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The Taekwon-do History You Probably  Never Knew!  

by Stuart Anslow

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Many people enjoy a bit of History, none more so when it comes to our beloved art. Its why, in the 6 books I have written, even though one is an in-depth history book and the other 5 are not, all six of them contain some history sections in them. History is of course the past that shaped the future, but it doesn't always have to be deep or in depth, sometimes it nice just to read something that makes you go ‘Ah! that's interesting’ or ‘Hmmm... I never knew that!’, giving you a little extra knowledge and a smile, before moving on to whatever else you had to do that day. And so, I present 12 snippets of Taekwon-do (related) History You Probably Never Knew!



Originally (or at least in 1965), there were only 8 Kup grades in Taekwon-Do, represented by 4 belts: White (8th/7th Kup), Blue (6th/5th Kup), Brown (4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Kup) and Black (Dan levels). Once Taekwon-Do started growing beyond its roots, a few years later the brown belt was replaced by a red belt (as blue, red, black represent Korean Aristocracy - this was around 1968 I believe), then a few years after that (around 1971/72) General Choi introduced Yellow and Green belts and updated the system to 10 Kup ranks, with each full belt colour representing 2 Kup grades each, using 'tags' for the 'odd numbered' grades.

We often learn about the 3 Kingdoms of Korea - Silla, Baekje and Goguryo... but did you know there was (for a time) actually a 4th Kingdom... Known as 'Gaya'. It was sandwiched between Baekje and Silla! There have been many other important Kingdoms throughout Koreas history, such as its very first; Gojoseon, as well as the Jin State, Balhae, Hubaekje, Hugoguryeo (both which later reverted to the historical names of Baekje and Goruryo).

The Kingdom of 'Silla' was founded by King Park Hyeokgeose and this is the origins of the Korean surname 'Park' ala GM Park, Jung Tae etc.


Won-Hyo is known throughout history as a famous Buddhist monk, but before he found religion, he was a Hwa-Rang warrior!



All 9th Kups (and higher) know that Chon-Ji has '2 similar parts' and they represent 'Heaven & Earth' - however, it also has a 3rd part and this represents 'Humanity'



At 1st Dan we learn the pattern 'Ge-Baek' and at 3rd Dan we learn the pattern 'Yoo-Sin'. Both were legendary Korean warriors.. but did you know, they actually fought each other and, as with the film 'Highlander' (quite a well known term)... there was only one! (Survivor), as this battle was where Ge-Baek was to perish!





Whilst many may say they do 'ITF' Taekwon-Do or 'ITF Style' Taekwon-Do or 'WTF' Taekwondo.... neither 'ITF' or 'WTF' are the actual 'styles' of TKD; they are the 'organisational' names of groups that administer 'things' relating to that style's usage (competitions, training, gradings, even organisational updates etc.) .. the correct terms (though some may argue against them) is Ch'ang Hon TKD (so named after General Choi's pen-name) or Kukki TKD (Kukki meaning 'National' aka National art of Korea)!


Though, the term ‘Kukki’  is now synonymous with the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters - built in 1972) and WTF (World Taekwondo Federation - founded in 1973), the term was used much earlier, in relation to Taekwon-Do, by General Choi Hong Hi, when in 1965, he named his travelling demonstrations of Taekwon-Do the ‘Kukki Taekwondo Goodwill Tour’. A tour incidentally sponsored by the South Korean Government!


Ahn Joong-Gun, from the 4th Kup pattern Joong-Gun is famously known as a freedom fighter for Korea against the Japanese occupation. However, what you might not know is that before joining the resistance to fight for his country, he ran his own coal business, then shortly after, he established his own private schools and became a teacher before finally becoming the freedom fighter he is so renowned for.



Ahn Joong-Gun was also a Catholic and his baptismal name was Thomas. He remained Catholic throughout his life and whilst awaiting his trial and execution, he insisted on being called Thomas by his captors.




The South Korean flag (the Taegukgi), which is proudly displayed in many dojangs around the world, wasn’t just the flag of South Korea, but was actually the flag of a undivided Korea, pre North/South divide. Once the country was split into two, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea designed a new flag of their own.




The current South Korean President; Park Geun Hye, is the daughter of former President; Park Chung Hee, who took power via a military coup in the 1960's. But what you might not know is that earlier in both their military careers, General Choi sat on a court martial panel that convicted Park Chung Hee (prior to the coup). It was President Park Chung Hee that forced General Choi to become Ambassador of Malaysia (where General Choi and others designed the majority of the Ch'ang Hon patterns), and later to self-exile himself and the ITF, to Canada.


In virtually all Taekwon-Do books, including recent releases they list Do-San's birth year as 1876 (and this includes General Choi's own encylopedia's) and this is further copied all over the web. However, the 'Encyclopaedia of Taekwon-do' and countless other references are wrong, as Ahn Chang-Ho was actually born in the year 1878 and not 1876. I found this out whilst researching my first book (in 2005) and later found that the only correct reference to it is found in Grandmaster Hee Il Cho’s book, The Complete Tae Kwon-Do Hyung, Vol 1. I further comfirmed this, when I visited his grave, in South Korea, in 2015.

General Choi has also comfirmed this (although it has yet to be translated to English) in 'Taekwon-Do & I -  vol. 3'

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