The History Of Taekwon-do
About 50 years ago, after WWII, gaining independence from Japan, martial artists in
Korea went on their own ways to continue their line of martial arts. Various groups
emerged especially after the Korean war each claiming its own versions of prowess.
Most of the Korean martial arts at the time were predominantly extracted from the
Japanese arts, with some derivatives of Chinese and Korean.
Gen. Hong Hi, Choi was one of the people who(although there is no formal admission, it is believed that he
practiced Shotokan) also did his version of Korean style karate and came up with the term Tae Kwon Do
and called his school Oh Do Kwan in mid 1950 s. Other different proponents were, Tang Soo Do, Ji Do
Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, Chung Do Kwan, plus numerous other my-style groups. Each
group wanted to be established as the Korean martial art . General Choi, a military general had the
advantage of spreading his style to the military.
After the Korean War(1950 -1953)between Communist North & South Korea, President Syngman Rhee
wanted a self-defense curriculum for the entire South Korean military. President Rhee sanctioned adopting
Gen. Choi s TKD after a demonstration and the 29th Infantry Division of the army was created as the
first Korean military division in TKD in 1955(their Division logo is still a fist over Yin & Yang symbol). All
active military personnel with experience of martial arts were called for to create the Division. Any active duty
personnel with the experience of any level of martial art from different Divisions were then transferred and
inducted into the 29th Infantry Division. They were trained to the next level of kups or black belt(because
there was a shortage of instructors) and sent out to train other Divisions. Once training was done up to their
level in the assigned division, they went back for further training. The instructors rotated with a new set of
instructors with the next level and so forth. Eventually over time, an elite team of military martial art
instructors called TKD Gyo Kwan Dan (literally translated as TKD Drill Instructors or TKD DIs) were put into
different Divisions to teach.
The TKD Drill instructor group years later came from a pool of draftees through the compulsory military
service. The best of different TKD styles, Tang Soo Do, karate stylists, and other hard styles came together in
the military. Highly experienced martial artists with a rank of BB(usually Karate style) or above were tested,
selected, and commissioned as officers to teach the militarystyle (General Choi s style, Oh Do Kwan TKD) to
the Korean military personnel. Eventually under the compulsory military service of 3 years in Korea, every
soldier was exposed to Gen. Choi s style of TKD.
The Korean military unified the Korean karate of different styles into Gen.Choi s TaeKwonDo . The best
instructors of different styles united and improved the techniques and established what worked and what did
not work. Over time, this self-perpetuated into a very effective martial art. Implementation of new techniques
or phasing out old techniques in the military was quick and simple. One single order through the chain of
command would have the new techniques taught the same day or the next day without any qualms; military
TKD manuals were issued to TKD DIs to standardize different styles into one; BB TKD DIs who were also
highly skilled in other martial arts such as hapkido and judo trained fellow instructors with pure TKD
backgrounds to the finer points of close range fighting. It was martial art in true sense of the word and
eventually techniques developed to surpass other non-military TKD styles.
The military TKD style evolved into a style with a wide range of complementary close fighting skills. They
included joints locks, intercepting kicks, counter offensives, falls, throws, sweeps, pressure points, plus other
esoteric moves for instant killing or maiming. Their motto, IL-KYUK PIL SAHL meant one strike, one kill. The
best of the best instructors in the military also catapulted General Choi s style into one of the best styles of
TKD. Each drill instructor coming from different Korean karate contributed to the growth General Choi s
TKD. This is the probably the main reason former ITF instructors from the Korean military still remains as the
best TKD instructors today. Select TKD DIs in the military were also sent overseas while in active duty to train the military of non-communist nations, and most important of all, during the Vietnam war to train the
50,000 South Korean troops and the South Vietnamese military units.
Eventually General Choi had unified other styles of TKD into his own in the Korean military, had delegates of his TKD overseas, had cream of the crop TKD instructors, and a formidable martial art that worked. The efficacy of the art proved itself during the Vietnam war in battlefields by the Korean soldiers.
TKD techniques used in the military then were distinctly different from what we know as TKD today. Unlike the TKD tournaments of today on a mat, there were no restrictions in time, where you could or could not strike, nor protective gear/padding. The life or death circumstances in the battlefield honed the techniques. Guinness Book of Records in the 70s defined TKD as Korean karate used for killing in Vietnam.
With the rapid enhancement of Oh Do Kwan, General Choi was on top of the world. When he retired from the army, the legacy of the military TKD still continued worldwide as the result of him sending military teams overseas. He had established followers of the real TKD, the Korean martial art. The former drill instructors when discharged from the military were more skilled than when they initially joined the military. They opted to teaching TKD overseas as a Gen. Choi s disciple under the ITF or opened up their own independent dojangs to their original roots such as Moo Duk Kwan but with a strong influence from the military days. Civilian TKD organizations not affiliated with military TKD were snubbed off as not the real TKD. General Choi s solid foundation of advanced instructors dominated the international TKD scene and also had other non-military experienced TKD instructors overseas adopt Gen. Choi s style.
It was brought to the U.K. in 1967, by Master Ki Ha Rhee, then a 6th degree. Master Rhee was considered General Choi's best student & is now a 9th degree black belt.
The History Of Taekwon-do
by W. Rhee