The history of the International Tae Kwon-Do Federation (ITF) cannot be told without telling the personal history of the father of modern Tae Kwon-Do, founder and president of the ITF – General Choi Hong Hi. It is because of his tireless efforts and unflagging dedication Tae Kwon-Do has the international status that it now receives.
Even at an early age, the future General showed a strong and independent spirit. At the age of twelve, he was expelled from school for agitating the Japanese authorities, who were in control of Korea from 1910 to 1945. This was the beginning of what would be a long association with the Kwang Ju Student’s Independence Movement. After his expulsion, young Choi’s father sent him to study calligraphy under one of the most famous teachers in Korea, Mr. Han Il Dong. Han, in addition to his skills as a calligrapher, was also a master of Taek Kyon, the ancient Korean art of foot fighting.
The teacher, concerned with the frail condition of his new student, began teaching him the rigorous exercises of Taek Kyon to help build his body. In 1937, Choi was sent to Kyoto, Japan to further his education. In Kyoto, Choi met a fellow Korean, Mr. Kim, who was engaged in teaching the Japanese martial art, Karate. With two years of concentrated training, Choi attained the rank of first degree black belt. These techniques, Jong Soo Park & Choi Hong Hi together with Taek Kyon foot techniques, were the forerunners of modern Tae Kwon-Do.
Technically, 1955 signaled the beginning of Tae Kwon-Do as a formally recognized art in Korea. During that year, a special board was formed which included leading master instructors, historians, and prominent leaders of the society. This single unified name of Tae Kwon-Do replaced the different and confusing terms such as Dang Soo, Gong Soo, Taek Kyon and Kwon Buap. In 1959, Tae Kwon-Do spread beyond its national boundaries. The father of Tae Kwon-Do and nineteen of his top black belt holders toured the Far East. The tour was a major success, astounding all spectators with the excellence of the Tae Kwon-Do techniques. Also in 1959, Choi was elevated to two illustrious posts; President of the newly-formed Korea Tae Kwon-Do Association, and the Deputy Commander of the 2nd Army in Tae Gu.