What is Tae Kwon Do?
a very brief history!

The history of martial arts in Korea in complex and most of it’s history will be omitted here. During the Japanese occupation of Korea the native martial arts were banned. However, some Koreans were able to study several Japanese martial arts, including Shotokan Karate, a old style of okinawan Karate. When the occupation ended in 1945 new martial art schools opened up across Korea, some were based on the traditional Korean martial arts of Subak and Taekkyeon (debatable), while others were a mixture of Japanese and Korean styles. Taekwondo falls under the latter group, although its techniques and forms are almost entirely copied or restructured from those of Shotokan.

Tae Kwon Do is heavily influenced by Shotokan Karate due to the fact that Tae Kwon Do’s creator, General Choi Hong Hi was a 2nd Dan level karate practitioner. It is also influenced by Taekkyeon, a Korean style of martial art focusing on dance like foot work and kicks, however this is debated as some suggest that promoting the influence of taekkyon was simply a way to entice a largely anti-Japanese population to study the art.

Choi Hong Hi was born on Nov. 9, 1918, in the Myong Chun district of what is now North Korea. His father took him to a tutor to study calligraphy and Chinese characters. The tutor also instructed him in the Korean art of foot fighting.

In 1937, he went to Japan, where he practiced karate. On his return to Korea in 1942, he was drafted against his will into the Japanese army. After attempting to escape to join the underground Korean Liberation Army, he was arrested and sent to Pyongyang prison on charges of treason. He was freed in August 1945, just days before he was to be executed.

In 1946, General Choi was one of the founders of the South Korean army, in which he eventually became a general, training those under his command in the new martial art of tae kwon do. Eventually he trained instructors in tae kwon do for the entire South Korean army. By the time he founded the International Taekwon-do Federation in 1966, there were associations throughout Asia, Western Europe and North America. It was practised by the armies of several nations, and was taught at West Point.

In 1971, the South Korean government, afraid that tae kwon do would be used against it, refused to let General Choi’s federation teach tae kwon do in North Korea. General Choi, angry that the martial art was being treated as a political tool, went into voluntary exile and settled in Canada. South Korea established a rival association, the World Tae Kwon Do Federation, based in Seoul. It uses the name that General Choi coined, but most of its rules, sparring style and procedures are different.

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