After the Korean military involvement in the Vietnam war in the early 70 s. General Choi, with his following of elite former military instructors, formed ITF in Korea with the intent of unifying all TKD styles into one as he did in the military, but could not achieve the goal. He eventually moved on and headquartered in Canada. It is highly speculated that he wanted to get away from domestic politics that might influence the autonomy of his organization.
Reigning over his former subordinates(drill instructors) in a military hierarchy, Gen. Choi ran a solid organization overseeing TKD in over 80 nations. Most former instructors dream after their military service was to become Gen. Choi s disciple under ITF and those who joined became the first generation ITF instructors under General Choi. The ITF banner provided them a sense of security both financially & organization wise, and legitimacy of their dojangs as the official organization of TKD as done with WTF today. In the meantime, in Korea, precursors of WTF and non-military style TKD stylists, were still ironing out political differences.
The TKD style overseas were taught by the ITF instructors and was not touched by the martial art politics of Korea. In the U. S., ITF schools of former military drill instructors flourished and dominated over the non-ITF stylists and other martial arts such as karate or kung fu. ITF style TKD gained more recognition and acceptance overseas than in Korea as the Korean martial art. Other TKD organizations in the U. S. adapted or conformed to the ITF forms. eg. ATA. Over half of the winners in different weight classes in open karate
tournaments in the 70 s were TKD stylists. ITF stylists like master Hee IL Cho proved the efficacy of ITF style by actually competing in tournaments and winning albeit some disqualifications for excessive force for knocking out opponents. ITF TKD stylists especially taught by the former military instructors literally pummeled and ruled over other hard stylists in open tournaments. Jhoon Rhee(no relation to yours truly) also promoted ITF taekwondo by teaching TKD free to U. S. senators. It was not uncommon to see rival
political party members contact-sparring each other in doboks in the Capitol building .
However, some styles did stand up on their own after ITF organization left Korea. They were Moo Duk Kwan, Ji Do Kwan, Tang Soo Do, Chung Do Kwan, and others, but they still remained as minor TKD organizations.
Sometime in the 70s, General Choi requested financial and political help from the Korean government for his growing organization to spread the Korean martial art overseas. He was rejected few times outright under one overt opposition from the non-ITF stylists from sour memories. One subtle opposition /discrimination was that he was North Korean born. An unseen discrimination exists in Korea against the Northerners even though it was one country before the Korean war, for example, North-born generals did not advance faster nor were promoted to higher ranks compared to a South-born generals in the military. The ruling government at the time led by President Park, with majority of southerners in his cabinet nixed General Choi. General Choi was
deemed as an outsider who was still trying to influence the politics as if he was in active duty and in power. The majority of South Korea was not interested in Gen. Choi since they had nothing to gain from him. Another unconfirmed story was that President Park s stipulation was to use Gen. Choi s TKD as his political tool(i.e. ITF as a police section directly under President Park for domestic and international arm to influence overseas Korean residents), and Gen. Choi adamantly refused to let TKD be involved with Park s politics.
Turned away by the South Korean government, Gen. Choi is speculated to have the North Korean courtship in Canada. He soon after did an about face move by visiting North Korea in a goodwill TKD gesture . However, still leery of North Korean intentions, in his group of 10 or 12 instructors, he purposely included a woman BB with a Canadian citizenship for diplomatic leverage in case the group was never to return. In North Korea, he meets chairman Kim IL Sung, The trip shocks South Korea and the entire ITF organization. South Korea brands General Choi as a communist and a traitor. The impact of General Choi s trip on his ITF subordinates slowly began to unfurl the tightly organized ITF. Most instructors felt the commander had switched sides and provided the fighting secrets to the enemy. It was the General Choi, a South Korean army general during the
Korean war who fought against the North Korean communists. He was also instrumental in establishing TKD instruction to Korean soldiers to the doctrine of anti-communism. It was the very general who coined the term, Tae Kwon Do to unify/extract the Korean martial arts into his style. Yet, he went to the other side .
--------BRIEF NOTE on Gen. Choi s accomplishments---------------------------
There are a lot of criticisms towards General Choi nowadays with I heard that.... , especially with people several times removed from the TKD scene, and people who are not familiar with his works. As far as I know, no literature references on the term TKD exists prior to Gen. Choi s use in 1955. Whether he started the term TKD or not, no other Korean martial art stylist went as far as Gen. Choi did for TKD. Gen. Choi is regarded as the founder of TKD for his accomplishments in TKD. He authored the first thorough TKD book ever published
both in Korean and English. It is true that he did have the advantage being in the military, but he had the passion and dedication enough to see it through that TKD was developed into one of the best martial arts practiced around the world.
To this day, no one has researched the history of roots of martial arts of Korea as thoroughly; researched & developed TKD as Gen. Choi had done. No other Korean martial artist prior to Gen. Choi can claim this authority. Another distinguishing fact is that Choi actually practices the martial art he preaches. His book on TKD is still the only book in TKD with so many accomplished first generation instructors demonstrating the moves. Even political opponents of Gen. Choi still respect him for his contribution to TKD and does not openly deny the accomplishments of this man.
If there are any other original WRITTEN references of a founder of another TKD style that parallels or precedes Gen. Choi s life or contradicts what I have stated, please contact me with the references. I personally would be interested in the publications.
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After the trip to North Korea and while the ITF instructors(mostly former non-commissioned Officer Drill Instructors) were training students in North Korea, instructors started leaving ITF because faith was lost in General Choi. The more pressing issue was that, the instructors did not want to be blacklisted by the South Korean government by associating with General Choi and risk becoming a North Korean/communist sympathizer . Some instructors stayed. North Korea used this opportunity as propaganda to show the North Koreans the defection of a South Korean general who has come back to his roots in North Korea. Kim IL Sung spreads the news via mass media including televised meeting of the two. It is believed that General Choi did not expect the propaganda use by North Korea, which sealed his fate of ever returning to South Korea nor
reconciling with the South Korean government.
General Choi sometime later visits North Korea again presumably because he had no other choice to get financial and political support for ITF. North Korean leader, Kim IL-Sung promises support for TKD to General Choi including a training center called TKD palace . The ITF organization this time has a massive departure of the instructors including the ones who stayed after the first trip. Most ITF instructors deemed the second trip as a sell out . General Choi is now left with only a few former military instructors in his organization. He did not expect such a massive fallout and eventual weakening of his organization.
After General Choi s second trip to North Korea, personal calls were made per order of the Korean government to first generation instructors of ITF dojangs. The warnings via the Korean embassies and consulates was As long as you are under General Choi, you will be blacklisted and be blocked from ever entering South Korea again. Most ITF instructors with relatives and family back home relented to the South Korean government s pressure. Many overseas ITF instructors requested help from former colleagues in the U. S. to sponsor
their immigration to the U. S. as they left Gen. Choi s organization.
Opponents of ITF, mainly the WTF organizers seized the opportunity and branded Gen. Choi a traitor/communist and a subject of treason. Until his death, Gen. Choi was not allowed into South Korea.
See notes later on about the General returning to Korea.
The Rifting Of ITF Taekwon-do
The Rifting Of ITF Taekwon-do