Our Founder

General Choi Hong Hi was born on November 9th 1918. He was a frail child and caused his parents constant anxiety. At the age of twelve he was expelled from school and so his father sent him to study Calligraphy under Mr Ok Nam Han 11 Dong, one of the most famous teachers of Korea. He was also a master of Taek Kyon. Concerned over the frailty of his student, he began teaching him Taek Kyon to build up his body.

In 1937 Choi was sent to Japan to further his education. Here he met Mr Kim and following 2 years of concentrated training attained the level of 1st degree black belt in the art of Karate.

With the outbreak of World War 11, Choi was forced to join the Japanese Army as a student volunteer. Towards the end of the war he received a 7 year prison sentence when he was implicated as the planner of the Korean Independence Movement. Whilst in prison, he began practising and developing his art, mainly to alleviate boredom and keep physically fit, before long he was teaching his fellow cellmates. His 7 year sentence was cut short by the liberation in August 1945.

In January of the following year, Choi was commissioned as 2nd lieutenant in the new South Korean Army. Whilst in the army, Choi began spreading his art, not only to Korean soldiers but also Americans stationed there. Choi rapidly progressed through the ranks of the army and continued to spread his art throughout the world.

April 11th 1955 saw the christening of TaeKwon-Do when General Choi after exhaustive researching, developing and experimenting proclaimed TaeKwon-Do to the world as a completely valid and unique martial art having a basic Korean origin. In 1965, General Choi received approval from the South Korean Government to declare TaeKwon-Do as Korea’s National Martial Art.

On March 22nd 1966, General Choi founded the International TaeKwon-Do Federation in Seoul, Korea with the consent of 9 countries. General Choi continued to promote his art throughout the world until his death on June 15th 2002 at the age of 84.

Last Words

The Last Words of General Choi

I am the man who has the most followers in the world. I am the happiest man who has done everything to do in my life. It is fortunate you have come. Is Mr. Chang Ung here?

Mr. Rhee Ki Ha, it is good that you have come. I am glad that my son and daughters like you most. You probably might know Mr. Chang Ung well. It is time to introduce Mr. Chang Ung proudly in public. Please carry on propaganda that Mr. Chang Ung is the tallest and in the highest position in the ITF.

If only I had been as tall as Mr. Chang Ung I could have had less opponents. However, as my body was so tiny that there were many opponents. Thus all alone I could not but fight against them for so long. But I have never been worn out for the justice was on my side. I have always worried about a successor to the president. However, my mind is set at ease for there is Mr. Chang Ung.

Mr. Hwang Kwang Sung, your duty is very big and important as a spokesman, and chairman of the Merger Committee. It was my wish to merge the Taekwon-Do into one. Please get on your own duty responsibly.

Mr. Park Jong Soo had immigrated into Canada in 1967. Before that he educated Taekwon-Do in Europe. In 1972 went to Canada where Mr. Park Jong Soo resided leaving my children behind without informing them. In those days Taekwondo was not widely spread, so that I used to say to crave the words of Taekwon-Do on my coffin. Now Taekwon-Do has developed on a large scale. I love Mr. Tom MacCallum. I have always worried if he might die before me. In case he dies first I have been thinking how to help his family. He has given the special contributions to the ITF. I have no secrets to him. Thank you very much for what you have done. I love you. Mr. Leong Wai Meng is a man of conscience indeed, He has given great contribution to educating the Taekwondo. As I thought his finance is in good condition I drew his name out on the stockholders list of the Chang Hun Foundation.

Mr. Hwang Jin is doing well on the way of Mr. Chon Jin Sik. So I appointed him as a member of the Consultative Committee. Please enlarge the Consultative Committee into 9 members. Here I appoint Mr. Jong Jae Hun.

My followers

Taekwondo never exists without the DPR of Korea. You should know this. The ITF is an international organization and does it need to argue about ideology? Does the United Nations belong to the Africans because the Secretary General a black man? Please give up this kind of idea. Taekwondo must be Korean centered.

Choi Jung Hwa lied to me at the airport. I was again deceived. You ought to tell the public throughout the internet that I did not forgive Jung Hwa. I forgave him as a father but the Taekwondoists would never forgive hi. Before Jung Hwa apologizes to Taekwondoists the world over, he will never be forgiven. While I am still alive you should send the message to the internet the soonest as possible.

On 11th June 2002 in Pyongyang (16,30-17,10h), DPR Korea.

The ones who heard the last words of General Choi.
Mr. Rhee Ki Ha
Grand Master and the Vice-President
Mr. Tom MacCallum
Master and the Secretary General
Mr. Leong Wei Meng
Master and the Chairman of the Consultative Committee
Mr. Hwang Kwang Sung
Grand Master, spokesman and special aide
Mr. Park Jong Soo
Grand Master and a member of the Consultative Council
Mr. Hwang Jin
Master and a member of the Consultative Council
Mr. Hwang Bong Yong
Chairman of the Korean TaeKwon-Do Committee
Mr. Jong Jae Hun
Secretary General of the International Martial Art Games Committee
Mr. Rang Bong Man
Secretary General of the Korean TaeKwon-Do Committee

On September 22, 2002, 70 representatives from 46 countries attended a memorial service for General Choi. The solemn and memorable service was held in Pyongyang, North Korea, the birthplace of General Choi. A special Congress of the ITF was also held on September 22, 2002 to uphold the General's last wish to elect Mr. Chang Ung as the new president of the International Taekwondo Federation. In his last words, and before nine officials of the ITF, General Choi named Mr. Chang Ung as the new president of the International Taekwon-Do Federation.

History of Taekwon-Do

Although the origins of the Martial Arts are shrouded in mystery, it is an undeniable fact that from time to time immemorial there has been physical actions involving the use of hands and feet for the purpose of self-protection. If these actions were defined as ‘TaeKwon-Do’, any country might claim credit for inventing TaeKwon-Do. There is however, little resemblance between TaeKwon-Do as practised today and the crude forms of unarmed combat of the past. Modern TaeKwon-Do differs greatly from other Martial Arts. No other Martial Art is so advanced with regard to the sophistication and effectiveness of its technique or the overall physical fitness it imparts to its practitioners.

Since the theories, terminology, techniques, systems, methods, rules, practice suit and spiritual foundation were scientifically developed, systemised and named by General Choi; it is an error to think of any physical action using the hand and feet for self-defence as TaeKwon-Do. Nor is any other Martial Arts system to call itself TaeKwon-Do. Only those who practice the techniques based on General Choi’s theories, principles and philosophies are considered students of genuine TaeKwon-Do.

Origins of Martial Arts

Hunting, fishing, farming, science, trading and language are said to have been taught during the reigns of three mythical emperors, Bok Hi, Sin Nong and Hwang Je in China about 3500 BC. On the other hand, the paintings and inscriptions in the Egyptian tombs proved that there was a form of open hand fighting in Egypt as early as 3000 BC. There are also reports of open hand fighting practised by the warriors of Mesopotamia and Sumer around 3000-2000 BC. It is easy to imagine that primitive human beings had to depend on their hands and feet to overcome enemies, animals and other obstacles in order to survive. As human knowledge and wisdom progressed, these crude fighting methods were improved eventually becoming martial arts. By the time of the Greek cities (700 BC), boxing, wrestling and other combat sports were regular events in the Olympiads.

It is recorded that some types of open hand fighting were widely practiced in China at an early date. The art of Palgwae flourished during the era of Ju Gong (approx. 200 BC) and came to be perfected during the Song Dynasty a thousand years later. Throughout the world, many styles of open hand fighting have been developed, each reflecting the needs and varying culture of the country where it originated. In china, open hand fighting is called Kung Fu or Daeji Chon; in India, Selambam; in France, Savate; in Malaysia, Bosilat; in Thailand, Kick-Boxing; in Korea it is known as Taek Kyon, Soo-Bak-Gi and TaeKwon-Do. Some of these forms of self defence are no doubt as old as mankind itself. It would be virtually impossible to trace hand and foot fighting back to any beginning.

There are some who believe that the main force of open hand fighting emerged from china during the 6th century by a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma (Tamo in Chinese; Daruma in Japanese). Daruma (448-529 AD), it is said, travelled from a southern India monastery to China via the Himalayas to instruct Liang Dynasty monarch in the tenets of Buddhism. On his arrival in China he went to a monastery called Shaoling Temple in the Shao Shik Mountain in 520 AD. There he undertook the task of teaching Buddhism to the Chinese monks. They reportedly became physically exhausted from the severe discipline and pace set by Daruma. Daruma introduced them to a method of physical and mental conditioning; as a result they became the most formidable fighters in China. It is said this method eventually became the famous Shaoling Boxing Temple or Ch’yan Fa (method of Shaoling Fist). Daruma continued to teach at the Shaoling Temple until his death in 529 AD.

During the period between the 1st Century BC and the 7th Century AD, the Korean peninsula was divided into three kingdoms: Silla, Koguryo and Beak Je. Silla, the smallest of these kingdoms, was always under threat from it’s larger neighbours, and during the reign of Chin Heung, 24th King of Silla, the young warriors formed an elite officer corps called the Hwa Rangdo. The Hwa Rangdo, in addition to their ordinary training, also trained themselves by practising mental and physical conditioning and various forms of open hand fighting. The corps became known for their courage and skill in battle, gaining respect from their bitterest enemies. During the period of the Hwa Rango, the original primitive method of hand fighting was called Soo-Bak-Gi and soon became very popular with all people in the Koguryo Dynasty. There is evidence to suggest that the 3rd King of the Yi Dynasty (early 1400’s) actively recruited experts in Taek Kyon, Sirum (Korean wrestling), archery and Soo Bak-Gi to help him organise a strong army.

Much historical documentation seems to indicate that some of these forms of open hand fighting may have been eventually exported to Japan and formed the basis of Japanese Jujitsu and Karate. On the other hand, Funakosi Kijin (commonly known as the father of Japanese Karate) wrote a book in 1958 claiming that Karate is the traditional martial art of Okinawa. He stated that it had been developed since the 9th Century AD under the name of ‘Te’ (hand). When Okinawan techniques became modified with Chinese Kempo (fist method), the art became known as ‘Dote’ (Chinese hand). The first exhibition of this style took place in 1917 and rapidly became popular on the Japanese mainland. In the early 1930’s, the word ‘Do’ (China) was replaced by the word ‘Ku’ (empty) to distinguish Japanese Karate from Chinese Kempo. In a book of Karate written by Nagadoni, the author states that according to legend and myth, there was a type of open hand fighting that resembled the present day Sumo (Japanese wrestling) and Judo in Japan about 2000 years ago.

A dispute over which country could claim to be the first to discover fire would hardly be more pointless, and so it is with Martial Arts. The Chinese Theory is the most readily accepted because China was the cradle of Oriental culture, but this does not mean that Martial Arts had their beginnings there as well. Open hand fighting probably did not originate in any one country. It is more likely a natural development occurred in different places as the need arose for systems of self defence.

Historical Figures & Events

Each pattern of TaeKwon-do has a meaning. This meaning refers to a historical event or person in Korean history.


The name Chonji literally means ‘heavenly pond’. Heaven Lake, which lies on the border between China and North Korea, is the world’s highest Crater Lake and sits atop the volcanic Baekdu Mountain. From mid-October to mid-June it is covered with ice.

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