WTF (World Taekwondo Federation)
WTF has its own share of problems with internal politics of rules and regulations being
challenged. The most recent one being the dobok code for Olympic entries, unless it is
sanctioned by the WTF, one can not wear the dobok. Then the politics between WTF
decision makers and the USTU(United States Taekwon Union) the American chapter of WTF
decision makers has not been smooth at times. And oftentimes the hierarchy of TKD instructors
(good lineage, so-so lineage, dubious lineage, up to date practitioners) and their students vs. others is always at stake during national competition or elimination tournaments for the Olympics. But it is very well structured organization for the promoting TKD as the Korean Olympic Sport with constantly touring national demonstration teams with the best of the best TKD performers(eg. Korean Tigers demonstration Team).
WTF is constantly innovating new ideas and developing(mostly kicking) techniques. The WTF style kicks are evolving for quicker split-second movements. It now has put TKD into a serious national sport in Korea such that there are now TKD majors in college. WTF now harbors the new TKD and has incorporated movements from other arts such as judo, yoo-sool, hapkido and other non-Korean martial arts. It is not uncommon to see 26 year old 6th degree TKD BB with two or even three BBs in other styles(hapkido, kum-do, hwarangdo, etc) in Korea. They are also skilled in weapons such as nunchaks, bong,(staff), dan bong,(short sticks), and other weapons. But the strong emphasis is always and will be the on the competition aspect of sparring only.
No breaking nor forms competitions. The breaking in WTF demonstration teams are only for the purposes of demonstration by a separate team. i.e. WTF stylists in demonstration are not the ones that actively compete in sparring tournaments.
ITF are obligated to do all three: Breaking, sparring, and forms. WTF emphasizes mainly on sparring. WTF tourneys seldom do forms.
The most common criticism WTF gets nowadays is the quelling of overall growth of TKD. This comes from most instructors who has been teaching TKD since the 1950 s and 1960 s. Pre-WTF TKD allowed different styles of TKD to compete with new techniques and innovations that taught each other. But with one central
governing body, all innovations have been quelled. Specifically, if TKD was left to compete by different TKD styles, a better TKD would have come out of it analogous market growth and diversification in capitalism vs. communism.
ITF (International Taekwon-do Federation)
ITF, with its massive fallout of elite Korean instructors has now recouped itself with
European and some excellent American, and Canadian instructors. But it still lags
behind the former glory. It also is now attempting to link up with the WTF and reconcile
the differences so they can both be recognized or have a compromising joint agreement
for styles. But the strongly organized WTF sanctioned by the Olympics, is unwilling to give in to such a merger. ITF has its chapters in the U. S. under USTF(US Taekwondo Federation) and KATU(Korean American Taekwondo Union). The organization is friendly, i.e. less bureaucratic, but has far less members than the WTF s USTU. General Choi still did tours and special seminars in Europe and the U. S right up until his death. The North Korean TKD, Europe, and former communist bloc countries have become good technicians and are slowly evolving ITF style TKD. IMHO, there are distinctly three parts to the ITF now. One that Gen. Choi controls, one his son controls and the splinter groups. ITF is trying to revive the somewhat fragmented and removed groups. But the numerous splintered groups coming together is going to be a challenge.
ITF-KATU/USTF have adapted new names such as using the term tul instead of hyung and a new tul called Ju-che (actually replacement of Ko Dang pattern) in praise of the late Kim IL Sung s self-reliance policy of
North Korea ( Ju Che is self-sufficiency ). Regardless of political tones, it is a beautiful form which I believe is the only form in hard style MA that has a move that extends a leg in a fixed high side kick position and rotates the extended leg in the direction of the heel-in a slow motion by pivoting on the standing leg and hooks after it has reached almost a complete circle..
Again as mentioned before, ITF still adheres to the traditional TKD arts training. ITF concentrates in all aspects: Basic moves, breaking, patterns, step-sparring, and full contact sparring. WTF concentrates in the area of full contact sparring-primarily in kicking techniques for quick delivery.
Experienced TKD BB s of rank of 4th degree and above who have done both WTF/ITF, privately contend that WTF is relatively faster in kicks than ITF and has more technical kicks. But the ITF kicks do have power. In forms, they also claim ITF forms carry the art aspect.
Trying to assess which is better, WTF or ITF? is trying to compare who is a better ball player in a different ball games. All good players in their respective sport, golf, volley ball, basket ball, baseball, tennis, etc. are
good. The quality of TKD instruction is up to the individual WTF/ITF instructor and the student.
Another strong criticism of both the WTF & ITF governing body is the discordance of trying to control too much of a local politics worldwide and the fact the central governing body is only
interested in collecting certificate fees.
Other numerous organizations have been created with various combinations of three or
four words usually starting with the letters W, I, US, KA, A, U, G, in the first standing for
World, International, US, Korean-American, American, Universal, United, Global, etc
T in the second for TKD & A, C, F, U standing for Alliance/Association, Committee,
Conference, Federation, Union, etc.
by W. Rhee