Taekwondo as a sport in Ghana was born back in the early 1970s when some practitioners from neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire came into the country to organise a few private clubs in Accra to teach martial arts.
Among those who took part in that exercise were Hanny Zahabi, Najib Anaoute and Mustapha Abed. One person who was also very instrumental in institutionalising taekwondo in the country was the late executive director of Afko Group of Companies, Bok Nam Kim, who spearheaded the training of taekwondo instructors.
That initiative by Bok Nam Kim led to the organisation of the first “Korean Taekwondo Instructors” led by Kim Sung Bin who trained officers and men of the Ghana Navy in 1975.
After taekwondo as a discipline came to be accepted as a field combat training programme, the Ghana Armed Forces then requested the Korean Embassy who seconded two Korean Master Instructors to Ghana and by three years after the arrival of the instructors, taekwondo had officially become part of the Ghana Armed Forces field training programmes.
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Three clubs then emerged from the Kotoka Primary, Ghana International and the Arakan Primary Schools.
Birth of the GTF
Then came the unveiling of the Ghana Taekwondo Federation (GTF) with its board of directors and members headed by the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof George Benneh which, in the course of time, became affiliated to the World Taekwondo Federation in 1981.
The GTF then attracted many personalities and individuals who nurtured both the discipline and the association from the 1970s till date.
After practising to acquire his black belt in the 1980s, Mr. Frederick Lartey Otu, who has practised the sport at different levels for over three decades, joined the then Custom, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), where he served as a taekwondo athlete for the service in 1992.
As a passionate taekwondo sport practitioner, he worked very hard and rose through the ranks to become a member of the technical and executive committees of the GTF for eleven years, while he simultaneously served as a technical director for seven years.
As fate may have it, Mr Lartey Otu felt the time had come for him to bring his experiences, which he had gained over years of taekwondo practice to bear and, therefore, decided to vie for the presidency of the GTF which he won.
He took over the mantle from Mr Samson Annor Quarshie (his predecessor) on November 15, 2013 and has since been serving as the president of the federation.
Subsequently, through hard work and perseverance, Mr. Lartey Otu gained the recognition of the international taekwondo bodies and was made an international taekwondo referee in 1999 and has since been refereeing in various continental and other taekwondo championships across the world.
About six years after practising as an international referee he acquired his license as a taekwondo instructor from the World Taekwondo Academy, Kukkiwon in South Korea. He was then trained and certified as a coach by the Kyung Hee University also in South Korea.
Presently, Mr Lartey Otu is the Vice President of the West Africa Taekwondo International Referees’ Association and a member of the Institute of Directors, Ghana.
As a sixth Dan Taekwondo Black Belt holder, the Senior Revenue Collector of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), who holds an MBA in marketing from the University of Applied Management, Germany, was recently honoured with a citation for his immense contributions to the sport during the 40th anniversary of the World Taekwondo Federation in Mexico.
Under his stewardship as the president of the GTF from November 2013, the senior customs officer set the pace by holding the very first annual general meeting in the history of the sport in Ghana, which brought together representatives from all the regional associations to discuss, among other issues, the GTF’s constitution, promotion of the sport at the grassroot level and strategies for revenue generation.
He also supervised the first privately-sponsored annual National-based Taekwondo Championships and the Mission Open Championships which were held at the Accra Sports Stadium in 2011.
He has with support from his executives given the association a new image with the creation of a website and a new logo for the GTF (www.taekwondoghana.com). Furthermore, the practice of taekwondo has been rekindled while its practice, which more or less used to be Accra-based, has been extended to the other nine regions across the country, resulting in the formation of regional associations and executive committees which were constituted after elections had been held within the regions.
Last year, under his leadership, the first coach/instructor license course to train instructors in critical areas such as first aid, safety and taekwondo theory among other topics was introduced to taekwondo coaches to teach the sport in a regulated and controlled manner. Again, with the assistance of the World Taekwondo Peace Corps programme, Mr. Lartey Otu initiated a five-week training tour across five regions in the country with a four-member taekwondo team from South Korea.
Other coaches and taekwondo athletes including a coach from the Western region, a female athlete from the Takroradi Polytechnic and two Para taekwondo athletes from the Greater Accra regions have also had the opportunity to take part in other international events through the initiative of his administration.
The country has also chalked some successes by winning a bronze medal during the 13th African Senior Championships in Tunisia in May 2014. Ghana also won two silver medals during last year’s US Open Championships and the Las Vegas Open respectively while at this year’s All African Games held in Congo Brazzaville, she won silver and bronze medals.
The Ghana taekwondo chief who is married with two children crowned his numerous achievements over the years with the prestigious award from the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) as the federation president of the year 2015 at this year’s SWAG awards night held at the Banquet Hall of the State house.
He dedicated his award to the membership of his administration and to all taekwondo practitioners in the country and gave the assurance that they will continue to work diligently to make taekwondo “the sport of choice’ in Ghana.