During the past years taekwondo has become a very popular sport. All kinds of competitions and tournaments have emerged from a local to a global level. It has also recently become an Olympic sport, leading to a hierarchy among international taekwondo organizations.
By far the most popular one is WTF (World Taekwondo Federation). Founded in 1973 the South Korea based organization is the top authority in Olympic taekwondo as member of International Olympic Committee. The organization has a long history of more than 30 years and is comprised of members from 182 National Associations from five world regions: Asian (ATU), European (ETU), Pan American (PATU), African (AFU) and Oceanian (OTU)
Also a big player in the field of taekwondo is ITF (International Taekwondo Federation). Founded in 1966, ITF main proposes are to manage the tournaments and seminars, set the standards of teaching and helps to ensure the correct certification and ranking. At the base of their values and knowledge stand the most important books about taekwondo art and practice: “The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do” in 15 volumes and “The Korean Art of Self Defense” also known as the Condensed Encyclopedia, both written by General Choi Hong Hi.
The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) was founded in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S. by Haeng Ung Lee, in 1969. Together with Songahm Taekwondo Federation and World Traditional Taekwondo Union they comprise one of the largest taekwondo organizations in the world, summing up to more than 350000 members. ATA is popular for practicing sogham Taekwondo in their affiliated schools. Sogham means “pine tree and rock” and compares the student learning taekwondo with the growth of a pine tree.
WTF is the most important of all the taekwondo organizations due to its Olympic status. During the past years the way it functions has become more democratic, having evolved into a structure capable of balancing international expectations. I think that WTF is currently on the right track and will continue to be as long as it keeps its Olympic status. After general Choi’s death ITF split into three organizations: ITF Vienna, ITF North Koreea and ITF Canada, all claiming to be “the real” ITF. This however had a detrimental impact on ITF’s international prestige affecting its image. Easily noticeable from its title, ATA is a predominantly American organization. This situation stops it from obtaining true international recognition.
It is my opinion that taekwondo will always have many different styles and will be represented by a large number of organizations. I base this assumption by the way this kind of affairs are influenced by economics, national policies and the individual opinions of influential people.