Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak at center flanked by Masters Fernando Branco and Marcelo Ruhland. Promotion exam at Fernando Branco's dojang in Portugal, 27 June 2016.

Kangdukwon in Portugal

A Short History of Kangdukwon in Portugal

World Kangdukwon recognizes Portugal’s Fernando Branco and Academia Tigre Branco

Fernando Branco began his taekwondo training in 1987 under Master Paulo Jorge, a direct student of the Portuguese pioneer Grandmaster Chung Sung Yong. In 1999 he graduated to first Dan under Master Ilidio Bernardo, and in 2001 he started giving classes in school gymnasiums in Oporto District, Portugal.

Portugal's Tigre Branco Academy seniors stand beside Taekwondo Kangdukwon Master Fernando Branco
Taekwondo Kangdukwon Master Fernando Branco and students at Tigre Branco Academy

Branco had already been training for two decades when he opened his own dojang, Academia Tigre Branco, in 2007. As a man of principle, however, he found that his own advancement and that of his students in Portugal’s taekwondo world was being hindered by his stubborn refusal to tolerate official corruption or practices that put commercial interests before taekwondo’s underlying principle of promoting and defending justice.

“Today Taekwondo is losing its traditional martial essence. It is developing solely into an Olympic sport, which leads to more greed, and a more political and commercial attitude.”

-Fernando Branco
Fernanco Branco

“Due to the many political games and poor decisions of the institutions that manage Taekwondo in Portugal, which only gave importance to its commercial aspect, I as a teacher felt the need to search for something more. I needed a teacher who could give me the necessary support in terms of history, culture and tradition of this wonderful martial art.”

—Fernando Branco

Roots in Korean Culture

“In 2008 I discovered that my master had been concealing and manipulating money meant to register me and my students with the Portuguese Taekwondo Federation,” he says. “That was when I decided to look abroad for a traditional kwan and a master to help me and teach.”

Fernando Branco, Grand Master Chang-Hak-Kim and Marcelo Ruhland at Acadamia Tigre Branco
Fernando Branco, Grand Master Chang-Hak-Kim and Marcelo Ruhland at Academia Tigre Branco in 2016

“That was when fate brought me to Master Marcelo Ruhland of São Paulo, Brazil, who introduced me to Chang Hak Kim, a grand master of both taekwondo and hapkido. After several contacts, Grand Master Chang dispatched Master Marcelo to Portugal to gather information regarding my school and myself. He asked for all my exams program and technical videos about my Taekwondo and Hapkido. The following year GM Chang made his first visit to my dojang and that was when I realized what a wonderful person he is.”

“After showing my work and after a period of probation, Grandmaster Chang accepted me as his student. In recognition of my work and qualities, he promoted me to 1st Dan black belt in taekwondo Kangdukwon. It was a great honour for me!”

Since 2008 Master Branco has backed away from martial politics, concentrating only on teaching and learning from Grandmaster Chang. Sometimes he visits Brazil to train with Grandmaster Chang and sometimes Grandmaster Chang visits Portugal to conduct training seminars at Master Branco’s dojang.

Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association
Seal of the Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association

In 2012, Fernando Branco founded the Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association with the aim of uniting the practitioners of Taekwondo and Hapkido under one roof. The Association has steadily grown; its members have a strong sense of loyalty and feel united as one martial art family.

Since the Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association was formed, it has already produced national poomsae champions and many regional champions. Recently for three consecutive years the Portuguese Taekwondo Federation has recognized Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association with 224 active members as Portugal’s biggest and most successful dojang. At same time the Portuguese Taekwondo Federation also has recognized Master Fernando Branco with its career award for 25 years in Taekwondo.

In 2015, with the creation of the World Kangdukwon Federation under its newly-appointed kwan jang nim Hwa Chong, Fernando Branco along with Marcelo Ruhland of Brazil reached out to the WKF inquire about the possibility of affiliation. Progress was slow, however, since the WKF had not yet established standards for recognizing new members. Linguistic and geographical differences did nothing to make the process faster or easier.

Kangdukwon in Vietnam also followed a similarly long course to full recognition. Only in 2021 did its teachers and dojangs achieve full recognition as students of the late Kangdukwon Grand Master Ahn Gun Soon. The Hispanic branch of world Kangdukwon, under Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak, had to be certified separately.

Kangdukwon kwan jan kim Hwa Chong
Kangdukwon kwan jan kim Hwa Chong

That recognition and certification finally occurred in September 2022 with its approval by Hwa Chong, the illustrious 10th Dan great grand master of taekwondo Kangdukwon who trained with the founders starting in 1953 and who was appointed as head of world Kangdukwon in 2015 by Chul Hee Park (1932 – 4 April 2016).

In a statement issued at the suggestion of Great Grand Master Hwa Chong on 12 September 2022, his long time administrative deputy, publisher, remote sparring partner and friend Patrick Harrigan wrote:

Kwan Jang Nim of taekwondo Kangdukwon, Hwa Chong expressly acknowledges Portugal’s Tigre Branco Academy and its founder Master Fernando Branco as a genuine and respected representative of the World Kangdukwon Federation Hispanic branch under Kangdukwon Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak…In further recognition of  Master Fernando Branco’s  35 years of earnest and steadfast devotion to promoting the ethical values of taekwondo Kangdukwon throughout Portugal and beyond, and considering that Master Fernando Branco has been ranked as 5th Dan since 2012, he is therefore approved for promotion to sixth Dan Master of taekwondo Kangdukwon.”

Patrick Harrigan, WKF Vice-President for International Affairs, 12 September 2022

“I believe in traditional martial arts and I am proud of our work. These results only prove that I am on the right track,” says Master Branco.

Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak at center flanked by Masters Fernando Branco and Marcelo Ruhland. Promotion exam at Fernando Branco's dojang in Portugal, 27 June 2016.
Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak at center flanked by Masters Fernando Branco and Marcelo Ruhland. Promotion exam at Fernando Branco’s dojang in Portugal, 27 June 2016.

“In the wonderful breakout sessions between training sessions where we talked about Taekwondo, its philosophy, culture, etc… I realized that Grand Master Chang is a very reserved person of few words, enjoying much more being inside the dojang teaching than talking. The times we talked he always avoided discussing the problems of Taekwondo and that he also felt discouraged with the course that Taekwondo had taken. And that he liked that Taekwondo was always practiced in an absolute way, not thinking only of the sportive part. I also sensed that GM Chang felt a little sad in his words, as if he had been forgotten by his country and for all that he had already done for Taekwondo and Hapkido.”

“He always taught me that Taekwondo should be used as the Korean Hongik Ingan philosophy. Taekwondo through its principles and training would serve mainly to ennoble the Human Being and a tool to help other people. Perhaps this is why GM Chang dedicated himself much more to Hapkido because he lost many students who only wanted the sportive part of Taekwondo. Unfortunately in 2011 GM Chang had a stroke and was somewhat limited, but he continues to give classes with the same smile and joy as always.”

Acadamia Tigre Branco

“What determines the greatness of my grand master? It can be said that great men are those who accomplish great things, but also those who manage to make the world a little better thanks to their existence. By educating a simple child or by dedicating his most precious hours to his disciples. A great man is the one who makes the difference in someone’s life. He is the one who knows how to sow in the garden of affections, delicate flowers of attention and humility, and the most remarkable and decisive moments of his existence. So all my words of gratitude are meager to Grand Master Chang Hak Kim for teaching us and continuing to believe in us.”

Academia Tigre Branco dojang
Academia Tigre Branco dojang

“I still believe in true Taekwondo, pure in its essence and virtue, a global and martial Taekwondo encompassing a sporting aspect and not the opposite. And it is for this Taekwondo that I live and breathe.”

Academia Tigre Branco on YouTube

Academia Tigre Branco website