Although the origins of the martial arts are shrouded in mystery, we consider it an undeniable fact that from time immemorial there have been physical actions involving the use ol the hands and feet for purpose of self-protection. lf we were to define these physical actions as “Taekwon- Do.” any country might claim credit for inventing Taekwon-Do. There is, however, scant resemblance between Taekwon-Do, as it is practiced today. and the crude forms of unarmed combat developed in the past.
Modern Taekwon-Do differs greatly from other martial arts. ln fact, no other martial art is so advanced with regard to the sophistication and effectiveness of its technique or the over-all physical fitness it imparts to its practitioners. Since the theories, terminology, techniques, systems, methods. rules. practice suit, and spiritual foundation were scientifically developed, sys-tematized, and named by the author, it is an error to think of any physcial actions employing the hand and feet for sell-defence as Taeltwon-Do. Nor is any other martial arts system entitled to call itself Taekwon-Do. Only those who practice the techniques based on the euthor’s theories. principles and philosophy are considered to be students of genuine Taeltwon-Do.
When and where did Taekwon-Do begin? A combination of circumstances made it possible for me to originate and develop Taekwon-Do. ln addition to my prior knowledge of Taelt Kyon, l had an opportunity to learn Karate in Japan during the unhappy thirty-six years when my native land was occupied by the Japanese. Soon alter Korea was liberated in 1 945, I was placed ln a privileged position as a founding memberof the newly formed South Korean Armed Forces. The former provided me with a definite sense of creation, and the latter gave me the power to disseminate Taekwon-Do throughout the entire armed
forces, despite furious opposition. The emergence of Taekwon-Do as an international martial art in a relatively short period of time was due to a variety of factors.
The evils of contemporary society (moral corruption, materialism, selfishness, etc.) had created a spiritual vacuum. Taekwon-Do was able to compensate for the prevailing sense of emptiness, distrust, decadence and lack of confidence. ln addition, these were violent times, when people felt the need for a means of protecting themselves. and the superiority of Taekwon- Do technique came to be widely recognized. My social statue, the advantage of being Taekwon – Do’s founder and my God-given health also contributed to the rapid growth of Taekwon-Do all over the world.
My involvement with the martial arts did much to supplement the health that God gave me. l had been born frail and weak and was encouraged to learn Taek Kyon at the age of fifteen by my teacher of calligraphy. In 1 938. a few days before I was due to leave Korea to study in Japan I was involved in an unexpected incident that would have made it difficult to return home without risk of reprisals. I resolved to become a black belt holder in Karate while I was in Japan. The skills I required were, I felt, sufficient protection against those who might seek to do me harm. Not only was l able to return to Korea. but I subsequently initiated the national liberation movement known as the Pyongyang Student SoIdier’s Incident.
Like so many patriots in the long course of human history, my actions aroused the wrath of those in positions of power. I was imprisoned for a time in a Japanese army jail. In January of 1946, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the fledgling Republic of Korea army and posted to the 4th infantry regiment in Kwangju, Cholla Namdo Province as a company commander. I began to teach Karate to my soldiers as a means of physical and mental training. lt was then that l realized that we needed to develop our own national martial art, superior in both spirit and technique to Japanese Karate. I strongly believed that teaching it throughout the country would enable me to fulfill the pledge l had made to three of my comrades, who had shared my imprisonment
On April 11th, 1955, the name Taekwon-Do was formally taken over for the martial art General Choi Hong Hi had produced using components of the ancient Korean martial art of Taek Kyon and of Shotokan karate, a martial art he had learned while analyzing in Japan. The philosophical values and the goals of Taekwon-Do are firmly rooted in the traditional moral culture of the Orient.
On the technical side, defensive and offensive tactics are based on principles of physics, particularly Newton’s Law, which explains how to bring forth maximum force by increasing swiftness and mass during the execution of a motion. Wanting to share the results of his philosophical reflections and his technical experiments, General Choi designed and wrote a unique reference work, the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do. In its fifteen volumes, he explained in detail the rules and drills of this art.
Always striving for excellence, General Choi acquainted Taekwon-Do as in a state of continuous evolution, open to changes that would improve its effectiveness. He wrote that anyone who believes he has fully discharged his duty will soon perish. Similarly, any undertaking that is perceived to have hit its objectives is probable to lose momentum, stagnate, and die.
Since the start, Taekwon-Do has never stopped acquiring, driven by the strong will and a lot of hard work by its Founder. The leaders of the ITF today also acknowledge the need to germinate and they are every bit passionate about the future of the organization.