(Gen. Choi, Hong-hi was interviewed at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, DECEMBER 1985, and part of this was included in the March 1986 Issue of Tae Kwon Do Times)
>>>The political atmosphere between North and South Korea is comparable to the conflict between Israel and its enemies, the Arab states. With this in mind, it is little surprise that upon visiting North Korea several years ago, Gen. Choi was labeled, either justifiably or unjustifiably, a North Korean sympathizer. Because of this, many of his loyal masters deserted him and his organization, the International Taekwon-Do Federation.
Although the aim of Gen. Choi is to spread Taekwon-Do throughout the world may be noble, we do not agree with him for becoming involved in politics by denouncing South Korea for its internal politics.
The ultimate aim of Taekwon-Do is preservation of life and improvement of human life through its contributions to humanity and all mankind. Gen. Choi’s political views and actions are not conducive to the true spirit of Taekwon-Do. We do, however, admire and respect Gen. Choi for introducing Taekwon-Do to North Korea and other European communist block countries in order to help promote world peace for us all. – by Jan Nam Lee<<<
LEE: What do you consider the oldest martial art?
Gen. Choi: I discuss this in my book, Taekwon-Do Encyclopedia. The oldest martial art in evidence came into being about 3500 BC. In China I saw a painting in a tomb along the Nile with hierogplicic inscrition and writing and pictures engraved in the pyramid. This proved that the Egyptians had a form of open hand and foot fighting similar to boxing.
Open hand fighting techniques were practiced by warriors in Mesopotamia and Syria in 3000 to 2300 BC. We can easily imagine primitive human beings depending on hand and foot defense to overcome enemies, kill animals and offset survival.
As human knowledge progressed, fighting and hunting improved and eventually were recognized as martial arts. By the time of the Greek City state in 700 BC, boxing, wrestling and other related forms of combat were regular events in the Olympiad. a book written by Homer in 199 BC contains descriptions of unarmed combat. The Greek philosopher Plato practiced a kind of shadow boxing. It combined eventually with wrestling and boxing to form ten greater fighting systems. this was a system in which the whole body was used. The history of the martial arts is very difficult to examine.
Lee: I understand your new book encompasses every aspect of Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: It took me 13 years, day and night, 24 hours a day, wherever I’ve been. It consists of 15 volumes and has thousands of photos and illustrations. It contains some 3200 fundamental movements which I designed since 1946. My other books are very obsolete. I will write no more Taekwon-Do books. The encyclopaedia’s is my life-long work.
Lee: Taekwon-Do is the fastest growing sport in the United States, is this good for Olympic potential?
Gen. Choi: Taekwon-Do is scheduled for demonstration in the Olympics, but Taekwon-Do is really behind schedule in development. There will be no hope for Taekwon-Do to be in the Olympics until the ITF and WTF merge. That is what they said last year in Berlin. I am very sad about this. I have given my whole effort to bring the two organizations into one body but the South Korean government will not agree. It has no chance!
Lee: They are not willing to sit down and discuss….
Gen. Choi: My doors are wide open, I have said this already. I have appointed Byoung Yung Yu as Chairman of the ITF countries in the South Pacific Ocean and he has written the Korean congress many, many letters about this matter. some have replied but their replies always mention politics as the problem that cannot be solved.
Lee: Do you see any advantage for Taekwon-Do becoming a demonstration sport in 1988?
Gen. Choi: I don’t think so, but I am very glad that the IOC is recognizing that the ITF was formed before the WTF and they finally see the true founder of Taekwon-Do.
LEE: The Olympic committee has chosen WTF rules and procedures for the Taekwon-Do demonstration event in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Did you meet with anyone to lobby for ITF rules to be employed instead of WTF rules?
Gen. Choi: I met with the President of the Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch in April of 1984. With me were Chuck Sereff and Mr. Rhee from Glasgow, Scotland. Mr. Rhee is President of the All European Taekwon-Do Federation. Chuck Sereff is the Secretary General of the ITF and President of the United States Taekwon-Do Federation. We had a very nice conversation with Mr. Samaranch. We came to the conclusion that unless the ITF and the WTF merge, the Olympic committee will not consider Taekwon-Do for a permanent Olympic event. That was their decision then.
LEE: I understand that Mr. Samaranch asked you to make a proposal for unification of the ITF and the WTF?
Gen. Choi: Yes, a proposal was drafted and it was submitted. The proposal is just a general prospal about a name, a third name, and a new location for the headquarters. Ideally, it would be in North America or in a Third World Country. We would also need a standardization of techniques. My mission is to improve and bring the techniques as high as possible, but my main concern is competition rules. The rules of competition are essential for merging the two organizations.. Who can issue the diplomas is also very important and lastly, dispersion of staff.
LEE: Did you offer to meet with Dr. Kim of the WTF to discuss the proposal?
Gen Choi: Yes. They are greatly concerned with merging the two units, the two organizations. I hope the the WTF people are able to understand that if they love Taekwon-Do they should sit down and discuss the whole situation.
LEE: I head from Olympic officials that they would like to see Taekwon-Do in more communist block countries before they give permanent status to Taekwon-Do.
Gen. Choi: The ITF introduced Taekwon-Do to many, many countries in communist regions.
LEE: I believe the IOC means the Soviet Union in particular. There is no Taekwon-Do there and they realize how strong their wrestling, judo and boxing are and…
Gen. Choi: We are trying too. I think it’s just a matter of time. Those people are already aware of the authority of Taekwon-Do technique.
LEE: To your knowledge, has an ITF demonstration team ever toured the Soviet Union?
Gen. Choi: No, not yet. We are trying. You have to get permission. I am really interested that they appreciate Taekwon-Do.
LEE: I’ve heard that South Korea is thinking about introducing Taekwon-Do to mainland China. Does the ITF have similar plans?
Gen. Choi: Is that so? They are going to play Taekwon-Do with mainland China? I am surprised!
LEE: I understand that high ranking karate officials are lobbying for their martial art to be included in Olympic competition. Do you believe that Taekwon-Do and karate could merge to form one event?
Gen. Choi: No, no, no, not possible. To be entirely frank, it would be hopless to try to merge karate with Taekwon-Do. Taekwon-Do is Taekwon-Do and karate is karate. How can they play together? The rules are different. First of all, karate competes in only one division, sparring. ITF Taekwon-Do is complete, four dividsions: free sparring, patterns, special techniques and power tests. Those four elements completely comprise Taekwon-Do. Otherwise how can we appraise it?
In sparring, you can see fighting speeds as in boxing and wrestling. Through patterns, you can see the beauty as in dancing; you can see power like a lifter through power competition; and you can see high jumping and broad jumping through special techniques.. Taekwon-Do can show every dimension. With sparring alone, what can they see? Very little.
LEE: In ITF free fighting, are points awarded only for offensive maneuvers, or are defensive maneuvers also awarded points?
Gen. Choi: Just offensive, but someday, and I mention this many itmes in my book, this will have to change. New rules concerning this matter will be adopoted very soon.
Taekwon-Do is more of a defensive art, however, if we start to give too much credit for defensive moves, everybody would only try to defend. There would be no offense. Anyway, I believe that we at least need to give some points for the defensive action.
LEE: The WTF held their World Championships in Seoul in September 1985 and with 60 or 70 countries participating, the competition was dominated by the South Korean team…
Gen Choi: Well, I don’t think this is fair. Frankly, they didn’t introduce superior techniques to the other nations. If they did have the ability to promote the techniques, then then non-Koreans should be better than Koreans. Taekwon-Do is more dynamic to longer, fuller and heavier bodies.
LEE: Do you believe Taekwon-Do is heading towards full contact fighting?
Gen. Choi: No, no, no! No full contact-that is nonsense competition. The WTF has only free sparring. In free sparring, how many movements can you show? Only sever or ten movements out of 3200 movements. In free sparring, you cannot see any Taekwon-Do technique. That’s why ITF rules show four categories of competition. NO FULL CONTACT!
LEE: Many Olympic sports involve equipment. In comparison to these, Taekwon-Do is a very ancient sport. Why do you think Taekwon-Do appeals to so many young athletes and to so many spectators today?
Gen Choi: Taekwon-Do was largely born in April 11, 1955. For the first time in the world, people played Taekwon-Do under an entire technique system and in uniforms. It has spread faster than any martial art or sport ever did. That means Taekwon-Do must be very popular. People practice Taekwon-Do regardless of age or sex. I am positive that some day, Taekwon-do will become more popular than boxing.
LEE: The words themselves, Taekwon-Do means “hand and foot art.” Is there a more definitive meaning than this?
Gen. Choi: Art and morel conduct
LEE: Some martial artists are having a difficult time accepting Taekwon-Do as a future Olympic event and feel that the “Do” should be removed because it is not an art anymore but a sport.
Gen. Choi: That is a very wrong concept. Taekwon-Do can be considered a martial art and a sport as well. Adhering to basic principles is what makes Taekwon-Do a martial art, a physical art and a science and sport. Taekwon-Do is not only a martial art as far as moral civilization is concerned. A moral country is concerned with Taekwon-Do as a martial art. However, as far as movements is concerned, it can be a sport. That is why it can be divided into a martial art and a sport.
Lee: As a student during World War II, you volunteered to serve in the Japanese student war effort…
Gen. Choi: I did not volunteer! The Japanese said that we volunteered, we were forced. Every young Korean person in university was forced to join the Japanese army. No volunteer-ism at all!
Lee: During the war you were imprisoned for a short while for planning to overthrow the military.
Gen. Choi: Yes, yes, I planned it. I tried to overthrow Japanese forces in Korea to fight the Japanese emperor. It was not successful, we were arrested.
Lee: Prior to your imprisonment in Japan, you studied karate. Did this influence your outlook and practice of your Korean art?
Gen. Choi: Certainly, certainly. If I didn’t know anything about karate, I wouldn’t have invented techniques that are better than karate or other martial arts.
Lee: You began your military career after World War II?
Gen. Choi: Yes, I am one of the founding members of the Korean armed forces.
Lee: You rose very quickly through the military ranks. Do you think that your martial art background contributed to your military success?
Gen. Choi: No. I was very damaged by many jealous people because I invented a new martial art. People didn’t like me inventing a new martial art.
Lee: In 1966, you formed the International Taekwon-Do Federation.
Gen. Choi: Yes, actually I formed the Korea Taekwon-Do Association early in 1958. I formed the ITF, as you know, in March, 1966. The KTA then became secondary to the ITF. I was president of both organizations.
Lee: What was your vision for the ITF at it’s inception?
Gen. Choi: My goal was to make Taekwon-Do an international sport. To do that, I had to form a world body.
Lee: What are your present goals for Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: I hope that Taekwon-Do becomes an Olympic event. I hope the IOC understands the elements of a Taekwon-Do tournament. The IOC cannot bring Taekwon-Do into the Olympics without knowing competition rules. The reason I originated a new Taekwon-Do was to develop upright minds, strong bodies, to develop self-confidence,, and to stand on the side of justice at all times.
Secondly, I want to unite all men in common brotherhood, regardless or religion, race or national idealogical boundaries and to dedicate ourselves to producing a peaceful society in which justice, morality, trust, sincerity, honest and humanism prevail. I want to promote freedom for all. I have dedicated my life to the worldwide propagation of Taekwon-Do in the sincere hope that it would provide a means for the unification of my divided motherland. This was my sincere hope when I invented the martial art of Taekwon-Do.
Lee: The ITF’s final pattern is Tong-Il which represents….
Gen. Choi: The unification of Korea. In 1963, I finished the pattern of Tong-Il. The unification of Korea is my concern. That’s my only hope some day, that my country becomes unified.
Lee: When was your last visit to South Korea?
Gen. Choi: 1972. I cannot go back. If there is a unification of Korea, I might go back.
Lee: Do you have plans to name your successor for the presidency of the ITF?
Gen. Choi: I have been looking for a successor for many years. I hope some day to find one, I would like to retire. My mission has been almost finished by my publishing my Taekwon-Do Encyclopedia. Now I can delight myself in my children and family. For the past forty years, I haven’t paid much attention to my children. So I confess, I have not been a good father to my children. Taekwon-Do has taken me from home.
Lee: Your successor will be appointed as opposed to being elected?
Gen. Choi: Yes, certainly.
Lee: In how many countries is the ITF?
Gen. Choi: The ITF has national organizations in over 50 countries. There are 40 nationals organizations and some 20 countries without government organizations. However, we have 60 countries in which we can have a tournament. As you can see, we are rapidly expanding. of course, you are aware in order to receive IOC recognition, the ITF need representation in 50 countries.
Lee: The WTF claims representation in 107 countries.
Gen. Choi: That’s impossible! They claim they are represented with only one person in that country. They exaggerate. We approached the IOC in 1973 to receive recognition. But there was some argument, so I said forget it.
Lee: During the ITF championship in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1984, the North Korean were not allowed entry in the country.
Gen. Choi: Yes, that is true, they were not allowed in the country by the hosting government. They were not allowed to compete. I think that it was unfair. It was just the North Korean team that could not compete. They allowed China, but not North Korea.
Lee: When do you think that non-Koreans will reach the skill level of Korean-born masters?
Gen. Choi: Very soon. Non-Koreans will be better eventually because, according to the law of force, a longer and heavier body is faster and will produce more power than a smaller body. That’s why someday non-Koreans will be the best technicians, they will be the leaders of Taekwon-Do. The future of Taekwon-Do has to really depend on non-Koreans. That’s why the ITF does not belong to any one particular country but tot the entire world.
Lee: Ever since the incident implication your son in an assassination attempt on Korean President Chun, it is reported that many of your loyal Korean masters are realigning themselves with the WTF. Has the ITF lost members because of this incident?
Gen. Choi: I have no control over my son, but we have not lost members. It had nothing to do with Taekwon-Do. ITF members are increasing. This was a South Korean tactic to destroy the ITF. They have spread rumors and exaggerate too much.
Lee: What makes a successful ITF dojang?
Gen. Choi: I tell you, the WTF was said they have spent nearly 40 billion dollars to destroy the ITF since 1973. But the ITF is getting stronger because we have technique and speed, but we don’t have government support. However, as I said, we do have fine technique that will be taught to many for hundreds of years. That’s why the WTF will not be successful in destroying the ITF. We are getting stronger and stronger, expanding more rapidly throughout the world, regardless of existing idealogical boundaries and nationalities, races or religion. We can go wherever and find persons who are eager to learn Taekwon-Do. We are very, very successful.
Lee: Since you left Korea over 14 years ago, I’ve heard many instructor think that Taekwon-Do in South Korea has, in terms of progress and scientific technique, come to a standstill.
Gen. Choi: That I knew already. And many visitors to Korea tell me of this. Dojang’s are only as strong as the one who leads them. And in a like manner, students can only achieve under an excellent instructor. You cannot expect a bamboo to grow in a field of reeds, nor can we expect to find an outstanding pupil under an unqualified teacher.
It is of particular importance that the two aspects of Taekwon-Do, the spirit and the techniques, must be taught together. Therefore, a qualified instructor must combine the qualities of a scholar and a solider if he is to produce students of noble character and outstanding skill. That’s what I write in my new books. How can I find these people in South Korea since there are no instructors who can develop these techniques? So, from time to time, I say to them that there is now no Taekwon-Do in my home country, South Korea. Many forms only have the name Taekwon-Do, but there is no real Taekwon-Do in South Korea. That is definite.
Lee: Do you think that there will be improved relationships between North and South Korea if Taekwon-Do is a demonstration sport in the 1988 Olympic Games?
Gen. Choi: Well, I really don’t know. Taekwon-Do has nothing to do with South or North Korea. I hope it doesnt’ make it any worse! In North Korea they practice traditional Taekwon-Do. Their techniques are first class in the world. So, they will laugh at South Korean Taekwon-Do and say “Well, that is not Taekwon-Do.” Many of the South Korean movements are very similar or identical to traditional Taekwon-Do, but they copied certain karate movements too.
Lee: In your estimation then, a Taekwon-Do demonstration exchange between South and North Korea would not be advisable.
Gen. Choi: South Korea doesn’t have any Taekwon-Do techniques.. How can they appreciate the real techniques of North Korea? That is a problem.
Lee: North Korea uses the term Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: Their first priority is Taekwon-Do. All nations practice it, many thoughts practice it. As I mentioned, North Korea has hundreds of first class instructors.
Lee: Does North Korea recognize the ITF?
Gen. Choi: Of course. They only recognize the ITF because it has the same techniques they learned. The country are dispatching many ITF instructors to other countries. North Korea dos not recognize the WTF because they do not recognize WTF techniques.
Lee: Do you visit North Korea?
Gen. Choi: Yes, to teach. I have to produce the best instructors for the propagation of Taekwon-Do.
Lee: Throughout your entire life, you have been a strong supporter of your homeland which has been exemplified though your student days and through your distinguished career in the military. Why, then, did you chose to move the ITF to Canada?
Gen. Choi: You know, from the beginning of Taekwon-Do when I first dedicated myself to invent techniques, it was for my country. On the other hand, many government officials have tried to use Taekwon-Do as their own personal tool. i cannot compromise Taekwon-do as some government people have, that is why since 1968, Taekwon-Do has been used to get political power. So, I thought that late 1971 was a time for me to get out of my motherland. There was no alternative. I had to bring Taekwon-Do out of Korea to save it and I chose Canada because I thought it would be a good country-neutral, centrally located between Europe and Asia. I think I was right. If I had not moved, there would be no Taekwon-Do in the world, only karate or Chinese Kung-Fu.
Lee: In May of 1973, another world organization formed….
Gen. Choi: That’s right. They tried to bring me back to Korea, but I said no. So what did they do? They took my friend and second daughter hostage and announced to the world that I would have to return to Korea. It was a big shock for me. I told them that Taekwon-Do is more than myself and my family; that people die but Taekwon-Do would be in the world as long as mankind lives in this world. So, I chose to save Taekwon-Do. You can say that I gave up my children. I had to stay in Canada to save Taekwon-Do. The people in power hastily organized the WTF after i would not return.
Lee: What are the similarities and differences between the ITF and the WTF?
Gen. Choi: They have nothing in common. Nothing in common.
Lee: Of course, you know the Dr. Kim, the President of the WTF?
Gen. Choi: Surely, I know him very well.
Lee: Do you think that he is a good choice for the head of the WTF?
Gen. Choi: I don’t really know about his knowledge of Taekwon-Do and I am not in a position to criticize him. He is President of the Korean Taekwondo Association, WTF, Kukkiwon and has Olympic positions. He has so many hats. I would like to discuss martial arts with me, that is all I want.
Lee: In your opinion, do you believe Dr. Kim is representing the South Korean government as opposed to the best interest of Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: You know, he has to work very hard to save his neck. The South Korean government could kick him out in a minute. What can he do?
Lee: What do you think is your greatest contribution to Taekwon-Do?
Gen. Choi: I don’t know. The success or failure of Taekwon-Do is my responsibility. That’s why I am working very hard to bring Taekwon-Do back to its original standards. That is my present mission. May I please read a statement?
It is my honest desire that Taekwon-Do should retain it’s original concept and technique. It is my sincere hope that Taekwon-Do’s emphasis on promotion a healthier body and mind would provide a significant contribution to human progress for years to come. It is one of nature’s ironies that delicate plants, such as orchid or tulips, require extreme care while weeds flourish with not attention at all. As wild panic grass, which is easily mistaken for wheat or rice, definitely prevents the growth of the genuine article, the growth of Taekwon-Do is greatly behind the time. Furthermore, I cannot help but despair over the tainted image of Taekwon-Do created by the practitioner of false Taekwon-Do and those who have been acting as a political instruments of South Korea. However, I console myself with this truth: like a counterfeit diamond that cannot cut glass, fraudulent Taekwon-Do is like a summer shower that quickly passes from the sky. The Taekwon-Do practitioner or imitator who uses the art for political influence will be destined for an early exit. The issue lies in our ability to differentiate between true and false. This is one of the reasons I published the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, the last product of my life-long research.
Lee: Can you predict where Taekwon-Do will be in 100 years?
Gen. Choi: I am not a fortune teller.
Lee: How do you hope to be remembered?
Gen. Choi: For trying to seek the true Taekwon-Do and pass it on to future generations. I believe that Taekwon-Do should not become commercialized. Taekwon-Do should maintain it’s original concepts and techniques and it’s special foundation upon which it was built. I really appreciate your kindness and willingins to discuss Taekwon-Do with me. I really hope that people in America and other parts of the world are not cheated by phony Taekwon-Do instructors. In America there are thousands of phony instructors teaching magic and some other techniques of the sport and call it Taekwon-Do. Many people are wasting lots of time and money and aren’t learning anything. I hope that they try to find qualified and dedicated Taekwon-Do instructors.. That’s what I want for Taekwon-Do in the world.