift between the two sporting bodies dates back to 1971, when the south Korean government, refused General Choi Hong-Hi and founder of the ITF to teach Taekwon-do in North Korea. As a result Choi went into exile in Canada and moved the ITF HQ out of South Korea. Responding to Choi's decision the Seoul government established the WTF in 1973 and both organisation have been going sperate directions ever since.

These days it would be fair to say that there is major difference between both styles, but all would have to admit that both are descendent from the same origins and that both represent taekwon-do. 

The ITF having supremacy in South America and Europe, claims the larger audience among the two federations accounting for 37 million of the 60 million odd practitioners of taekwon-do worldwide. The WTF takes its pride in that its game was adopted as a Olympic sport.


  • Wikipedia

  • Korean Times June 2010 

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