My kids currently train under UKTF, which follows ITF guidelines and techniques. Will this cause problems if they move to a WTF trainer? They aren't quite at black belt yet, so I'm hoping that if they do transfer it won't be too much of a problem.

Are there differences in technique or style that would make this a difficult transition?

  • I know the main difference in the two different Tae Kwon Do bodies in the UK is one is aimed at Sport and the other Self-defence. But I don't know which is which, so I can't really answer. – Pureferret Feb 1 '12 at 0:17
  • WTF is oluympic TKD, while ITF is not. The Self-defense oriented variation is WTTU (World traditional TKD Union). – Captain Kenpachi Aug 24 '13 at 19:05

18 Answers 18


The main difference between WTF and ITF is WTF is South Korean and ITF is North Korean. The forms are different, kicks are the same. Attitude in ITF may be geared more towards self-defense and WTF is certainly geared more towards sport sparring in most dojos.

ITF Wiki WTF Wiki

Actually to better answer your actual concern, would it be difficult for your kids to transition:

This depends. The new things that they would have to learn in WTF, such as forms and one step sparring, will be easy to pick up. Things that they have already learned, like kicking and blocking, may be difficult if the WTF instructor teaches those moves with a different variation. Its always harder to change a habit. (Or the teacher will see it as something to fix) Best bet is to go to the WTF school/s you're interested in, talk to the instructor, see if they can take a class, and see if it fits. A good instructor will be able to tweak things that aren't consistent to his style over time.

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    "The main difference between WTF and ITF is WTF is South Korean and ITF is North Korean" This is partially true now, but wasn't always. Both ITF and WTF originated in South Korea, ITF is now the name of at least three different legal bodies, one of which originates from North Korea (the others being located in Kanada and Germany). To learn more about the history of Taekwondo read A killing Art by Alex Gillis – Sean Patrick Floyd Feb 1 '12 at 9:21
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    And: "kicks are the same". I'd challenge that as well. There are subtle differences in both technique and terminology. That's like saying Karate and Taekwondo Kicks are the same. They are similar, but far from the same. E.g. ITF distinguishes between thrusting and piercing variations of a side kick (as in Shotokan Karate), WTF doesn't have that distinction. – Sean Patrick Floyd Feb 1 '12 at 9:24
  • Well if you mean doing side kick with the heel vs the blade of the foot, then I have learned both of those at my school which is WTF. Then again my teacher takes here and there from other arts. – riotburn Feb 1 '12 at 18:40
  • Same here. I had a master who formally belonged to the WTF but had learned traditional TKD way back in the old days. But I'm talking about official techniques, not individual interpretations. – Sean Patrick Floyd Feb 1 '12 at 19:58
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    I'd disagree with "To learn more about the history of Taekwondo read A killing Art by Alex Gillis" - I've always found that book to be a bit sensationalist rather than a reference book. – Andy Jeffries Dec 7 '14 at 20:36

Will this cause problems if they move to a WTF trainer? They aren't quite at black belt yet, so I'm hoping that if they do transfer it won't be too much of a problem.

Answering the other half of the problem: what problems will the kids face?

Techniques problems: no. There are differences in technique and forms. If the kids are nearly at Cho Dan, they'll know how to accept direction from the new instructors. The different viewpoint might make it more interesting.

Advancement problems (very important to some kids): It's going to depend on the school. There are some schools that could get sticky about a non-black belt retaining their rank and insist that they start over at white belt. My instinct would tell me that such a school would be great at accepting my money and not so great at instructing my children.


My kids currently train under UKTF, which follows ITF guidelines and techniques. Will this cause problems if they move to a WTF trainer? They aren't quite at black belt yet, so I'm hoping that if they do transfer it won't be too much of a problem.

It depends on your kids, really. It will take them time to get familiar with the WTF style of Taekwon-do. I was a WTF kid before joining the ITF as an adult. I was a red belt then, now a 2nd Dan in ITF. I did not transfer my rank and worked my way from white belt in ITF. The transition was OK for me, because I went in with an open mind.

Are there differences in technique or style that would make this a difficult transition?

Yes there are differences in technique. For instance in ITF style Taekwon-do there is the sine wave technique to utilize body potential in strikes and blocks. In WTF Taekwon-do there is no sine wave, which you may say is more similar (than ITF) to traditional karate.

This may not be a technique but the spelling of Taekwon-do reflects your side of the coin. ITF spells it Taekwon-do and WTF spells it Taekwondo.


I think there is definitely more depth to the differences between ITF and WTF than the country of origin (which in this case is actually both South Korea although ITF is known as North Korean because of General Choi Hong Hi's exile from South Korea).

It really depends on what type of martial ART you are truly looking to learn. I would definitely say that WTF has a more aesthetic, fast-paced, and flashy art aspect to it whereas ITF is more about the art of how the human body could generate maximum power with the TKD techniques that ITF teaches. If you are interested in learning martial arts as a sport, try WTF. If you are looking for a martial art to teach you how to defend yourself properly, give ITF a shot.



Both are federations, in that direct members of each are autonomous organizations. But there isn't just WTF and ITF, because there are at least 3 ITF organizations:

one hq'ed in South Korea which is not a federation; http://itfofficial.org/

one hq'ed in Benidorm, Spain (www.tkd-itf.org) which is a federation (its members are themselves federations: North America & Carribean, Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceana, and Central & South America); http://www.tkd-itf.org/

and another in Vienna, Austria (www.itftkd.org) and which is also a federation (its direct members are themselves federations: Asia, Oceana, Europe, Pan-America, and Africa). http://www.itftkd.org/

Similarly, WTF is also comprised of federated direct members, making the hierarchy similar. Note, then, the only ITF organization that is NOT a federation is South Korea. http://www.worldtaekwondofederation.net/

From a student member point of view, there is little difference between them. Their dan issuance comes from the HQ of the federation in which their school is affiliated.

You should also know that WTF isn't a style. That is because dan and instructor certification are governed by a different authority, which is Kukkiwon, based in Seoul, S Korea. That means technically, the style is called "Kukkiwon", not "WTF". However, WTF is a valid organization - and federation - and so, it's not appropriate to distinguish between technical differences.

The reason? ITF members are welcome to join WTF. WTF is charted solely for the purpose of competition, which includes the Olympics. With a bit of paperwork, one who is a registered dan-certificate holder of any of the ITF organizations may apply for dan certification at Kukkiwon (a necessary element to compete in WTF competitions).

As to the rules? That depends entirely on the tourny. Some ITF competitions allow punches to the face and back of the head, others dont. Some require chest gear, others make them optional. Each has point and warning differences. Between all of the federations, the rules are similar - but not identical. Size of mats, qualification for coaches, age categories, weight classes, skill classes, round timing... they differ. They get more consistent when the competition gets more formal, particularly with regards to Olympics.

From a style perspective, though, there are guidelines, because it's not common to see ITF members join WTF.

ITF students almost universally practice the Chang Hon set of forms (sometimes called the "Chon Ji" set, named after the first form learned). Whether the student applies the sine wave (and calls the set of forms "tul") or not (and calls the set of forms "hyung") is a guideline set by the school, although formally, all ITF federations adopt the sinewave methods.

WTF doesn't have forms. Only sparring.

But if you considered Kukkiwon, then the set of forms learned is "Taeguek", a set of underbelt forms which replaced an older set of underbelt forms, called "Palgwe". Some schools practice both sets of forms. In either case, the schools almost always practice the black belt forms beginning with "Koryo".

Another difference between them is that WTF is by far the more commonly seen taught in the US. Where this may be different elsewhere, I don't know, although because of the Olympics, my bet is that WTF is the more common around the world.

Because WTF is not technically a style, and because they concern themselves only with sparring (not forms), they technically don't have a self-defense program, either. Self-defense and sport have overlapping concepts, but strategically, they're very different. ITF does have self-defense, if you carefully study their forms and have a good instructor. WTF schools might incorporate self-defense, but, that teaching does not come from WTF, it comes from the instructor's knowledge from elsewhere - perhaps from Kukkiwon's forms.

EDIT: So recently, the US Olympics for Taekwondo (Team USA) - that is, the US branch of the WTF - has now opened membership to Taekwondo competition to any ITF and ATA ranked individual.

USA Taekwondo Announces New National Dan Program

The way it works is this: to compete, you need to be a certified black belt. Traditionally, your rank came from Kukkiwon. Now, a new program, called the US National Dan program, allows its members to get an equivalent dan certification that can be used for WTF competition. At this time, only ITF and ATA certified rank holders are eligible, and the criteria for other organizations is spelled out in the by-laws.

This might cloud the difference between ITF and WTF, but the difference is still that WTF is not a style, it's a federation whose purpose is the conduit for international and Olympics Taekwondo competition. ITF member students are now allowed to compete in the Olympics, per the by-laws spelled out in the link.

Basically, as far as Olympic competition is concerned, ITF, ATA, and Kukkiwon are all on the same playing field as far as opportunity to compete in the Olympics. Prior to this announcement, any ITF or ATA (or Karate, etc) student who wanted to compete in the Olympics had to join a bona-fide WTF school. Now, you just need to have a ITF- or ATA-certified dan rank to compete.

  • Saying WTF "doesn't have forms" is a bit misleading given that you wrote "However, WTF is a valid organization - and federation - and so, it's not appropriate to distinguish between technical differences.". If you play fast and loose saying it's OK to use WTF, then given that there are WTF World Poomsae Championships, then the WTF definitely does have forms. They are the same ones used in Kukkiwon-Taekwondo, in the same way that WTF-rules sparring is used in Kukkiwon Dan gradings. – Andy Jeffries Jan 4 '16 at 16:15
  • Yes, you are right - it does seem contradictory. But, WTF doesn't have forms, they are simply borrowing from Kukkiwon. So perhaps I should have said "they don't have their OWN forms". That sounds a little like backpeddaling and/or hair splitting. But WTF never had forms - or even competed with forms - for a very long time. The introduction of forms under its competition umbrella is a recent concept. – user6519 Jan 5 '16 at 17:17
  • They did try to create 3 new competition-only forms (Bikka and Hanryo come to mind, I forget the other one). Each form was to be used for the skill level (cadet, junior, master, and senior; at the time, cadet didn't exist, but, as the 3 forms passed out of favor, the cadet level was being introduced, and - rumor has it - they were going to develop a fourth form for them). So while they attempted to create their own forms, that never happened and so, now, they don't have their forms. If Kukkiwon changed forms, so would WTF WPC. – user6519 Jan 5 '16 at 17:18
  • I think - just my opinion - if WTF created their own forms, they come closer to becoming their own style. They currently rely on Kukkiwon to certify dan and instructors, so, they still hold the purse strings, and are the style. But to keep the commentary relevant to the question, I also think that if WTF became a style and used their own forms (like the 3 or 4 they tried to create) then they would be nearly diametrically opposed to ITF, because the 3 forms they did manage to create had less to do with self defense, and more to do with tricking. – user6519 Jan 5 '16 at 17:22
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    Bikak and hanryu were the names, but I don't remember a third. I don't think WTF wants to become their own style though, they are an international sports organisation. Also, as I understand it, you can now get WTF Global Athlete Licences (GAL) without having a Kukkiwon dan certificate, so now there is even more of a split between the two rather than WTF relying on Kukkiwon in any way. – Andy Jeffries Jan 6 '16 at 18:35

Okay so I have a black belt in ITF and I've been doing WTF for about a year and I've jumped grades up to blue belt fairly easily. UKTF and ITF are actually surprisingly different (I'm British but I live NZ). UKTF is a little bit closer to WTF than anything. WTF ends up making you way more aeorbically fit than ITF, but it's not as good for strength. They will not lose out if they train in WTF, they will only incorporate the best of both styles into their own. Go for it.


As a long time practitioner, I've transferred from ITF to WTF and received Dans in both forms. It's true what's said about one form is geared for sport sparring while the other is geared towards self defense. ITF became the Norths when the founder went there, but it started in the South. We want our art to spread all over the world, whether WTF or ITF, it's still Taekwondo.

My advice for young children: they'll pick up on it quite well, but having knowledge in both makes them complete. They'll be fine, both World and International taekwondo federations have excellent instructors. Changing over won't gonna hurt them at all. Last but not least, learn the history of your art, don't just agree with what everyone tells you, cause they're gonna tell you what makes their art stand out more. I've studied both, I back them both up, but taekwondo is taekwondo.


Difference between the 2 in everyday terms is:

ITF is traditional, face contact with hands, less gear (adults), different forms, more real situation-based, form on all strikes are more important than speed.

WTF is NOW mainly a sport, different terminology, speed- based, fully geared, form of strikes aren't as important because of the emphasis on speed so shortcuts are made.

-cho dan in ITF -currently training WTF trying to attain cho dan


As an ITF veteran, I am amazed how silly this debate is. Taekwondo is taekwondo, whether ITF, WTF, or independent. The ITF is as much about sport as WTF, it depends on the student. As for the fast nature of the kicks, ITF and WTF high-level fighters would be equal in their kicking speed. The fact that a ITF fighter in tournament can follow in with hands means that different tactics have to be applied, but there are plenty of examples of ITF v WTF fighting each others rules that prove they really are equal in terms of ability. Add to that a recent historical treaty signed by the ITF and WTF to allow each access to their competitions, and you can see that taekwondo is pretty much the same what ever version you do. keep kicking

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    That doesn't help me at all. It doesn't answer the question. – Rory Alsop Jul 12 '16 at 14:53

ITF and WTF are a world apart when it comes to style, technique, and power. I trained ITF, then later in life joined a WTF. The instructor was always telling me I was doing it wrong, but would always use me for an example when he wanted the class to see something done right. WTF is all show, tournament and no power, and no way to generate it. ITF is all about the self defense in real situations, and teaches you how to get the most power with the least effort. My opinion of course, but I believe the WTF teachings to be greatly inferior to the ITF.

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    It would be helpful to specify which organization "the instructor" in the third sentence is from. – mattm Jan 5 '17 at 16:39
  • This post doesn't provide me with any useful information, and just sounds like a biased opinion. Have a look at the upvoted answers for examples of good ones. – Rory Alsop Jan 5 '17 at 20:58
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    I clearly stated my opinion. I trained ITF under Gallentine and Mcdonald in Tx, and Bohnam from Columbia, Missouri, and WTF under Larry Phillips. But, I have competed in many tournaments against ITF, WTF, and Kenpo students, and never lost. But tournament doesn't mean much, it's the practical situations in real life that truly count. I was always able to walk away virtually unharmed while the other guys ran off cause they couldn't hurt me, ot lay on the ground moaning in some degree of pain. Of course it could just be attributed to natural talent, or possibly the training, or both, lol. – Tarl Phillips May 12 '17 at 13:04

wtf is in the olympics and is much faster paced and looking for point scoring, while itf is traditional and follow slower paced rules. itf might practice forms everyday while wtf fights everyday and practices forms only for test. if the school is high on fighting it could be uncomfortable to change


The International Taekwondo Federation is the traditional style of taekwondo as founded by Gen.Choi Hong Hi April 11 , 1955 he based the art on a combination of karate (in which he held a black belt which specific style im unsure) and had extensive training in a traditional korean art known as teakkyeon which dates back 2000 year which is why some people confuse it with teakwondo incorrectly thinking taekwondo is just as old with the combonation of Gen.Choi's karate and teakkyeon training along with his own personal tastes and out look as a martial artist as well as a long time soldier in the korean army lead to the creation of traditional taekwondo while spreading the art world wide he travled to many other martial artist karate in particular teaching his taekwondo techniques which is why they are so many taekwondo schools itf is still the tradtional art and is now under the leadership of Gen.Choi's son Grand Master Choi Jung Hwa

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    Taekwondo has no connection to taekkyeon - that was all a lie so Choi could claim it wasn't purely bastardised karate. You might want to read "A Killing Art" - akillingart.com – Tony D Sep 18 '14 at 13:14

ITF is the original style of taekwondo. ITF teaches use of hands AND leg/feet techniques in self defence, while the WTF style is less geared towards realistic situations, and teaches just the use of the legs. I would suggest watching a few videos on youtube of both styles, and talking to the trainers- go with whom you like the best. There is no replacement for gut feeling!

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    "ITF is the original style of taekwondo." - taekwondo predates the ITF/WTF divide, had no "sine wave" until the 1980s, and there are many other subtle and not-so-subtle changes made in ITF and almost every other school. – Tony D Sep 18 '14 at 13:11

I am old school I got my BB in 1988. ITF all the way. ITF allowed punching to the head as well as other blows delivered with the hands. Protective gear used to be optional and up to the two opponents and it was feet and hand pads that was it. 1 and 3 step sparring was practiced regularly.

Emphasis was on real fighting and real self defense not sports fighting. Point fighting was just a way to see what you had learned and test it in a safe environment. The WTF seems to see the Art as existing for sport first and real fighting and self defense second.

Why are you so concerned about switching? People have multiple BB's in multiple fighting arts so no need to worry. This is not like something earth shattering serious like University Credits transferring from one school to another. Instead of worrying about something like this just let your kids learn and explore the art if you have to move then cross the WTF/ITF bridge when it happens.

I trained in TKD 11yrs., High School Wrestling 1yrs., Boxing 6yrs., Shotokan 1yrs., Judo 4 yrs, and have trained older Army Combatives and Krav Maga. I never felt like learning one art made it hard to learn another. It is kind of like any other thing learning German does not make it hard to learn Russian and learning Chemistry does not make it hard to learn Biology.

I think in today's world finding a good teacher and a good environment are more important than ITF/WTF debate. One and three step sparring, light, medium,full contact sparring and heavy bag work should always be part of training no matter what patch is on the uniform! It comes down to training the core fundamentals!

P.S. Have them learn Sanchin Kata from Shotokan or get John E. Petersons Sprial Bound Isometric Power Revolution book. It will do a lot to improve their speed, strength and power. It will also improve injury prevention. Wish I had that book when I was kid!

  • This'd doesn't answer my question at all. – Rory Alsop Oct 4 '15 at 22:32
  • The answer is based on personal opinion and experience and makes some good points, but doesn't actually respond to the specific question. – Mike P Oct 5 '15 at 9:32
  • Personal experience could prove invaluable to the answer, but not the one provided here. Based on some of your comments, it seems you had some contact with the WTF at some point. Can you tell us if some of their techniques are different? If so, how? Are the katas the same? Do the competitive rules differ? – Dungarth Oct 6 '15 at 20:58

ITF is learning for life. Not only self defense, but how to control yourself not to do to much damage on a person. Ok general Choi Hong Hi was the Founder Of ITF wich he made by combining to old marterial arts in Korea. This was Tae Kyon and Soo Bak and by combining these 2 and making some new skilles this became taekwondo in 1955 but it was first in 1966 he started ITF and he was president until he died in 2002.

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    This doesn't answer the question at all – Rory Alsop Dec 24 '15 at 11:26
  • I agree, not to mention there are lots of typos making it very difficult to read. Including "Tae Kyon" which is a non-existent martial art - they meant "Taek Kyon". This would imply it's the same character as Taekwondo (태) but its not (택). – Andy Jeffries Jan 8 '16 at 18:53

In march of 1966 Choi founded the International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF), which he also served as president. Choi later resigned as the KTA president and moved his ITF headquarters to Montreal, Canada, from where he concentrated on organizing Taekwondo internationally. His emphasis is on self-defense methodology, not particularly on the sport. By 1974, Choi reported that some 600 qualified ITF instructors were distributed throughout the world.

Young-wun Kim was elected the new KTA president. Feeling that Korea was the mother country of Taekwondo and that the world headquarters should be located there, he dissolved the ITF's connection with the KTA and on May 28, 1973 created a new international governing body called the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), which coincided with the first World Taekwondo Championships that were held in Seoul, Korea. At the first inaugural meeting, Un Yong Kim was elected as president of the WTF and drafted a charter for the federation. The WTF is the only official organization recognized by the Korean government as an international regulating body for Taekwondo.

  • This doesn't answer the question. Please read it again and see if you have an answer. – Rory Alsop Feb 10 '17 at 12:01
  • its answer, i try to give the diff between wtf and itf based on historically side – tarik203 Feb 11 '17 at 8:59
  • In my question I wrote "Are there differences in technique or style that would make this a difficult transition" – Rory Alsop Feb 11 '17 at 10:30

Regardless of different style of same martial art or different martial art, if you are concerned about if it is hard for your child to comprehend than I have only one comment for you and that is your children have not comprehend the most important essence of any martial art and that is being able to remained focused under high pressure and accomplish what he or she need to accomplish. There are plenty of books that is documented for taekwondo so if you are really interested go to taekwondo times buy the books and study it in detail before you comment on anything. If anyone who is not black belt to master level Dan yet please don't talk in that manner either. My great master quote"All of you are too elementary, you don't think, you just follow at this moment, and if you get creative, it is not good for you. You most likely will head to wrong direction." I give you my masters most signature quote to you so I advise you, don't change, don't think, and just follow. Is there difference absolutely, is it going to be hard absolutely, do I recommend you to change, the answer is no until your child reach master level. Lastly, if you are worry about hard than go having vacation instead of practicing martial art. Another famous quote from my master " All of you need to think what you want to do in the future? Why are you here instead of just having good time? Why are you here spending money to get torture instead of having vacation?" You may want direct answer, however, once you sincerely calm down and answer those question than you will have answer yourself. To be even more black and white, you are too elementary to know how to think and that is why you are asking those question. Stay with the master your children with right now and accomplish to the level your children know how to think first. WTF or ITF, I can tell you right now they can all kill someone with one punch or one kick, it is easy to kill, however, it is harder to hold those responsibility once you have the skill. Does that say more than enough? I know what you trying to ask inside your heart without saying it out loud. Wanting to change another style because you want to find something that have more kill power is equal to very lost person. Any style of martial art have defense and attack, how productive your children really are depends on how much your child understand the martial art concept he or she practice, reducing the disadvantage, and using what he or she learns advantage to the fullest. Once again you are not just lost, you are extremely lost.

  • Welcome to the site. Your answer is a block of text and could do with being broken down into paragraphs. Would you mind editing it? – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Mar 20 '17 at 10:01
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    I have tried to understand what you have (bit of a challenge in that block of text) but it appears you have not read my question at all, and are in fact just ranting about something. "What is in my heart?" Eh - no... there is just a WTF class that might be easier to get to through the week. – Rory Alsop Mar 20 '17 at 11:22

I am a WTF practitioner, only a 1st Dan, at least for the next 3 months. I was reading General Choi's encyclopedia whom I accepted as the father of Taekwondo and realize when he got to the patterns part and self-defense and controlled sparring, that they are ITF and foreign to me.

So while looking for a WTF type specific Encyclopedia of sorts I came across this site. If you want to learn Taekwondo in depth, Philosophy and way of life, and everything, ITF is the way. If you want to do spectacular yet realistic fast paced sparring Taekwondo, the martial art sport, the one that gives u attention, then, WTF is the way to go. So I'm practicing WTF in the dojang and Learning ITF philosophy from the father himself, (through the Encyclopedia of course) Grand Master Choi.

  • Every sentence ends with an explanation mark! Laziness in grammar, and extremely hard to read. It needs editing. This isn't yahoo answers. – coltonon Dec 9 '14 at 21:01

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