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This issue is one of high contention, and debate among experts. After leaving Korea in 1972, General Hong Hi Choi established the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) in Canada. After this, and into his later years, he became more vocal about his claims that the art of "Taekwon-Do" was his, that he created it, and often called himself the "Father of Taekwon-Do." Many followers of his ITF organization also makes this same claim. Many others disagree with this. One must know the whole story to make an informed decision.

The origins of Korean Taekwondo are based in a combination of many sources. In 1944, Korean college Professor Won Kuk Lee opened the first official school of Korean Martial Art in Korea taught by a Korean, which he called "Chung Do Kwan." He based his teaching on his early introduction to Tae kkyeon (Korea's native kicking method), and the Tang Soo Do, that he coined as the Korean version of Chinese Hand fighting, and the Japanese Shotokan Karate training he received under Gichen Funakoshi while living and attending college in Japan during WWII.

After WWII ended (1945), many other Kwans (schools) opened in and around Seoul. Several of these were "annex" Kwans opened by Black Belt graduate students of the Chung Do Kwan. One such Kwan was the military Oh Do Kwan, founded by General Choi Hong Hi, and Nam Te Hi - both former Chung Do Kwan students under GM Won Kuk Lee. General Choi also claimed to have been influenced as a child by the ancient Korean Kicking method of Tae kkyeon (aka: "Tae kyon"), and was also a student of Shotokan Karate under Gichen Funakoshi, however Won Kuk Lee had been a senior Black Belt of higher rank under Funakoshi.

Some key figures important in the organization and development of Taekwondo as a modern Korean Martial Art included the first generation graduates of the Chung Do Kwan:

Duk Sung Son (3rd Kwanjang of the Chung Do Kwan - Founder of World Taekwondo Association)

Suh Chong Kang (Founder of Kyu Mu Kwan - Co-founder and 1st President of ATA: American Taekwondo Association)

Woon Kyu Uhm (current Chung Do Kwan Kwanjang and Kukkiwon President)

Later Graduates of the Chung Do Kwan include:

Hae Man Park (Vice President, Taekwondo Chung Do Kwan)

Hyun Ok Shin (President, United Chung Do Kwan Association)

Tae Zee Park (President, Tae Park Taekwondo)

In Mook Kim (President, American ChungDoKwan Taekwondo Association)

Edward B. Sell (Founder, United States Chung Do Kwan Association in 1967)

Jhoon Rhee (First permanent Tae Kwon Do Instructor in America)

In the early years following WWII, there were five original Kwans.

1. Chung Do Kwan

2. Song Moo Kwan

3. Moo Duk Kwan

4. Kwon Bop Bu/Chang Moo Kwan

5. Yun Moo Kwan/Jidokwan

By 1955, there were about 18 Kwans teaching a variety of Martial Art systems under many different names. Some of the skills included Korean Yudo based on Judo, Hapkido based on Aikujutsu and similar to Aikido but with kicks, Chinese hand fighting, and Japanese Karate, and the native kicking tactics borrowed from Tae kkyeon. In an effort to establish one national Martial Art, and choose a new name for this art, a few students of the Chung Do Kwan, including Choi Hong Hi, consulted a Korean dictionary to come up with the name "Taekwon." On April 11, 1955, leaders of the largest civilian Kwan (Chung Do Kwan), and the military Oh Do Kwan met with prominent politicians, and historians for the purpose of voting on a name from ballots submitted. It is disputed as to who actually submitted the paper that said "Taekwon," but Choi claimed that it was him. The name "Taekwondo" was chosen as the name which would represent the instruction of all the Kwans combined and united together.

In 1961 the government ordered the Kwans to unite, and the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed. General Choi was elected as its first president. Later, General Choi was sent out of the country as an ambassador, and over the next several years there was dispute among the smaller Kwans about using the name Taekwondo. A compromise was made, and "Tae Soo Do" was used for a time. When General Choi returned, he insisted that the name of Taekwondo be used, and it was finally agreed upon, but General Choi's autocratic methods caused friction among the other Kwan leaders, and General Choi was forced to resign as President of the KTA.

General Choi was labeled as "the trouble maker" among the other Kwan leaders, and so they supported him starting an the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) in Korea. When General Choi began to object to the KTA's authority over the ITF, more friction ensued. When General Choi began to spread Taekwondo to communist North Korea, the government of South Korea allegedly put pressure on General Choi to resign as head of the ITF. Instead, he fled Korea to Canada, and set up an independent organization that he called the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). In 1972, the Kukkiwon building (national academy and world headquarters) was completed, and in 1973, the first World Taekwondo Championships were held, and the following day, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was formed as a sport governing body.

Nine Kwans of Taekwondo were officially recognized by the Korean Government, numbered and absorbed into the KTA:

#1. Songmookwan

#2. Hanmookwan

#3. Changmookwan

#4. Moodukkwan

#5. Odokwan

#6. Kangdukwan

#7. Jungdokwan

#8. Jidokwan

#9. Chungdokwan

#10. KwanRiKwan

The 10th Kwan was the administrative Kwan. Today, each of the original Kwans are still active in teaching their own unique variations of Taekwondo, and promoting their Kwan. Many organizations have sprung up around the world, but any legitimate school can trace its lineage back to one of the original five Kwan, with most going back to the original Chung Do Kwan under Grandmaster Won Kuk Lee, who some considered to be the true "Father of Taekwondo."

The fact is that Taekwondo was developed out of many centuries of influences which shaped the Korean culture and society, and too many individuals of modern times contributed to the development and establishment of Taekwondo as the Korean national Martial Art.

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Q: Is General Choi the father of Tae Kwon Do?
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