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Kwans, Organisations and Styles of Taekwondo

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Organisations and Syles of Taekwondo

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At the end of World War II (1939-1945) and Japan’s colonial rule (1910-1945) over Korea, senior masters of Korean martial arts practising different styles, started to open up their own schools known as “kwans”.


-In 1945, Won Kuk Lee opened “Chung Do Kwan” (also known as “the blue wave school” or “the police dojang”) in Seoul.
-In 1945-46, Byung Jick Ro opened “Song Moo Kwan” (also known as “the pine tree school”) in Kaesong and which was later shifted to an archery school in Seoul.
-In 1945-47, Hwang Kee opened “Moo Duk Kwan” (also known as “the railroad dojang”) at the Yong San railway station in Seoul.
-In 1946, Byung In Yoon started to teach at Kungsung Agricultural High School and established the “YMCA Kwon Bop Bu”.
-In 1946, Sang Sap Chun became the head of “Yun Moo Kwan”.
-In 1950, Col. Choi Hong Hi became the honorary head of Chung Do Kwan (opened in 1945 by Won Kuk Lee).

Meanwhile, the Korean War (1950-1953) erupted when North Korea invaded South Korea. Many senior masters of Korean martial arts took part in this war and several were missing after the war ended.

Effects of Korean War on Taekwondo

-In 1953, Byung In Yoon went missing after the war. Lee Nam Suk and Kim Soon Bae restarted YMCA Kwon Bop Bu (opened in 1946 by Byung In Yoon) under the name of “Chang Moo Kwan”.
-In 1953, Hong Jong Pyo and Park Chul Hee, students of YMCA Kwon Bop Bu (opened in 1946 by Byung In Yoon), started their own school under the name of “Kang Duk Kwan”.
-In 1953, Sang Sap Chun went missing after the war. Kwe Byung Yoon and Chong Woo Lee reopened Yun Moo Kwan (opened in 1946 by Sang Sap Chun) under the name of “Ji Do Kwan”.
-In 1954, Lee Yong Woo, a student of Chung Do Kwan (opened in 1945 by Won Kuk Lee), started his own school under the name of “Jung Do Kwan”.
-In 1955, Gen. Choi Hong Hi and Nam Tae Hi started their own school under the name of “Oh Do Kwan”.
-In 1956, Lee Kyo Yoon, a student of Yun Moo Kwan (opened in 1946 by Sang Sap Chun) started his own school under the name of “Han Moo Kwan”.

5 Main Kwans

Thus, the five main kwans were (arranged in alphabetical order):
– Chung Do Kwan
– Moo Duk Kwan
– Song Moo Kwan
– YMCA Kwon Bop Bu (later renamed as Chang Moo Kwan)
– Yun Moo Kwan (later renamed as Ji Do Kwan)

The four annex kwans (offshoots of the main kwans) were (arranged in alphabetical order):
– Han Moo Kwan (by Lee Kyo Yoon of Yun Moo Kwan)
– Jung Do Kwan (by Lee Yong Woo of Chung Do Kwan)
– Kang Duk Kwan (by Hong Jong Pyo and Park Chul Hee of YMCA Kwon Bop Bu)
– Oh Do Kwan (by Choi Hong Hi-honorary head of Chung Do Kwan, along with Nam Tae Hi)

These above mentioned nine kwans taught different martial arts under names like Tang Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, Tae Soo Do, and Kwonbop. The need for a common unifying term was felt by the masters of the nine kwans. Meanwhile, in 1957, Jhoon Rhee, a student of Chung Do Kwan, emigrated to Washington DC and created the Jhoon Rhee style. During 1958-60, Hwang Kee (founder of Moo Duk Kwan), incorporated elements of the Muye Dobo Tongji and renamed his martial art as Su Bak Do.

To unify all the different types of martial arts, several names were proposed and the name “Tae Soo Do” was under active consideration, which resulted in the formation of the Korea Taesudo Association in 1961. Choi Hong Hi and Nam Tae Hi (founders of Oh Do Kwan) suggested to replace the term “Su” meaning “hand” by the term “Kwon” meaning “fist”, and advocated the term “Tae Kwon Do”. In 1965, the name of the Korea Taesudo Association was changed to the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), and Taekwondo became the official unifying name for all the different martial arts that were practised by all the kwans.

In this unified martial art named as Taekwondo, there emerged several styles of Taekwondo. KTA needed to accept one style as the unifying style of Taekwondo. Jhoon Rhee had already named his style as Jhoon Rhee style of Taekwondo. Choi Hong Hi suggested that KTA should accept the Chang-hon style, which was taught in his Oh Do Kwan, but this suggestion was disputed. Thus, in 1966, Choi Hong Hi removed himself from the KTA and established the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), which taught the Chang-hon style of Taekwondo.

In 1969, Haeng Ung Lee, an instructor in the South Korean military, emigrated to Omaha, Nebraska, and established the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), which followed the Songahm style of Taekwondo.

In 1972, KTA opened in Seoul the “Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) Central Dojang”, which was renamed as “Kukkiwon” in 1973. The South Korean government’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism sponsored the Kukkiwon and it became a government-sponsored national academy for Taekwondo; thereby, establishing a unified Kukkiwon-defined style of Taekwondo known as Kukki-Taekwondo (meaning “national Taekwondo”).

To promote the sportive aspects of the Kukki-Taekwondo, in 1973 the KTA established the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), which was later renamed as the World Taekwondo (WT). In 1980, the International Olympic Committee recognised the WT and hence, the Kukkiwon-defined style known as Kukki-Taekwondo is also known as Olympic-style Taekwondo, or WT-style Taekwondo, or Sport-style Taekwondo, or WT Kukkiwon-style Taekwondo.

In 1990, an offshoot from the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) was formed and it was named as the Global Taekwondo Federation (GTF). The GTF practised ITF-style Taekwondo but with many additions and thus, it presented a different style named as GTF-style Taekwondo.

Besides these above Taekwondo styles, other martial arts with their own respective styles, also combined with Taekwondo, which gave rise to hybrid martial arts.

In 1990, Chuck Norris, a famous martial artist and actor, who was also an alumnus of Moo Duk Kwan (founded by Hwang Kee), fused several techniques of traditional Taekwondo like Tang Soo Do along with Taekwondo, to create a hybrid martial art, which he named as “Chun Kuk Do”.

The martial artist Lim Ching Sing fused Taekwondo with other martial arts to create “Hup Kwon Do”. Similarly, the martial artist Kwang-jo Choi fused Taekwondo with other martial arts to create “Choi Kwang Do”.

Other notable hybrid martial arts are “Kun Gek Do” or “Gwon Gyokdo”, which combines Taekwondo with Muay Thai. A Scandinavian martial art known as “Han Moo Do” fused Taekwondo with Hapkido, and Hoi Jeon Moo Sool. A Korean martial art called “Han Mu Do” combined Taekwondo and Hapkido. Another Korean martial art named as “Teukgong Moosool” fused Taekwondo, Hapkido, Judo, Kyuk Too Ki, and Chinese martial arts. Korea’s Yong-In University developed a hybrid martial art called as “Yongmudo”, which combined Taekwondo, Hapkido, Judo, and Ssireum.

Thus, the kwans influenced in creating a Korean martial art known as Taekwondo and the several organisations of Taekwondo developed different styles of Taekwondo. Further, Taekwondo and its different styles were combined with different martial arts to create many hybrid martial arts around the world.


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Nine Kwans Family Tree. Image at Wikimedia.org. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2f/NineKwans_FamilyTree.png [Accessed on 3 Sep 2021]

Park, C., & Kim, T. Y. (2016). Historical views on the origins of Korea’s Taekwondo. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 33(9), 978-989. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09523367.2016.1233867 [Accessed on 3 Sep 2021]

World Taekwondo Federation changes name over ‘negative connotations’. BBC Sport. (24 June 2017) Available at: https://www.bbc.com/sport/taekwondo/40391326 [Accessed on 3 Sep 2021]

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