HISTORY OF HAPKIDO AND YONG MU KWAN HAPKIDO
Yong Shul Choi, a contributor to the founding of Hapkido, was born in the town of Yong Dong,
Choong Chung Province, relatively near Taegue, South Korea in 1904. In 1909
Korea came under Japanese occupation. It is believed that Japanese troops took
Young Shul Choi from his homeland at the age of seven to be assigned work in
Japan. It was a very common practice, at this period of history, for the
Japanese occupying forces to relocate young male Korean children to Japan for
various types of labor.
Yong Shul Choi, stated in an interview conducted shortly
before his death in 1982 that he had been abducted by a candy store owner, Mr.
Morimoto, and taken to Japan to be his son. As he did not like the man, he
The actual causation for his transport to Japan may never be proven. If a Mr.
Morimoto had been the causation, it would have sadly been for him to be a
laborer and not a son.
As fate would have it, Choi eventually came to work for, Sokaku Takeda
(1860-1943), the 32nd patriarch of Daito Ryu Aikijitsu. Takeda was forty-four
years old at the time Choi, a seven-year-old boy, came to his service. Choi was
given the Japanese name Yoshida, Asao. The first or given name Tatjuttsu that is
propagated as being the name Choi used in Japan is not a valid Japanese name.
Therefore, it is historically inaccurate to believe he went by this name.
Chick Here to view the Daito Ryu Aikijitsu history page on this website.
Takeda and Choi
Choi, now living under the employee of Takeda, in Hokkaido, was not treated as
an adopted son by Takeda, as legend has led many modern Hapkido practitioners to
believe. In fact, Choi was simply an employee of Takeda.
We must place this association into historical perspective to understand the
true relationship between Takeda and Choi. At this juncture of history, the
Japanese viewed themselves as the "Divine race." Koreans were simply thought of
as a conquered people. Takeda, perhaps came to be found of Choi, but due to his
cultural programming, he would never have accepted him as a son. Certainly,
there were affluent individuals, of Korean descent, who lived in Japan during
this period and were more readily assimilated in Japanese martial culture.
Unfortunately, Choi did not possess this status and was forced to live a life
supported by labor.
It is important to note that the true relationship between Choi and Takeda was
clearly known to all of Choi's early students -- including Hwa Rang Do
Grandmaster and Founder Joo Bong Lee and Choi's first student, Suh, Bok Sup. It
is the later generations of students who were lead to believe that Choi was the
adopted son of Takeda. Where this myth was born is difficult to say. There is a
translation of a later interview with Choi where he, supposedly, states that
this was the case. This author has never seen or heard this original interview
in Korean, however. So, it may have been a mistake in translation. In addition,
this author has never seen or heard this fact stated in any other instance by
Choi, Yong Shul. Again, bringing into question if Choi ever made this statement.
It is essential to understand that it is doubtful that Choi would have ever made
a statement such as this, due to the fact that it would have been very,
"Politically Incorrect," due to Korea's previous relationship with Japan.
Therefore, it is factually inaccurate to perpetuate this belief.
Takeda's own son, Tokimune Takeda, stated that he never knew Choi, Yong Shul.
This may be explained by the fact that Takeda possessed two distinct households.
Only one of which housed his family. In addition, Japanese immigration records,
of the late 1930's and early 1940's, list Choi, under his Japanese name, as an
employee of Takeda.
Choi remained in the employ of Takeda for thirty years until 25 April 1943 when
Takeda died. At that point he took his leave from the house of Takeda and
shortly thereafter returned to the Taegue area of Korea.
It must be noted that there is no historic record of Choi ever being certified
as a student or teacher of Daito Ryu. The myth that Choi lost his certificates
while returning to Korea is a falsehood as there is in-depth records of every
Daito Ryu Aikijitsu student kept in Japan. Choi, by his Korean or Japanese name,
was never listed. This fact substantiates the true relationship between Choi and
Takeda. Choi, however, for decades was under the direct influence of the art. He
obviously mastered its techniques.
The Birth of Hapkido
As stated, Choi remained with Takeda for thirty years until Takeda's death.
Relieved of his duties, Choi returned to Korea.
Choi's first student was a successful brewery manager named, Suh, Bok Sup.
Prior to his study with Choi he had been awarded a 1st Dan Black Belt in Judo,
under the direction of Korean Judo instructor, Choi, Yong Ho. In February of
1948, the twenty-four year old Suh witnessed Choi, who was then in his forties,
get into a fight with several men. Choi rapidly devastated his opponents. So
impressed with his technique, Suh summoned Choi to his office and inquired as to
his style. This meeting eventually lead to Suh hiring Choi, who had previously
been a poor rice cake seller and hog farmer since his return to Korea. Choi
would teach Suh for several years privately, eventually also became a bodyguard
for Suh's father, Suh, Dong Jin.
Suh, Bok Sup became instrumental in helping Choi open his first school of
self-defense, which was established in February of 1951. He also became his
first Black Belt. Due to Suh's advanced understanding of Judo, Suh lent some of
this knowledge to the system that later became known as Hapkido. Many of the
basic sleeve grabs, shoulder grabs, and throws, used in Hapkido, can trace their
origin to Judo.
The initial name of the system of self-defense Choi taught was, Dae Dong Ryu Yu
Sool. This is the Korean translation for Daito Ryu Jujitsu.
Initially, Choi taught his students a very pure form of Daito Ryu Aikijitsu.
Many of the later students of Hapkido attempt to falsely date the origin of
Hapkido to some ancient Korean art. This is historically inaccurate. Choi,
himself, never made this claim.
As time progressed and other Korean martial art pioneers, such as General Hong
Hi Choi (Taekwondo) and Hwang Kee (Tang Soo Do) were rediscovering and expanding
upon the offensive nature of Tae Kyon, their discoveries influenced some of the
advanced students of Choi, such as Ji, Han Jae, who slowly began to incorporate
the very aggressive punching and kicking techniques into the overall
understanding of Hapkido. Choi, himself, never taught kicking in association
with Hapkido, however.
Hapkido's final criteria came through a slow testing period, as did the other
martial art systems born on the newly independent Korean Peninsula. Even the
name Hapkido went through various changes, including: Yu Kwon Sul, Yu Sool, Ho
Shin Mu Do, and Bi Sool.
Today, there is no one system of Hapkido, as is the case with WTF Taekwondo, for
example. As time has gone on, each teacher and ensuing organization has
integrated their own understandings and self defense realizations into this art.
There are, however, two distinct types of Hapkido. The first are the schools
that hold tightly to the original teachings of Yong Shul Choi. This style of
Hapkido will commonly be observed when visiting or studying in the Hapkido
dojangs located in the Taegue vicinity of South Korea. Here, the focus is placed
primarily upon the Daito Ryu based joint locks, deflections, and throws. These are called
Hapkido but essentially they are still Daito Ryu Jujitsu. The
second distinct style of Hapkido is those instructors, schools, and
organizations that trace their lineage to Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae - whether
directly or indirectly. In these schools one will observe a plethora of
punching, kicking, and weapon techniques, in association with the joint locks
and throws commonly associated with Hapkido. This style of Hapkido will commonly
be observed at the dojangs based in Seoul, South Korea and, in fact, most of the
The continued evolution of Hapkido is a good thing. It has allowed the art to
change and embrace the needs of each student in their own unique way.
Ji, Han Jae and the Evolution of Hapkido
Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae was born in Andong, Korea in 1936. He was a student of
Yong Shul Choi between approximately 1949 and 1956. He opened his first school,
known as An Mu Kwan, in 1956 in Andong, South Korea. Later that year, he moved
his school to Seoul and shortly there after renamed it, Sung Moo Kwan. At that
time he held the rank of 3rd Dan Black Belt in Hapkido, then known as Yu Kwan
Grandmaster Ji is said to have additionally studied the ancient Korean martial
arts and meditation from a Taoist monk referred to only as, Taoist Lee. Ji
states that he combined the techniques of his two teachers and invented the term
Hapkido in 1959. Original students of Choi Dojunim say, however, that the term
Hapkido was first used by Choi before Grandmaster Ji decided to use the name.
Thus, this issue may never be fully resolved as to who first used the name. But,
it is of little historic importance.
It must be noted that due to the fact that Grandmaster Ji relocated to Seoul, he
was central to the homebase of the evolving Korean martial arts. As such, he was
exposed to the advanced kicking techniques that were being integrated into these
modern systems of self-defense. Thus, he was the person who integrated the
advanced methods of offensive and defensive kicking into Hapkido. In addition,
he was the first instructor to add such weapons to the art as the short and
middle staff, known as Don Bong and Jung Bong respectively, and the Hapkido
Due to his strategic location and dynamic personality, he became a very
influential figure in the development and evolution of Hapkido. He was the
instructor of many Hapkido practitioners who later become very famous masters of
the art and spread Hapkido across the world. These students include: Grandmaster
Kwon, Tae Mon (one of his first students and a man who helped introduce Hapkido
to the United States), Grandmaster Myung, Jae Nam, Grandmaster Choi, Sea Oh, and
Grandmaster Han, Bong Soo -- to name just a few. As such, Ji has done more to
expand upon the original system of Hapkido and to promote the art around the
world than any other individual. There is more direct and indirect student of
Ji, Han Jae's style of Hapkido than any other Hapkido instructor in history.
Several of his original students no longer wish to be associated with him,
however, due to differing personal ideologies. Thus, many Korean instructors no
longer reference him as the source of their knowledge. Instead, they claim they
studied directly from Yong Shul Choi - though this is factually not the case.
In 1961, Kim, Yong Jin who opened the Oh Ji Kwan School of Hapkido, joined
Grandmaster Ji in Seoul. Soon after that, Kim, Moo Hong established Sin Moo Kwan
In 1967 Grandmaster Ji initiated the use of the eagle as the logo for Hapkido.
Later that same year, the first textbook on Hapkido was written by Hapkido
Masters: Nyung, Kwan Shik and Kim, Jong Tek.
In 1968 another student of Ji, Myung, Kwan Shik, opened a new Hapkido Kwan in
Seoul. It was called Young Moo Kwan.
In 1969, Grandmaster Ji first visited the United States and was introduced to
Bruce Lee by Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee. He later appeared in Bruce Lee's film,
"Game of Death."
In 1984, Grandmaster Ji officially relocated to the U.S. and formed, Sin Moo
Hapkido. "Sin," referring to "Higher Mind," and "Moo," to "Warrior Ways."
Historically, it can be understood that Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae was one of the
most influential and instrumental proponents of the art of Hapkido -- no matter
who invented the name. Grandmaster Lyndon Johnson was a direct student and Hapkido
Master under Ji, Han Jae. He forged Sin Moo Hapkido with many other martial arts and military fighting systems and removed non modern combat techniques for form Yong Mu Kwan Hapkido.
Hapkido's Governing Bodies
By the early 1960's the various South Korean based schools of Hapkido were
already fragment from the original teaching of Yong Shul Choi. Seeking an
official governing body, advanced teachers the art petition the Korean
government for a formalized organization. On September 2, 1963, the Korean
Ministry of Education granted a charter to the Korea Kido Association. This
extended this organization the right to supervise and regulate the standards of
teaching, as well as promotion requirements for Hapkido and thirty additional
Korean martial arts that had not congregated under the banner of Taekwondo. The
first chairman of the Korea Kido Association (Ki Do Hae) was Choi, Yong Shul.
Its first President was Lee, Kyu Jin, who held this position for two terms. Ji,
Han Jae and other Korean Hapkido masters were additionally on its Board of
Directors. In 1967, a new President, Kim, Du Young was elected. He held this
position for several terms. On 26 January 1978, at the eighth Ki Do Hae
election, a new president, Choi, Byung Rin, was elected. And, Choi, Byung Gu was
elected the new Chairman. At the ninth Ki Do Hae election, held on 5 April 1981,
Pyo, Si Chan was elected the organization's new president.
On the first of June, 1983, at the tenth Ki Do Hae election, Suh, In Hyuk was
appointed the Chairman. And, 10th Dan, Kuk Sool Won, Grandmaster, Seo, In Sun
was elected its president.
Grandmaster Seo was the first non-politician and actual martial art master to
hold this appointment. He has maintained this position since his election.
The Evolution of the Korea Hapkido Association
As time progressed, fragmentation of Hapkido continued. This was due to ongoing
individual differences. In 1965, Ji, Han Jae left the Korea Kido Association. He
formed and became President of Daehan Hapkido Hae, The Korea Hapkido
Association. This association was formed with the blessing of then South Korean
President Park, Chung Hee.
The reason President Park was so in favor of this new organization was, in no
small part, due to the fact that Park, Jong Kyu, a student of Ji, Han Jae and
head of the Presidential Protective Forces, was an instrumental element in its
formation. In 1973 Ji, Han Jae resigned from this organization, with the hopes
of taking many of its members with him and bringing them to a new organization
he was instrumental in creating: The Republic of Korea Hapkido Association.
What is now known as the Korea Hapkido Association has gone through several
incarnations. Its presidents have included, in addition to Ji, Han Jae: Kim, Woo
Choong, Kim, Gye Ho, Park, Dow Soon, and Hwang, Duk Kyu.
Myung, Jae Nam
Another essential figure in the development of Hapkido is Myung, Jae Nam. Myung
was born on 31 December 1938. He began his Hapkido training in 1958 under the
direction of Ji, Han Jae at Ji's Joong Boo Si Jang studio in Seoul. He trained
next to several other influential Hapkido Masters, including: Han, Bong Soo and
Choi, Sea Ho. Myung was one of the original Masters on the board of directors of
the Korea Hapkido Association and was awarded his 8th Dan by Ji, Han Jae in
Prior to this, however, it is interesting to note that in 1965, Myung, Jae Nam
was the only master of Hapkido to heartily welcome a Japanese Aikido instructor,
Hirata Sensei, who was touring Korea. The less than warm reception for a
visiting Japanese Sensei was obviously due to the remaining Korean distaste for
the Japanese due to Japanese occupation. For the next several years, Myung
exchanged techniques with the man. Myung eventually formed an alliance with
Japanese Aikikai. In 1969, when Grandmaster Myung formed his own organization
and named it, Han Kuk Hapkisool Hae, the certificates he issued had the name of
Aikido's founder, Uyeshiba Morihei on them in association with his own.
From that point forward, until his death in 1999, Myung, Jae Nam was the Korean
representative for Aikikai. In his version of Hapkido there are many Aikido
From 1969 forward his organization continued to evolve. In 1972 he moved the
location of his headquarters from Inchon to Bukchang-Dong, Chung-Ku, in Seoul
and renamed his organization Han Kuk Hapki Hae, The Korea Hapki Association. In
1974 he changed the name to Kuk Jae Yong Meng Hapki Hae. This organization is
more commonly known as, The International Hapkido Federation.
The Korea Hapkido Federation
The birth of the Korea Hapkido Federation can be traced to Grandmaster Ji, Han
Jae. In 1973 he invited two advanced masters of Hapkido: Kim, Moo Wong, and
Myung, Jae Nam, to join him. Both of which were previously his students. They
untied their individual organizations. They named the newly formed association,
Dae Han Min Kuk Hapkido Hyub Hae, The Republic of Korea Hapkido Federation. Ji,
Han Jae was the first to leave this organization. Grandmaster Myung eventually
left the organization, as well. A new organization emerged from the foundations
of this association, The Korea Hapkido Federation.
Oh, Se Lim was elected the president Korea Hapkido federation. He has remained
the president of this organization since its inception. Today, the Korea Hapkido
Federation is the largest, wholly Hapkido, governing body for Hapkido in the
Prior to 1990, the Korean Hapkido Federation, and all other South Korean based
non-Taekwondo martial art organizations, were required to be a part of the South
Korea Amateur Athletic Association. (this was the equivalent to holding
nonprofit status). Each of these associations were required to register their
Black Belts with the Korea Kido Association (Ki Do Hae), if they wished their
students and instructors to possess Korean certification. In 1990, governmental
and organizational laws changed in South Korea, however, and the various
established martial art organizations were allowed to become financial based
entities. Due to this fact, the Korean Hapkido Federation and other established
Korean martial art organizations broke away from Ki Do Hae and were allowed to
offer promotions without Ki Do Hae approval.
During this period of change in South Korea, in 1990, Korea Ki Do Hae expanded
and instituted a new branch of operation known as, The World Ki Do Association.
This branch of Ki Do Hae was formed to supply legitimate non-Korean martial
artists with rank recognition from South Korea.
Hapkido was formally introduced into the United States in 1964 by then
twenty-eight year old, Sea Oh Choi. At that time he held the rank of 5th Dan
Black Belt. Though not the first Hapkido Black Belt to immigrate to America, he
was the first instructor to open a Hapkido school in the United States. The name
of the school was the Hapki-Jujitsu School of Self Defense. It was located at
821 Temple Street in Los Angeles, California. He later relocated his school to
721 S. Western Ave. Master Choi retired from teaching Hapkido in the mid 1970's
at the rank of 6th Dan to pursue a career in architecture and interior design.
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