Once taught to Korean aristocracy for its spiritual and physical application, Ji Do Kwan developed into its current style after World War II. Although it joined with other Kwans to become Tae Kwon Do, its followers still retain strong characteristics of the Art and acclaim it as “The Way of Wisdom.”
Over 45 years ago, the Ji do Kwan rose from post-World War II Korea. Members of the Ji Do Kwan supported both the creation of Tae Soo Do in 1955 and Tae Kwon Do at approximately the same time. Several well-known kwan founders trained at the early Ji Do Kwan including Hwang Kee and Won Kuk Lee. The original Ji Do Kwan was different from the other kwans. The Ji Do Kwan was used as a training hall for other arts such as Yudo and Kum Do.
In 1931, Kyung Suk Lee taught Judo in Seoul, South Korea. After World War II ended, Kyung Suk Lee asked Sang Sup Chun to Teach Kong Soo Do at the same location. Sang Sup Chun taught Dong Soo Do and then brought Byung In Lee to teach Kwon Bup, Byung In Lee then taught Yun Moo Kwan Bup Bu. Byung In Lee left the Chosan Yun Moo Kwan and taught Kwan Pub Bu at the Seoul YMCA. When Byung In Lee left the Yun Moo Kwan. Sang Sup Chun took over and continued teaching Kwon Bup until the end of the Korean War 1953.
The Ji Do Kwan or “institute of knowledge, the right way or the way of wisdom,” was established on March 3, 1947, first as the Chosan Yen Moo Kwan. The Ji Do Kwan was originally named the Chosan Yen Moo Kwan and Judo was the first style taught there. The creator of the Chosan Yen Moo Kwan was Sang Sup Chun, who had studied Judo in high school and Karate as a young man. San Sup Chan fist taught Judo at the Chosan Yun Moo Kwan under Kyung Suk Lee, initially teaching Kwon Bup Bu at the facility. The Chosen Yun Moo Kwan was located first in Soo Song Dong, Seoul. After the surrender of the Japanese in June 1945, the Chosan Yun Moo Kwan Moved to the So Gong Dong, Seoul, at the Japanese Gang Duk Kwan.
In June 1950 the Korean War started and Grandmaster Chun was abducted and believed taken to North Korea where he was killed. Chong Woo Lee suggested changing the name of Chosan Yen Moo Kwan and proposed the name of Ji Do Kwan. At the time of the evacuation of Pusan in 1951. Chosan Yun Moo Kwan was renamed Ji Do Kwan.
Ji Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do instructors often recount the history of their art in rather vague terms. Describing Ji Do Kwan as combination of Tae Kyon kicks. Kwon Bup combinations of upper and lower body strikes, Hwarang philosophy and Subahk stretching exercises with arm, elbow, wrist, and hand strikes. Ji Do Kwan, one of the five original kwans in Korea (the others being Chung Do Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, Song Moo Kwan, and the YMCA Kwon Bup that became Chung Moo Kwan). Later, under a government unification act, these five kwans would merge with others to form a unified martial arts community in 1955. At he same time, in troubled Japan and Okinawa, the Japanese and Okinawan masters were forced to stop training completely or go underground during the U.S. Occupation of Tokyo between 1945 and 1950.
Immediately following World War II, Korea struggled to assert self-government for the first time in 75 years. All vestiges of the colonial occupation by the Imperial Japanese forces slowly dissolved. After Korea’s liberation in 1946 by the United States, the native arts of Tae Kyon (foot game), Kwon Bup Bu (fist way) and Subahk (smashing hand) surfaced quickly. Many other styles surfaced several years later. These included Kong Soo Do (way of the empty hand), Kwon Bop (fist techniques), Tae Soo Do way of foot and hand) and Tang Soo Do (way of the Tang hand). The exact dates each were first used remain obscure. On August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally to American armed forces in Tokyo Harbor on board the great warship, the US Missouri. With the surrender of Japan, much of Asia, including China, Korea, Manchuria, and Tibet, was liberated. The Control of theses countries reverted to the native peoples. As soon as the surrender occurred, kwans opened in many towns and villages throughout Korea. Many were spawned from the kwans that already existed under occupation by students eager to teach what they had learned. Those that were in existence such as the Chung Do Kwan had stronger Japanese influence.
Immediately following World War II in 1946, Won Kuk Lee created the Chung Do Kwan in Seoul. Hwang Kee founded the Mo Duk Kwan in Seoul. Sup Chang Sang established the Yen Moo Kwan: In Yun Pyung the Chang Moo Kwan: and Yon Kue Pang the Chi Do Kwan. By the beginning of the Korean War in 1950, Korean dojangs were widespread. Three more Kwans were established between 1953 and 1954: Gae Byang Yun founded the Ji Do Kwan; Byung Chik Ro the Sang Moo Kwan in Kae Sang; and General Hong Hi Choi and Tae Hi Nam the Oh Do Kwan (gym of my way). President Sigmon Rhee helped to increase the kwan’s popularity after he watched a thirty minute demonstration in 1952 by Ji Do Kwan masters. He questioned Colonel Choi about the arts and subsequently ordered all South Korean soldiers to receive the same training.
For better or worse, twentieth century Korean styles have been greatly influenced by the Japanese occupation of Asia between 1874 and 1945. After 78 years of uncontrolled Japanese oppression, no area was left unaffected. The Ryu Kyu Islands were taken over by the same Imperial Japanese military in 1874 that obliterated the Okinawan culture, changing it to Japanese. Japan began occupation of Korea in 1876 but it did not become official until 1910. China was invaded by the Imperial Japanese military in 1931. After this, Japan tried to convert China to Japanese culture through a series of bloody massacres. Along with these events, Japan also invaded and colonized every other region in the South Pacific including Indonesia, Indochina, Manchuria, Tibet, the Marinas Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Philippine Islands. The Imperial Japanese military attacked the U.S. when it bombed Pearl Harbor, instigating U.S. participation in World War II. The Hawaiian Islands, where U.S. Troops were stationed on Pearl Harbor, were simply the next islands to conquer in the eastward expansion of Japan. This attack proved to be a strategic mistake that eventually brought the end of the Imperial rule to Japan.
By 1900, Japanese curriculum was imposed on all Korean and Okinawan schools. This new curriculum included revisionist history that taught Japan had ruled the region for a long period of history. The new curriculum also taught Japanese Judo and Kendo to Korean boys. The Japanese ban on teaching Korean martial arts between 1910 to 1945 was not entirely successful. The ban sparked a renewed growth of Kwon Bup, Kuk Sool and Subahk in the remote areas of Korea, particularly in the inaccessible Buddhist temples.
For centuries Tae Kyon has been practiced more as a game than a a form of self-defense throughout the Korean Peninsula. General Choi writes in his book, Taekwon-Do, that Tae Kyon was secretly practiced and passed on to students by Tae Kyon instructors. Although the art is practiced as a game, the effectiveness of techniques is learned in much the same manner as Kung-Fu techniques and their use by participants can be brutal to an opponent the intensity and power used in Tae Kyon techniques are similar to Tae Kwon Do kicking techniques practiced today. General Choi began martial art training in the 1930’s with his calligraphy instructor, Han II Dong, who taught the frail youth Tae Kyon. After World War II, thousands of Japanese living in Korea returned to Japan. Resentment grew between Korea and Japan. The harsh treatment by Imperial Japanese military fanned the hatred of everything Japanese. Two years after the war ended the new Korean government began an ambitious program to replace all facets of Japanese and Chinese culture in its country.
When the Imperial Japanese government was forced to leave Korea, there were no other government officials that could readily replace them. It took time for the new Korean government to control the post-war country. In 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into North and South Korea as it is today. General Hedge, then commander of the 24th Division of the U.S. Army, was appointed the Military Governor of South Korea. A dictator named Kim II Sung was the leader of the Communist Party in North Korea.
Post-war South Korea was racked with great struggles between opposing political organizations. In South Korea, there was a struggle between the Democratic forces supported by the West and Communist forces supported by China and Russia. There was almost continuous chaos in the months and years after World War II. Killing of Korean politicians was commonplace; social order was in chaos. Citizens moved their families to the cities for jobs and food. The once deeply entrenched social order was slowly being replace wit a new one.
When Japanese occupation ended, Koreans took a renewed interest in the native martial arts. Several kwans (schools) quickly opened in Seoul, each teaching one or more of the new styles. The first to open was the Chung Do Kwan (Gym of the Blue Wave), founded by Won Kuk Lee in 1944. In 1945, Hwang Kee taught Hwa Soo Do an art he eventually renamed Tang Soo Do (way of the China hand) to increase attendance. The third school was the (Chosan) Yun Moo Kwan, founded by Sup Sang Chun. The Chang Moo Kwan was founded by Byung Yoon at a YMCA in 1946. He was followed quickly by the Chi Do Kwan, established by Yon Kue Pyang.
The well entrenched Japanese-influenced martial art styles had a large head start in Korea. Both native arts and Japanese styles continued to gain popularity in post-war Korea. The Korean Yudo Association was formed in September of 1945 and early in 1946. Tae Kyon instructors began teaching the troops in Kwang Ju. In 1946 and 1947, Hong Hi Choi (then First Lieutenant of the Korean Army’s Second Infantry Regiment) taught martial arts to both Korean and American students stationed at Tae Jon. In 1947, Byung In Yoon trained at the Ji Do Kwan for one year before establishing the Chang Moo Kwan.
First Lieutenant Hong Hi Choi rose rapidly through the Korean military ranks, possibly aided by his martial arts experience. In 1948, then Major Choi became the martial art instructor for the America Military Police School in Seoul. In 1949, Colonel Choi visited Fort Riley in Kansas where he gave a public demonstration of Kong Soo Do.
Two prize students from the Chung Do Kwan were Duk Sung Son, who now teaches in New York and Won Ku Um, the current vice president of the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association. Chong Myung Hyun and Soon Pal Kim were early students of Chung Do Kwan. In 1946, Chung Do Kwan had slightly higher membership than Ji Do Kwan. Kee Hwang was one of the original members of Chung Do Kwan and in 1957 opened the Moo Duk Kwan. The Song Moo Kwan was opened in the Kaesong area and was headed by Master Pyung Rik No.
In March 1950, Dr. Kwa Byung Yoon returned to Korea from Japan with the rank of seventh dan in Karate. This made him one of the highest ranking martial artists in Korea and was appointed the new headmaster (the original headmaster, Sang Suk Chun was killed in the Korean War). Dr. Yoon was medical pathologist, a college professor and a former officer in the Japanese Imperial Army. He earned a black belt in Karate from Japan during college. Before he became a headmaster, he had published a book on Karate. Dr. Yoon’s training was in Japan as an original member of the To Chi Ki Ken style, known today as Zito-Ryu.
The primary staff of the Chosan Yen Moo Kwan established a four year Yudo College. The practitioners were Ji Do Kwan members from the Judo school and held black belts in the art. Conflicts with sharing their training facilities occurred so the Ji Do Kwan group decided to relocate. Through the efforts of Dr. Shin, who now lives in Canada, and Kyo Yoon Lee, new headquarters for the Ji Do Kwan school was secured. After the Korean War in 1953, the capital city of Seoul returned to normal and the threat from North Korea lessened. Members of the Ji Do Kwan school began returning home to Seoul after fleeing the city during time of war. New interest in the art produced new members for the Ji Do Kwan dojang and it became very popular as it often included other martial arts in their schools such as Kum Do, Tae Kyon and Yudo.
The first steps towards unification of the Ji Do Kwan and the many kwans and styles came when a conference of masters assembled in 1953. There was not a agreement on the direction offered by the Korean government and very few kwans were represented, On April 11, 1955, another meeting was held to unify the many new kwans and independent styles and merge them into one. Originally named Tae Soo Do, Chosan was chosen for this unified art although this was changed in 1957 to Tae Kwon Do (for its similarity to Tae Kyon) as suggested by General Choi.
The Korea Tae Kwon Do Association (KTA) was founded on September 14, 1961, with General Choi named as its president. The Chi Do Kwan Association did not join the new organization nor did the Chung Do Kwan organization, one of the largest gyms in Korea. During this period, the Korean Soo Bahk Do Association was established by Hwang Kee and rivaled the KTA. The Korean Government stepped into the fray officially in 1961. when it recognized black belts certified by the KTA. This action caused many martial artists to join the organization.
Korea quickly began to export its new martial art under the direction of General Choi. In 1959, then Major General Choi toured the Far East with nineteen black belts. In that year he also published his first work on Tae Kwon Do, titled Taekwon-Do Guidelines. In 1962, South Vietnamese military officials requested heat South Korea send Tae Kwon Do instructors to train Vietnamese solders. South Korea sent instructors from the Oh Do Kwan to teach fifty soldiers from various branches of the Vietnamese Armed Forces. Two of the instructors returned to Korea after their six month assignment; two others stayed for one year.
In 1996, General Choi lost the leadership of the KTA. A goodwill trip to North Korea by a Tae Kwon Do demonstration team caused Choi to be considered a traitor to South Korea. The General resigned as president of the KTA in 1966., then founded the international Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) later that year. Subsequently, General Choi moved to Canada and transferred the headquarters of the ITF to Vienna, Austria.
Tae Kwon Do slowly made its way to the United States. Between 1946 and 1947, General Choi taught martial arts to both Koreans and Americans stationed at Tae-Jon. In 1952, Hi Nam Tae was stationed in Fort Bennning, Georgia, and was immensely received when he demonstrated Ji Do Kwan before military troops and the American public. In 1959, Major General Choi attended a modern weapon familiarization course in Texas. While there, he visited several Tae Kwon Do schools in Texas, including the school of Jhoon Rhee.
In the early 1970’s, Tae Kwon Do unity began to disintegrate. The martial art splintered when the KTA was renamed the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), on May 28, 1973. Young-Wun Kim became the new WTF president and one of his first acts was to dissolve his new organization’s connection with the ITF. New WTF forms were created called Plague, as well as the subsequent Taeguek forms. The WTF also began emphasizing the sport application of Tae Kwon Do.
One of the ITF’s first inroads in the United States occurred in June 1963 when General Choi hosted a Tae Kwon Do demonstration at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Later, in 1967, the U.S. Taekwon-Do Association was formed which was superseded by the U.S. Taekwon-Do Federation in 1974.
In 1977, The names of the kwans were again replaced by numbers. This was done to present a more cohesive image to the International Olympic Committee so that Tae Kwon Do could become a future Olympic sport. The IOC require that Tae kwon Do be practiced in over 75 countries for men (40 for women); practiced on four continents (three for women); represented by a recognized international federation; and have world championship competitions. The IOC also worked hard to achieve membership in various organizations including the General Association of International Sports Federation. The kwans, in order from first kwan to ninth kwan are: Song Moo Kwan, Han Moo Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, O Do Kwan, Kang Duk Kwan, Jung Do Kwan, Ji Do Kwan, and Chung Do Kwan.
Although the name Ji Do Kwan is synonymous with the creation to Tae Kwon Do and was combined with many other kwans years ago, Ji Do Kwan dojangs exist today. The merging of the Ji Do Kwan with eight other kwans occurred in 1955 and Tae Kwon Do emerged. In 1962, Tae Kwon Do was accepted into the 43rd National Games. In 1973, the First World Championship was held. In 1980, Tae Kwon Do was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee and became a demonstration sport in 1988. In 2000, Tae Kwon Do because an official Olympic medal sport.
The Ji Do Kwan has remained an important part of Tae Kwon Do history. Today, Ji Do Kwan is a worldwide organization with new member schools located in many countries around the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Len Losik is a distinguished writer and Korean martial art historian.