What is the difference between the WTF, ITF and ATA Taekwondo systems?

While each organization has a separate history, all trace their roots back to the history of Korean martial arts.

We will elaborate more on each system, but, in a nutshell:

The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) was founded in 1973 and is the officially recognized body for Taekwondo for international competitions such as the Olympics.

The headquarters are in Seoul, South Korea. The WTF organizes the forms and belts for WTF dojangs, but does not dictate standards other than the minimum WTF requirements for black belts. A black belt who receives a certificate from Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters) is considered a black belt at any WTF Taekwondo dojang worldwide.

WTF considers itself to be developing the sport of Taekwondo, and the basic principles, disciplines and forms are set in WTF dojangs (schools).

The International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) was founded in 1966 by General Choi Hong Hi. ITF headquarters were moved to Toronto, Canada, in 1972, and to Benidorm, Spain, in 2007. The ITF systems focus on more traditional Taekwondo, including many forms that General Choi developed.

The ITF is not affiliated with the WTF. It sanctions its own schools and has its own requirements. Its sparring principles are very different. Often ITF schools practice no-contact or point style competition.

There are several different splits within the ITF, which causes some confusion; a black belt from an ITF or sub set school is not always recognized at all ITF schools.

The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) was founded in 1969 in Nebraska by Master Haeng Ung Lee (later called "Eternal Grand Master"), who was taught by General Choi of ITF.

According to its web site, the ATA has over 1,500 schools across North America. The ATA licenses its Master Instructors to teach under the ATA umbrella.

ATA non-contact and full contact standards for sparring; it is said that ATA uses a blend of both the WTF’s and the ITF’s sparring and forms.

The ATA conducts closed tournaments, which means that if you are not a member of the ATA and/or a school you cannot compete in the tournament.

Taekwondo Instructors and Schools: Link your school website to Taekwondo-guide.com as a resource for your students.

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