Origins of Tae kwon-do and its current status in the UK

Since Tae kwon-do (TKD) has been such a large and influential part of my life, I find it important to understand its origins. I hope some of you will find this interesting too…



TKD is a relatively new Martial Art developed in South Korea by Major General Choi Hong Hi (1918 – 2002) in 1955. It’s popularity is due to the way that it encompasses exercise, self-defence, and philosophy. If you speak to any competent Martial Artist, they will tell you the emphasis of TKD is in the use of feet as a formidable weapon.



“Tae” means to strike with the foot, “Kwon” means to strike with the fist, and “Do” means the way or art. At every grading, the student must answer questions on the theory of TKD; this includes pattern meanings, Korean terminology and personal questions related to TKD etc. There are five tenants of TKD that are engrained to everyone who trains: courtesy, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit and integrity. This requirement to understand the meaning behind the art is a unique approach.



There are two main styles of TKD that exist: International Tae kwon-do Federation (ITF, founded in 1967) and the World Tae kwon-do Federation (WTF, founded in 1977). ITF was formed by Master Rhee Ki Ha and concentrates on all the elements of TKD as previously described. WTF concentrates more on the sport element of TKD and is the accepted Olympic style (a bad choice in my opinion – I think ITF is much more of a spectator sport). Many branches exist under these two main bodies. For example, I train under GTI which is part of ITF. Tae kwon-do Association of Great Britain (TAGB) deserves a mention here, as they are the biggest (ITF style) organization in Europe and have produced some excellent fighters (in particular Warren Vice).

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