In 1952, at the height of the Korean War, Republic of Korea President Seung Man Rhee, on his birthday, watched a half-hour demonstration by Song Duk-Ki, Tae Hi Nam, and other Korean martial arts masters that was organized by General Choi. Rhee was particularly impressed with Tae Hi Nam's breaking demonstration (he broke 13 roofing tiles with one downward punch). President Rhee pointed to his knuckle and asked General Choi, "Is this the part used to break the tile?" To which Choi replied, "Yes Sir," then the President turned toward the other generals in audience and said, "This is Taekkyon" I want to see of our soldiers train in this art. Rhee watched the demonstration with great interest and did not sit down once during the thirty minutes performance. He was so impressed that he asked for it to continue after the planned program concluded. Since nothing was planned, Nam Tae Hi and Han Cha Kyo (1934-1996) assembled materials and did a variety of breaks. The demonstration clearly distinguished Taekwondo from Japanese karate that had been introduced by the Japanese rulers. The President was so impressed with what he saw that he ordered Korean martial arts to be made a part of regular military training. This single act was to have a far-reaching effect on Korean martial arts.
While it is true that many of the other generals in the Korean Army did not want Choi to teach Tangsoodo to their soldiers, the president's declaration made it easier to introduce Tangsoodo to the rest of the Army. To do this, Choi needed to build an institute to train and produce martial arts instructors.
In June of 1954, the Fist Division left Cheju Island to become a part of the Second Corp, located in He Kang Won Province in Eastern part of Korea
When the 29th Division moved its headquarters to Yong Dae Ri, located in He Kang Won Province, west of Sulrak Mountain, in the eastern part of Korea, to become a part of the Second Corps, Choi ordered a gymnasium to be built there. He named it Oh Do Kwan and it was there that Master Nam Tae Hi began to teach Tangsoodo to military instructors. Choi recruited instructors from the different kwans as instructors. The new kwan was based upon the principles used by the Chungdokwan (which Choi commanded in late 1954). This interest in the martial arts caused a tremendous surge in Taekkyon/karate schools and students.
On May 25, 1953, while the war was still raging, representatives of the five original kwans (Chung-do-kwan, Song-moo-kwan, Yun-moo-kwan/=Ji-do-kwan, YMCA Kwon-bup/Chang-moo-kwan and Moo-duk-kwan) met in Pusan and formed the Korea Kong-Soo-Do Association. Choi Hong Hi was not a member of this group and thus did not attend the organizational meeting. The association did not elect a president. They elected Young-Joo Cho (a Yudo stylist) as Vice-President and Pyong-Chik Ro (Sang-mu-kwan founder) as the Executive Director. The various Directors were Kee Hwang (founder of Mu-dok-kwan), Chong-Woo Lee (Chi-do-kwan), Yon-Kue Pyang (Chi-do-kwan), Jong-Myung Hyun (Chong-do-kwan), Nam-Suk Lee (Chang-mu-kwan), and In-Hwa Kim (Yudo). Pyong-Chik Ro was established as "the master instructor" and as "the chair of the rank promotion committee." Eventually dissension set in, and the association dissolved. Chong-do-kwan continued to describe its art as Kong-su-do until about 1962.
There was an "instructor shortage" in Korea in the early 1950s, and "it was hard to find a dojang," probably both because of the youth of the art in Korea and because many instructors were in the military. Various military units trained in Kong-su-do distinguished themselves in the war, including the Korean Twenty-Ninth Infantry Division (formed by Choi in 1953) and the Black Tigers, an elite unit involved in espionage and assassination missions behind enemy lines. Many lives were lost in the conflict. Sang-Sup Chun (founder of the Yun-mu-kwan) and Pyung-In Yun (founder of the Chang-mu-kwan) were both listed as missing in action. Other masters continued to spread Korean martial arts throughout the world. Later in 1952 after the presidential demonstration, Tae Hi Nam was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, for special training in radio communications. During his stay in Georgia, Tae demonstrated his art to both the military and the public, further publicizing Korea's fighting art.
After the war ended, Choi Hong Hi and Tae Hi Nam founded the Oh-do-kwan within the military and for military personnel only, although it had strong links with the civilian chung-do-kwan which Choi later founded in 1954. Choi claims to be the developer of the changhon set of patterns used by the International Taekwondo Federation, but some believe they came from Tae Hi Nam, who had much more experience and training in the martial arts than Choi, who was his commanding officer. Special groups of martial arts trained commandos were formed to fight against North Korean communist forces. Some of these groups distinguished themselves, including the 29th Infantry Division, which was formed on Che-ju Island in 1953 under the command of now General Choi Hong Hi. The unit was responsible for all Taekkyon training in the Korean Army (their flag was a martial arts fist). Another distinguished unit was the Black Tigers, an elite commando unit involved in espionage missions behind enemy lines, including assassinations.
In September 1953, Hwang Kee (Moo-duk-kwan) resigned from the Korea Kong-Soo-Do Association and formed the Korea Tang-Soo Association, but it was renamed in 1960 to the more Korean name the Subak-Do Association. Hwang's first manual was published in 1950. The style taught by the Mu-duk-kwan was first called Hwasudo (flowering hand way), which was changed to Tang-soo-do in the early 1950's to reflect Korea's long cultural brotherhood with China. Hwang discovered a copy of the Muye dobo t'ongji (c. 1790s) in 1957 and began to study it extensively, using it to link Tang-soo-do to the pre-occupation martial arts tradition of Subak.
Unification of Kwans
Following the liberation of Korea on August 15, 1945, Taekwondo entered a new phase. Most of the masters thought all the traditional and various martial arts schools should be united during the Japan occupation. The leaders and pioneers wanted to distinguish Korea's own martial arts from other foreign arts and re-establish traditional Korean fighting skills. Unifying and developing Taekwondo into a National Sport became the agreed objective for the Taekwondo leaders and pioneers; however, unification of the Korean arts was slow. Fragmented by the pre-war secrecy of their teachings and the post-war confusion of reconstruction, it took years before the different arts were able to consolidate into a single martial art. During this period of war, several kwan leaders who were living in the Korean wartime capital of Pusan formed an alliance and vowed to create a governing body.
In 1946, the founders of the five major kwans agreed to associate and organize a unified Association. Representatives Lee Won Kuk (Chung-do-kwan), Chun Sang Sup (Joseon-yu-moo-kwan Kong-soo-do-bu), Yoon Byung In (YMCA Kwon-bup bu) and Ro, Byung Jick (Song-moo-kwan) had several meetings to accomplish their objective. Despite their eagerness and agreement, there were misunderstandings that could not be overcome. After the attempted association failed, each Kwan concentrated on training its younger generation. Unexpectedly, the Korean War broke out and many leaders were separated from their kwans and scattered north and south. This was a period of chaos and disorder.
During the Korean War, the Taekwondo men who were refugees in the temporary capital city of Pusan, agreed to organize an Association and finally decided to found the Korea Kong Soo Do Association. The organizing members were Ro Byung Jick, Yoon Kwe Byung, Son Duk Sung, Lee Nam Suk, Lee Chong Woo, Hyun Jong Myun, Jo Young Joo, and Kim In Hwa. To build public confidence, the association included non-Taekwondo men but the key players were the Taekwondo practitioners.
The first President, Jo Young Joo, was head of the Association of Korean Residents in Japan. Less than a month after the founding of the new association, Moo Duk Kwan President Hwang Kee withdrew from the association because he was not given a position on the Central Testing Committee. A month after Kee's withdrawal, Chung Do Kwan President Son Duk Sung withdrew for the same reason. Therefore, the attempt for the complete unification of all the kwans did not work. After Hwang Kee returned to Seoul, he personally organized the Korea Tang Soo Do Association and was eager to join the Korea Amateur Sports Association.
After Yoon Kwe Byung and Ro Byung Jik realized the seriousness of the situation, they submitted a petition to stop the Korea Tang Soo Do Association from joining the Korea Amateur Sports Association and were successful. The new President of the Korea Kong Soo Do Association was Lee Joong Jae, who was the ROK Minister of Finance, with Min Kwan Sik's recommendation. The Chief Director was Ro Byung Jik and the Secretary General was Lee Chong Woo. The role of the Korea Kong Soo Do Association was to test and qualify promotions and issue official recognition of dan rank. To unify all the dan ranks, the seniors were promoted to 4th dan.
The first and second promotion tests of official recognition were held in the temporary central dojang of the Chung Do Kwan, which held classes in Si Chun Church (Hope Wedding Hall) in the evenings. The third and fourth promotion tests were held at the Chae Shin Bu Dojang (next to the old Capitol Building), which was run by Lee Nam Suk. Ro Byung Jik and Yoon Kwe Byung took full charge of the testing committee, but Hwang Kee had trouble relating and did not participate. After a few months, the association began to breakup.
In 1953, majority of the kwan masters met and chose Tae-soo-do as the name for Korea's developing martial art. The masters agreed to merge their various styles under the new name for the mutual benefit of all the schools. However, two years later, a movement developed to find a new name for this evolving art.
Taekwondo Gets Its Name
The year 1955 signaled the beginning of Taekwondo as a formally recognized martial art in Korea. As previously mentioned, in the 1950's, General Choi Hong Hi had developed and was teaching a new style of Taekkyon he called Taekwondo to the Korean army, air force, and police. At the time, his Taekwondo was a merely Korean version of Shotokan karate that he had learned in Japan.
On April 11, 1955, a special board composed of many martial arts grandmasters, archeologists, historians, and prominent leaders met to develop a new name for Tae-soo-do. Attending the board were Mr. Yoo Hwa Chung; Mr. Son Duk Sung director of the Chung Do Gym; General Choi Hong Hi Commander of the 3rd District and head of the chung-do-kwan; General Lee Hyung Kun the Joint Chief of Staff; Mr. Cho Kyung Kyu the Vice Speaker of the National Assembly; Mr. Chung Dae Chun Senator, Mr. Han Chang Won President of Political Newspaper; Mr. Chang Kyung Rok; Mr. Hong Soon Ho; Mr. Ko Kwang Rae; and Mr. Hyun Jong Myung.
At this meeting, some members favored the names Tangsoo and Kongsoo, but General Choi proposed that the new art should be called Taekwondo. Duk Sung Son says that he passed a piece of paper to Choi suggesting the name and that Choi took credit for it. Since Taekwondo translates to "tae" meaning a kick or strike with the foot, "kwon" meaning a punch or strike with the fist, and "do" meaning the way of, it described the arts use of strikes using both hands and feet. The name Taekwondo was unanimously adopted by the board, but Mr. Yoo said " I completely agree with the name of Taekwondo submitted by General Choi Hong Hi, I think, however, it would be utterly significant that we have the approval from the President Synghman Rhee since giving a name to a martial art is so important". All the members unanimously agreed. The name was sent to President Rhee. At first, President Rhee rejected the name, preferring to use the traditional name Taekkyon. General Choi approached Mr. Kwak Yong Joo, the President's Chief of Staff, and Mr. Suh Jung Hak, the Director of the President's Protective Forces, and explained to them that this was a new art, much different from the old art of Taekyon. He asked them to try to persuade the President to accept the new name. Finally, Choi received permission from President Rhee to use the new name Taekwondo.
After receiving the President's approval, Choi ordered the old Tangsoo signs in front of his Oh Do Kwan and Chung Do Kwan to be replaced with the new Taekwondo signs and he instructed the legendary Master Nam Tae Hee that Taekwondo soldiers say "Taekwon" when they salute each other. The name of Taekwondo gradually spread through the military ranks through Oh Do Kwan and to civilian students through Chung Do Kwan. The Third Military District Command in Tae Jon became one of the main centers of this new art.
Although most of the kwans merged under the common name of Taekwondo, there were a few who did not. It has never been clear which of the original eight did merge but Moo-duk-kwan remained a separate art called Tang-soo-do and Hapkido remains as a recognized separate art in itself. The new Taekwondo name appealed to the newly nationalistic Koreans since it was a totally Korean expression. It also had a close connection with the old name Taekkyon, in both pronunciation and meaning. It indicated that the art employed both hands and feet, unlike terms such as tang-so (Chinese hand) or karate (empty hand), which imply hand techniques only. Since this eventful meeting, Taekwondo has been recognized worldwide as the name for the Korean martial arts.
Over the next few decades, modern Taekwondo began to emerge from its Taekkyon and Shotokan karate roots.