logo   t

Tae Kwon Do Book Review

Tae Kwon Do by Choi Hong Hi (Masters Publications 2007)

Books on Tae Kwon Do abound, written by authors from all countries. While they may range in quality from fair to excellent, there is only one book on the subject written by the founder of Tae Kwon Do, Choi Hong Hi. It is this work, which presents the founder's vision, approach to the art, and application of techniques which should be the standard by which all other works on this martial art may be compared.

The work states that Tae Kwon Do is a martial art, not a sport, a "lethal weapon", although "it must be used for peace, for justice, and the weak". These are interesting statements, since the sporting and competitive aspects of Tae Kwon Do were probably more heavily emphasized if not simply publicized over all other styles of Karate in its early days in the U.S.. A brief biography of the author states that Choi formally founded Tae Kwon Do after mastering Tae Kyon, an ancient Korean form of fighting emphasizing kicking, and Japanese Karate, while in Japan. This reviewer recalls that during the Vietnam era, there was some controversy when this book was first published in 1965, since Choi was a noted General in North Korea. It seems time and the times have made this a non-issue today.

The work consists of 303 pages and over 1300 photos. While the photos are clear enough for the reader to follow, memory seems to say that the 1965 first edition contained photos slightly larger and clearer. There are six parts to the work: Introduction; Essential Techniques; Training; Fundamental Exercise, Patterns in Taekwon Do; Sparring; Self-Defense Techniques. Each part is divided into many subsections.


The text, also very small in font size, is nevertheless very clear in its instructions. Not only are the techniques demonstrated, but the reason for them and the purpose behind them explained as well. In some instances, the text tells the reader the best stance from which to execute the move presented, a most unique and invaluable aspect of this work. While not present for most techniques, on more complicated moves, e.g., "double step-turning", diagrams are there to help clarify the actual body positions.

The section on Patterns (forms) lists twenty, with photos and diagrams accompanying the text. It is here where larger photos would be most helpful. The section on Self-Defense, which would be closest to Taiho-Jutsu practitioners' techniques, demonstrates a variety of defenses, some involving takedowns. While not all seem practical or common encounters (e.g., a lunge punch to the face while both attacker and defender are kneeling and facing each other), many of the defenses show taisabaki and a block as a first response. Some throws are demonstrated, and there are defenses shown against unarmed and armed attackers.

All in all, this work is loaded with information, and despite the photos and the text lacking size which would enhance the work, Tae Kwon Do is a text the reader can certainly follow and learn from. For those wishing to read about, understand, and/or learn the art of Tae Kwon Do from its founder, there is no more complete work, and overall in terms of all-encompassing information of the art, no better work on Tae Kwon Do on the market.



Return to Table of Contents