The Founder of Taekwon-Do
General Choi Hong Hi
November 9, 1918 – June 15, 2002 

General Choi Hong Hi was born on November 9th, 1918 in the rugged and harsh area of Hwa Dae, Myong Chun District in what is now D.P.R of Korea. In his youth, he was frail and quite sickly, a constant source of worry for his parents.
Even at an early age, however, the future general showed a strong and independent spirit. At the age of twelve he was expelled from school for agitating against the Japanese authorities who were in control of Korea. This was the beginning of what would be a long association with the Kwang Ju Students’ Independence Movement. After his expulsion, young Choi’s father sent him to study calligraphy under one of the most famous teachers in Korea, Mr. Han II Dong. Han, in addition to his skills as a calligrapher, was also a master of Taek Kyon, the ancient Korean art of foot fighting. The teacher, concerned over the frail condition of his new student, began teaching him the rigorous exercises of Taek Kyon to help build up his body. In 1937, Choi was sent to Japan to further his education. Shortly before leaving, however, the youth had the misfortune to engage in a rather heated argument with a massive professional wrestler who promised to literally tear the youth limb from limb at their next encounter. This threat seemed to give a new impetus to young Choi’s training in the martial arts.

In Kyoto, Choi met a fellow Korean, Mr. Him, who was engaged in teaching the Japanese martial art, Karate. With two years of concentrated training, Choi attained the rank of first degree black belt. These techniques, together with Taek Kyon (foot techniques), were the forerunners of modern Taekwon-Do.
There followed a period of both mental and physical training, preparatory school, high school, and finally the University in Tokyo. During this time, training and experimentation in his new fighting techniques were intensified until, with attainment of his second degree black belt, he began teaching at a YMCA in Tokyo, Japan.

Choi recounts a particular experience from this period of time. There was no lamp-post in the city that he didn’t strike or kick to see if the copper wires ahead were vibrating in protest.

“I would imagine that these were the techniques I would use to defend myself against the wrestler, Mr. Hu if he did attempt to carry out his promise to tear me limb from limb when I eventually returned to Korea.”

With the outbreak of World War II, the author was forced to enlist in the Japanese army through no volition of his own. While at his post in Pyongyang, North Korea, the author was implicated as the planner of the Korean Independence Movement and interned at a Japanese prison during his eight month pretrial examination.

While in prison, to alleviate the boredom and keep physically fit, Choi began practicing this art in the solitude of his cell. In a short time, his cellmate and jailer became students of his. Eventually, the whole prison courtyard became one gigantic gymnasium.

The liberation in August 1945 spared Choi from an imposed seven year prison sentence. Following his release, the ex-prisoner journeyed to Seoul where he organized a student soldier’s party. In January of the following year, Choi was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the new South Korean army, the “Launching Pad” for putting Taekwon-Do into a new orbit.

Soon after, he made company commander in Kwang-Ju where the young second lieutenant lighted the torch of this art by teaching his entire company and was then promoted to first lieutenant and transferred to Tae Jon in charge of the Second Infantry Regiment. While at his new post, Choi began spreading the art not only to Korean soldiers but also to the Americans stationed there. This was the first introduction to Americans of what would eventually become known as Taekwon-Do.

1947 was a year of fast promotion. Choi was promoted to captain and then major. In 1948, he was posted to Seoul as the head of logistics and became Taekwon-Do instructor for the American Military Police School there. In late 1948, Choi became a lieutenant colonel.

In 1949, Choi was promoted to full colonel and visited the United States for the first time, attending the Fort Riley Ground General School. While there, this art was introduced to the American public. And in 1951, brigadier general. During this time, he organized the Ground General School in Pusan as Assistant Commandant and Chief of the Academic Department. Choi was appointed as Chief of Staff of the First Corps in 1952 and was responsible for briefing General MacArthur during the latter’s visits to Kang Nung. At the time of armistice, Choi was in command of the 5th Infantry Division.

The year 1953 was an eventful one for the General, in both his military career and in the progress of the new martial art. He became the author of the first authoritative book on military intelligence in Korea. He organized and activated the crack 29th Infantry Division at Cheju Island, which eventually became the spearhead of Taekwon-Do in the military and established the Oh Do Kwan (Gym of My Way) where he succeeded not only in training the cadre instructors for the entire military but also developing the Taek Kyon and Karate techniques into a modern system of Taekwon-Do, with the help of Mr. Nam Tae Hi, his right hand man in 1954.

In the latter part of that year, he commanded Chong Do Kwan (Gym of the Blue Wave), the largest civilian gym in Korea; Choi was also promoted to major general.

On the 11th of April 1955, the board summoned by Gen. Choi, decided on the name of Taekwon-Do which had been submitted by him. This single unified name of Taekwon-Do replaced the different and confusing terms; Dang Soo, Gong Soo, Taek Kyon, Kwon Bup, etc.

In 1959, Taekwon-Do spread beyond its national boundaries. The father of Taekwon-Do and nineteen of his top black belt holders toured the Far East. The tour was a major success, astounding all spectators with the excellence of the Taekwon-Do techniques. In this year, Choi was elevated to two illustrious posts; President of his newly formed Korea Taekwon-Do Association and deputy commander of the 2nd Army in Tae Gu.

1960 Took military course in Texas. While there, he visited Jhoon Rhee’s Karate Club where he convinced the instructor and students to use the term Taekwon-Do. Marked beginning of TKD in the U.S. Assigned to command largest ROC Training Ctr. in Korea and newly assigned 6th Army Corps.

1961 TKD introduced into the curriculum at West Point. Promoted TKD as a compulsory subject for all S. K. armed and police forces.

1962 Appointed Ambassador to Malaysia, TKD Demonstration at the United Nations in New York City. TKD grows in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

1963 TKD introduced to Vietnam when Gen. Choi demonstrates perfected forms to instructors. The new forms eliminated the remaining vestiges of Karate in the Art. Re-elected President of Korea Taekwon-Do Association.

1965 Ambassador Choi, retired two-star general, appointed by Korean Government to lead a goodwill mission to West Germany, Italy, Turkey, United Arab Republic, Malaysia, and Singapore and to introduce TKD as the national martial art of Korea.

On the 22nd of March 1966, the International Taekwon-Do Federation was formed with associations in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, West Germany, the United States, Turkey, Italy, Arab Republic of Egypt and South Korea.

1967 Received First Class Distinguished Service Medal from Vietnam and helped form Korea-Vietnam TKD Foundation. Visited Hong Kong and the U. S.

1968 Attended Sports Military Symposium in Paris as Korean delegate. Also visited Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, India.

1969 Toured Southeast Asia for preparation of First Asian TKD Tournaments. Toured 29 countries to spread TKD and collect material for his book

1970 Toured 20 countries throughout SE Asia, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East.

1971 Visited Malaysia and selected TKD instructors to be sent to train Rep. Of Iran Armed Forces

1972 World tour to introduce TKD to heads of states of Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Guatemala. This year Gen. Choi moved to Canada, and ITF headquarters also moved to Toronto to facilitate the spread of TKD to Eastern Europe. He overcame many difficulties to develop Taekwon-Do.

1973 Led ITF Demonstration Team to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Far East (more than 100,000 attended in Egypt alone).

1974 First World TKD Championships in Montreal. Led top instructor demo team to Jamaica, Curacao, Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela, and Surinam.

1975 TKD demonstrated at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, Visits Greece and Sweden to conduct seminars.

1976 Visits Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Europe to conduct seminars. Visits Holland to open the First European TKD Championships

1977 Visits Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden and Denmark to help form national organizations.

1978 Visits Malaysia, Pakistan, Kenya and South Africa, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the U. S.

1979 Visits Sweden, Denmark, West Germany, France, Greenland and Argentina.

1980 First visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to introduce Taekwon-Do to North Korea.

1981 Visits Australia and Japan. Presents a united North and South Korean Taekwon-Do team in Vienna, Austria.

1982 Taekwon-Do dojang opens in Japan, a monumental point in the General’s life. Visits Greenland, the United Kingdom, West Germany, Austria, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Finland, and Italy.

1983 Visits Argentina, Columbia, Panama, Honduras, the United States, Yugoslavia, and Italy.

1984 Visits Scotland, North Korea and Hungary where the first large-scale TKD competition was held in a socialist country.

1985 Publication of Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do by General Choi. Visits Puerto Rico and Norway. 30th Anniversary of the beginning of TKD.

1986 Visits China with the ITF Taekwon-Do delegation. The delegation made great success to show original Taekwon-Do in the city of Beijing, Xian and Jinan. The brilliant performance of Taekwon-Do moved Chinese people and created a sensation of Taekwon-Do.

1987 Visits Greece with 5th Worlds.

1988 World Championships televised via satellite throughout Europe. TKD introduced to Russia.

1989 Published condensed version of TKD Encyclopedia. Visits China to help organize national TKD association.

1990 Visits Uzbekistan, Russia, Vietnam, and China.

1991 Lectures at Lenin Central University in Russia. TKD adopted as a four-year credit course at the University.

1992 Received honorary Doctorate from Lenin Central Univ. Encyclopedia Britannica references General Choi as the “Principal Founder of Taekwon-Do.

1993 Visits Moscow and Uzbekistan.

1994 Visits the Ukraine.

1995 Visits Tajikistan and meets with instructors from Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, Moldova, and Russia.

1996 First Conference of TKD in Toronto.

1997 Visits Russia for Tenth Worlds.

1998 Visits Cambodia to teach TKD courses in Phnom Pen. Visits China to meet Mr. Shuojong Song.

1999 Visits China formally set up China I.T.F.

Choi Hong Hi continued to promote TKD throughout the world through seminars, instructor courses and promotions. Choi Hong Hi passed away on 15 June 2002.