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What follows is a condensed account of the history of Taekwon-Do. I have been lucky enough in my career to meet, train and grade with General Choi  for which I will be eternally gratefulalt

altMajor General Choi Hong Hi is known as the founder and father of Taekwon-Do, he was born on November 9th 1918 in what is now the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. When he was young he was frail and quite sickly, however, even as a child the future General showed a strong and independent spirit. At the age of 12 he was expelled from school for agitating the Japanese authorities that were in control of Korea at that time. This was the beginning of what would be a long association with the Kwang Ju students independence movement. Shortly after, Choi was sent to study calligraphy under Han Il Dong, who in addition to his skills as a calligrapher was also a master of Tae Kyon, the ancient art of Korean foot fighting. Master Han concerned over the frail condition of his new student began teaching him the rigorous exercises of Tae Kyon to help build up his body. In addition to Tae Kyon, Choi also studied Shotokan Karate eventually gaining a 2nd Dan. These techniques together with Tae Kyon were the forerunners of modern Taekwon-Do.

General Choi was forced to enlist in the Japanese army, following the outbreak of world war II and during this time he was imprisoned after being implicated as the planner of the Korean independence movement. While in prison, Choi began practising the skills he had learnt. In a short time his cell mate and his jailer became his students, eventually the whole prison courtyard became one great Dojang. Initially he had received a 7 year prison term, but later the sentence was changed and he was due to be executed on August 18th 1945. Just 3 days before that date Korea had been liberated from the occupying Japanese forces. On August 15th 1945 Choi walked free from Pyung Yang prison. In January 1946 Choi was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the newly formed Korean army of which, he was one of the 110 founding fathers. Once he was made company commander of the 4th regiment in Kwang Ju, he was to set about the task of introducing his martial art training as part of the military training regime. But there was a problem,  he despised the Japanese, so how could he teach his troops a Japanese martial art, this was the time when he came up with the solution...creating his own Korean martial art. Over the following 9 years and after extensive research he finally, on April 11th 1955 came up with the art that we know as Taekwon-Do

Major General Choi, commander of the crack 29th infantry division, who had been promoted in the previous year, began to spread Taekwon-Do not only to the Korean military but to civilians and also to the U.S. 7th infantry division, this was the real 'launching pad' for the new art. In 1959 Taekwon-Do spread beyond it's national boundaries. General Choi and 19 of his top black belts toured the Far East, the team consisted of famous Taekwon-Do instructors like Nam Tae Hi and Han Cha Kyo. The tour was an instant success. In this year General Choi was elevated to President of the Newly  formed Korea Taekwon-Do Association and also promoted to deputy commander of the 2nd army in Tae Gu.

Taekwon-Do continued to spread throughout the world, and in 1965 the then retired General who had been appointed as an ambassador was appointed by the Republic of Korea to lead a goodwill mission to West Germany, Italy, Turkey, U.A.R., Malaysia and Singapore. This trip was significant in that the Ambassador, for the first time in Korean history declared Taekwon-Do as the national martial art of Korea. This was the basis not only for establishing Taekwon-Do associations in these countries but also the formation of the International Taekwon-Do Federation ( ITF ) which was formed on 22nd March 1966. The following year Taekwon-Do was brought to the U.K. for the first time by one of the pioneers of European Taekwon-Do, Master Rhee Ki Ha.

In 1971 the then President of South Korea Park Chung Hee began to use Taekwon-Do as anti-communist political propaganda. General Choi fiercely opposing this, went into exile in Canada. He continued to spread and teach Taekwon-Do throughout the world and in 1974 he organised the first World championships in Montreal. All this time he had to endure death threats from Korean central intelligence, several kidnapping attempts were made, indeed several attempts on his life by assassins were made his son Choi Jung Hwa and his daughter were kidnapped whilst still living in Korea. Thankfully that situation was revolved.

Myself, along with several others were proud and honoured to have the founder himself  come to the U.K. on the 8th of September 2000 to teach a weekend seminar in Dorset, it was an unforgettable and humbling experience for everyone involved, unfortunately it was the last time that General Choi was to visit the U.K.


Tae Kwon

Malcolm Jones
VII Degree