The word Kwan is a Korean word that literally means house, or school, but has the connotative meaning of a family or clan. 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.
Song Moo Kwan founder Roh Byung Jick is said to have practiced as a child techniques that he saw practiced at local Buddhist temples. It is uncertain what exactly the martial art was that was practiced at these temples. Later in life Roh went to Japan to study where he practiced Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi.
Chung Do Kwan founder Lee Won Kyeok secretly practised Taekkyeon as a child. Later he also went to Japan to study and practiced Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi.
Chang Moo Kwan was founded by Yoon Byung In who had studied Kung Fu in Manchuria under a Mongolian instructor. He also practiced Shotokan Karate in Japan with Kanken Toyama.
Jido Kwan founder Chun Sang Sup practiced Shotokan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi in Japan.