Gen. Choi Hong Hi
IX. Dan Grandmaster

He has proved his
extraordinary stamina
even at the age of 83.

General Choi Hong Hi, the legendary founder of Taekwon-do, was born on November 9, 1918 in Hwa-Dae, Myong-Chun district, in the North Eastern part of the Korean peninsula. From his childhood he learned the art of calligraphy and studied the ancient Korean martial art Taek-kyon. After seven years of learning calligraphy and intensive training in Taek-kyon he had moved to Japan to continue his higher education. First he began college in Kyoto and later, while at the law faculty of Choong Ang University in Tokyo, he mastered Japanese karate as well. When he had returned to Korea he had already been working eagerly to create his own new martial art. He also participated as the planner of the Korean Independence Movement against the Japanese occupation of his country. Because of this the Japanese authorities imprisoned him and later sentenced him to death. Luckily three days before the execution on August 15, 1945, Korea was liberated, the Japanese occupation ended and Choi could walk out of the prison’s gate as a free man.

Choi Hong Hi chose military profession and he received his degree at the Seoul Military Academy in 1946. As one of the founding members of the new South Korean armed forces he reached a brilliant military career and he was ranked as a two star general. During the 1950’s, as a highly influential officer, he founded his challenging new martial art, based mainly on scientific principles, superior foot technics and the Korean spiritual way. Because it was first introduced by the army, at the beginning Taekwon-do was often also called “Military Karate” by the westerners. Commander Choi first started to teach his new martial art in his 29-th infantry "fist division" to his own soldiers and they were also the first to use it in real combat situation. On the proposal of Gen. Choi the name “Taekwon-do” was officially recognized in Korea on April 11, 1955, and since then it is celebrated as the original birthday of Taekwon-do.

During the presidency of Gen. Choi, the first Korean Taekwon-do Federation was formed in September 1959. Because of strong political pressure, he had to retire as a general from the army in 1961 but later, in 1962, he was appointed to Korea’s Ambassador to Malaysia. With the participation of nine member countries, he founded the International Taekwon-do Federation in Seoul, on March 22, 1966, and he also acted as the president of ITF until his death. From the beginning of the 1970’s he definitely confronted against the regime of the South-Korean dictator-president. As a consequence, he had to emigrate to Canada in 1972, as a political refugee, and later he received Canadian citizenship.

Since 1973 Choi Hong Hi became a so called “Traveler Ambassador” of Taekwon-do. He was often transferring from one flight to the other and during the past decades he visited almost every countries of the world to spread his art everywhere. Even in his elderly years he was performing demonstrations, training camps, seminars and gradings with untiring energy to dedicate all his life to Taekwon-do. He was a real genius, a born leader, an idol to be followed by masses of people. With his suggestive personality and great knowledge he was able to draw millions of Taekwon-do students to the training halls worldwide. The noble goal of his life, to spread Taekwon-do to the entire world, finally became a complete success. Until the end of the 1990's Taekwon-do had reached an unbelievable achievement and conquered the world at the speed of wildfire. In our days Taekwon-do is practiced by many millions in more than a hundred member countries located in five continents.

The Father of Taekwon-do, -or “The little Giant” as his biographers kindly call him - died at the age of 84 in Pyongyang, North Korea after a short period of serious illness. The last great martial art founder of the 20th century passed away forever on June 15, 2002…