This article is from the Martial Arts FAQ, by Matthew Weigel email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
(Contributors: Dakin Burdick - firstname.lastname@example.org,
Ray Terry - email@example.com)
Intro: One of the most popular sports and martial arts in the world.
The five original Korean Kwans ("schools") were: Chung Do Kwan, Moo
Duk Kwan (the art of Tang Soo Do), Yun Moo Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, and
Chi Do Kwan. These were founded in 1945 and 1946. Three more Kwans
were founded in the early 1950's - Ji Do Kwan, Song Moo Kwan, and Oh
After fifty years of occupation by Japan (which ended in 1945) and
after the division of the nation and the Korean War, Korean
nationalism spurred the creation of a national art in 1955, combining
the styles of the numerous kwans active within the country (with the
exception of Moo Duk Kwan, which remained separate - therefore Tang
Soo Do is still a separate art from TKD today). Gen. Hong Hi Choi was
primarily responsible for the creation of this new national art, which
was named Tae Kwon Do to link it with Tae-Kyon (a native art). Earlier
unification efforts had been called Kong Soo Do, Tae Soo Do, etc. Many
masters had learned Japanese arts during the occupation, or had
learned Chinese arts in Manchuria. Only a few had been lucky enough
to be trained by the few native martial artists who remained active
when the Japanese banned all martial arts in Korea. Choi himself had
taken Tae-Kyon (a Korean art) as a child, but had earned his 2nd dan
in Shotokan Karate while a student in Japan.
Primarily a kicking art. There is often a greater emphasis on the
sport aspect of the Art. Tae-Kwon-Do stylists tend to fight at an
extended range, and keep opponents away with their feet. It is a
hard/soft, external, fairly linear style. It is known for being very
Training tends to emphasize sparring, but has forms, and basics are
important as well. There is a lot of competition work in many
The World Taekwondo Federation is the governing body recognized by the
International Olympic Committee, and as a result WTF schools usually
emphasize Olympic-style full contact sparring. The WTF is represented
in the U.S. by the U.S. Taekwondo Union (USTU).
The International Taekwondo Federation is an older organization
founded by Hong Hi Choi and based out of Canada. It tends to
emphasize a combination of self-defense and sparring, and uses forms
slightly older than those used by the WTF.
The American Taekwondo Association is a smaller organization similar
in some ways to the ITF. It is somewhat more insular than the ITF and
WTF, and is somewhat unique in that it has copyrighted the forms of
its organization so that they cannot be used in competition by
There are numerous other federations and organizations, many claiming
to be national (AAU TKD has perhaps the best claim here) or
international (although few are), but these three have the most
members. All of these federations, however, use similar techniques
(kicks, strikes, blocks, movement, etc.), as indeed does Tang Soo Do
(another Korean art, founded by the Moo Duk Kwan, that remained
independent during the unification/foundation of Tae Kwon Do).