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Boxtel (NL), September 11 – Local news after a National Taekwon-Do Training at the club of TS Dekker, Sabum Ad Dekker. Promotion to the Open Worlds 2017, 5 associations, 8 schools and more then 50 participants.

By Kang Yoon-seung Seoel – South-Korea during Tul Tour August 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) — Harry van Schaik, who has practiced taekwondo since 1980 in the Netherlands, on Wednesday said he is excited to visit South Korea, the home of the traditional martial arts.

“As a martial art, taekwondo can be used for self-defense. But it can also be considered as a way of life and help the development of social skills,” Schaik said when asked why he was attracted to taekwondo.

Schaik and around 20 other followers of taekwondo from the Netherlands are on a 10-day journey to the country to better understand the martial art, now a global martial art favored by many around the world.

In this photo provided by the Seoul-based International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), Dutch practitioners of ITF-style taekwondo demonstrate moves of the martial art on Aug. 2, 2016, in Paju, north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

Almost in every corner of South Korea, there is a handful of “dojangs,” a term referring to the gyms that teach the martial art. Some locals even get offended if a foreigner confuses taekwondo with karate, another martial art with Japanese origin.

Here, the public makes a big fuss when a Korean taekwondo athlete fails to win a gold at international games like the Rio Summer Olympics.

Currently, the standardization of taekwondo is governed by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), a Seoul-based organization with more than 200 national associations as members. The standard is also accepted by the International Olympic Committee.

But Schaik has never been affiliated with the WTF. His style of taekwondo, involving slightly different uniforms, moves and terms, is governed by the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). The organization is currently divided into various factions due to internal strife.

“The biggest difference between the WTF and ITF styles is the way they preserved and developed the original form of taekwondo,” said Oh Chang-jin, who heads the ITF faction in Seoul. “While the WTF-style has embraced the essence of sports, the ITF-techniques tend to maintain traditions.”

Oh said the WTF-style focuses on speed and earning points, while the ITF-style is more suitable for actual combat. Accordingly, the latter kind also uses more punches unlike the kick-oriented WTF-style.

But Oh said the two pillars of taekwondo should not question each other’s authenticity, as they all share the same spirit.

The logo of the International Taekwondo Federation (Yonhap)

“The two styles do not compete with each other. Rather, they are just different ways of how taekwondo can be practiced,” Oh said.

The ITF movement, however, currently remains sluggish in Seoul. Not many South Koreans are aware of the style, mostly due to the perception that it originated from North Korea based on its complicated history.

Followers of the ITF movement say its style holds no ties with the North Korean government.

“It is not true that the ITF-style came from North Korea,” Schaik said, highlighting the roots of the organization was established by Choi Hong-hi, one of the key figures in the history of taekwondo.

Born in 1918 in Korea under Japan’s colonial rule, Choi kicked off the first International Taekwondo Federation in 1966 as a South Korean.

But after facing discord with the incumbent government, Choi moved to Canada. There, he also managed to promote taekwondo to North Korea amid years-old geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

In 1973, South Korea kicked off its own WTF to promote taekwondo worldwide.

On the back of Choi’s efforts, the ITF-style eventually became the official style adopted by the North Korean government. Due to the historical background, its style of taekwondo is still misunderstood by many as being aligned with Pyongyang, although the communists’ regime was just one of the member countries.

Since the founder’s death in 2002, the ITF faced major struggles, splitting into various factions in different countries.

There are currently at least four organizations around the globe that use the title ITF, with each commemorating Choi as the founder.

Choi Hong-hi, who established the International Taekwondo Federation in 1966 (Yonhap)

The ITF in Vienna is headed by Ri Yong-son, and is officially recognized by the North Korean government. But there is also another ITF based in Britain, which is led by Choi Jung-hwa, the son of the late Choi. Organizations of the same title also exist in Spain and South Korea as well.

No group currently solely leads the ITF movement around the globe, although the Vienna-based headquarters is often used as a channel for North Korea’s sports diplomacy.

Nevertheless, followers of the ITF movement are not at all interested in the authenticity of each group but just wish to focus on training their spirit through the martial arts.

Overseas followers of taekwondo say what matters the most is that the different factions of the martial arts are working toward the same goal, which is to train one’s body and mind.

Gretha Braunes, who trained taekwondo for 10 years, also said she was not aware of the differences between the WTF and ITF styles when she started training but was just amused about the “do” in taekwondo, which refers to the way people should live.

“(Taekwondo) made me way more confident about things. I think what matters the most (in terms of the WTF and ITF issues) is that we all practice the same things,” said Jamie Braunes, who also visited South Korea with her mother.

Leading the Dutch team’s demonstration of taekwondo throughout the country, Oh says he hopes the martial art can also contribute to establishing peace.

“This is the common idea that is shared by all ITF members around the globe,” Oh added. “We must keep ideology out of the martial art.”

Dutch practitioners of the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) style of taekwondo gather to discuss Korean culture on Aug. 2, 2016, in Paju, north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. This photo was provided by the Seoul-based ITF. (Yonhap)

 

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