Taekwondo Organizations

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The largest taekwondo organizations are the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) and International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). The WTF is headquartered in South Korea and was founded in 1973 by a group of various national taekwondo teams. Its purpose is to coordinate international competition events under the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Although the terms “WTF” and “Kukkiwon” are often mistakenly used interchangeably to refer to this organization, the Kukkiwon is a completely different organization which trains and certifies instructors and issues official dan and Poom certificates worldwide.

The Kukkiwon has its own unique physical building that contains the administrative offices of Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters) in Seoul, South Korea. The Kukkiwon was founded in 1972.

The unofficial training headquarters of the International Taekwondo Federation is located at the Taekwondo Palace located in Pyongyang, North Korea and was founded in the mid-1990s. Today, the International Taekwondo Federation is splintered into three different groups, all claiming to be the original. The three are located in Austria, Canada and North Korea.

Outside of the World Taekwondo Federation and the International Taekwondo Federation, a large number of organizations exist, such as American Taekwondo Federation(ATF), ATA, UITF, USTF, MTA (Midwest Taekwondo Association),(IPTF) International Progressive Taekwondo Federation, TAGB, WTA and so on.

These private organizations require that students belong to a member club or school. Events and competitions held by private organizations are mostly closed to other Taekwondo students. However, the WTF-sanctioned events allow any person, regardless of school affiliation or martial arts style, to compete in World Taekwondo Federation events as long as he or she is a member of the WTF Member National Association in his or her nation, which is open to anyone to join.

The major technical differences among these many organizations revolve around the patterns, called hyeong 형, poomsae 품새, or tul 틀, sets of prescribed formal sequences of movements that demonstrate mastery of posture, positioning, and technique, sparring rules for competition (e.g. ITF light-contact versus WTF full-contact), and philosophy.

In addition to these private organizations, the original schools (kwans) that formed the organization that would eventually become the Kukkiwon continue to exist as independent fraternal membership organizations that support the WTF and the Kukkiwon. The official curriculum of the kwans is that of the Kukkiwon. The kwans also function as a channel for the issuing of Kukkiwon dan and poom certification (black belt ranks) for their members.

Each kwan has its own individual pledge of tenets and manners that describes the organization’s goals for personal improvement. For example, the tenets of Oh Do Kwan and the ITF are: courtesy (ye-ui 예의), integrity (yom-chi 염치), perseverance (in-nae 인내), self-control (geuk-gi 극기), and indomitable spirit (baek-jeol-bul-gul 백절불굴). The Jidokwan manners are: view, feel, think, speak, order, contribute, have ability, and conduct rightly.

Some organizations also recognize one or two additional tenets beyond the five original Oh Do Kwan tenets; these are community service (sa-hui-bong-sa 사회봉사) and love (sa-rang 사랑).