Teen and Adult Taekwon-Do
Taekwon-Do Overview & History:
(The portion you are about to read is contributed by Master Thomas Gordon the Chief Instructor at Gordon Martial Arts) For starters, if you’re reading this to find out if Taekwon-Do, Hapkido, Karate, Krav maga, Kung Fu, etc is right for you, stop worrying about “what” is taught and worry more about “who” is teaching it. There are articles/posts on this site talking about choosing the right martial art school so take the time to read over everything. With all that said, let’s take a look at Taekwon-Do.
For general purposes, from what I’ve learned after decades of training, attending many seminars, and camps is that Taekwon-Do was created by General Choi of the South Korean Army. Taekwon-Do was a military art that was created to focus on major muscle groups and be taught in a manner in which a solider could be relatively proficient in a rather short period of time. There was a some political upheaval with some big egos getting in the way of the martial art and we ended up having three basic styles/flavors of Taekwon-Do (also referred to as Tae Kwon Do and/or taekwondo).
First there’s the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) and general Taekwondo typically referred to as “Chang Hon Taekwondo.” This group is likely about 10-12 million strong but terribly splintered after the passing of General Choi. The ITF disciples (that would be us at GMA) do the 24 ITF patterns and incorporate sine wave along with other ITF specific movements. The “Chang Hon” group varies greatly and often look a bit more karate-ish. I studied for a few years and got my 4th degree black belt under Master Joe Poff in Gulf Breeze of Poff’s Karate. He taught the “Chang Hon” system. As the name of his school implied, it was karate-ish. And there’s nothing wrong with that so long as you know that up front. He was an excellent instructor and an even better person. The ITF system is typically considered the original and “authentic Taekwon-Do” much to the sneers of other Taekwondo stylists. Martial art schools that profess to teach ITF typically concentrate more on patterns/tuls/forms and the self defense side of martial arts.
The next group is the sporting side of Taekwondo typically referred to as KKW/WTF (Kukkiwon/World Taekwondo Federation) or “Olympic Taekwondo.” This group was started in the early 70’s and seem to focus on sparring more than anything. I’ve met some WTF/KKW instructors who worked on the “art” side but more often than not, it’s all about competition. Stances tend to be higher and the focus on kicking seems to be paramount. It’s likely larger than the ITF/Chang-Hon group.
The last group is what I refer to as “everything else.” Some in this group are phenomenal martial artists. Others…not so much.
Taekwon-Do (as led by General Choi) was taught to all Korean forces during the Korean war and later taught to most (if not all) allied forces during the Vietnam war. In it’s pure form it’s a true hand to hand self defense martial art taught and tested during war time. While I understand we can’t teach children a true “war art”, it is nice to know that the potential is there. I see much “stuff” out there that is such a poor representation of what the original Taekwon-Do was meant to be. In it’s pure form, Taekwon-Do is a beautiful and extremely comprehensive art. I’ve studied many arts and have a library full of books on just about any style/art you want to know about. None of them come remotely close to the depth at General Choi’s Taekwon-Do. The extensive 15 volume encyclopedia set is roughly 5000 pages and 30,000 photographs! Just the condensed version is well over 700 pages. And there are four other books authored by General Choi about Taekwon-Do and an authorized video series going over each of the 24 patterns from all four directions. The comprehensiveness of ITF Taekwon-Do is simply staggering.