The Founder General Choi Hong Hi

The Founder General Choi Hong Hi


Our Founder,
General Choi Hong Hi
General Choi Hong Hi was born on November 9th, 1918, in the Hwa Dae Myong Chun District of Korea.

At the age of twelve he started to study Taek Kyon, an ancient Korean method of fighting with the feet. Later, when he was studying in Japan, he met a Karate teacher who helped him earn his first degree Black Belt in less than two years. He then intensified his training, striving to earn his second degree. Around the same time, he started teaching.

Conscripted into the Japanese army during World War II, he was posted to Pyongyang where he was imprisoned. Wanting to maintain his good physical and mental health during his imprisonment, he practiced karate, alone at first, then by teaching it to the staff of the prison and the other prisoners.

Becoming an officer in the new Korean Army after the end of the war, he continued to teach his martial art to his soldiers as well as to American soldiers serving in Korea.

His beliefs and his vision of a different approach to teaching martial arts led General Choi to combine elements of Taek Kyon and Karate techniques to develop a modern martial art. He called it Tae Kwon Do, which means “the way of the feet and the hands”, and this name was officially adopted on April 11th, 1955.

In 1959, General Choi was named President of the Korean Taekwon-Do Association. Seven years later, on March 22nd,1966, he created the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). As the Founder of Taekwon-Do and President of the ITF, he had the ability to share his art with students everywhere. Today, Taekwon-Do training is available around the world.

After a life dedicated to the development of Taekwon-Do, a modern martial art based on traditional values, philosophy, and training, General Choi, Founder of Taekwon-Do and President of the International Taekwon-Do Federation, died of cancer on June 15th, 2002, in the country of his birth.

The Founder General Choi Hong Hi

The Founder General Choi Hong Hi


On April 11th, 1955, the name Taekwon-Do was officially adopted for the martial art General Choi Hong Hi had developed using elements of the ancient Korean martial art of Taek Kyon and of Shotokan karate, a martial art he had learned while studying 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 generate maximum force by increasing speed and mass during the execution of a movement.

Wanting to share the results of his philosophical reflections and his technical experiments, General Choi planned and wrote a unique reference work, the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do. In its fifteen volumes, he explained in detail the rules and practices of this art.

Always striving for excellence, General Choi presented 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. Likewise, any undertaking that is perceived to have reached its objectives is likely to lose momentum, stagnate, and die.

Since the beginning, Taekwon-Do has never stopped evolving, driven by the strong will and a lot of hard work by its Founder. The leaders of the ITF today also recognize the need to evolve and they are equally passionate about the future of the organization.


The philosophy of Taekwon-Do can be summed up by the last two phrases in the ITF Student Oath:

I shall be a champion of justice and freedom.

I shall build a better and peaceful world.

By practicing Taekwon-Do and living according to its fundamental values, we will become good citizens and be able to create a better world.

The development of the Taekwon-Do philosophy by our Founder General Choi Hong Hi was influenced by oriental philosophers such as Confucius and Lao Tzu, by Buddhism, and by the philosophy of martial arts. However, the fundamental values as expressed in the tenets of Taekwon-Do, are universal. In the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, General Choi showed us how to find a harmonious balance between the physical and the mental.


General Choi developed a very complete technical system that has evolved over the years. In the beginning, he used many karate-like movements that were performed rather stiffly. Research by the General and his students, as well as scientific research, led to the current technical system, which continues to evolve.

Taekwon-Do movements respect and work in harmony with the physical laws and the constitution of the human body. This is why practicing Taekwon-Do is excellent for physical growth, overall health, agility, improved co-ordination, and the development of strong mental capacities.

The techniques of Taekwon-Do can be represented as a circle. Each of the individual methods of training is added gradually, building on techniques already learned, but the student continues to practice all the different types of training.

It is necessary to apply the secrets of Taekwon-Do training, as described by General Choi in the Encyclopedia, in order to perform all the ITF Taekwon-Do techniques correctly.

Taekwon-Do is practiced in countries around the world because people appreciate the systematic learning structure offered by the ITF.

International Instructor Courses and other seminars assist ITF Taekwon-Do teachers to improve the quality of their teaching and ensure the uniformity of techniques.

A brief explanation of each of these types of training follows. Detailed illustrated explanations are found in the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do.


Fundamental Movements

There are more than 3,000 fundamental movements in Taekwon-Do, and General Choi was very proud of this. These movements are basic elements that can be likened to musical notes; when linked, they produce a harmonious result.

These fundamental movements use all parts of the body and are performed in harmony with the Theory of Power of Taekwon-Do. The student will practice these movements regularly with the goal of mastering each one of them, defensive and attack movements alike, so that they will be available when needed.

When practicing fundamental movements, the student must strive to use good technique, demonstrating balance, co-ordination, and good finishing (carrying through to complete the movement).

General Choi noticed that, as they progressed, students tend to neglect the practice of the fundamental movements. He encouraged all Taekwon-Do practitioners to continue practicing, to build their own storehouse of fundamental movements.



General Choi developed twenty-four Taekwon-Do patterns. He chose the number 24 to correspond to the 24 hours in the day, a continuously repeated cycle that represents eternity. He named each pattern (except Chon-Ji) after important people in Korean history, as a reminder of the importance of honoring and cultivating respect for those who have accomplished great things. For certain patterns, the shape of the diagram and the total number of movements representing the pattern are also significant.

A Taekwon-Do pattern is a choreographed sequence of fundamental movements in an imaginary fight against one attacker or several. The execution of the movements requires the application of the Theory of Power. Correct breathing generates internal energy, which increases power.

If we imagine that the fundamental movements of Taekwon-Do are like musical notes, then the twenty-four patterns are like the songs produced by assembling those notes.

The twenty-four patterns are introduced gradually as the student progresses with his training and are beneficial for Taekwon-Do students of all ages and levels of training. The patterns must be performed precisely and smoothly; the overall effect should be one of harmonious, perfectly-controlled movement.

By practicing the patterns diligently, students can improve their memory skills, ability to concentrate, muscular development, physical coordination, and sense of balance. Each student should strive to perform the patterns to the best of his or her ability.

As explained in the section Fundamental movements, ITF techniques have evolved continuously. Important modifications occurred when General Choi introduced the concept of wave movement, which is the principle for the development of power by generating a maximum of speed and mass through relaxation, breathing, and hip movements, and his insistence that movements be executed with solid and graceful stances.

Precisely-detailed descriptions of all twenty-four patterns are found in the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do.

In order to explain the importance of understanding the philosophical aspect of the teaching of ITF patterns, here is a brief introduction to three of the 24 patterns:


Chon-Ji is the first pattern a student learns at the beginning of his training.

Translated literally from the Korean, Chon-Ji means the heaven and the earth. This pattern reminds us that we human beings are just one element in the universe. Hence the importance of recognizing our place in the universe and living in harmony with the environment and respecting the universal laws such as Ying and Yang.

In the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, General Choi describes Chon-Ji in nineteen precisely-detailed steps.

Dan Gun

Dan Gun is the second pattern in the ITF system of patterns. It is named after the holy Dan-Gun who, according to legend, founded Korea in 2333 B.C.

The diagram for Dan Gun evokes the student and the scholar. In the Middle Ages, scholars were the elite of Korean society and were held to a very high standard. Students today would do well to show the same dedication.


Po-Eun is a more advanced pattern and is introduced at the Black Belt level, 1st degree.

Po-Eun is named for Chong Mong-Chu, a 13th Century Korean poet famous for his poem I would not serve a second master, though I might be crucified a hundred times and who was also a pioneer in the science of physics. General Choi chose this name and the diagram, which signifies unique, to emphasize the importance of loyalty.


Although Taekwon-Do is a defensive art, training by the practical application of techniques against a real adversary, or several, is very important. In fact, it is an excellent way to check what a student has learned.

Sparring is indispensable for the student who wants to progress. During sparring, he or she will test skills acquired, learn to recognize and, with practice, anticipate the opponent tactics; sparring builds self-control, self-confidence, and courage.

There are two types of sparring: step sparring and free sparring.

  • Step Sparring:
    Step (or prearranged) sparring is planned by the players. They agree on the rules, such as the number of steps to be taken, the target to be attacked, the tool to be used, etc. There is no contact; the purpose is to develop control by stopping just short of the target.There are three levels of step sparring: 3-step for beginners, 2-step or intermediate, and 1-step or advanced. The goal is to help the student understand the purpose of the movements, to master interaction with the opponent regarding stances and distances, to develop faster reflexes and instantaneous response in self-defense.
  • Free Sparring:
    Free sparring is not pre-arranged. There is no prescribed number of steps or movements. It is essentially open combat with controlled attacks using all available means and methods. In order to prevent injury, protective equipment is worn. The teaching of free sparing is in the program starting at the yellow belt level.

According to the rules, the attacker must stop the attacking tool just before reaching certain vital spots. Only blows that stop two centimeters from a vital spot are counted. The evaluation of free sparring is based on accuracy, speed, timing, distance, and quality of technique executed. Balance, blocking and dodging skills, and attitude are also very important.

Because each of the participants is free to move and attack, free sparring encourages the development of strategies for attack and defense, while improving speed and timing. Since free sparring is practiced as a non-stop fight that may consist of one, two or three rounds, being in top physical condition is very important.

The ITF has distinct rules and a system for free sparring in tournaments. Both hand and foot techniques are allowed, and good fighters use combination and flying techniques. These fights can be really spectacular.


Breaking is part of the program for promotion to each higher level, starting with green belt, and is included in Black Belt competitions.

The goal of breaking is to allow the student to develop self-confidence. Breaking demonstrates that the student has mastered the techniques that allow him or her to produce maximum power.

Power breaking demonstrates technical efficiency, precision, aim, and power.

Special techniques in breaking combine athletic performance with perfect execution of techniques. These techniques include flying techniques and can be spectacular. Height and length of movements are emphasized.

It is very important to practice breaking without hurting oneself. Therefore, thorough preparation is essential.


All Taekwon-Do techniques are to be used only for self-defence. They are not to be used for aggression, except in cases of grave immediate danger for the practitioner or someone he must protect. Any other use would be considered assault.

Because of safety concerns, the rules of competition prohibit the use of techniques using the elbow, knee, or head as well as attacks below the belt. However, these additional techniques may be needed in special circumstances, for example when defending against armed opponents, or from a sitting or prone position. Therefore, these techniques are practiced in training. Once mastered, the techniques will be available for use in genuinely dangerous situations.

Taekwon-Do offers realistic, practical, and efficient techniques for good self-defence.