Founders of modern Hapkido

Choi Yong Sul

choi1The most widely known figure in the establishment of Hapkido is Choi Yong Sul. Choi was born  November 9, 1904 at Chungbuk province in Korea.

choi2According to Choi he was abducted from his home village of Yong Dong in Chungcheong in 1912 by a Japanese sweet merchant named Morimoto who had lost his own sons and wished to adopt Choi. Choi resisted and proved so troublesome to the candymaker that he abandoned Choi in the streets of Moji, Japan.

Choi made his way to Osaka as a beggar and, after having been picked up by police, was placed in a Buddhist temple which cared for orphans in Kyoto. The abbot of the temple was a monk named Wantanabe Kintaro.

choi3Choi spent 2 years at the temple and had a difficult life there, not only in school but with the other children due to his poor Japanese language skills and his Korean ethnicity which made him stand out in Japan.

 Apparently due to the boy’s tendency of getting into fights and his intense interest in the temples murals depicting war scenes, when asked by Watanabe what direction that he wished for his life to take he expressed interest in the martial arts.

takeda1The temple monk (Wantanabe Kintaro) was reputedly a friend of Takeda Sokaku, the founder of the Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu system, which is a Japanese martial arts system emphasizing empty handed methods based upon the sword styles and jujutsu tactics in which Takeda was an expert.

Takeda Sokaku is also famous for having taught Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.

After 2 years, 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 Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu.

takedaIn Japan, Choi used the Japanese name Yoshida Asao since Japanese law at the time required everyone to use a Japanese name.

When Choi was 11 years old he was taken to Takeda’s home and dojo in Akita on Shin Shu mountain where he lived and trained with the master for 30 years. Choi said he travelled with Sokaku Takeda as a teaching assistant. He was also employed to catch war deserters. According to Choi, he was the only student to have a complete understanding of the system taught by Takeda.

However, except for claims made by Choi himself, there is little evidence that Choi was the adopted son of Takeda Sokaku, or that he ever formally studied Dait?-ry? under the founder of the art.

choi4Towards the end of World War II Takeda sent Choi to South Korea to avoid being drafted into the Japanese army. On Choi’s return to Korea in 1945 after the end of the Japanese occupation, a bag with his martial arts certificates and money was stolen at a train station.

Unfortunately no official records have been found in Daito Ryu Aikijutsu in Japan to reflect the granting of a teaching certificate to Choi.

choi5Many modern Japanese Aikijujitsu exponents are unwilling to accept the proposition that Choi, a Korean of low status in Japanese eyes could have possibly been taught or been close to Takeda.

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.

choi6Some claim that Choi’s training was limited to just attending seminars. Regardless of these conjectures, Choi spent thirty two years in Japan and his techniques show a strong link to modern Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu.

Soon after returning to South Korea, Choi married a Korean woman and had three daughters and a son. It seems he had travelled from Japan to Korea previously and met his wife on one of these visits.

choi7Choi Yong Sul’s first student, and the man whom some claim helped him develop the art of Hapkido was Suh Bok Sup, a Korean judo black belt when they met.

Some of Choi’s other respected senior students are: Ji Han Jae, Kim Moo-Hong, Won Kwang-Hwa, Kim Jung-Yoon, and arguably Suh In-Hyuk and Lee Joo Bang who went on to form the arts of Kuk Sul Won and modern Hwarang-do respectively (though some argue that their training stems from time spent training under Kim Moo-Hong).

choi9Choi Yong Sul died on the 15th June 1986 and is buried in Daegu, South Korea.




Suh Bok Sub

sub1Choi’s first student and the first person known to have opened up a dojang under Choi was Master Suh Bok Sub.

In 1948, when Suh Bok Sub was still in his early 20s, he had already earned his black belt in judo and was a graduate of the prestigious Korea University.

sub2After watching Choi Yong Sul successfully defend himself against a group of men when an argument erupted in the yard of the Suh Brewery Company.

Suh, who was the chairman of the company, invited Choi to begin teaching martial arts to Suh and some of the workers at the distillery where Suh had prepared a dojang.

Suh Bok Sub was Choi Yong Sul’s first student in Korea and his first lesson was on Sunday, February 22, 1948.

In 1951, Suh opened up the first proper dojang called the Korean Yukwansul Hapki Dojang.

Choi Yong Sul was also employed during this time as a bodyguard to Suh’s father who was a congressman.

Suh claims that he and Choi agreed to shorten the name of the art from ‘hapki yu kwon sul’ to ‘Hapkido’ in 1959.

Jang In Mok

jang1Born in South Korea on the 15th August 1915, Jang In Mok went to Japan in 1928 and began studying Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu and finished all requirements on the 30th August 1938 and was awarded a Certificate from Matsuda Yutaka a student of Takeda Sokaku.

Matsuda Yutaka was first a student Doshin So, the founder of Shorinji Kempo in Japan.

jang2Jang said his teacher told him of another Korean studying with Takeda but they never met until afterwards.

Years later in 1956 in Daegu City, South Korea and Jang heard the sounds of martial arts training and went over and met Choi Young Sul. They figured out they had both trained in the same art in Japan.

In 1960 Chang In Mok was teaching in Daegu. Notable students were: Jang Seeung Ho, Song Joon Hwi, Choi Han Young, Hu Il Wong (teacher of Peter and Joseph Kim) and Song Il Hun.

Even though Jang In Mok was born later than Choi Young Sul they were contemporaries in Japan studying under Takeda and they both returned to Daegu City in Korea in 1945.

Jang was a doctor of oriental medicine and massage but also has taught Hapkido. As his career was mainly as a doctor he did not produce large numbers of students.

Ji Han Jae

jae2Ji Han Jae was undoubtedly the prime mover in the art of Korean Hapkido. It is due to his physical skills, technical contributions, promotional efforts and political connections as head Hapkido instructor to the presidential body guard under Korean President Park Jung Hee that Hapkido became popularized, first within Korea and then internationally.

Ji was an early student (Dan #14) of Choi. He details that prior to opening his martial art school in Seoul, the Sung Moo Kwan, he also studied from a man known as Taoist Lee and an old woman he knew as ‘Grandma’. As a teacher of Hapkido, Ji incorporated traditional Korean kicking techniques (from Taoist Lee and the art Sam Rang Do Tek Gi) and punching techniques into the system and gave the resulting synthesis the name Hapkido in 1957.

jae3In 1984, Ji moved first to Germany and then to the United States and founded Sin Moo Hapkido, which incorporates philosophical tenets, a specific series of techniques (including kicks) and healing techniques into the art.

Three of Ji Han Jae’s notable students in Korea were Tae Man Kwon, Myung Jae Nam, and Han Bong Soo. Ji stars in the films Lady Kung-fu (also known as Hapkido) and Game of Death in which he takes part in a long fight scene against Bruce Lee. Ji lived in Hong Kong for some time and taught Hapkido to several famous Chinese martial arts movie stars like Sammo Hung, Carter Wong and Angela Mao.

jae4Prior to the death of Choi Yong Sul in 1986, Ji claimed that it was he who founded the Korean art of Hapkido, asserting that Choi Yong Sul taught only yawara based skills and that it was he who added much of the kicking, and weapon techniques we now associate with modern Hapkido. He also asserts that it was he that first used the term ‘Hapkido’ to refer to the art.

jae7While both claims are contested by some of the other senior teachers of the art, what is not contested is the undeniably huge contributions made by Ji to the art, its systematization and its promotion world wide.

Grandmaster Ji Han Jae (10th Dan) heads his extensive Sin Moo Hapkido organization from this school in San Francisco and has clubs all over the world.

In the 90’s the AHA invited Grandmaster Ji to Australia and hosted several seminars in Sydney.

Kim Moo Hong

hongkim1A notable student from the Choi and Suh’s Yu Sul Kwan dojang was Kim Moo Hong who later taught at Suh’s Joong Ang dojang in Daegu.

Suh, who promoted Kim to 4th degree, credits Kim with the development of many kicks which are still used in Hapkido today. Master Kim apparently took the concepts from very basic kicks he had learned from Choi and went to a temple to work on developing them to a much greater degree.

Later, in 1961, Kim travelled to Seoul and while staying at Master Ji Han Jae’s Sung Moo Kwan dojang they finalized the kicking curriculum.

Kim went on to found his Shin Moo Kwan dojang in the Jong Myo section of Seoul, also in 1961. Won Kwang-Wha also served as an instructor at this dojang. Kim’s notable students were Lee Han-Chul, Kim Woo-Tak (who founded the Kuk Sul Kwan Hapkido dojang), Huh Il-Wooong, Lee Joo Bang (who founded modern Hwarang-do), Na Han-Dong, Shin Dong-Ki and Suh In-Hyuk (who founded Kuk Sul Won.

hongkim2Originally a member of the Korea Kido Association, the organization sent Master Kim to teach Hapkido in the United States in 1969. Upon returning to Korea in 1970, Kim looked to Ji Han Jae’s move to set up his own organization and with the encouragement of his students followed suit and founded the Korean Hapkido Association (Hangook Hapkido Association) in 1971.

Later Kim combined this organization with the groups led by Ji Han Jae and Myung Jae Nam to form the Republic of Korea Hapkido Association.

Myung Jae Nam

myung1In 1972 Myung Jae Nam was one of the original members of the Korea Hapkido Association (Dae Han Hapkido Hyub Hwe), which was formed in 1965 at the request of the South Korean President Park Chung Hee.

The Korea Hapkido Association was formed with the assistance of Mr. Park Jong Kyu, who was the head of the Presidential Protective Forces and one of the most powerful men in Korea at the time.

myung2Later Myung Jae Nam broke away from all the other organizations and started to focus on promoting a new style, Hankido.

Until his death in 1999 he was the leader of the International HKD Federation (Kuk Jae Yeon Maeng Hapki Hwe), at that time one of Korea’s three main Hapkido organizations.

Lim, Hyun Soo

lim1In 1965, Lim, Hyun Su visited Founder, Choi Yong Sul’s dojang and had his first meeting with Hapkido. He felt a mysterious charm that made him walk the way of a martial artist.

At first he was taught by Master Kim Yeung Jae, Founder Choi’s pupil. Then he was then taught by Founder, Choi , Yong Sul and became his pupil until 1981. During this time with the founder, he endured strict and intense training.

He opened the Jung Ki Kwan on October 24, 1974.

Grandmaster Lim studied with Founder Choi for 19 years (9 of those years were special private sessions), making him the disciple with the longest training time. Lim, Hyun Su is one of only three 9th Dans awarded by Choi.

Hapkiyusul – Dojunim Kim Yun Sang

hkys1Dojunim Kim Yun Sang started learning under Choi in 1973 at the age of 42, and continued until Choi’s death. He is said to be the only student to learn everything from Choi.

He teaches the way he learnt from Choi and is following Choi’s final wish that he train that way every day until the day he dies.

Dojunim Kim Yun Sang is fulfilling that promise to his teacher Choi and still trains every day, wanting to show Choi Yong Sul’s techniques.

hkys2Hapkiyusul translates as Aikijujitsu in Japanese and Yong Sul Kwan means the school of Yong Sul (Choi Yong Sul’s name).

The headquarters are located in a country town, Geumsan, South Korea. There are also 3 other Dojangs in nearby Daejon and one in Seoul. The Yong Sul Kwan’s main purpose is to preserve the art the way it was taught by Choi Yong Sul.

The Australian Hapkido Association has a strong connection to Dojunim Kim Yun Sang established through several visits to Australia and many trips to Korea by many of our students to study in his school.

hkys3One of our students from Lismore, Jarrod Taylor, has been living in Korea for many years for the purpose of studying Hapkiyusul in Yong Sul Kwan and is now one of Dojunims most senior students.

Yun Sae Gwan

ysg1Grandmaster Yun Sae Gwan is a very impressive and talented Hapkido master based in Gwangju, South Korea.

His techniques are unique and very dynamic and painful. He is known as the Ghost Hapkido master and appears on many popular YouTube videos.

Daniel Marie and Connor Van Vuuren managed to train with Grandmaster Yun Sae Gwan in Gwangju in October 2007.

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