Q: Where did the forms of Taekwon-Do originate? How did you come to call Taekwon-Do what you did?
Gen. Choi: That is a very good question. The form came from necessity. I was born a weakling. So I tried to find something to strengthen myself to become a champion of freedom and justice. So whenever you say Taekwon-Do you are speaking of a special martial art designed in Korea by myself. I gave the name Taekwon-Do officially on April 11, 1955.
Q: Do you know whether Taekwon-Do is the most popular form in the United States and Canada right now?
Gen. Choi: It’s most popular in Malaysia and of course in Europe, in some eleven countries in Europe; but I would say that in North America most of the people do not know what it means when they hear the name Taekwon-Do. Now there are many fraudulent Taekwon-Do instructors, I would even say phony. They may get their certificate or degree from their father or father’s father or brother even though these people have no knowledge of Taekwon-Do. But North America people still try to learn under such phony instructors. So some day I hope they realize what real Taekwon-Do is and what a real Taekwon-Do instructor is. Fortunately today North America and Canada, like in Europe and Asia before, have first caliber instructors of Taekwon-Do here. So North America will now know what Taekwon-Do is.
Q: How did it come to pass that you would found a discipline in the Martial Arts? What makes a person qualified to found a new discipline?
Gen. Choi: Well, as I said in recent years there has been an upsurge in violence and loss of morality in all levels of society. So I tried to re-introduce the human spirit to the law. I thought these problems stemmed not only from the frustration but from the over development of the material and the scientific civilization. And I would say the material civilization will lead the younger to either extreme egoism or materialism of the scientifically developed civilization may see the human being with fear. So to cure this problem I took it upon myself to develop a moral civilization to prevail over or at least keep abreast with those two civilizations. Everybody will be helping each other and so maintain morality. So that is my basic philosophy, why I developed that spiritual foundation.
Q: This particular art, this philosophy, has spread very rapidly around the world. Why? Why this particular philosophy?
Gen. Choi: Why did this philosophy so rapidly develop throughout the world today? Well, that’s obvious. In Taekwon-Do every movement has been designed scientifically so that it can be learned very easily. Every single movement has a definite purpose behind. So every movement of Taekwon-Do is just like scientifically done. That’s the reason why it spread so rapidly – because of the technique I would say.
Q: So learning the technique of Taekwon-Do precedes the philosophy?
Gen. Choi: Well, the progressing of technique. Automatically the student of Taekwon-Do has to believe in his mind that every movement will be successful. Regardless of their age or race, they eventually become very meek, very modest, very humble. They know how to take care of their family or their parents differently from the animal society. The woman particularly are very happy to be strong enough to eliminate fighting and by this, Taekwon-Do discourages the stronger domination of the weaker. So there is a reason why Taekwon-Do has been so popular.
Q: Taekwon-Do is only nineteen years old. It sprang up as an art from very rapidly. It’s not so much of a question as to why Taekwon-Do sprang forward as an art form but where did these things come from. Why does any martial arts form suddenly develop develop like this? Is it because one man put them down in the right place at the right time? Or what? The question is, it doesn’t happen every day, of course.
Gen. Choi: Sure, I can say the history of Taekwon-Do. Initially, it was designed by myself, since 1945, and it took more than ten years at home to train others to be superior instructors both mentally and technically. And since 1959 I started to dispatch them overseas, where they demonstrated tehir superiority to the other nations. So they saw, and said, “Why this is fantastic. They are good gentlemen. Well, I should send my children, my weak wife, to them, to start school.” So Taekwon-Do spread mainly because they devoted themselves to pave the road for the development of Taekwon-Do all over the world. So all we say are there are men who introduced this throughout the world. For instance, J.C. Kim introduced this art to Malaysia and Hong Kong and J.S. Park introduced this art to Europe, particularly Germany and The Netherlands, in 1965-66. And Park brought this art to the Canadian people in late 1968. Until that time nobody knew what Taekwon-Do was. Then we really worked very hard. Every real International Taekwon-Do Instructor devoted himself, dedicated himself, to the development of this art.
Q: Can you tell us a little about what you were thinking in the very early formative years of your idea about Taekwon-Do? From 1945 until the founding of it.
Gen. Choi: As I say, Korea was under Japanese rule for some 36 years. In ancient times, karate was like a whole other country. Other nations had primitive movements, called by different names. There are many different kind of names, some are special, some for different techniques. But since 1945, the Korean Armed Forces were formed and many young officers tried to improve this art to the present form.
Q: And in the beginning the idea was building a better military for the protection of Korea?
Gen Choi: Right. When I was commissioned to Second Lieutenant in January, 1946, first of all my aim was to strengthen the Korean soldiers. That’s why I taught my company, my soldiers, as a company. Eventually my aim was to strengthen them as leaders and to try to nationalize them. Since 1960, I’ve been trying to make Taekwon-Do an international art. So I’m traveling around the world talking to and teaching my students wherever they are.
Q: In the early years when you were teaching your own company and your own military – that was in 1946 – did you try a lot of forms, did you experiment to scientifically test movements?
Gen. Choi: No. Every movement called Taekwon-Do has been designed by myself, as I say, since 1945. And in 1955 I gave the name to these particular movements. “Taekwon-Do.” So nobody can dispute the name or use it without my permission. Many people are just misusing the name. We are teaching the real technique.
Q: But the forms that you had, say in 1946, these forms stayed basically the same?
Gen. Choi: No…we did a primitive form until it came to its present form in 1955. I mean then I gave the name of Taekwon-Do.
Q: So there were some changes in that period of time before it was named.
Gen. Choi: Yes, that’s right, before the name was given. You know, finalizing the movements of this technique took me until 1955.
Q: How many people would you say that you’ve taught between 1945 and 1955?
Gen Choi: Numerous. Today there are more than 15 million Taekwon-Do students in 62 countries. But mainly I teach only internaitonal intructors, 4th degree or above. I cannot teach everybody. There are too many people.
Q: In 1955 when you named the discipline Taekwon-Do, did you have the vision then of making it an international art?
Gen. Choi: Of course, yes. surely.
Q: Why an international organiztion? Why try to spread the art?
Gen Choi: By exchanging cultures between nations they can understand more and put their countries on a better relationship. By introducing this art, by making everybody strong in mind and body, I expect them to be champions of freedom and justice so they can make a more peaceful world. So I say today Taekwon-Do is an international martial art, not the Korean Martial Art. The International Taekwon-Do Federation has been moved to Toronto, Canada today. Do how could you say that is a Korean martial art? Not Korean martial art, international martial art. Everyone can enjoy, everyone can teach other nations. Anyone who is 4th degree or higher can have the opportunity to go to another country to teach. How can you say that that is Korean?
Q: How many instructors started out that first year in 1955?
Gen. Choi: First they went into Vietnam in 1960, secondly to Malaysia, 1962, 1965 to Europe, 1966 to Middle East, and 1967 to Formosa (Taiwan). Today you can see that the entire Taiwan forces are under Taekwon-Do training.
Q: Which armed forces?
Gen. Choi: Taiwan. Formosa. Since 1967. There are more Kung Fu practitioners in Taiwan or in Asia than anywhere else; that is the home of Kung Fu. Kung Fu is a very nice martial art but in Asia right now, Malayasia, Singapore, Hong Kong, most Kung Fu black belts become Taekwon-Do leaders. They’ve been turning to Taekwon-Do since 1962. Today I see much Kung Fu in North America, but actually there’s more Kung Fu in Taiwan and Asia.
Q: Formosa, 1967. Canada 1968. And when was the United States?
Gen. Choi: The United States, I think it was 1967.
Q: Is there any place in the world now that doesn’t have Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: Some parts of Africa, in the North, and the Communist block. Eventually we will introduce it there.
Q: There are many in South America?
Gen. Choi: Oh yes. Most of the South America countries have Taekwon-Do.
Q: Are there any publications of the International Taekwon-Do Federation?
Gen. Choi: Well, a magazine like this.
Q: You do have a magazine?
Gen. Choi: Well of course.
Q: And it is printed in Korean?
Gen. Choi: No, in Denver, Colorado.
Q: The language is….
Gen. Choi: English
Q: Do the instructors who have gone to the various countries teach Taekwon-Do just as it was originally taught in Korea, or are there adjustments made for the type of society that you’re going to?
Gen. Choi: As far as teaching it is concerned, they just teach what they learned from me. Same theory, same movements, same philosophy.
Q: What about the number of hours of discipline that are involved. I have talked to people who have gone to Japan or have studied martial arts in Mexico or in South America, and they say that their regimentation, their conditioning is very, very hard. It’s not a matter of just working out an hour a day, but it’s two hours or three hours. They look a little sideways at North Americans because most of the schools go in for maybe an hour a day, maybe two or three times a week.
Gen. Choi: It all depends. For instance, the armed forces or the police forces do reuqire that the student can run for four hours. five hours. But the ordinary student attends three days per week, or four or five days , on hour and a half hours.
Q: So you would say that the discipline, the conditioning, all depends on how fast you want to learn, whether or not you go twice a week…
Gen. Choi: It depends on your students and instructors, on how they can show the students what discipline is. They just demonstrate and correct the student’s mistakes.
Q: There are no weapon forms in Taekwon-Do. Is that right?
Gen. Choi: Weapon forms…what do you mean?
Q: Nunchakus, the Oriental hand weapons.
Gen. Choi: Well, every time you say Martial Arts, particularly Taekwon-Do, we mean just punch, kick, block. We use just hand and foot . That’s the definition, whenever, whereever necessities arise. Under any situation. So whenever you use, depend on weapons, that isn’t Taekwon-Do anymore. We teach the student how to defend himself against an armed opponent or sudden attack. But we never, you see, have student demonstrators who use weapons. That is not Taekwon-Do. If they start to use a knife, they can use a cannon some day, or atomic weapons. So we don’t consider that as martial art. That is not Taekwon-Do. That’s why we like to produce power on the body of the weak person, and to make the stronger person more strong, with a strong mental foundation. Mental education is our weapon.
Q: Why did you choose Canada?
Gen. Choi: Why did I select Canada for the home of the International Taekwon-Do Federation? That is also a very good question. Personally, I believe that Canada is the most prosperous country and the General Assembly delegates felt that Canada would locate the Martial Arts centrally between Europe and Latin America. Better mailing service meant more correspondence between countries, meant it would be easy to spread this art to every nation. That’s why they decided to move to Toronto, Canada. So their idea just coincided with my personal opinion.
Q: How many international instructors are ther ein Taekwon-Do today? In other words, fourth degree or higher?
Gen. Choi: Not all fourth degrees are necessarily international instructors. There are many thousands, hundreds of thousands of fourth degrees in black belt. They, in general, are qualified to be international Taekwon-Do instructors. That means to become an international Taekwon-Do instructorthey must come to the international center of Taekwon-Do to ratify, to pass, the examination. They must pass the exam to get the identification fo international instructor. So far, I have some 600 qualified international instructors, distributed all over the world.
Q: What are the immediate plans as far as setting up the home of the International Taekwon-Do Federation here? Are you going to set up office?
Gen. Choi: Of course we have offices right here in Toronto. There is my private library. And this is the center of international Taekwon-Do training. We have 61 directors from 61 countries.
Q: What is the purpose of the program that is coming up at the end of the summer in Montreal for the International Taekwon-Do Federation?
Gen. Choi: That’s the first World Taekwon-Do Championship. It’s there since the chairman of the technical committee, J.C. Kim, is located in Montreal. Also in 1976 there will be Olympic games played at Montreal, so we decided to have the First World Taekwon-Do Championship in Montreal. So that many people can understand what is happening.
Q: Who will be invited to this tournament? This is strictly for International Taekwon-Do Federation members, right?
Gen. Choi: Right, for whom ever shows the certificate issued by the Internatinal Taekwon-Do Federation. And every participating country will select their national teams. There are some fifty countries with Taekwon-Do associations duly formed under the leadership of the International Taekwon-Do Federation.
Q: You mentioned the Olympics. This is a question that we’ve been asking just about everyone. Judo is now an Olympic event. Do you think that a Martial Art combat that specializes in hand and foot techniques might become an Olympic event? Do you hope that that would happen?
Gen. Choi: I don’t have any doubts. Sooner or later Taekwon-Do will be part of the Olympic games. I hope the people in Montreal will push for it in 1976 Olympics, so that Canada bemcomes the home of Taekwon-Do. This I would be proud of, to introduce this art into the Olympics.
Q: I believe that Judo was recently introduced to the Olympics…
Gen. Choi: Exactly, in Japan, because Japan was the host country. Now Canada will be the hosting country in 1976 and they must have some right to intruduce this art to the Olympics. That is one of my hopes.
Q: Is this one of the reasons that you’re holding this tournament at this time?
Gen. Choi: Yes, one of the reasons.
Q: Beyond what we’ve been talking about as the philosophy of Taekwon-Do, what are the future plans of the Federation? Obviously it’s more instructors, more countries, tighter communication amount them, but what do you hope to achieve with this system?
Gen. Choi: Why, to teach. To teach every black belt, even taught by a fraudulent Taekwon-Do instructor, to awake them from their long sleep, hibernation, to teach them the real way of Taekwon-Do. And to have built a Taekwon-Do university, maybe in Montreal or in Toronto.
Q: What do you feel about the people who are teaching under a banner that says Taekwon-Do but they have either little training in it or no training in it; they are teaching a false form under the nae Taekwon-Do. Has there ever been any attempt to point this out to them or to take some sort of legal action?
Gen. Choi: Well, until today, I was just eager to spread this name of Taekwon-Do to everybody. But since too many people are now misusing the name Taekwon-Do, someday the International Taekwon-Do Federation will take some legal action to prevent the real, orthodox Taekwon-Do from being misused. I hope every student, every public person will help this; otherwise, many innocent people will just waster their time and money without learning anything. Today I saw a couple of Koreans saying they are teaching Taekwon-Do. Not so, That’s either Kung Fu or Karate.
Q: That’s not even to day that these people who are teaching under the banner of Taekwon-Do aren’t teaching a very legitimate martial arts system, but it’s just not Taekwon-Do.
Gen. Choi: It’s not Taekwon-Do. I don’t know if it’s legitimate. Don’t try to sell lamb under the sign of the cow. That means don’t say Taekwon-Do teaches some fraud, some phony movement. We don’t consider that Oriental marital arts. I don’t know what they teach. People pay money and enjoy wasting their time.
Q: If someone just starting out in the martial arts and they have an idea they would like to study Taekwon-Do, what can they do when they walk into a school that says Taekwon-Do to know if it is legitimate?
Gen. Choi: Well if I were them, I would first of all ask that they show their identification of whether or not they are an instructor. If they are an instructor, they will show their ID, their identification, and you will also see the recognition plaque at the center or school gym. And then further, ask what their technique is .. The student should ask the question. I think this is the proper procedure for the beginner of Taekwon-Do. If they hedge your question and act peaceful and say “well I don’t have it now.” what do you do? You should ask, “Do you have identification or not. Show me the ID card. But I don’t know all the people who are my students of Taekwon-Do. If they are a real instructor, they will have some authority from the organization.
Q: The thing is that I’ve heard many cases now in North America where any one can walk into any print shop and have a diploma made. Is there something distinctive about the diploma, the certificate, that the federation awards?
Gen. Choi: Well, of course, of course; surely.
Q: We should tell our readers what it is.
Gen. Choi: Well, then you can ask them. “Where are you from, what organization are you from. where’s your immediate instructor?” You can say General Choi.
Q: Of course you know each of your legitimate schools here in North America you must have a list. Say someone had gone into a school and wanted to check it out. Could they check it out through the office the central office of the International Taekwon-Do Federation? Is that possible?
Gen. Choi: When you say “international” Taekwon-Do instructor, they got this through this headquarters. But the International Taekwon-Do Federation has no authority to check everybody. Even Nixon or Trudeau have no authority to check everybody in America or Canada. We hae no jurisdiction like that.
Q: No, no….you know all your legitimate….
Gen. Choi: Wait a minute Just international instructors got their certificate through this office.
Q: Say if someone were to write you and ask if this particular person at this address….
Gen. Choi: Surely. At the moment we don’t have a computer but we know….
Q: Can you tell us just a little bit more about what you see as far as the university goes. That’s a fascinating idea.
Gen. Choi: We discuss the university a lot. Someday we will ask your government to help build a university. We have lots of students and someday they can donate $15 million, if they donate one dollar a piece, we can make $15 million dollars or something like that. It would be worthwhile for the government to help because it would make good history for Canada. So you can write that down, and you can ask the governement to help.
Q: What do you think is the optimum age to start learning Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: Well, from age eight on. But for the peewee or lady I still prohibit them from the power test. Maybe from 17 on it’s ok. Ladies should not have the power test, they should not have to break with their fist. They have speed, balance and power as men have but it is not necessary for them to break.
Q: When did your son start to take Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: Since the age of seven.
Q: What is the competition going to be like in Montreal this summer? Will there be free fighting, free sparring, the form competitions?
Gen. Choi: Yes, pattern competition, sparring compeitiion….karate says free fighting but we say sparring. We’ll have power tests by breaking something. And special techinques like high jumping and kicking and so on; aerobatics.
Q: This summer there will be represntative from Korea at the program too,
Gen. Choi: I don’t know, they are welcome.
Q: How many hours a day do you still work out? I assume that you do.
Gen. Choi: I never forget, 24 hours a day I am thinkging of Taekwon-Do. Taekwon-Do is my life, more then myself.
Q: Do your instructors ever bring you new idea, a new form?
Gen. Choi: Not a new form, but some new theory, some movememnt. Form means patterns or the sequence of movements.
Q: But they do bring you new ideas?
Gen. Choi: Yes, Taekwon-Do techniques are constantly developing.
Q: And how does a new movement become recognized? Is it tried out?
Gen. Choi: Well, if the movement has a special theory, they can prove it by the technical quality and the technique they use.
Q: How are the techniques then spread?
Gen. Choi: They are spread through books, by writing, through personal contact.
Q: Do you like the idea of tournament competition?
Gen. Choi: If they are real torunaments. But most of the time, until recently, they were just trying to make money of of the tournament. They were trying to make Taekwon-Do commercialized. That I strictly prohibit.
Q: Tournaments should be to demonstrate karate, Taekwon-Do, whatever discipline it is?
Gen. Choi: The tournament takes place in the arena for the introduction of new techniques and to teach the spectators a new idea. And to amke close the relationship between instructor and student. But somehow, they just try to make money out of it. That’s not right. Under the leadership of the ITF, every real tournament gets permission from the ITF head office right here from the tournament. Thats tournament for real techniques not magic. Some martial art demonstrations are magician’s tricks. The International Taekwon-Do instructor never does this.