Taekwon-Do was established when a group of Kwan merged together under the umbrella term Tae Kwon Do. The word Kwan 관 / 館 is a Korean word that literally means house, building, hall, gymnasium or school, but has the connotative meaning of a family or clan—a martial art clan; i.e. a group of martial artists that share the same culture, philosophy and technique. In the 1940s the original five Kwan were established: Song Moo Kwan, Chung Do Kwan, Moo Do Kwan, Chang Moo Kwan, and Jidokwan. In the 1950s a further four Kwan were established: Han Moo Kwan, Oh Do Kwan, Kang Duk Won and Jung Do Kwan. (See this French website for a quick overview of how the nine Kwan fit together.)
By looking at what martial arts were practiced in these original Kwan and/or by their founders we can get a good idea as to which martial arts contributed to what are the actual roots of this modern Korean martial art known as Taekwon-Do. The umbrella name Tae Kwon Do was accepted in 1955, and the official Korea Taekwondo Association was first established in 1959/60 and finally affirmed in 1965. To complete this exercise our focus will be on looking at the martial arts practised in these Kwan by 1960; in other words, those martial arts that contributed to “original Tae Kwon Do.” Taekwon-Do has changed dramatically since 1960; however, our aim here is not to see how Taekwon-Do had turned out, but merely to see what the original ingredients for Taekwon-Do were.
From this list we can get a good idea of the original influences on what became known as Taekwon-Do. The strongest influence was undoubtedly Shotokan Karate. Other influences were Taekkyeon and Kung Fu, probably Baji Quan. We can expand this list by looking at the “Original Twelve Taekwon-Do Masters.” This group was put together by the Korea Taekwon-Do Association in 1960 to promote Taekwon-Do. Apart from their training in Taekwon-Do under the leadership of General Choi Hong Hi and Nam Tae Hi, some of them were also versed in western boxing, Judo, and gymnastics. It is also believed that General Choi Hong Hi incorporated Hapkido (at the time probably Hapki-Yusul) into the system to expand the self-defence arsenal. General Choi Hong Hi who was the first person to write a book on Taekwon-Do and later also the ITF Encyclopaedia had the strongest influence in standardizing the original syllabus that was used by the Korea Taekwon-Do Association, therefore his martial art experience in Taekkyeon and Shotokan Karate is the be considered the most influential, particularly as far as ITF Taekwon-Do, of which he was the founder and first president, is concerned. Also strongly influential on ITF Taekwon-Do were the original instructors that were mostly from the Chung Do Kwan. Again Taekkyeon and Shotokan Karate are the major influences, along with some Kung Fu.
Regarding ITF Taekwon-Do, which is my primary style and the main topic on this blog, I stand by my view that Shotokan Karate and Taekkyeon are the two main roots. Other noteworthy influences of which we can observe some technical material in ITF Taekwon-Do are Western Boxing, Judo, Hapki-Yoosool and maybe some Kung Fu.