My understanding is that after the unification of the various kwan under the Kukkiwon the basic library of techniques that each school employed became relatively uniform. I've seen firsthand, however, how much two people working with the same technique set can diverge in the details and understanding of what they are teaching and how they are teaching it.

When I talk to my instructor (who is jidokwan) about Tae Kwon Do, he talks about distinctly different flavors and philosophical differences behind the schools, how they train, what they emphasize, etc. I have heard as well different views on what exactly these differences entail and am curious: What are the modern differences between the various kwan, and how does this manifest in what/how they teach?

  • This is an interesting question, though the differences you seek in the kwans may be irrelevant today as those 8-13 kwans are over 50 years old so I think it may really boil down to the differences in each school.
    – riotburn
    Mar 7, 2012 at 14:25
  • Have a look at the answers on my question or not entirely unrelated info: martialarts.stackexchange.com/q/56/57
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 8, 2012 at 8:56
  • Have you experienced other instructors within your own kwan? Are you sure they share the same philosophical ideals? Within the Bujinkan, we have factions, but the majority are just Bujinkan; even among these, you will find a near infinite variety of viewpoints all centered around the same teachings... I'm just curious if perhaps you're looking for something that might not necessarily be a macrocosmic interpretation of microcosmic events...
    – stslavik
    Mar 20, 2012 at 17:42
  • Some clarification: 1) I am not within a kwan and I don't practice TKD 2) I have spoken with other instructors, but I am also very sure from a historical perspective of a difference in the fraternal organizations which carries forward, at least with older instructors. The original differences were, at least at one point, evidently fairly distinct. That may be lessened now, but even historical information here would be appreciated. Mar 21, 2012 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


The modern differences are simply that there are none. All of the kwans now exist to support Kukkiwon. They issue rank to their members, but most of them will only allow a maximum of one rank above your current Kukkiwon rank.

In the past there were differences in technique and strategy, but those days are gone now.

In 2012 I was at the Kukkiwon World Taekwondo Leaders Forum and I was talking with one of the Kukkiwon staff (a Section Leader) about how my instructors were from Changmookwan and I wish I had had a chance to be part of a kwan. The answer I was expecting was "the kwans all unified to form Kukkiwon, those days are past" but instead he introduced me to the Kwanjangnim (head/president) of Changmookwan and the Kwanjangnim accepted me as a member and promoted me to Changmookwan dan rank after seeing me train.

I've since spoken lots of times with the Kwanjangnim's son, and all the discussions have been as above - kwans still exist, they still issue rank, but they all 100% support Kukkiwon techniques and syllabus and there are no longer technical differences.


I can't say for sure the philosophical differences between all kwans but as a general rough over view: The five original; Chung Do Kwan(my association),Song Moo Kwan, Moo Duk Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, and Jidokwan where all influenced by various founders with various philosophy and martial arts backgrounds. For example; founder of Chung Do Kwan, Won Kuk Lee was dan rank in shotokan karate and his art seems(at least in my opinion) influenced by it. There seem to be more hand techniques than most tae kwon do and one of our beginner forms are nearly identical to a form I had in my shotokan class. The kwans are also greatly influenced by modern grandmasters and their individual ideas.

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