Colonel Nam Tae-Hi
(March 1929 – November 2013)
The person Gen. Choi described as: “His right hand man.”
Nam Tae Hi was an early and senior student of Grandmaster Lee Won-Kuk, founder of the Chung Do Kwan. He shared his knowledge of the Korean Martial Arts in the Army (Military Signal or Communications School) since 1947. In 1952 he traveled to the USA for Military training and while there had an opportunity to demonstrate Tang Soo Do on their training bases. As a young Commissioned Officer he formed the Hwa Rang Do Kwan in late 1952 - early 1953 when he was assigned to the 1st Military Training Camp on JeJu Island. It was there that he taught Tang Soo Do to the soldiers and was here that he came into contact with Gen. Choi who recruited him and had him assigned to the 29th Division that he was forming. There he became the Tang Soo Do instructor for Gen. Choi when the General formed the famed 29thInfantry “Fist” Division. Gen. Choi had him promoted from Lieutenant to Captain and from then on the future Colonel focused on training martial art instructors for the military.
Col. Nam performed a historic moment in Taekwon-Do’s history when his fist broke 13 roof tiles with a forefist punch at a demo in front of 1st Korean President Rhee in September of 1954. This magical moment resulted in the President directing Gen. Choi to teach this to all the Troops. It was this performance that that first skyrocketed Taekwon-Do onto a path of a one of a kindall, never before spectatuclar global growth in all of the Martial Arts. He is credited with assisting Gen. Choi in creating the 1st two Korean Taekwon-Do Patterns , Hwa-Rang and Choong-Moo, circa 1955. The following year he helped his student and assistant Sgt. Han Cha-Kyo devised Ul Ji Tul with Gen. Choi.
As a Captain, Nam became the Director of Taekwon-Do for RoK Army under the command of Gen. Choi circa 1957. In 1959 he was the head of the historic Taikwon Do Exhibition Team that Gen. Choi led to Vietnam and Taiwan. This was the 1st time Taekwon-Do was demonstrated outside of Korea. Later that year he was installed as a Director of the Korean Taekwon-Do Association.
In 1962 he helped to create the Army Taekwon-Do Team. In December of that year as a Major he was in charge of the 1st batch of Military Taekwon-Do of instructors that were officially dispatched to Vietnam. His assignment living abroad teaching Taekwon-Do to the Vietnamese troops and civilians lasted one year. This earned him the honor and dsitinction of being referred to as the Father of Vietnamese Taekwon-Do. It was there that Major Nam taught the 1stcivilain Vietnamese student Van Binh Nyugen, a Judo man who would become 1 of only 7 promoted to 9th Dan Grandmaster by Gen. Choi.
As a result of the May 16th Revolution in 1961, which saw a military dictatorship take control of the government in South Korea, the new ruling military junta issued a decree directing all social organizations to consolidate and reform. This directive included the Martial Arts. As history shows, the military governments would go onto impact Taekwon-Do over the next several decades. When the Martial Art groups reorganized they did so rejecting the Taekwon-Do name that Col. Nam argued unsuccesfully for, losing to the new compromise name of Tae Soo Do.
Col. Nam was a founding member of the ITF. He served as the Chairman of ITF Promotion Committee when it was formed in 1966. Col. Nam was an ITF Vice President in 1969 and President of Asia Taekwon-Do Federation 1968. After he retired from the Military as a Colonel, he continued to work to spread Taekwon-Do worldwide. He visited 24 nations in 1970, 28 in 1972 and in 1973 he moved to Chicago, where he opened a school. Col. Nam helped to organize the United States of America Taekwon-Do Federation and was an ITF VIII Dan (8th Degree) by 1973. He eventually had to separate from the ITF and distance himself from Gen. Choi due to his former commanding officer’s outreach to North Korea and the political realities of the “Cold War” era.
In 2007 Col. Nam was a V.I.P. guest at the historic 1st ever Taekwon-Do performance by the North Korean National Demnstration Team from the D.P.R.K. There he witnessed first hand not only how far his Taekwon-Do had developed, but how it was being utlized as a cultural tool to promote greater understanding between the USA, his adopted Country & the DPRK, who he had fought heroically against during the Korean Civil War. Another example of how Taekwon-Do can bring people together in hopes of “building a more meaceful world!”
May all Tae Kwon Do students around the world take a moment out of their busy day to bow in a debt of gratitude for this wonderful Korean Patriot and National Hero. Please keep him, his family, friends, students, and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers. Check back for additional information as it becomes available.