The Great Grandmaster Howard Y. Kang (3/12/1931 – 4/4/2021)

9th Degree Black Belt, one of the original Taekwon-Do founders and Great Grandmasters in the world. Founder of the International Chin Mu Kwan Taekwon-Do Federation (CTF). 

On the left, CTF Founder Great Grandmaster Kang, Yon Ho, in the center is General Choi, Hong Hi, and on the right Nam, Tae Hi, original founders of Taekwon-Do.

Plaque below presented by General Choi October 7th, 1972. 

261_1968 261_1968_Mala 261_1960_s 241_xxmaylasia1968 261_1970_s_8th_dan 232_Kang107  216_GM_1970_S

History of Great Grandmaster H. Y. Kang and Chin Mu Kwan 

Yon Ho Kang (Howard Y. Kang) one of the original founders of Taekwon-Do and the founder of Chin Mu Kwan was born in Korea near Pusan on June 23, 1931. In 1938 GGM Kang’s father moved the family to Manchuria and lived there from 1938 until 1945. Living in Manchuria he studied a martial art that had no name at the time. He studied a type of Tai -Chi and Chinese yoga. During his time in Manchuria GGM Kang was forced to study and write Japanese, he also learned to write and speak Chinese along with his parents teaching him to read and write Korean. 

In 1945, after the end of World War II, his family moved to Seoul. Kang’s first official instructor in Korea was Won Kuk Lee. Lee opened his school in 1944, Lee was the head of Chung Do Kwan. It was the first martial arts school opened in Korea during the Japanese occupation. GGM Kang studied what was the Korean pronunciation of karate, Tang Soo Do and obtained 1st Dan in 1948. Lee had studied under Gichin Funakoshi in Shotokan while in college in Japan, and he studied many other Japanese and Chinese styles. GGM Kang was an early student of Lee and he learned all these styles and techniques. The next leader was Lee’s top student Yoo Ung Ju and then Duk Sung Son. Other kwans were formed, Moo Duk Kwan, Song Moo Kwan, Jido Kwan, and Chang Moo Kwan. Chung Do Kwan with Lee, Nam Tae Hi and GGM Kang were adding and subtracting techniques and developing a very hard strong precise empty hand art for combat in trenches. GGM Kang and the art was soon introduced to the 29th infantry in a demonstration where GGM Kang and Nam broke tiles and bricks. The demonstration was in front of General Choi and then president Rhee Seung Man. This is the first time GGM Kang meets Gen Choi, Kang is 2nd degree at the time. As Gen Choi and the president were watching, Rhee comments that this new art looks like Taekyon. They had added many new foot techniques to the basic Japanese kicking, spinning and jumping were part of it. Gen Choi takes control of the new art and Oh Do Kwan/Kuk Mu Kwan is formed in 1953 with Suh Chong Kang as President and Yon Ho Kang as VP (not related). GGM Kang and Nam Tae Hi, both senior students of Lee, Nam was the head instructor of Oh Do Kwan.“The Gym of Our Way” an on off shoot of Chung Do Kwan, “Blue Wave School” as part of the ROK Army’s Physical Training Program. The first people to instruct the ROK Army in “Tang Soo Do” were Nam Tae Hi and GGM Kang who is now 4th Dan and Chief Instructor for the military and training their instructors. 

Forms (Hyoung) started to be designed in 1953. Great Grandmaster said that each form took 4-6 weeks to develop as the leaders of the group painstakingly developed each movement with specific meaning and hidden techniques. Each Chunbi stance has a historical or philosophical meaning. Each form reflects the life and specific traits of the person it was named for. The student was forced to concentrate on the form that was being done. With 24 forms it took years to develop these simple looking but highly complicated forms. These forms became known as the Chang Hon School of forms. Chang Hon means Blue Cottage named after General Choi’s pen name. Grandmaster opened his first school in 1954 in Seoul Korea. 

During this time a ranking system was being developed along with updated and modern training methods. Great Grandmaster, who was ahead of his time, saw the need to add belts into the ranking system as only white, brown and black existed. There was too much time between belts and there was lack of incentives. In 1955 he introduced the yellow belt. Later green, blue and red were introduce and brown removed. Today there are many-colored belts in non-traditional Taekwon-Do. GGM Kang also developed two-step sparing and incorporated the techniques into the art. CTF continues to use the traditional ranking system and the forms as originally developed.

1955 the art had progressed to the point that a new modern name was needed. Gen Choi Hong Hi submitted a new name and on April 11, 1955 the name chosen for the new art, Taekwon Do, GGM Kang was present. TAE: to strike or smash with the foot, KWON: to strike or smash with the hand and DO: as a path or way of life. The name was changed once but almost immediately was named back to Taekwon Do. 

Since the Great Grandmaster was fluent in Chinese, he translated Chinese tournament rules into Korean, thus he helps to set up a competition aspect of Taekwon-Do with standardized rules. Great grandmaster also introduced protective equipment by covering pieces of bamboo with canvas.

1958 the Korea Taekwon-Do Association (KTA) was formed with Gen Choi as President.

March 12th 1959 Gen Choi wrote Chin Mu Kwan in Hanji for GGM Kang and had him form his own kwan under Kuk Mu Kwan/Oh Do Kwan.  GGM Kang saw the need to develop his own Kwan not only for his military students but for the need to reach Taekwon-Do to civilians. He formed his own association of black belts and student and called it Chin Mu Kwan: True Martial Art Home. It is an association of his like-minded students who would uphold the tradition of traditional Taekwon-Do he believed so deeply in. The patch contains the clenched fist symbolizing physical power, the globe representing the international aspect of Chin Mu Kwan, the yin and yang symbol representing the diversity of the art and its beginning in Korea, Taekwon-Do written in Han Gul (Korean writing) and Chin Mu Kwan written in Hanja (Chinese writing). Grandmaster choose the color red to represent the deep spirit of Taekwon-Do. 

GGM Kang diligently promoted the art in Korea and around the world. In 1960 he became the Chief Instructor of the Police headquarters in Korea, Gyeonggi-Do Province. In 1962 he was the Chief Instructor of the Korean Customs Dept.

In 1965 GGM Kang began a worldwide goodwill tour for Taekwon-Do with other instructors. He began to teach the new art, spending months to a year developing the art in the countries he visited. He developed many new instructors. He taught in the Philippines, where he created Dando the knife form, which CTF uses as a 2nd degree testing requirement. He taught in Taiwan, Vietnam, Sarawak in Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, Australia, and New Zealand. He personally taught the King of Brunei. He also went to Europe in Spain and Germany teaching. One of GGM Kangs student’s 3rd Dan Yung Man Kim pioneered Taekwon-Do in Brazil. During the years of traveling, he developed most of all the breaking techniques used. During these developments he broke his back doing a vault and flip break and also broke many other bones along with his knee. 

March 22nd 1966 the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) was formed along with Chin Mu Kwan becoming a federation (CTF), GGM Kang became the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) director. The first ITF film has many of GGM Kangs students.

In 1968 Gen Choi named GGM Kang Chief Instructor to Malaysia, he taught the East Malaysian Army and opened the first Taekwon-Do school in Malaysia. Then he opened a school in Australia.

On 9/1/1968 Great Grandmaster Kang was the 3rd person to be promoted to 7th Dan by Gen. Choi Hong Hi, his certificate number is K-3.

The first ever Taekwon-Do magazine “The Human Weapon” featured GGM Kangs flying side kick on the cover.

In 1970 GGM Kang moved to the United States and was named Chief Instructor for the American Taekwon-Do Association (ATA), he taught the ATA/Lee Brothers the new forms and presided over their tests.  GGM Kang opened his first US school in 1971 teaching in Nebraska and Indiana. He was encouraged to move to a larger metropolitan area in Chicago. Here he opened schools and Korean instructors in the area come to him to learn the new Taekwon-Do forms and training methods, as most were still teaching karate or judo forms. He left his school to his student in Chicago and moved to Tennessee. In 1974 he was issued an Umpires Certificate for the ITF 1st World Championships in Canada and promoted to 8th Dan. GGM Kang becomes a US citizen. In 1976 GGM Kang became instructor to the Tennessee State Police Academy and teaching at the Naval Station Memphis. Then he moved Alabama to open a school, where in 1982 to 1990 Kang was appointed Alabama Sports Festival Commissioner. 

On 12/1/1981 GGM Kang is promoted to Grandmaster 9th Dan ITF certificate # A-3.  

Due to the emergence of the World Taekwon-Do Federation (WTF) (WT) with the many differences from ITF and the political climate, GGM Kang ended ties with many of his associates and CTF became more independent.

During the 1980’s GGM Kang held many intensive training camps around the US and this is when the majority of current CTF masters met GGM and decided to join CTF. At these camps the current leaders of CTF realized how much more there was to learn and how their own techniques and teachings had strayed from what the original Taekwon-Do was designed to be. It became our desire to assure GGM Kangs teachings and CTF would be preserved and continue to move forward. Throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s CTF schools have opened and flourished across the country. One of GGM’s original students in Indiana still has a CTF school in operation.

Great Grandmaster Kang retired to Florida and led a private life practicing Taekwon-Do daily and overseeing that strict CTF standards are kept.

At the CTF National Test in 2017 GGM Kang promoted his first 9th Dan Grandmasters, longtime loyal students Stephen Davis and Fred Destolfo who soon named him Great Grandmaster. A few years later Bob Davis, Lenny Young and the late Harry Plichta were promoted to Grandmaster 9th Dan.     

Today, and as in its long history, Chin Mu Kwan Taekwon-Do Federation (CTF) exists solely to promote and maintain original traditional Taekwon-Do. CTF is an instructional and certification nonprofit organization with the goal of having the highest standards in original Taekwon-Do.  CTF continues to have national and regional tests held in different cities throughout the U.S.

GGM Kang passed away April 4th 2021, prior to passing GGM promoted his son Charlie Kang to Grandmaster to retain the family lineage.

Special appreciation to our late Historian GM Harry Plichta for spending decades interviewing GGM Kang, researching, organizing and saving all of this information. You and GGM Kang are greatly missed.      

Edited by GM Stephen Davis