A History of Taekwondo

In this section:

  1. Ancient Times
  2. Period of Three Kingdoms
  3. Koryo Dynasty
  4. Yi (or Chosun) Dynasty
  5. Japanese Colonisation of Korea
  6. Modern day Taekwondo
  7. Chung Do Kwan (the first School)
  8. The Lineage for Chun Ma Taekwondo
  9. Key Facts for Students

Previous < The Japanese Colonisation of Korea (1910 - 1945)

Chung Do Kwan Up

The Chung Do Kwan was founded by Grand Master (GM) Lee Won Kuk. He had studied Taekkyon in An Gup Dong (a street in Seoul), karate with Sensei Funagoshi in Okinawa, and kung fu at centres in Henan and Shanghai in China. GM Lee earned "the highest Dan rank" in Shotokan karate. Lee first began training under Sensei Gichin Funakoshi at Chuo University in Japan. Lee also traveled to China and Okinawa, studying martial arts technique, history and philosophy.

He returned to Korea in January 1944 because of the bombing raids on Tokyo at the time and eventually opened the Chung Do Kwan in September 1944 after being twice refused permission by the Japanese government.

His original name for what he taught was "Tang Soo Do". Grand Master Lee explains how he came up with the name Chung Do Kwan: "I was sitting on the beach in Korea watching the waves crash onto the shore. It then suddenly hit me that the name Blue Waves (Chung Do) would be a good name for the school, so I came up with the name Chung Do Kwan. I didn't want to call my school the Song Do Kwan because a child should have a different name than the father."

Grand Master Lee Won Kuk first came up with the name Tang Soo Do. The original name of the art in Okinawa was Toudejitsu, which in Japanese is Karate-jutsu and in Korean, Tang Soo Sool. Tou/Kara/Tang in this case refers to the Tang Dynasty. When the first character was changed to the character meaning "Empty" (Kara in Japanese and Kong in Korean), the last character was also changed from Jitsu to Do. The character for Tang was never used with the character Do in Japan, and it was only until GM Lee used it in Korea in 1944 that the term Tang Soo Do came into being.

The belt system of the Chung Do Kwan under Grand Master Lee was as follows:

  • White (8th-5th Kup)
  • Red (4th-1st Kup)
  • Black (1st to 7th Dan)

Testing occurred every six months and students would jump two Kup levels per test (8th to 6th Kup for example).


Although the name "Taekwondo" was proposed in 1955 by Chung Do Kwan students, it was slow to catch on among other Kwan Heads (Kwan Jang). Two of the other Kwan Jang preferred the name "Kong Soo Do" (Way of the Empty Hand). Some felt that "Kong Soo Do" would be more easily understood by potential students, in the same way that many people are familiar with the term "Karate" (Japanese versions of Chinese martial arts). This idea was quickly voted down in meetings with various Kwan Heads. As a result, a compromise name - "Tae Soo Do" - began to be used. A few years later, the name "Tae Kwon Do" was adopted by all Kwans because it was similar in sound to the ancient Korean kicking game of Taekkyon.


The Chung Do Kwan was the first Kwan to open in Korea. Because of Grand Master Lee's law background, he was appointed as a teacher at the Korean Police Academy and many of his early students were police.

Later, the President of Korea Rhee Seung Man, offered Grand Master Lee the position of Minister of the Interior. However, when GM Lee politely refused, President Rhee arrested GM Lee as well as one of his senior students GM Son Duk Sung. After being released, GM Lee and his family emigrated back to Japan immediately prior to the beginning of the Korean War. Before leaving Korea, GM Lee appointed his senior student, GM Yoo Ung Jun to succeed him as the Chung Do Kwan Kwan Jang. GM Yoo instead became a supporter of North Korea and eventually the position went to GM Son Duk Sung. Grand Master Son was succeeded as President of the Chung Do Kwan by Grand Master Uhm Woon Kyu in 1959.

Grand Master Uhm continues as the Chung Do Kwan President to this day. GM Uhm also served as President of the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters) until June 2008.

First Graduates

First generation Chung Do Kwan students include:

  • Hwang Kee (Founder, Korea Soo Bahk Do Association Moo Duk Kwan)
  • Son Duk Sung (Founder, World Tae Kwon Do Association)
  • Kang Suh Chong (Founder of Taekwondo Kuk Mu Kwan)
  • Uhm Woon Kyu (former Kukkiwon/Chung Do Kwan President)

Uhm Woon Kyu

Uhm Woon Kyu was the fourth Chung Do Kwan Kwan Jang, after GM Lee Won Kuk, GM Yoo Ung Jun and GM Son Duk Sung. He is also the present leader of the Chung Do Kwan, and up until June 2008 was the President of the Kukkiwon, succeeding longtime President Kim Un Yong. GM Uhm's nickname was "Sliding Side Kick God", due to his unmatched ability with that technique. Reportedly, he could kick an opponent from ten feet away using it.

GM Uhm helped devise the current rules governing modern Taekwondo free sparring, and is one of the pioneers responsible for the formation of modern Taekwondo. He was also Special Instructor for the South Korean Military. He also played a large part in the formation and development of the Korea Taekwondo Association, the World Taekwondo Federation and the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters).

As one of GM Lee Won Kuk's original and first students, GM Uhm remains a link to the earliest days of Taekwondo. As Head of Chung Do Kwan and former President of the Kukkiwon, he has spent decades ensuring that Kukki Taekwondo retains the power, etiquette, high technique, manners, and Way that makes it one of the world's preeminent martial arts. He is one of the most important Taekwondo figures in Korea.

Technique and Philosophy

Beginning in early times, Chung Do Kwan technique and philosophy centered on mastering basics, developing powerful technique, pinpoint accuracy in application, strong kicking, and deep appreciation for manners and etiquette. Its trademark techniques are the side kick, jumping side kick, and sliding side kick although it practices many other techniques as well-all in accordance with Chung Do Kwan principles. From the start, Lee Won Kuk wanted his students to be men of honour, only allowed upright individuals as his students, and encouraged them to live honourable lives as Chung Do Kwan students. All in an effort to restore the good reputation once held by Korean martial arts and distance itself from the notion of Taekwondo students as troublemakers.

Chung Do Kwan philosophy is that Taekwondo is a method of self-defence, self-improvement, and a Way of Life.

It, along with eight other recognized Kwans (Song Moo Kwan, Jido Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, Han Moo Kwan, Jung Do Kwan, Kang Duk Won and Oh Do Kwan), formed the basis of the Korea Taekwondo Association, and the Kukkiwon.

Next > The Lineage for Chun Ma Taekwondo