The Korean Kwans
A group of Japanese archaeologist exploring the Tung-hua province of Manchuria in 1935 discovered 2 tombs that were dated to belong to the Tenth Kingdom of Koguryo (late 4th century). Murals painted on the ceiling of the Kakchu (Kak-Je) and Myong-chong temples depict figures in fighting postures. Guarding the Sok Kul An Buddhist cave Temple is a carved statue of Kumgang Yuksa, a famous warrior from the reign of King Hye-Gong (742-762) who also appears in a typical martial art pose.
The appearance of these fighters in obvious martial poses shows that martial arts and fighting techniques go back a long way in Korea, to even before the known introduction of Kwonbop from China (520AD). These figures could equally represent open hand techniques of modern Tae Kwon Do or Karate but are most likely representative of the forebears of many modern Asian fighting arts. To hold to the view that these figures show that Tae Kwon Do is thousands of years old is to be compared with saying that English is two thousand years old, it's just that it used to be called Anglo-Latin. Also, to put things in further perspective, two small Babylonian works of art dating from between 3000 and 2000BC show two men fighting, one with a typical modern martial art block but no one claims that Karate comes from Babylon.
Although generally banned by the occupying Japanese, the Korean Martial Arts of Soo Bak, Tae Kyon, Kong Soo and Hwa Soo and others survived by being practiced in secret, whilst in later years, the Japanese martial arts were often learnt by Koreans from their invaders. Tae Kyon was secretly practiced and passed onto a handful of students by men like Han Il Dong and Duk Ki Song. Another student of the outlawed arts was Hwang Kee, the future founder of Tang Soo Do and the Moo Duk Kwan (martial arts School). By the age of 22, Kee had become expert in Soo Bak and Tae Kyon and in 1936 he travelled to Northern China to study the "T'ang method". He then worked until 1945 to combine the Korean and Chinese styles into Tang Soo Do (the way of T'ang hand). The original meaning of the term Karate was "T'ang Hand", Te meaning hand and Kara an ideogram to describe the Chinese T'ang. In 1936, Okinawan Masters got together at the behest of a newspaper to change the ideogram Kara to the one meaning "empty", as it has the same pronunciation.
In the later part of the Japanese occupation many Koreans went to Japan to further their education and to learn Martial Arts. One of these was Choi Yong-I, born in Korea in 1923 and started studying Korean Kempo at the age of nine. He went to Japan in 1938 to study aviation using the name Masutatsu Oyama but put more of his energies into the study of Karate to become, many decades later, the founder of Kyokushinkai Karate. Another Korean, Choi Hong Hi, went to Kyoto, Japan in 1937 to study calligraphy. Choi had been studying calligraphy and Tae Kyon in Korea under Han Il Dong and upon arrival in Japan he started to study Shotokan Karate as a student of a Korean named Kim, and after two years of intensive training he was presented with a first Dan Black Belt in Shotokan. He then went onto Tokyo University where he gained his second Dan and became an instructor at the YMCA. During WW II, whereas Oyama stayed in Japan, Choi was forced to enlist in the Japanese army and was posted to Pyongyang in Korea where he became involved in the Korean Independence Movement, resulting in his imprisonment. Until his liberation at the end of the war he practiced and developed much of his martial art, later to be named Tae Kwon do.
|Tang Soo||TAE KYON||Kong Soo|
|Soo Bahk||Hwa Soo|
CHUNG DO KWAN
| MOO DUK KWAN
|YUN MOO KWAN
Sup Chun Sang
|CHANG MOO KWAN
In Yoon Byung
|OH DO KWAN
Nam Tae Hi
Choi Hong Hi
|JI DO KWAN
Gae Byang Yun
|CHI DO KWAN
Yon Kue Pyang
|SONG MOO KWAN
Byung Chik Ro
|TAE KWON DO
11th April 1955
At the end of World War II and the liberation of the Southern end of the Korean Peninsula by the American and British Forces a number of Martial Art Schools sprouted like bamboo shoots after rain. These Kwan were established by masters of Korean and foreign martial arts, the biggest being the civilian school of Chung Do Kwan in Seoul, established by Won Kook Lee whilst Hwang Kee formed the Moo Duk Kwan towards the end of 1945. One of the Korean styles was known as Tang Soo ("Chinese Hand" after the Chinese Tang Dynasty) and in 1953 the Korea Tang Soo Association was formed but later replaced in 1960 by the more Korean name of the Soo Bahk Do Association. Also formed in 1953 was the Oh Do Kwan. Established by Choi Hong Hi and Nam Tae Hi this school was established within the military and was for military personnel only although it had strong links with the civilian Chung Do Kwan that Choi later commanded in 1954.
Choi had been teaching his martial art to his soldiers throughout his military career and had become instructor for the American Military Police School in Seoul as early as 1948. In 1949 he visited Fort Riley in the USA and introduced the American people to 'Korean Karate'. Given fast promotion within the Korean Armed Forces, Choi was named Chief of Staff in 1952 as a Brigadier General and a man of considerable influence in the war time forces of Syngman Rhee. Immediately after the war he organised the crack 29th Infantry Division that was to become instrumental in the spreading of Tae Kwon Do throughout the Korean Military.
Technically, 1955 signalled the beginning of Tae Kwon Do as a formally recognised art in Korea. During that year a special board comprising master instructors from various Kwans, historians and prominent leaders of society was formed. A number of names for the new martial art were submitted but on the 11th April, the board decided on the name of Tae Kwon Do submitted by General Choi. This name, meaning 'the way of foot and hand fighting', appealed to the newly nationalistic Koreans as a totally Korean expression and greatly resembled the ancient Korean art of Tae Kyon. Thus the name of Tae Kwon Do began to spread throughout Korea as their own martial art and in a few years it had spread to many nations across the world.
At this stage various Associations began to arise, the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association (1959), the Korea Soo Bahk Do Association (1960) replacing the earlier Korea Tang Soo Do Association, and the Korea Tae Soo Do Association (1961). The unification of the various Kwans was never smooth but by Presidential decree in 1962 the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association (KTA), with Choi Hong Hi as president, was declared to be the representative body of the Korean Martial Art and the body whose black belt qualification would be recognised by the government.
In March 1965, the Soo Bahk Do Association attempted to unite with the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association but the effort was unsuccessful, splitting the Moo Duk Kwan between the two associations. On the 22nd March 1966, General Choi formed the International Tae Kwon Do Federation (ITF) after almost a decade of establishing associations in many countries of South East Asia, Europe and North America. This period of the 1960s was one of great political unrest both inside and outside of the martial arts fraternity and the various associations were told by the government of Park Chung Hee to unify under the banner of the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association and to come under the auspices of the Korean Athletics Association on February 23 1963. This was not a totally smooth operation with some masters, such as Son Duk Sung of the Chung Do Kwan, preferring to leave Korea altogether. It was also during this period that General Choi Hong Hi, often known as the 'Father of Tae Kwon Do', started to lose his control of Tae Kwon Do.
At this point it is interesting to note the historic parallels between CHOI Hong Hi and PARK Chung Hee who were both Generals under President Syngman RHEE. Rhee was deposed on the 27th April 1960 by a constitutional democracy that was short lived. A coup lead by Park on the 16th May 1961 saw Park become President by the end of 1962. This was the year that Choi left Korea and was "promoted" to be the Korean Ambassador to Malaysia. Although he briefly returned to Korea in 1966 to establish the International Tae Kwon Do Federation (ITF), Choi never gained much political influence in Korea and finally moved the ITF headquarters to Toronto, Canada, in 1972, the year that Kukkiwon was opened. Choi had done much to spread Tae Kwon Do throughout the world whilst others were establishing a stronghold at home. As a further indicator to the almost total loss of influence of Choi in South Korea, Christopher Hill states in his 1992 book, "Olympic Politics", with reference to the 30th September 1981 vote by the IOC to decide on Seoul for the 1988 Olympics that "Kim Un-Yong dealt decisively with the rumour that General Choi, a Korean émigré in Canada, would stage an anti-Seoul demonstration, as some citizens of Nagoya had done, on environmental grounds, against their own city's bid. Kim did not believe the rumour, but he put five Taekwondo instructors on standby in case of trouble and there was no incident".
The early 1970s was the foundation period of two internationally known Tae Kwon Dos, one a traditional martial art and the other a progressive martial sport with the Olympics as its primary goal. In 1970, Kim Un Yong, a shrewd businessman and not a martial arts master, was elected as the new president of the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association and was instrumental in changing the direction of Tae Kwon Do from martial art to martial sport with an ultimate goal of the Olympic games. He is also one of Korea's representatives with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In 1972, an advanced training establishment was built, called Kukkiwon, now the Mecca of participants in sport Taekwondo. In May 1973, the first World Taekwondo championships were held at Kukkiwon in Seoul, with over 30 countries participating and as a result of the international success of this event, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was formed with Dr Kim Un Yong being elected foundation president. The WTF replaced the KTA. Taekwondo, now one of the national sports of Korea, is included as part of the school curriculum at all levels and as a requisite for military training.
Modern Taekwondo in Korea has progressed so much towards being a sport that its ruling body in Korea, the WTF, comes under the control of the Korean Athletics Association and not the martial arts body known as the Ki Do Hae. When Jigaro Kano took aspects of the martial art Aikijujitsu and formed a safer sport form for use by all people as a means towards better health and fitness, he adopted the name "Judo" to describe the new sport. Taekwondo has not adopted any name changes but it is important to realise that there are today, many styles of the original martial art of Tae Kwon Do. Perhaps the only distinction between the various styles being in the spelling, with the sport style preferring to use a single word for Taekwondo.
With the announcement that Taekwondo will be a full medal Olympic sport as of the Sydney 2000 Olympics it has completed its road from martial art to martial sport. There is really no reason that Art and Sport can't co-exist under the same name if people are educated as to its history.
As you can see the two main styles of Tae Kwon Do are WTF and ITF. The Moo Duk Kwan style we practice at CTF is not as widely practiced. Students of Tang soo Doo also practice the Moo Duk Kwan style. As former Black belts of Master H Christophis we inherited this style from him, who in turn inherited this style from his instructor Master Hock lye Ooi. Master Ooi also taught Tang Soo Doo, which would explain the use of the Moo Duk Kwan Hyongs (forms) within our syllabuses. Once a student reaches 1st Dan black belt they then are taught the forms of the WTF style. This giving the student a deeper understanding of their Martial art. You have got the traditional low stances of Hyongs compared to the high stances of the modern Taeguk forms.