The History of Hapkido

The history of the martial arts is full of twists and turns. My search for its origin has led me to believe that the truth will never be known. Since Cain killed his brother Abel mankind has studied ways to do each other in; and to keep from being done in. Systems have blended into each other over the centuries and continued to evolve into the arts we practice today. Some arts have been developed no doubt to emphasize a certain quality, trait or philosophy. Some of the arts emphasize throwing, choking and joint locking such as Judo. Others emphasize twisting and turning like Aikido. And still others like Karate and Kung Fu major on kicking and striking bongda365 techniques. Hapkido seeks to employ some of all these methods for self defense.

Hapkido is a martial art that was started in Korea by its’ founder, Yong Shul Choi. Choi was born in the town of Yong Dong, near Taegue, South Korea in 1904; about five years before the Japanese began their occupation of Korea. Choi became orphaned at the age of eight or nine and was taken to Japan to be assigned work. He eventually came to work for Sokaku Takeda (1860 – 1943), the 32nd patriarch of Daito Ryu Aikijitsu.

Choi stayed in the employ of Takeda for thirty years. When Takeda died in 1943 Choi was released and took his leave, returning to the Teague area of Korea shortly thereafter. There is some controversy over Choi’s certification in Daito Ryu Aikijitsu. Whether or not Choi was ever officially certified in Daito Ryu Aikijitsu is not really important in my mind. He was obviously able to master the techniques he was around for 30 years, and go on to teach them to many others.

When Choi returned to Korea he was poor. He sold rice cakes to feed his family until he earned enough money to buy some hogs. He fed the hogs with leftover grain he got each morning from the Suh Brewery Company. The manager of the brewery, Bok Sup Suh, saw Choi, a man in his 40’s at the time, defeat several men in a fight one morning over a dispute about his place in line. Mr. Suh was a black belt in Judo and was impressed by Choi’s strange martial arts style. He sent for him and an agreement was reached between them where Choi would teach Suh his system of fighting in exchange for grain and money. Lessons were held in Suh’s dojang at the brewry until Suh was instrumental in helping Choi open his first school in February of 1951. He also became his first black belt. Some of Suh’s knowledge of Judo techniques was incorporated into the system of self defense that would later become known as Hapkido. The original name of Choi’s self defense system was Dae Dong Ryu Yu Sool; the Korean translation for Daito Ryu Aikijitsu. He taught a very pure form of the Aikijitsu art until his death in 1986.

One of Choi’s students by the name of Han Jae Ji began to incorporate the aggressive kicking and striking techniques of Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do/Soo Bahk Do into Choi’s system of self defense. He is widely credited with being the first person to use the name of Hapkido, supposedly starting in 1959. He also incorporated certain weapons, including the short staff (Don Bong), the middle staff (Jung Bong) and the cane.

Han Jae Ji is credited with producing many famous masters of Hapkido who helped spread the art across the world. Some of his more notable students include: Grandmaster Tae Mon Kwon, Grandmaster Jae Nam Myung, Grandmaster Sea Oh Choi, and Grandmaster Bong Soo Han who played in and choreographed the fight scenes in the Billy Jack movies. Ji appeared in Bruce Lee’s movie Game of Death. Grandmaster Ji relocated to the United States in 1984 and formed Sin Moo Hapkido (Sin – Higher Mind; Moo – Warrior Ways).

The name of Hapkido went through numerous changes, including: Yu Kwon Sul, Yu Sool, Ho Shin Mu Do, and Bi Sool. With the passage of time each teacher and organization integrated their own understandings and self defense into the art. Although there is one system of Hapkido today, there two distinct types of Hapkido.

The first are the schools that hold tightly to the original teachings of Yong Shul Choi. These schools are mainly located in the Teague vicinity of South Korea. The main emphasis is on the Daito Ryu based joint locks, deflections and throws.

The second style of Hapkido are those schools, instructors and organizations that trace their lineage to Han Jae Ji. These schools teach the techniques of the first style along with punching, kicking and weapon techniques. These schools are located mainly in Seoul, Korea, as well as most of the western world. There are more students, whether directly or indirectly, of Han Jae Ji’s Hapkido than any other Hapkido instructor in history.

In the 1960’s some of the advanced teachers of Hapkido petitioned the government of Korea for a formal organization. The Korea Kido Association (KKA) was granted a charter by the Korean Ministry of Education on September 2, 1963. The KKA was authorized to regulate the standards for promotion and supervise the standards of teaching for Hapkido, and for thirty other martial arts. Yong Shul Choi was it’s first chairman, with Han Jae Ji and other Korean masters as Board of Directors members.

Hapkido continued to fragment over time, as most martial arts are doing today. In 1965 Han Jae Ji left the KKA and formed the Korea Hapkido Association (KHA), with the blessing of Chung Hee Park, the president of South Korea at the time. Ji resigned from the KHA in 1973. He hoped to take a lot of its members with him to form The Republic of Korea Hapkido Association (RKHA). Ji invited two of his previous students, Moo Wong Kim and Jae Nam Myung, to join him in this endeavor. Both Ji and Myung left the organization eventually and a new organization sprang up from its foundation known as The Korea Hapkido Federation (KHF). The KHF is the largest, Hapkido governing organization in the world today. It’s president, Se Lim Oh, has served as its head since his election.

Another note worthy person in the history and development of Hapkido was Jae Nam Myung. Myung was a student of Han Jae Ji and was awarded his 8th degree by Ji in 1972. He trained along side of several other notable Hapkido masters such as Bong Soo Han and Sea Ho Choi. He was also one of the original masters that served on the Board of Directors of the KHA.

In 1965 Myung welcomed a visiting Japanese Aikido teacher, Sensei Hirata. He was the only master to do so, probably due to the lingering ill feelings for the Japanese from the Japanese occupation. Myung and Hirata exchanged techniques over the next several years and Myung eventually formed an alliance with the Japanese Aikikai. He became the Korean representative for the Aikikai and remained so until the time of his death in 1999. Myung’s version of Hapkido includes many Aikido based techniques.

In 1969 Myung formed his own organization known as Han Kuk Hapkisool Hae. In 1972 he relocated his headquarters from Inchon to Bukchang-Dong, Chung-Ku, in Seoul. He changed the name to Han Kuk Hapki Hae, The Korea Hapki Association. It is more commonly referred to now as The International Hapkido Federation.

The first Hapkido school to open in the United States was called The Hapki-Jujitsu School of Self Defense. It was opened in 1964 in Los Angeles, California by Sea Oh Choi when he was 28 years old and a 5th degree black belt. Choi retired in the mid 1970’s as a 6th degree.



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