Last year saw 50 years since the formation of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (I.T.F.) at the Chosun hotel in Seoul, South Korea. So now as the first year ends of the second half of the century for this auspicious organisation, we see many changes coming about. Probably the most prominent is the fact that there is more than one organisation that is using this name. Many will complain about this and say that there should only be one I.T.F. but is this really the case?
Let’s consider this for a moment, why does the I.T.F. exist if not to promote and expand the Art of Taekwon-Do as devised by General Choi Hong Hi throughout the world. The Federation must also act as the administrative body to oversee the issuance of certification of rank and skill based programs such as the International Instructor course and Umpire/Referee qualification as well as the organisation of events. But importantly it is the service organisation for its membership. I think most people would agree in today’s world competition in a marketplace generally leads to positive outcomes for the general consumer.
In the case of the I.T.F. the consumers are the members who practice ITF style Taekwon-Do. Let’s consider how were these members treated in the first half of the century?
To my recollection the average member could only deal with the I.T.F. through their National Governing Body who basically decided whether the matter got any higher than their instructor.
It seemed to take forever to get certificates back from the I.T.F. and the cost was high (and even higher if their instructor added their own additional fee on top of the I.T.F. percentage).
People were coerced into attending courses rather than encouraged, and if you attended an IIC course it didn’t mean you were qualified until you did one after your 4th degree black belt.
What do we see in the second half of the century of the I.T.F.
The Federations are competing for members and have dropped their prices for both membership and certification. More worrying however is the variety of standards for recognition of rank or promotion, with some organisations issuing ranks merely to attract new members with little adherence to the standards established in the Encyclopaedia of Taekwon-Do.
We do however see much greater opportunity for members to gain skills through courses, unfortunately the standard of courses is very variable with some ITF bodies becoming very professional with certificates issued on the final day of the course whereas other federations offer ad-hoc courses run by individuals who may have a high profile but do not really understand modern teaching principles.
One of the positive aspects of having more Federations is that the members in some of the new I.T.F. organisations have direct access to their headquarters and the bodies have had to become more transparent in their business dealings. Because of the competition most of the bodies have to work harder to retain their members, particularly those members of high rank. But this may also have negative connotations because some organisations may be prepared to sacrifice some basic principles of integrity in order to attract members and some members may allow their ego to seek some personal advantage that is not earned, by moving to a less principled organisation that will offer them what they want.
We have however seen that it is less easy for Federations to ban the interaction between groups since they know that if they ban this interaction they may lose their members to another more open minded group.
Most of the older members of the I.T.F know that the formation of more than one Federation wasn’t because the members were not being catered for properly, the splits occurred for political reasons or because of personal disagreements at the top levels. Nonetheless, the result has been more choice for members and in many ways better services to members. So I return to one of the opening comments “many will complain about there being more than one organisation using the name I.T.F and say that there should only be one I.T.F. but is this really the case”?
Perhaps if you are the only one you would support this idea, since it allows you total control over the members, but if you are a member then maybe having more than one I.T.F. allows you to have some level of control over the I.T.F. of which you are a part. But there is a caveat to this, with power comes responsibility, and that responsibility is to ensure that the I.T.F of which you are a part maintains high standards of both the physical and ethical aspects the Art that it represents.
Perhaps one day it may be possible for there to be one I.T.F but that day will only come when ego’s are put aside and the wellbeing of the membership becomes the reason for existence of the I.T.F.