History of Hapkido
Any attempt to
trace the exact historical development of Hapkido is fraught with
difficulties due to lack of complete historical records and the
selective nature of those particular records that do exist. All
written and oral history is shaped by the political, social and
cultural climate of the times and any examination of Hapkido history
must be viewed with this in mind. However certain threads can be
pulled together so we can obtain a general perspective of the roots
and subsequent development of Hapkido. What must also be kept in mind
is that previous to 1945 there was a long historical decline of the
martial arts of Korea commencing with the Yi dynasty (1392-1910) and
finishing with the Japanese occupation (1910-45) where they were all
but stamped out. In many cases just a few scattered individuals, often
monks living in seclusion in the mountains with perhaps just one or
two disciples, kept the ancient martial arts of Korea alive. Since the
end of the Japanese occupation in 1945 there has been a rediscovery by
the Korean people of their culture and martial arts in particular.
Many elements of their ancient martial arts such as Tae Kyon, Yu Sool
and Soo Bak Gi have been incorporated into modern arts such as Hapkido,
Kuk Sool Won and Tang Soo Do.
Many different sources have been used including oral testimony from
masters still living in Korea and other countries today. This includes
eighty three year old Grandmaster Jang In Mok, 9th degree who resides
in Teague city in Korea and who trained in Japan under Daito Ryu
Aikijujitsu Grandmaster Takeda Sokaku, Grandmaster Ji Han Jae 10th
degree and Grandmaster of Sin Moo Hapkido, Grandmaster Kim Byung Chu
8th Degree and President of the Korean Hapkido Association,
grandmaster Huh Ill Woong 8th Degree, Professor of martial arts at
Myung Ji University, Seoul and master Kim Sung Su, 6th Degree,
President of the Australian Hapkido Association.
A further complication in unraveling this history is the fact that
many martial arts masters were influenced by more than just one style
and that the name Hapkido is a fairly recent name. The word Sool in
Korean has been recognized traditionally as meaning art or method
whereas the term do is a Japanese way of thinking, meaning way of
life. This appears in arts such as Judo, Kendo, and Iado. In Sun Seo
of the Korean Kuk Sool Won Association asserts that the word do does
not appear in Korean records until around the middle of Japanese
colonial rule of Korea.
Origin of the name Hapkido
Choi Yong Sool (1904-1986) used the name Yu Sool to describe the
art he began teaching in Korea after 1945. There is a dispute as to
who actually first used the name Hapkido. Ji Han Jae insists that he
first used the name in 1957 when he opened a school in Seoul and Suh
Bok Sub says he and Choi Young Sul first used the name officially in
Suh Bok Sub, Choi's first student, insists that on February 12, 1948,
a Monday, the first Hapkido dojang opened and it was called Korean Yu
Kwan Sool Hapkidojang. Choi it seems was not quite sure what to call
his art when he landed back in Korea. The Japanese name for the art
was Ya Wa Ra, taught by Takeda Sokaku of the Daito Ryu (Dai Dong in
Korean). Suh Bok Sub insists the early name they used was Yu Kwan Sool
Hapkido. He states “The meaning of Korean HapKi, Yu Kwan Sool Dae Han
means Korea, Hap Ki means total arts, Daito Ryu or Ya Wa Ra came from
Japan to Korea. It was Yu Sool which is Yu Kwan Sool with the Kwon
removed. At that time Yu Sool meant something like Judo in Japan, so
Grandmaster Choi thought it had a confusing meaning so he put kwon in
the middle of it.
Many people thought Hapkido (in the sense of what Choi taught) came
from Judo because Yu Sool was used, but it did not. Kwan in Chinese
letters means fist. So literally Yu Kwon means soft fist. So without
hitting anybody you use a soft fist which uses the other person’s
energy. In 1958 Choi Yong Sool agreed to officially add the Do to Hap
Ki to have the lasting name Hapkido. No one else did this." (Tae Kwon
Do, May 1996: 43, 47).
On the other hand, Dr Hee Young Kimm, founder of Han Mu Do,and a
well known martial arts historian claims that Ji Han-Jae , a former
student of Grandmaster Choi and now Grandmaster of Sin Moo Hapkido,
called what he had learned from Choi Yong Sool, Hapki Yu Kwon Sool but
felt the name was too long and shortened it to Hapkido in 1957. This
was confirmed by Grandmaster Ji Han Jae in a personal interview
conducted with him on the 20th of September, 1996.
Grandmaster Ji also placed a much greater emphasis on kicking than
did Choi Yong Sool (Ji claims Choi originally only taught front, side
and roundhouse kicks), incorporating Tae Kyon techniques, and it is
through his influence and others such as Kim Moo Wong that we see the
vast repertoire of kicks that Hapkido is noted for. In addition
Grandmaster Ji introduced Taoist breathing and weapons such as the
Cane, Jang Bong and Dan Bong.
The conjecture about who originally thought of the name is a
product of the turbulent political scene of Hapkido in Korea in the
late 1950's and early 1960's when the art was establishing itself
rapidly and it was undergoing fairly rapid evolution.
Korea and the Hwarang
Modern Hapkido (as opposed to the original style taught by Choi
Yong Sool) should not be simply seen as Korean Aikijujitsu. In
addition to the influence of Aikijujitsu on Hapkido there are also
elements of other traditional Korean martial arts techniques
encompassing Kwan Jul Ki Bub (joint twisting, throws, holding and
choking), Dang Shin Ki Bub (strike, punch and kick) and Moo Ki Sool
(short sword, long sword, short stick, long pole, cane, spear, rope,
stone throws and knife throws). These techniques in turn derived from
Sado Mu Sool (tribal martial arts), Buldo Mu Sool (Buddhist martial
arts) and Koong Joong Mu Sool (royal court martial arts). These
techniques were originally known and handed down through a hierarchy
of monks, ruling families and royal officials for self protection and
personal safety. Recorded history of these arts dates back as early as
Sam Kuk Si Dae (the era of the three kingdoms - 3A.D.).
Buddhism arrived in China from India during Hu Han Mal (late Han
period - 67 B.C.) and was introduced to Korea in 372 A.D. The first
patriarch of Son (Zen in Japanese, Chan in Chinese) Buddhism and the
28th patriarch of Buddhism, Bodhidharma (480-528) made an epic trip
across the Himalayas and arrived at Song Shan Shaolin temple, China in
520 A.D. where he began to teach the monks Son.. Many people credit
him with forming the nucleus of martial arts but this proposition is
almost certainly a myth. He may have introduced a particular form of
the martial arts but the ability to the organize fighting methods is a
feature known in many parts of the world and certainly before this
date. What is more likely is that he developed a method of martial
practice that was uniquely tied up with Son Buddhism.
Under the reign of King Pop Hung, Buddhism became the sanctioned
state religion of Silla and this patronage spawned a period of
monastic order, the construction of monasteries and the development of
the arts. Large numbers of Korean monks travelled to China for
instruction with ninety percent of them coming from Silla.
King Chin Hung came to power in Silla in 540 A.D. and one of the
most significant acts he performed was the creation of the Hwa Rang
warrior. He called upon a famous Buddhist priest, Won Kwang Bopsa who
had developed a system of martial arts based on harmony with the laws
of nature to establish a state sanctioned martial art Young members of
the nobility were taught martial arts with the Buddhist faith to
become warrior-intellectuals who embodied culture and chivalry.
The empty handed fighting techniques were known for their blending
of the hard and the soft, linear and circular attacks based on Won
Kwang Bopsa's concept of the unity of the opposites embodied in the
Um-Yang. The ferocious fighting spirit of the Hwa Rang became
legendary and their deeds were recorded in poetry and literature. This
literature became part of Korean folklore and heroic legend and
evolved into a system of ethics and morality that was essential to the
evolution of the martial artist since their dedication to duty and
self sacrifice rested on something larger than themselves.
These deep historical and philosophical connections sets Hapkido
apart from Aikido that has its own particular philosophy developed by
the founder Uyeshiba.
Early connections to Aikijujitsu and Aikido
Chinese civilization spread into Korea and Japan heavily
influencing the indigenous peoples of these lands. All three of these
countries in turn have had important influences on each other. Korean
travelers brought many skills with them to Japan including Buddhism
and certain martial arts skills. From 668 A.D. the Shilla kingdom
dominated the Korean peninsula and there was a florescence of martial
arts along with many other cultural developments. Oral sources in
Korea tell of a Paekje kingdom prince who traveled to Japan to escape
political persecution and brought with him a martial art that was
based mainly on defensive techniques, circularity and the use of an
opponent's force against them called Yu Sool.
The Japanese were meticulous in keeping family and clan records and
Grandmaster Huh Ill Woong has a copy of the Daito Ryu family scroll
that lists the third name as this prince who brought new techniques
and organization to the previously disjointed family martial arts.
Yu Sool translates roughly as "soft art" and it may have been
derived from Chinese sources. It was very popular in Korea by 1150
A.D. Its techniques were characterised by a passive combat attitude
where the enemy was allowed to make the first move and his attack
being directed to the defender's advantage. Throws (mechigi),
grappling techniques (kuchigi), and assaulting techniques (kuepso
chirigi) composed the main body of the art. There were twenty four
basic and ten secret methods comprising the original repertoire.
Dr An Ja San has stated in his book of ancient Korea Chosun Moo Sa
Yongoong Jun, a biography of Korean warriors, that the Yu Sool school
was considered similar to jujitsu and was known under the name of Soo
Bak-Gi and Taek Kyon. Every year during the month of May the King of
Chosun held competitions in this form of unarmed combat at Kak Chon
Pavilion on Ma Am mountain. The contest winner was awarded a
prestigious government post. Participation was compulsory for all
soldiers and three winners of these annual contests were Lee Yi Min,
Jang Jong Boo and Sa Kyang Sung who became leading generals during the
Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu
Aikijujitsu was propagated according to the Japanese system of
hierarchical transmission by blood, adoption or affiliation. It was
said to have been founded by Prince Teijun, the sixth son of emperor
Seiwa (850-880 A.D.) who was the 56th ruler of Japan. Tsunamoto,
Prince Teijun's eldest son, was given the name Minamoto and the art
was passed down through succeeding generations of the Minamoto family.
Yoshimitsu Minamoto (1056-1127 A.D.) is regarded as the actual founder
of the "Daito Ryu" (great eastern style). Yoshimitsu's grandson,
Yoshikiyo (some records indicate that he may have been the second son
of Yoshimitsu) founded the Takeda branch of the Minamoto family in the
province of Kai. Takeda is a place in the province of Kai.
It is recorded that Yoshimitsu studied anatomy by dissecting bodies of
war dead and criminals and his house "Daito mansion" has given its
name to his system of Aikijujitsu, hence we have the name "Daito Ryu".
The techniques were passed on to successive generations as the secret
art of the Takeda house and made known only to members and retainers
of the family. In 1574, Takeda Kunitsugu moved to Aizu. Thereafter the
art remained an exclusively samurai practice and handed down within
the family until Japan emerged from isolation into the Meiji period in
1868. Sokaku Takeda (1860-1943 and 32nd in line from Yoshimitsu), the
then head of the family began to teach the art outside of the Takeda
household and began to travel widely, finally settling in Hokkaido.
Choi Yong Sul
It is here that the Korean connection again appears. The most
widely known figure in the establishment of Hapkido is Choi Yong-Sul.
There are many varying accounts of Choi's training in Japan and each
particular story must be seen in the context of who is writing it.
Much of Japanese history is written from an ethnocentric point of view
, particularly in relation to Korean history. An example of this is
the way Korean history was rewritten to the Japanese viewpoint during
their brutal occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. During this period
the Japanese tried to completely eliminate Korean thought, cultural
arts and the foundation of traditional Korean martial arts as these
posed a threat to their authority in an occupied land.
Choi was born in 1904 at Chung Buk province in Korea. Some have said
that he lost his parents at an early age. He is thought to have been
in Japan by 1913 where he was a houseboy/servant, perhaps even the
adopted son of Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu Grandmaster Takeda Sokaku.
Martial arts historian Kim Jeong Yoon from Seoul says that after Choi
was orphaned he was taken to Japan by a Japanese family. He then spent
four years living in a temple before Takeda, a close friend of the
abbot, took him in. Perhaps a more authoritative account comes from
Suh Bok Sub, Choi's first student in Korea.
In an interview with Michael Wollmershauser of Massachusetts in
1996 Suh Bok Sub stated that Choi had told him that he was born into a
very poor Korean family who lived close by to a candy factory run by a
Japanese couple. The couple took a liking to Choi and, as his family
could not afford him, they allowed the couple to return to Japan with
their son. This accords with the Kim Jeong-yoon's account. As a
Japanese couple took him to Japan there was no problem Choi entering
Japan. The couple left Choi at a Buddhist temple so they could travel
more widely in Japan and so that Choi could be given an education.
Apparently Choi was not interested in schooling and was causing some
minor problems by fighting and having a lack of discipline.
The head of the temple sent him to a friend of his by the name of
Sokaku Takeda. Choi then cleaned Takeda's dojo for five years after
which the master permitted him to learn aikijujitsu. In Suh Bok Subs
interview he mentions Choi showing a photograph of Takeda to him and
explaining to Suh that Takeda was his surrogate father.
Many Aikijujitsu exponents cannot accept the proposition that Choi,
a Korean of low status in Japanese eyes could have possibly been
taught or been close to Takeda. On the other hand Bernie Lau, an
Aikijujitsu researcher and instructor in February's 1987 edition of
Black Belt commented that one of the more famous styles related to
Daito Ryu is Hapkido. In addition he makes the comment that Uyeshiba
Morehei, Aikido founder and a former student of Takeda, was so far
below in social status than the other of Takeda's disciples that he
could not even get a proper recommendation to study under Takeda.
In Japan, Choi used the Japanese name Yoshida Tatsujutsu (or
Tatujutu) since Japanese law at the time required everyone to use a
Japanese name. Dr He-Young Kimm explains that on Choi's return to
Taegue city in Korea in 1945 after the end of the Japanese occupation,
a bag with his martial arts certificates and money was stolen. This
has been confirmed by Suh Bok Sub who states that the bag was stolen
at Younson train station after Choi returned to his home town of Yong
Dong then decided to locate to Taegu city after he found no one to
meet him at the train station. However there is no official records in
the Daito Ryu to reflect the granting of a teaching certificate.
Perhaps the reason no records exist is the fact that despite Choi's
close relationship with Takeda he was not Japanese and therefore
excluded from the records or that he did not pay any money for lessons
and thus there is no registration of payment.
Some claim that Choi's training was limited to just attending
seminars. Regardless of these conjectures, Choi spent thirty two years
in Japan off and on and his techniques reflect a definite link to
Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu. Recent information has come to light in the
form of a personal interview with Master Choi in 1982 in New York
where he details the early years of his life. It seems he was abducted
by the Japanese couple and then abandoned by them because he was being
extremely difficult. This would account for him arriving at a Buddhist
monastery because they often looked after orphans.
Details of this interview can be found on the Internet at
http://www.erols.com/mdburke/hist.html. (This link has been down,
but I hope that info can still be found there.) Suh Bok Sub also
mentions that by the time he returned to Korea to stay after the war
he was married to a Korean woman and he had three daughters and a son.
It seems he had traveled from Japan to Korea previously and met his
wife on one of these visits.
Jang In Mok
We now come to a most interesting development that does not appear
in much of the Hapkido literature. Still living today in Taegue city
is Grandmaster Jang In Mok who also trained under Takeda Sokaku.
Grandmaster Jang is eighty three years old which makes his birth year
1912. He has a scroll that lists his training record in the Daito Ryu.
Even though Jang In Mok was born later than Choi Young Sool they were
contemporaries in Japan studying under Takeda and they both returned
to Taegue city in Korea in 1945. Jang is a doctor of oriental medicine
and massage but also used to teach Hapkido. As his career was mainly
as a doctor he did not produce large numbers of students. Further
research on Grandmaster Jang's early years in Japan is presently
continuing and should he provide us with any further information it is
certain to improve our resolution into this window of the past.
From these two men who trained under Takeda Sokaku there has been a
florescence of Hapkido masters who have spread the art around the
world to the benefit of tens of thousands of students. As in any
creative art each master has stamped their personal style and emphasis
on their Hapkido. Dr Kim He Young documents many of the early Hapkido
masters who trained under Choi Yong Sool. Among those listed are Suh
Bok Sub, Kim Moo Wong (Shin Moo Kwan Hapkido), Ji Han Jae (Sin Moo
Hapkido), Lee Joo Bang (founder of Hwarang Do), Suh In Hyuk (founder
of Kuk Sool Won), Won Kwang Wha (Moo Sool Kwan Hapkido) and Kim Jung
Yun (Han Pul). What is clear is that Suh Bok Sub was Choi Yong Sool's
first student in Korea and his first lesson was on Sunday , February
22, 1948. At the present, the two highest ranking students of Choi
Yong Sool are Grandmaster Im Hyon Soo (9th degree) teaching in Taegu
city, Korea, Grandmaster Chin il Chang (9th degree) in New York city
and head of Hapkido (under Choi's system) . Grandmaster Ji Han Jae
(10th Dan) heads his extensive Sin Moo Hapkido organization.
Understanding these historical connections is an important
component in any serious study of Hapkido and the martial arts
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