Choi was born on 9th November 1918 in Hwa Dae, Myŏngch’ŏn county, in what is now North Korea, which was then under Japanese rule. Choi’s father sent him to study calligraphy under Han Il Dong, who was also a master of Taek Kyon, the ancient Korean art of foot fighting. Choi travelled to Japan, where he studied English, mathematics, and karate. In Kyoto, he met a fellow Korean with the surname Kim, who was a karate instructor and taught Choi this martial art. Choi also learned Shotokan karate under Funakoshi Gichin. Choi attained the rank of 1st dan in karate in 1939, and then 2nd dan soon after.
Choi had been forced to serve in the Japanese army during World War II and during this time he continued practising martial arts. Following the war, in January 1946, Choi was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Korean army. Between 1946 to 1951, Choi received promotions to first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel and then brigadier general. Choi was promoted to major general in 1954.
Choi combined elements of Taek Kyon and Shotokan Karate to develop Taekwon-Do (태권도; 跆拳道), which means “foot, hand, the way” or “the way of hand and foot”. On 11 April 1955 Choi founded Taekwon-Do with the aim to develop the most powerful martial art in existence and science was the tool used to make this possible.
ITF Taekwon-Do organizations credit Choi with starting the spread of Taekwon-Do internationally by stationing Korean Taekwon-Do instructors around the world. They’ve also have consistently claimed that ITF-style Taekwon-Do is the only authentic style of Taekwon-Do. Choi was also the author of the first English Taekwon-Do syllabus book, called Taekwon-Do, published in 1965. In 1972, Choi went into exile in Canada after the South Korean government objected to his introduction of the sport into North Korea, and the South Korean government formed the WTF in 1973. Choi moved again in 1979 to North Korea where he was welcomed by the government and supported in his project of spreading Taekwon-Do to the world. Choi continues to be remembered as the founder and champion of Taekwon-Do to date.
Choi died of cancer on 15 June 2002 in Pyeongyang, North Korea. He is listed in the Taekwon-Do’s Hall of Fame with various Taekwon-Do titles. Choi is survived by his wife, Choi Joon Hee; his son, Choi Jung Hwa; two daughters, Sunny and Meeyun; and several grandchildren.