Therefore, in 1959 we hurriedly published a manual of taekwon-do…
Here Choi says he wrote this book with Nam Tae-Hi. He complains that Nam wanted to adhere too much to karate principles and CHoi had to persuade him that there was a better way. He does not describe these details at all, and I wonder how great the differences really were. Even today, if you take away that goofy sine wave crap, ITF TKD looks pretty much like shotokan with more kicks. Choi also remarks that this (adhering too much to karate techniques) was a problem with the local civilian dojangs (in other kwans) too.
I planned to visit Jhoon Rhee, who was teaching taekwon-do in San Antonio…
Here Choi mentions the great Jhoon Rhee, who he treats like one of his students. He tells of how, after promising him to teach Taekwon-do, he found Rhee still teaching karate. So Choi demonstrates the difference at which point all of Rhee’s students (allegedly) rip of their “karate” patches and have Choi write Taekwon-do on their doboks in permanent marker. Choi mentions how he had no hard feelings toward Rhee for teaching karate, because he had not seen t3h r34l TKD yet.
According to the official home page for Jhoon Rhee TKD, this is basically true. Minus the whole patch ripping thing.
Instead of the Taeguk Hyung, which had been shared with karate, I created the Chun-ji Tul (pattern) and the Dan-Gun Tul, to have a distinct separation from karate right from the start.
Here, Choi talks about developing the patterns for his TKD. He takes all the credit, claiming he had created all 24 Tuls by 1966 with most of them finalized while he was ambassador in Malaysia. This is not what I recall, even from my ITF days. I recall being told that Choi only created the first couple and that the rest were all contributed by other TKD “masters.” And, though I don’t remember which one it was, I do remember being told specifically that Han Cha Kyo created one of them himself.
I also find this section humorous because (and I invite shotokan people to chime in here) Chon-ji is allegedly almost identical to the first form you learn in Shotokan. So much for making it distinct from karate.
Teakwon-do, the National Sport
In this chapter, Choi returns to Korea to find several other orgs registered with the KAAA founded by other Kwans, and none of them using the name Taekwon-do. There was the Tae-soo do Assoc. and the Soo Bahk Do Assoc. Surprisingly, Choi is offered (and accepts) the position as president of the Tae Soo Do Assoc by Jong-Woo Lee. And he immediately begins scheming to try and get the name changed bak to Taekown-do. I’m left wondering what the hell happened to the KTA?
After this Choi sets off for his first TKD demonstration tour in several countries. He brings up the point that he is president of the Tae Soo Do Assoc., but demonstration Taekwon-do. He also first calls TKD Korea’s “national sport” then. And, it’s a bit vague, but he claims that he received some kind of official permission to call it the national sport, which it became know as from then on.
After having a meeting with Ki Hwang (head of Soo Bahk Do Assoc.) where Choi kicks his ass… in a debate over TKD theory, the Tae Soo Do Assoc. and Soo Bahk Do Assoc. are united into one Assoc. With the uniting of the two orgs, the name Taekwon-do is officially adopted. Again. I guess.
…I introduced the 20 Tuls that I creatd as the Chang Hon school, along with the Sho Rin and Sho Rei schools 9ryu).
He did this because the name TKD was not yet well known. Whatever. This naming business is
A note on demonstrations: Choi describes several demonstrations that were given on the goodwill tour. Most of it seemed to consist of some demonstration of techniques (I assume forms) and breaking. The breaking was always the crowd pleaser. They broke pine boards and bricks. They also did a lot of impressive looking jumping kicks for their breaking. Of course, there is no mention of any sparring or challenge matches. The only challenges were when a few disgruntled karate guys would show up and try and duplicate the board breaking.
Now, I suppose this was impressive enough. Breaking can show some power and toughness, and the jumping and flying techniques (when combined with breaking) can show some impressive athletic control over the body. However, as we all know breaking does not indicate anything in regards to fighting skill. It is unfortunate that Choi chose such an unrealistic measure of the power of his martial art. Had he chose full contact fighting, imagine the difference! Of course, had he used FC as a measure for his MA from the beginning, it would have developed along completely different lines anyway.
In 1966 Choi founds the ITF with 9 countries as members. The KTA is also still extant at this time and somehow they are connected. I wonder how this fits with the history fo TKD from the WTF perspective?
From the first class I remember Hee-Il Cho, Jung-Tae Park…
These are a couple big names who attended the first international instructor’s course for the ITF. You may recognize Hee-Il Cho as the subject of several other ongoing threads.
Yup. That's true. A few other Gwan did, but switched back to Taesudo while Choi was in Malaysia. Did he make any mention of Taesudo at all?
Originally Posted by Matt W.
Nam Taehi is owed a great deal of credit for the Changhon tul if my memory serves correctly.
Originally Posted by Matt W.
BTW, Nam was also not one of Choi's students, but a Cheongdogwan master who joined Odogwan to help Choi.
Good question. Lemme get back to you.
Originally Posted by Matt W.
Originally Posted by Matt W.
I'm off the day after Christmas. I promise, I'll get to it.
Originally Posted by Matt W.
If the ITF had accepted the changes Grandmaster Cho wanted to make, imagine how different it would be...
Originally Posted by Matt W.
Sorim Jang Gwon was too strong for the TKD.
Choi also mentions different competition rules with the KTA than the ITF. He does not say what those rule difference are? Also, he was the president of the KTA, didn’ he develop the competition rules? And if the KTA rules were the precursor to WTF rules, how can he call them ridiculous (which he does) compared to the no contact crap he endorsed?
More Tuls: Choi does include (v.2 p.130) the fact that members of the KTA (which appears to no longer be under his direction and is somewhat in opposition to the ITF) contribute their own forms to Taekwon-do.
Okay, this post is to summarize the rest of volume 2. Unfortunately I did not have the time to take any specific notes as I read, but had to read straight through since the book had to be returned.
This section of the memoirs seems to focus on two aspects of TKD development. On the one hand you have the KTA and Korean development of TKD and on the other hand you have the ITF and the International development of TKD.
On the international side you have Choi leading demonstration after demonstration. At first, with the blessings of the Korean gov’t (and support of Korean Embassies), and then later (after the split) in opposition. During that time, Choi claims he and the ITF were victims of interference by the KCIA! These demonstrations are as previously described, not consisting of challenge matches or real fighting, but of forms and breaking. I found it surprising how much official attention these demos got from the host nations. These were all described as official events with gov’t representatives attending.
As far as the KTA, and the split between Choi/Korea, KTA/ITF and eventually WTF/ITF, Choi depicts it as being a big conspiracy by the old Kwans in Korea (particularly people like Ki Hwang) to oust him and take over TKD. It appears that while Choi was away doing demonstrations (and supposedly developing TKD) the old Kwans, united under the KTA did their own developing. They came up with their own forms, and their own competition rules. There was, according to Choi, some attempt to have him approve of these new forms, which he claims he did compromise some on.
Even after Choi founded the ITF, it appears there still was some working together between the two orgs. Choi got a guy elected to the presidency of the KTA (Young something Kim, IIRC) who was either an ITF member, or at least sympathetic to the ITF. Choi hoped this guy would move the KTA in an ITF direction. And for a while it seems that there was some agreement that the ITF would be responsible for disseminating TKD abroad, while the KTA was responsible for TKD in Korea. However, even at this point it seems the two orgs had different techniques (forms) and different sparring/competition rules. Choi often made derogatory references to the KTA’s TKD as a “Taekown-do karate hybrid.”
It seems this supposed cooperation between Choi/ITF and the KTA was short lived. I forget which actually happened first, but at some point the KTA formed the WTF to compete with the ITF and Choi (fearing conspiratorial attacks on his life or kidnapping) fled Korea to Canada. At that point the ITF and Choi were considered persona non grata. The WTF took over many of the international TKD orgs that Choi had founded on his goodwill tours and demos making them a part of the WTF. Other of these orgs chose to stay as part of the ITF. Many international instructors also went over to the WTF. And the rest is history.
Also, in this volume, Choi mentions a couple other noteworthy events. He mentions how he and Mas Oyama had some kind of “adoption as brothers” ceremony. He says that the WTF put out slanders against him, including that Nam Tae-Hi developed all his Tuls and that the first TKD book he wrote was a rip-off of a previously published book on karate. He also mentions visiting North Korea, including a particularly disgusting interlude where Dictator Kim claims the only reason North Korea is lagging behind is because of the large military they are forced to maintain due to the threat of Imperialistic Japan and the US.
As far as the development of TKD, Choi is not specific at all in regards to technique or any real differences in the approach to fighting. He mentions “flying techniques” and that’s about it. He also goes into absolutely no details regarding his own training or what specifically he did to “test” the martial art he was supposedly developing. The greatest specifics given all have to do with the POLITICAL development of TKD. He goes into great detail regarding exactly who was at what meeting and who was president of this or that org.
You'll find that with most sources on TKD's development.
There will be long sections on who was who in different political interactions, committees, etc, and very little information on who was actually developing the art.
Kim Unyong gets all kinds of praise (still...) for his political work to get TKD into the Olympics and spread around the world, yet his black belt was honorary, and he never developed anything as far as techique.
I started reading these memoirs already having a rather dim opinion of Choi Hong-Hi. My opinion has not been changed by reading them. However, I certainly feel more qualified to criticize! Coming into this I had several questions that I hoped to have answered.
1. What was Choi’s own background in training in the MA?
2. What real fights, if any, did Choi participate in?
3. What exactly was the method Choi used to develop TKD’s supposedly superior techniques?
4. What role did Choi and the ITF play in the development of TKD before the split?
For #1 I found a rather typical “traditional” karate training background. It was, by implication, Shotokan and the only rank Choi claims is a vague reference to being a black belt. Descriptions of the type of training include rows of people punching and kicking the air, and tales of Choi kicking trees and breaking roofing tiles.
For #2 Choi claims many street fights, usually with Judoka, and one public non-contact sparring match. Most of the street fights end with Choi pummeling his opponent until they fall down. The sparring match is declared a victory by the spectators, though since he never actually hit anyone, who cares? And after he starts developing TKD he doesn’t mention anything about fighting anymore. Which seems to me like a piss poor way to develop a fighting art.
For #3, I got nothing. The memoirs do not address this at all. Disappointing to be sure, and according to some, not unusual since Choi instead focuses on the political development of the art. However, since I already had a dim opinion of Choi, I found this to be rather suspicious. It has been claimed by some that Nam Tae Hi was the one who actually did the “mat work” when it came to developing the Chang Hon/ITF style of TKD. It is also pretty obvious that for a long time any developments to the art still left it looking like a Koreanized (read that as “more kicking) version of karate. So I have a feeling that all Choi did was a bunch of… you guessed it… THEORIZING about the martial arts. And though he claims to have used “scientific principles”, he never did any actual testing of his art at all. But it was most likely others, like Nam, that actually created the forms and other so-called new techniques.
For #4 I think it is pretty obvious from comparing the memoirs to other sources that Choi did have a big part in propagating TKD throughout the world. He used his military authority, and later his position as an ambassador to give TKD an official weight. He was able to arrange demos with political figures around the world. Unfortunately for him, not everyone subscribed to his view that TKD was “his” and so they also continued to do their own thing and develop TKD in his absence. Then, partly due to his political views (wanting South Korean President Park impeached, for example) and partly due to the fact that he had lost control (not that he ever really had it) of the development of TKD, he left Korea. At that point, without the official backing of the Korean gov’t, the ITF struggled while the WTF took off, eventually becoming an Olympic sport.
And finally, here’s a few of my thoughts about the books themselves. First, they were published by the ITF. We have a name for that in America. It’s called a Vanity Press. For someone who claims to be such an important figure in Korean History (not just TKD!) it seems odd that he could not get a legitimate publishing house to publish his memoirs. When I tried to get a copy from the library, they had to do a lot of detective work to find a copy for interlibrary loan. They found the only copy in any US library! 1 copy only.
Second, the books were riddled with typos. They had the same person’s name spelled different ways throughout (Nam Tae-Hi, Nahm Tae-Hee, etc.), with a constant switching back and forth between the Asian and Western way of placing the surname. There was one point where the same story was repeated three times in succession. And there were a bunch of plain old typos and spelling errors.
Third, and last, the memoirs were disjointed. He jumped back and forth and was very unclear and ambiguous on dates. Mostly, he simply didn’t bother to mention dates at all.
There were some interesting things in these memoirs, but mostly they were a disappointment. Unless you are a huge fan of Choi’s, or really into researching TKD history, avoid them.
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