Kyongwon Ahn, 9th dan, is a South Korean taekwondo master who founded the United Taekwondo Association in the United States. As an instructor Ahn is responsible for teaching and promoting thousands of under black belt students, hundreds of black belts, several master instructors and three Grandmaster Instructors. Noted as much for his patience and kindness toward students as he is his ever-demanding standards of perfection within the study of Taekwondo, Grandmaster Ahn is known as a beloved mentor to thousands of who have learned under his instruction over the last half-century.
In 1909, Japan conquered Korea and began an occupation that lasted until the end of World War II. The Japanese strictly banned all forms of martial arts during the occupation, on pain of death. Practitioners of Korean Martial Arts taught in secret or left Korea to keep their art alive. After the Japanese occupation ended in 1945, the exiled Koreans returned with other forms of martial arts they had studied elsewhere. Some of these were combined with the ancient Korean Art of Tae Kyon. In 1955, the name Taekwondo was given to the martial art that emerged - "Tae" for a kick or strike with the foot, "Kwon" for a punch or strike with the fist and "Do" for "way of". Thus the name signifies, "The way of striking with hand and foot.
With over 40 unique kicks and approximately 10 variations of each kick, resulting in over 400 kicking techniques, Taekwondo has become known as the 'kicking martial art'. This is not to say that Taekwondo's hand techniques are few, by any means. On the contrary, the majority of hand techniques found in other martial arts can also be found in Taekwondo. Therefore, Taekwondo is one of the most well-rounded empty handed martial arts in existence.
Over the years, Taekwondo has become the most practiced martial art in the world. This popularity is due in part to the fact that the majority of Taekwondo students and schools are directly connected, through their national governing body, to one international governing body, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). This provides for international standardization of techniques, international recognition of rank and international sanctioning of seminars, tournaments and symposiums. The popularity of Taekwondo can also be attributed to the fact that it was an Olympic Demonstration Sport in the '88 and '92 Olympics, is an official Pan-American Sport, and as of 2000 is a full medal Olympic Sport.