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World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Vs International Taekwondo Federation (ITF)

WTF fighters are “sloppy”, “lack of discipline”, “fight with their hands down”, “focus too much on the sport”, “never punch”, “unrealistic”, etc, etc, etc. Then what do you hear about ITF? Nothing! Is that because ITF is a perfect system? No, it’s because most Taekwondo World Federation practitioners have not seen a game of the International Taekwondo Federation. The ITF is only practiced by the WTF, so it does not give it the same exposure.

I can tell you the disadvantages of ITF, not because I am a WTF pro, but because I have multiple Black Belts in both styles. I currently have 2 dojang and they are WTF. I will later reveal why our school chose to be affiliated with the World Taekwondo Federation over the International Taekwondo Federation.

First of all, I am a Taekwondo pro, not a WTF pro. I read a comment on a blog somewhere and the gentleman said it’s ALL Taekwondo anyway. I believe it takes a mature mind to truly understand and believe that. The World Taekwondo Federation is essentially a mutated version of the International Taekwondo Federation. If you remember, one was created from the other.

We all know about Gen. Hong Hi Choi. If you’re a WTF practitioner, chances are you’ve never heard of it. The reason you may have never heard of him is that the South Korean government viewed him as a traitor. Korea adopted a new Taekwondo system after Gen. Hong Hi Choi has been ousted from the country which is why we have two major federations today – WTF & ITF. Interestingly enough, the WTF does not mention Gen. Choi.

WTF or not, Gen. Choi is the father of Taekwondo and is responsible for helping to evaluate the name Taekwondo, and that should always be remembered. The reason for his dismissal is a completely different matter and will not be discussed in this article.

Most of the techniques created by Gen. are practiced. Choi in every Taekwondo, whether it’s WTF, ITF, or even ATA. World Federation of Taekwondo practitioners developed that muta version, as I said before. It is important to understand that the WTF did not create what you see today. It was created by the contestants. It was created by specific rules. It was APPROVED by the masters and masters of the World Taekwondo Federation, but they did not create what we see today.

The traditional house kick was no longer accurate enough. The powerful sideline became ineffective in an Olympic style competition. Punching … well, that’s just frustrating for a lot of people, WTF or ITF. I will get back to that. Please don’t say, “I could use an accurate home kick or an effective sidekick.” I thought the same thing with a point style fighter in the ITF. I decided I wanted to take a shot at an Olympic style tournament (WTF). I succeeded at a local level, when I competed in my first WTF tournament, so I went to the US National Championships.

I will admit, my opponent was confused, but that didn’t last long. Here’s what I found out quickly. WTF practitioners can cover several meters in the second split, in any direction. My kicks were too short, imagine that … I’m 6’3 “, and I didn’t have the footwork or training to move across the mat fast enough to ever beat my opponent. Sure, there were kicks I have an accurate house fast and sidekicks.I could sit on my back leg and snap dozens of kicks on my body and head like no other.

If you think about it, the ring in the official WTF game is 12 square meters. That’s almost 40 feet wide, and that ring is used. Here I am, a very successful point style fighter, who won first place in almost every competition I competed in. Then, at Nationals, in San Jose, California, I get off with a quick home kick to the ribs.

Accurate WTF house kick has some changes to be more effective. Why raise your knees straight and turn all the way when you can cut your distance and time by going diagonally. The kick has less power this way, but it hits your opponent much faster. The other thing is that it sets your opponent up for another kick in which you could spin your accurate house kick all the way. Other stylists consider this practice sloppy. WTF practitioners consider it effective.

Think of WTF competition like boxing. It’s exactly the same, just with your feet. In the WTF, we spend a lot of “Fast Kicks” or “Quick Kicks”. In the ITF, the closest version is “Skipping Roundhouse Kick”. It is a very quick forward motion, usually generated from a skip, and immediately followed by an accurate house kick on his front foot. These round house kicks, and 45 degree kicks are like a boxing bribe. They do not intend to knock out the opponent, only to launch another attack.

In the World Taekwondo Confederation, you will find other variations on the round house kick, such as the bada chagi (round counter kick) or the ahp bal chagi (front leg kick – usually a round front kick house kick). Then bgi chagi is lateral, and ahp bal chagi is lateral. Then there are round house double kicks, and triples and “quads”. Most of these kicks cause ITF practitioners to vomit when they see them. I know, the first time I saw a double kick, I thought it was a joke.

The double kick is really a very powerful kick that requires strength, timing and balance. Note – the WTF double with alternate legs is continuous. It’s effective in competition, and that’s it! If I were attacked today, the double or triple kick is the last thing I am going to do. Why practice then? Are you ready for my answer? Because it’s FUNCTION! People don’t do fencing competitions because they want to learn how to defend themselves. They do it because it’s a master art form and it’s fun. I don’t know of any WTF competitor that competes so they can better defend themselves.

I’ve been studying martial arts for over 30 years now and I’m to the point where I don’t need to let myself or others convince me that WTF competition is a great self-defense practice. I am also mature enough to know that no competition is good self – defense practice, and that includes the UFC.

Heck, punching in your arsenal should be done if you were ever attacked on the street. In a WTF contest, we don’t punch, and not because we don’t know how. It’s because the judges won’t EVER score them. Why waste them, and waste energy? It’s unfortunate, but that’s part of the game, and that’s the sparring. Sparring is a game.

In ITF & WTF, it’s not a tag game but a tag game, with kicks and pounds. I disagree that ITF is more realistic than WTF. As for the record, they are both unrealistic, competing, in their own ways. WTF practitioners learn how to feel a devastating blow. The strikes are real and they hurt, and if you are careless, you will go home with serious injuries.

On the other hand, we usually keep our hands lower, and sometimes down. By the way, when your arms are down, your body becomes more relaxed and you can accelerate and kick your body better. Instead of blocking our weapons, and the risk of them breaking, we only use footwork to move or strike our opposition.

In an ITF game, practitioners will fight with more care and precision, usually because they are not wearing gear or have limited protection. An uncomfortable kick will always hit your toe. I liked how we alternated between kicking and punching in an ITF competition. I also enjoyed the accuracy and control of my starters that I gained.

Conversely, starting and stopping consistently to award the point would break the momentum of the game and not allow additional strategies to be developed. It also gave you and your opponent a chance to catch their breath – it’s unlikely to happen in a real situation.

All competition content aside, the WTF and ITF are great systems. They have great practitioners, masters and great masters. The WTF is the most practiced style in the world, so you get flaws in an athlete ‘s character straight from the large number of competitors. You’re going to find dojangs that have completely lost the meaning of Taekwondo and martial arts as a whole. I have seen dojangs who have lost 100% of their manners and respect for martial arts.

Remember, I saw Karate schools and Kenpo schools that lost the same elements. You rarely see it, because those styles aren’t in the Olympics and they get less exposed.

So why are we WTF and not ITF? Years ago, I took a big part in the competition. I had a dream of going to the Olympics one day and the only way I had a chance was to transfer to the WTF. I would think I came close. I reached the quarterfinals at the US National Championships. I lost an excellent fighter and individual, Michael Tang. Michael Tang was a member of the U.S. team at the time, and basically the only obstacle I had was to send him to the U.S. Team Trials that year. The game was close, very close! Michael, on the other hand, had a dream too!

I started my career competing late as a WTF competitor, since I was part of the ITF for so long. It was basically the only shot I had, before my priorities shifted to raising a family. I understand that it is not Taekwondo style or martial arts style that you practice, but the experience you get from it.

In our academy, we do not train as Taekwondo Olympic competitors. We teach students how to punch. We even teach our students how to make a box and grapple too. We also teach them practical self-defense maneuvers, rather than practicing 3-step fighting patterns.

Those students who are looking for competition, train separately in class aimed at preparing them for the Olympic-style competition. I continue to remain affiliated with the WTF because of the opportunity it gives athletes a dream, especially young athletes who have the opportunity to train for the Junior Olympics, an exciting event for children.

WTF or ITF, whatever. It is important how the curriculum is presented as well as the additional insight into the martial arts that you are providing for students.

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