ITF commemorates its first president Choi Hong Hi 22 years after his passing. ITFTKD

On June 15, 2002, at 83 years of age and after years of maintaining what would be his last fight, this time against stomach cancer, Choi Hong Hi, who is recognized as the father of Taekwon-Do, died. 22 years later, the International Taekwon-Do Federation honors its founder and first president.

He was born in 1918 in Hwa Dae District, Myon Chun County, a mountainous area of Korea, a country that was not yet divided, but was under Japanese occupation. 

Perhaps as the kickoff to what would become his life dedicated to the development and dissemination of the Art of Taekwon-Do throughout the world, he decided to combine the two cultures and celebrate each birthday on November 9 in the Western calendar.

In addition to his small stature, two personal characteristics became increasingly evident from an early age. On the one hand, his fragile health and, on the other, his strong temperament.
Probably for both reasons, at the age of 15, his father sent him to study calligraphy with master Han Il Dong, who was also a master of Taekkyon, an ancient Korean discipline that includes numerous foot techniques and open hand arm movements.

He grew up in the midst of foreign domination that subjugated his impoverished country, annulled his culture and forced him to even adopt foreign names.

Without a doubt, all of this shaped his character, making him someone who was active, practical in his decisions, and who did not recognize the possible setbacks and obstacles that he could encounter along the way when he sought to achieve a goal.

This would be of vital importance to develop, first, and then bring its creation to all corners of the planet.

In 1937, at the age of 19, he continued his academic training in Japan, where he began practicing Shotokan Karate, from which he graduated as II dan.

Shortly after the end of World War II, in January 1946, he received the rank of second lieutenant in the newly created armed forces of the Republic of Korea and realized that he had to develop a national martial art. His steep rise the rank of a general helped this endeavor.

On April 11, 1955, Taekwon-Do was recognized, but not without having overcome countless obstacles and fierce opposition.

Since 1959, he led a military team that carried out demonstrations of the new martial art in several countries in Asia and, culminating in 1965, when he made a Taekwon-Do tour around the world. Shortly after, the International Taekwon-Do Federation was founded and he became its first president. A position, he should keep until his death in 2002.

He was the author of the first book on Taekwon-Do, written in Korean Hangul and Chinese Hanja, which documents the first five Korean forms that he created along with the help of the soldiers under his command. This historical book is on display in the history section of the Taekwondowon museum in Muju, South Korea.

Several works followed, including what became known as the "Taekwon-Do Bible" (1972), the 15 Volumes of the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (1983), several condensed versions of that work, the 3 volumes of his memoirs, as well as a Guide to Moral Culture (2000).

His writings have been translated into Korean, Chinese, English, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Dari.

He was awarded honorary Doctorates in Physical Education in 1992, Sports Sciences in 1999 and Philosophy in 2001.

In one of those publications he expressed, "In short, my life has been turbulent, characterized by lonely struggles and unfortunate adventures that few could envy. A life of self-exile thousands of kilometers from my beloved country. However, that was a path worth traversing. My dream has finally been realized, the extreme fantasy of propagating Taekwon-Do without considering the religion, ideology, nationality or race of my students.

"I can say without hesitation that I am the happiest of living men. It is my deep wish that Taekwon-Do preserves its original concept and technique. It is also my sincere hope that the emphasis of Taekwon-Do on promoting a healthy body and mind will contribute to the progress of future generations."

In the Preface to the Encyclopedia, Choi Hong Hi expressed, "Words are not adequate to describe my feelings of rejoicing on the day Taekwon-Do was born, but at the same time I was beset with doubts and apprehensions. How many people would actually arrive? to recognize and understand Taekwon-Do during the period of my life?"

After his final fight, he was buried in the Cemetery of Patriotic Martyrs, near Sinmi-Dong in what is now North Korea. However, Taekwon-Do lives on in the millions of practitioners who use, practice, and further distribute Choi’s legacy daily. The more than 120 countries that, grouped in the ITF, represent the vision and legacy of a man as great as his passion for improving our quality of life through his work, Taekwon-Do.