Let me start by saying "thanks" to Nathan for inviting me to Guest post on his blog!
My name is Gordon White. I live in Burlington VT and Teach Taekwondo at The Blue Wave Taekwondo school. I have been a Taekwondo practitioner since 1983.
A couple of things I would like to point out:
1. I make no claims of being a martial arts Historian.
2. The Taekwondo I speak of is that of the Kukkiwon and WTF. General Choi Hong Hi, while crucial to the development of Taekwondo in its infancy, for (insert reason here) was ousted from Korea and relocated to Canada, where he continued to promote and develop his style of Taekwon-do. ITF practitioners are likely take a different approach to the material discussed here.
Taekwondo is being practiced in 30,000 U.S. based dojangs. The curriculum varies so greatly however, that "Taekwondo, Tae Kwon Do, TaeKwon-Do" has become another generic term for Martial arts. The essay that I reference takes a step towards explaining why this is. If you find the topic interesting, I highly recommend following the link and reading the entire essay.
My favorite article about the history and development of Taekwondo is by Steven Capener called "Problems in the Identity and Philosophy of Taekwondo and Their Historical Causes" The paper discusses the confused personalities of Taekwondo; Martial Art, Sport, Fitness program, etc. Mr. Capener discusses this from a historical, and philosophical view point. (Eastern Culture and Western Culture).
One section of the paper identifies the deliberate design qualities the Taekwondo pioneers implemented. In an effort to create a uniquely Korean martial art, they literally took the opposite view of many Karate philosophies. (note: Taekwondo Pioneers are mostly students of the men that opened the first martial arts schools (kwans) in Korea after Japanese occupation ended, eventually coming together as a group to develop Taekwondo as single martial art)
The most visible difference was the intent to develop Taekwondo as a sport. This was something many Karate instructors were not willing to do as quoted in Mr. Capeners Essay:
Many karate instructors in Japan, however, did not understand the significance of this process and by insisting that karate must maintain its lethality, actually hindered its development.
Because of the decision to do this, it led to some other changes as well (Quoted from Mr. Capeners Essay):
The aspects of the competition system which generated the development of the original techniques by which Taekwondo became clearly distinguished from karate and in which new, more modern training values were posited are as follows:
A. The prohibition of attacking the face with hand techniques.
B. The prohibition of attacking below the waist.
C. The prohibition of grabbing the opponent.
D. The use of body protection making full-contact possible.
E. A scoring system which awarded points only for accurate blows of substantial power (full-contact). F. The regulations which allow continuous fighting without interference from the referee (except in cases where the flow of the match must be re-established or a warning given).
Its important to note that not all aspects of Karate training was challenged. Forms, 1 & 3 Steps sparring, self defense applications are all still practiced today and are Taekwondo Versions of these Karate drills.
I really like this essay because it makes no comments about Taekwondo being better then Karate, it simply states that Taekwondo took a different evolutionary path, what those differences are, and why they were chosen.
Taekwondo today is largely governed by 2 global organizations. The Kukkiwon, handles Dan certification, Basics, Forms and the Martial Art Curriculum development of Taekwondo. The World Taekwondo Federation ( WTF ) is an international Sport organization promoting and governing the international and Olympic Sport of Taekwondo.
I hope you enjoyed the post and I didnt bore you to tears.