Chung Do Kwan was founded by Grand Master Lee Won Kuk, who was born on April 13, 1907. It is highly possible that he was initially trained secretly in Taekkyon, because of the banning from the Japanese Occupation Forces on every form of martial art training in Korea. In 1926, by the age of 19, he goes to Japan to attend the Law School of Chuo University, where he studied Shotokan Karate with Grand Master Gichin Funakoshi (in which he won the 3rd Dan, as it is said). He also traveled to Okinawa for training, as well as in the areas of Henan and Shanghai in China in order to study Kung Fu.
He returned to Korea in January 1944. He finally opened his school in September 1944, with the support of the Japanese Governor – General Abe, after two denials from the Japanese Occupation authorities. He taught his art for the first time in Korea, naming it «Tang Soo Do», in Yung Shin High School of the area Sa De Mun in Seoul.
The name Chung Do Kwan was inspired whilst he was sitting on the beach and watched the waves blasting ashore. He wanted his art to be as strong and unstoppable. Chung Do means “Blue Wave” and Chung Do Kwan «The School of the Blue Wave.”
After the liberation of Korea from the Japanese, Lee was accused of being a friend of Japan and his School was closed for a year. When it reopened in 1946, Lee worked with the police to help clean up the country from the gangs of organized crime. Because of this close relationship, his School became known as the martial art of the national police.
It didn’t take long for the popularity of Chung Do Kwan to increase. At its best it reached to have 50,000 students at the headquarters and its branches. Although this success looked like an advantage, it evolved into a nightmare for Lee. The first Korean President Syngman Rhee, asked all the members of the Kwan to enroll as members of the Republican Party. As an exchange he proposed Lee the position of Minister of Home Affairs. Due to the suspicion that the motive of the government was the recruitment and supervision of all the members, he refused. When he refused the offer, he was arrested and accused by the Government to be the leader of a group of murderers. His wife, his family, and many of his trainees were arrested and tortured by the government. After that, in 1951, Lee left for Japan, just before the start of the Korean War, leaving the leadership of Chung Do Kwan with his student Yoo Ung Jun.
In 1976, Grand Master Lee immigrated to Arlington of Virginia in the United States, after being invited by General William Westmoreland, who was commander of the U.S. troops in Vietnam and student of Lee in the ’60s, when Lee was instructor of the American Army in the region. He lived in Washington till the end of his life.
He died from pneumonia on February 2, 2003, at the age of 96 years. The funeral tribute was read by his student, Master Yong Taek Chung.
Lee is considered to be the Father of Tae Kwon Do because he was the first one to openly instruct the martial art at the end of World War II. His School, Chung Do Kwan, became a training ground for many persons that later on would develop their own academies, Kwans.
Yoo Ung Jun tried to approach North Korea and eventually his place was taken by Son Duk Sung, who in turn was succeeded by Uhm Woon Kyu in 1959, President of the Kukkiwon, the World Center of Taekwondo, until June of 2008.
Uhm Woon Kyu contributed to the standardization of the modern version of the System, as much in the technical field as in convention, but also in the shaping of the rules of sport Tae kwon do. He was also an instructor in the South Korean Army and an important factor in creating and developing the Korean Taekwondo Association and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF).
Originally, Chung Do Kwan consisted of ten hand techniques and eight feet techniques.
From a technical point of view, Chung Do Kwan focused from the beginning on perfecting the basic techniques, aiming to develop a powerful technique, with powerful kicks and deep commitment to ethics and tradition.
The belt system in Chung Do Kwan was as follows:
- White belt (from the 8th till the 5th Kup)
- Red belt (from the 4th till the 1st Kup)
- Black belt (from the 1st till the 7th Dan)
The other Kwans were the following:
- Song Moo Kwan
- Jido Kwan
- Chang Moo Kwan
- Moo Duk Kwan
- Han Moo Kwan
- Jung Do Kwan
- Kang Duk Won
- Oh Do Kwan
All those formed the ground of the Korean Taekwondo Association and Kukkiwon.