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International Taekwondo Federation

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International Taekwondo Federation

Not to be confused with World Taekwondo Federation.
International Taekwon-Do Federation
ITF Logo
Abbreviation ITF
Formation Mar. 22, 1966
Purpose/focus Martial art and sport
Location Pyeongyang, North Korea and Middlesex, United Kingdom
Region served International
President Chang Ung, Choi Jung Hwa, Pablo Trajtenberg
Remarks Is not recognized by South Korean Government and is not recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) is a taekwondo organization founded on Mar. 22, 1966, by General Choi Hong Hi (최홍희) in Seoul, South Korea.[1] The ITF exists to promote and encourage the growth of the Korean martial art of taekwondo. After the South Korean Government abandoned the ITF, the government established the World Taekwondo Federation to continue the mission of taekwondo's globalization.[2] Once General Choi Hong Hi (최홍희) was exiled out of South Korea, he returned to North Korea and introduced the organization which settled there.[3] In 2001, the ITF Congress voted for General Choi Hong Hi as President for four years of the six-year term, then for his son (Choi Jung Hwa) to serve as President for the remaining two years. This was overturned (whether legally or illegally is disputed) by General Choi, causing a rift between himself and his son . Choi Jung Hwa split away from his father and created another organisation, which Choi Jung Hwa claimed to be the true ITF. While the majority of the TKD world stayed with General Choi, many others decided to follow Choi Jung Hwa. General Choi subsequently died in June 2002, having never reconciled with his son. On his deathbed in June 2002, General Choi allegedly said that he wanted a man known as Chang Ung, a North Korean IOC member, to take over as President . An Extraordinary Congress of the ITF was called with Chang Ung declared as the new President; but the legality of this Congress is disputed. Those claiming that the Congress was illegal (i.e. against the ITF's Constitution) held another Congress, at which Master Trần Triệu Quân (an 8th degree black belt) was elected as President. Thus there are now three organisations claiming to be the ITF. ITF's main functions are to coordinate and approve tournaments and seminars, set standards for teaching (patterns, sparring, destruction), collaborate with affiliated member organizations, and service members in regards to rank and certifications.[1]


Main article: Hyeong

Patterns, or teul (틀) in Korean, originally called hyeong (형), form an important aspect of training in Taekwon-Do. They are equivalent to the kata in karate. The majority of the patterns (except Yul-Gok, Ul-Ji and Tong-Il) start with a defensive move, which emphasizes taekwon-do's defensive nature. All of the patterns start and end at the same location. This ensures that the practitioners' stances are the correct length, width, and in the proper direction.

There are 24 patterns in the official ITF syllabus; this is symbolic of the 24 hours in a day. One additional pattern, Ko-Dang (or Go-Dang), was retired/replaced by Juche in 1986 by General Choi Hong Hi.[4][5] Ko-Dang and Juche are similar, and some Taekwon-do organisations have renamed Juche to Ko-Dang though most perform the newer pattern. The names of these patterns typically refer either to events in Korean history or to important people in Korean history. Elements of the patterns may also be historical references, such as the number of moves, the diagram, the way the pattern ends, and so on.

Patterns (teul) are performed in accordance with "The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do" in 15 volumes written by General Choi Hong Hi, the latest edition being from 1999 (later editions have been published, but the 1999 editions were the last General Choi Hong Hi was directly involved with). This comprehensive work contains 15 volumes with volumes 8 through 15 dedicated to the 24 patterns and containing descriptions of the pattern movements as well as pictures showing possible applications of some of the movements. There is also the book entitled "The Korean Art of Self Defense" (the 1999 edition, the latest used by ITF under Grandmaster Tran Trieu Quan and ITF under Grandmaster Choi, or the 2004 edition, the latest used by ITF under Chang Ung), also known as the Condensed Encyclopedia, written by General Choi Hong Hi. This is a single condensed encyclopedia of approximately 770 pages with a section dedicated to the 24 patterns.

There are also three fundamental exercises, named Saju-Jirugi (Four Direction Punch), Saju-Makgi (Four Direction Block) and Saju Tulgi (Four Direction Thrust). Saju-Jirugi and Saju-Makgi are basic defence exercises taught to beginners of the martial art. Saju Tulgi is less well known and is generally taught to 2nd Kup students just prior to Hwa-Rang. Saju Tulgi is not presented in the Condensed Encyclopedia but is present in the 15 Volume Encyclopedia (see: Volume 10, page 122).[6]

The 24 Patterns in Taekwon-Do ITF are:

  1. Chon-Ji (19 Movements) 9th kup
  2. Dan-Gun (21 Movements) 8th kup
  3. Do-San (24 Movements) 7th kup
  4. Won-Hyo (28 Movements) 6th kup
  5. Yul-Gok (38 Movements) 5th kup
  6. Joong-Gun (32 Movements) 4th kup
  7. Toi-Gye (37 Movements) 3rd kup
  8. Hwa-Rang (29 Movements) 2nd kup
  9. Choong-Moo (30 Movements) 1st kup
  10. Kwang Gae (39 Movements) 1st dan
  11. Po-Eun (36 Movements) 1st dan
  12. Ge-Baek (44 Movements) 1st dan
  13. Eui-Am (45 Movements) 2nd dan
  14. Choong-Jang (52 Movements) 2nd dan
  15. Juche (45 Movements)/Ko-Dang (39 Movements) 2nd dan
  16. Sam-Il (33 Movements) 3rd dan
  17. Yoo-Sin (68 Movements) 3rd dan
  18. Choi-Yong (46 Movements) 3rd dan
  19. Yon-Gae (49 Movements) 4th dan
  20. Ul-Ji (42 Movements) 4th dan
  21. Moon-Moo (61 Movements) 4th dan
  22. So-San (72 Movements) 5th dan
  23. Se-Jong (24 Movements) 5th dan
  24. Tong-Il (56 Movements) 6th dan

The 1 Retired Pattern in Taekwon-Do ITF is:

  1. Go-Dang (39 Movements)


ITF competition sparring rounds are 2 minutes and in national and international levels of competition they hold two rounds each 2 minutes with a one minute rest in between. Certain rules are no strikes below the belt, no elbow strikes, brawling, no falling down, no going outside of the ring, hit to the groin and knee strike are not allowed. The ring is a 9 metre by 9 metre (8 x 8 metre optional) ring marked by square mats or tape instead of a traditional style kickboxing rings with ropes. It has no sides allowing the fighter to move out of bounds. Whenever a fighter creates an infraction of the rules the centre referee will issue a warning to the fighter who created the infraction. 3 warnings equals a minus point. If a fighter uses excessive contact, he or she will be given a foul, which is an automatic minus point ; three fouls in a bout results in disqualification. ITF taekwon-do is fought in continuous point sparring. Four judges score the fights in each of the corners in the square ring. After the fight, a judge votes for which ever fighter has the most points and a winner is declared. In the case of a draw the fighters go to a one minute overtime round. If there is another draw the fighters go to a sudden death round where the fighter who scores first is declared the winner.

The official rules for ITF sparring competition are available at the ITF website.[7]


The ITF ranking system consists of six solid color belts; white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black.[8]

Coloured belt ranks are defined as follows (from lowest to highest rank):

  Grade Level Description
10th kup White - Signifies innocence, as that of the beginning student who has no previous knowledge of Taekwon-Do.
9th kup White with yellow tag
8th kup Yellow - Signifies the earth from which a plant sprouts and takes root as the foundation of Taekwon-Do is being laid.
7th kup Yellow with green tag
6th kup Green - Signifies the plant's growth as Taekwon-Do skills begin to develop.
5th kup Green with blue tag
4th kup Blue - Signifies the Heaven towards which the plant matures into a towering tree as training in Taekwon-Do progresses.
3rd kup Blue with red tag
2nd kup Red - Signifies Danger, cautioning the student to exercise control and warning the opponent to stay away.
1st kup Red with black tag
1st dan Black - Opposite of white, therefore signifying maturity and proficiency in Taekwon-Do; also indicates the wearer's imperviousness to darkness and fear.
2nd dan Assistant Instructor (must remain at this rank at least 2 years)
3rd dan Assistant Instructor (must remain at this rank at least 3 years)
4th dan International Instructor (must remain at this rank at least 4 years). At this point, a person may become a "SaBum-Nim"
5th dan Instructor (must remain at this rank at least 5 years)
6th dan Instructor (must remain at this rank at least 6 years)
7th dan Master Instructor (must remain at this rank at least 7 years)
8th dan Senior Master Instructor (must remain at this rank at least 8 years)
9th dan Grand Master

In certain strains of ITF clubs, kup is spelled "gup".

The reason for nine black belt degrees is that the number nine is not only the highest of the single-digit numbers, but also is the number of three multiplied by three. In the Orient, three is one of the more esteemed numbers. The Chinese character for 3 is three horizontal lines, one above the other. The bottom line represents earth; the middle line represents mortals; the upper line represents heaven.[9] It was believed that a man who could unite the three realms in himself, would aspire or be reborn into a king.

Black belt promotion

Up to 7th dan, all ranks require the student to perform a test of all skills and knowledge up to their rank to be promoted. Ranks above 7th dan may be awarded with consent of the promotion committee with no physical test required; due to the nature of and responsibilities of a master no longer being centered on the physical development of students. However, if the recipient desires, a demonstration may be performed. 9th degree (being the highest) can only be awarded when the special committee examines and reaches a unanimous consent.

Some national associations, such as the National Taekwon-Do Norway,[10] have longer training times between each black belt grade.

A 4th degree may grade students up to 2nd degree. A 5th or 6th degree International Instructor may grade students up to 3rd degree, while a 7th degree Master may grade students up to 5th degree. An 8th degree Master may grade students up to 6th degree. Promotion to 7th degree or above must be done by the ITF's Master Promotion Committee.[11]


The upsurge in aggressive behaviour in today’s society,[12] has led to a loss of the basic moral values that many people once shared. Analysts have noted that many people are misguided, left to search for their own values in a disillusioned society of war, crime and corruption is common. General Choi Hong Hi believed through the philosophy of taekwon-do that we could make the world a more peaceful place.[12] In a time where much is corrupt it is hard for one to find their own way, to tell right from wrong, or to even resist temptation into doing that which believes is wrong.

The philosophy of taekwon-do is summarized in the oath and the tenets.

Taekwon-Do Oath

I shall observe the tenets of Taekwon-Do.

All students must swear to carefully observe, acknowledge and live by each one of the taekwon-do tenets. Here is a brief and basic explanation of each:[12][13]

I shall respect the instructor and seniors.

A student vows to respect their instructors and those senior to them (both in age and rank). An instructor must also act respectfully to all students and persons in order to be respected and therefore not misusing Taekwon-Do.[13]

I shall never misuse Taekwon-Do.

One will never misuse Taekwon-Do to harm other, for their own personal gain or for any other manner that is unjust (this one is particularly important in any martial art, not just Taekwon-Do, as a trained martial artist could easily kill a person in unarmed close combat).[12][13][14]

I shall be a champion of freedom and justice.

The 4th line, “I shall be a champion of freedom and justice” can apply to many areas of life and although many may think one would have to do something amazing to achieve this, this part of the oath can be respected by even the littlest things in ones daily activity. If one becomes more open-minded to understanding others ideologies or the way others go about their lives instead of being quick to judge, then maybe the world would be a more understanding and accepting place. Thus allowing people to have the freedom they deserve. By accepting this belief one is bringing justice to this world and therefore being a champion of justice.[13][14] As we often see, conflicts can occur over common misconceptions of information. One must understand the full story and have all the facts before he can truly make a proper judgement.[12][13]

I shall build a more peaceful world.

The final line of the oath is “I shall build a more peaceful world”. One can also easily obtain this goal by going about their daily lives in a more peaceful manner. If everyone did this, the world would obviously become a more peaceful place.[14] As we often see, conflicts can occur over common misconceptions of information. One must understand the full story and have all the facts before he can truly make a proper judgement.[13] However, this does not mean a student cannot defend themselves against aggression directed towards themselves as that would defeat some of the purpose of Taekwondo, an art of unarmed self-defence. That does not mean though however a student can provoke aggression towards another individual, as that would breaking the oath.[14] As we often see, conflicts can occur over common misconceptions of information. One must understand the full story and have all the facts before he can truly make a proper judgement.[12][13]

Taekwon-Do Tenets

There are five tenets defined in the ITF.[12]

Courtesy (Ye Ui / 예의)
Showing courtesy to all, respecting others, having manners as well as maintaining the appropriate etiquette at all times, both within and outside the dojang (도장) (designated training area).[13]
Integrity (Yom Chi / 염치)
Although it may be similar, this form of integrity takes on a more wider role then defined in the common dictionary. In Taekwondo, integrity means not only to determine what is right or wrong but also having the conscience to feel guilt if one has done wrong and to have the integrity stand up for what is right.[12]
Perseverance (In Nae / 인내)
One will persevere time and time again until they have achieved a result which is adequate towards what one was trying to achieve.[12]
Self-control (Guk Gi / 극기)
This means to not only have control over one's physical acts, but also their mental thoughts and actions.[12]
Indomitable spirit (Baekjul Boolgool / 백절불굴)
To have indomitable spirit means to have the courage to stand up for what you believe in,[12] no matter what odds you are up against, and to always give 100% effort in whatever you do.

See also


External links

  • International Taekwon-Do Federation (Chang)
  • International Taekwon-Do Federation (Choi)
  • Unified International Taekwon-Do Federation (Hwang)
  • International Taekwon-Do Federation (Tran)
  • Taekwondo Federation of India (ITF)
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