What are the differences between ITF and WTF Taekwondo?

I’ve had the opportunity to study both ITF (International Tae-Kwon-Do Federation) and WTF (World Tae-Kwon-Do Federation) Tae-Kwon-Do. And let me tell you, the differences between the two can be quite striking.

First off, let’s talk about the origins of the two styles. ITF Tae-Kwon-Do was founded by General Choi Hong Hi in 1966, and was primarily focused on traditional martial arts techniques and self-defense. On the other hand, WTF Tae-Kwon-Do was founded in 1973 by a group of South Korean martial artists, and has a more sport-oriented focus, with an emphasis on competition and Olympic-style sparring.

When it comes to the techniques themselves, there are a few key differences between ITF and WTF Tae-Kwon-Do. ITF tends to use more circular movements and a wider stance, while WTF focuses on linear movements and a narrower stance. ITF also places a greater emphasis on hand techniques, such as knife-hand strikes and backfists, while WTF focuses more on kicks.

Another big difference between the two styles is the use of forms, or “poomsaes” in Korean. ITF Tae-Kwon-Do has 24 forms that students are required to learn, while WTF Tae-Kwon-Do has only 8. And if you’ve ever seen ITF forms performed, you know they can be quite elaborate and include a lot of spinning and jumping techniques. WTF forms, on the other hand, are generally more straightforward and focus on basic techniques and combinations.

Now, when it comes to sparring, that’s where the real differences start to show. ITF sparring is generally more free-flowing, with less emphasis on stopping to reset after every point. WTF sparring, on the other hand, is much more rigid, with strict rules and a point-stop-reset format. And don’t even get me started on the difference in equipment. ITF sparring is done with minimal gear, while WTF sparring requires a lot of padding and protection.

All of this isn’t to say that one style is better than the other. It really comes down to personal preference and what you’re looking to get out of your martial arts training. If you’re interested in traditional martial arts techniques and self-defense, ITF Tae-Kwon-Do might be the way to go. But if you’re looking to compete and potentially represent your country in the Olympics, WTF Tae-Kwon-Do is the way to go.

Personally, I’ve found that training in both styles has greatly enriched my martial arts journey. I’ve learned a lot from the traditional techniques of ITF, and the sport-oriented focus of WTF has helped me to become a more well-rounded fighter. And let’s be real, who doesn’t love the thrill of competition?


So, whether you’re looking to become the next Olympic Tae-Kwon-Do champion or just want to learn some cool kicks and punches, there’s a Tae-Kwon-Do style out there for you. And remember, as Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” So, go out there and find the style that works for you, and make it your own.

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