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Choi Hong Hi


Born in the Myong Chun district (of what is now North Korea), Choi Hong Hi (1918-2002) is regarded by the ITF association as the founder of Taekwondo, a martial art where most of its techniques are represented by kicks.

Choi Hong Hi (1918-2002)
Choi Hong Hi (1918-2002)
Photo:
Ctz17/ License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

He was a South Korean army general, from where his nickname "General Choi" came.

While studying Chinese characters and calligraphy under master Han Il Dong, this last introduced him to Taek Kyon (an ancient Korean art of foot fighting) to improve his frail physique. He will learn later Karate while studying English and mathematics in Japan.

Taek Kyon´s lessons had to be practiced secretly because since Japanese occupation of Korea in 1910, the teaching of martial arts was forbidden.

He had been forced to serve in the Japanese army during World War II, but was implicated in a rebellion and imprisoned. Released after Japan´s defeat, he would soon join the South Korean army, where he rised to the rank of general, retiring in 1965.

During his time in the army, besides teaching martial arts to some of his soldiers, he developed a new martial art, which was named by him as 'Taekwondo' in 1955. Eventually he trained instructors in Taekwondo for the entire South Korean army.

The first Taekwondo association - ITF (International Taekwondo Federation) - would be founded in 1966 with Choi Hong as president.

Because of disagreements with the South Korea´s government, who did not want Taekwondo to be taught in North Korea, Choi Hong voluntarily exiled himself and moved ITF´s headquarters from Seoul to Toronto, Canada in 1972, and then to Vienna, Austria in 1985.

South Korea would create in 1973 another association - WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) - who discredits Choi Hong's role and uses different rules and procedures, but retained the name 'Taekwondo'.

Residing since his exile in Toronto, Canada, Hong Choi decided to return to Korea after learning that he was suffering from a stomach cancer. He passed away in Pyongyang in 2002.

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