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I have been asked many times about the origin of Hapkido, is it really a Korean martial art or just a copy of other martial arts. In my answer, you must understand that there are three paths that crossed:

  • Because of Korea's location, there is a definite influence from, China and Mongolia.
  • World Wars 1 & 2, Japan occupied the country and tried to strip away the identity and culture of Korea but inserting Japanese culture, ideas and the martial arts of karate and judo.
  • Religious temples in the mountains of Korea were usually independent of most outside controls, so martial activity was still taught inside the walls of the temples, but often times were visited by monks traveling from countries as far away as India and Tibet.


Ancient

Can be traced to the beginning of the Kochosun (old Korean Kingdom B.C. 2333- B.C. 100). The people of this period gradually moved from cold Manchuria to the Korean peninsula in search of a better climate, fertile land for farming, river and sea shores for fishing and mild mountain terrain for hunting. During this period, tribal commune systems were established and young warriors engaged in martial art disciplines the protection of the tribes. Empty hand fighting included training in running, throwing, punching, striking, kicking, and swimming. Weapons techniques included the practice of stone knife, stone spear, stone throwing, throwing sand, and wooden pole.

The invention of archery and the use of horseback riding greatly changed the lifestyles of the early tribes. Warriors on horseback now traveled greater distances to hunt and came into more contact with the neighboring tribes. The tribes formed a confederation. And through this merger came standardization in methods of martial arts training and the creation of a martial arts system. Gradually, they incorporated horseback riding into their weapons training regimen. Being able to fight on horseback was a sign of an elite warrior. Lesser warriors were trained as foot soldiers and practiced empty hand and weapons techniques.

During this tribal period, maek kung (bow and arrow made in Koguryo) and dan kung (bow and arrow made in Ok-Jo) we well known to China through its colony of  Nak lang, located near the China-Korea border. The arrows heads were dipped in poison and were aimed at the victim’s eyes. The ever-present threat of invasion from neighboring tribes forced young warriors to accept martial arts training as essential to the survival of his  tribe and as a part of his daily life. The dominator of the battle became ruler and the loser became the slave. In considering tribal structure, the ruler was always the best martial arts master. At that time, the position of King was not inherited, but awarded to the strongest warrior among the tribal confederation.

According the ancient historical text, Sam Kuk Yusa, Dong Myung, the founder of the Koguryo Kingdom, was an expert in archery. From the age of seven, Dong Myung made bows and arrows and trained tirelessly. As a result the future king was made a Ju Mong (expert archer) at a very early age. As a young warrior, he was a friend to one of the sons of King Kim Chung, leader of the Boo yu Confederation. King Kim Chung's eldest son, Daiso, was wary of the young Ju Mong, and warned his father that Dong Myung was no ordinary archer, but was brave and intelligent. Daiso, with the support of his brothers and advisers to the King, warned his father that if they didn't kill Dong Myung, he maybe of threat to  them in the future.

Dong Myung became aware of the plot against him, and along with his followers, left Boo Yu to Jol Bonju. There the Ju Mong became King and established the Koguryo Kingdom (37 BC - 668 AD). Dong Myung's son, following in father's footsteps, left Koguryo for central Korea. There he founded the Paekche Kingdom in 17 BC. In 57 BC, the Silla confederation elected Park, Hyuk Kuse as the first King. The three kingdoms were continually battling one another for control of Old Korea. This period was known as the golden age of . For, the rulers of each kingdom firmly believed that the way to unite Korea was through  the utter subjugation of the enemy by martial force.

The three kingdoms trained all of its young in the martial arts to prepare them to serve their homelands in battle. Also, it was during this period, when only the best martial artists were considered for service in the high ranks of the government. By this time, the title of King was inherited. The King was the commander-in-chief of the Army, with other warriors holding major military positions. The Governor of a province were responsible for providing political and judicial leadership as well as maintaining a militia for protection and training young warriors in the martial arts.

In Koguryo, the Pyung-dang (educational institution) was established to produce experienced warriors. Select superior and unmarried young people were taught martial arts as well as classical literature. The young people were required to train and study the following

1. Kung Sa – Archery
2. Kum Sool bub – Swordsmanship
3. Ki sa bub – Horsemanship
4. Dan kum Sul – Art of throwing knives
5. Ji lu ki bub – Strikes and Kicks
6. Su young bub – Swimming and combat in water
7. Pung you bub – Playing music, including the drum and gong
8. Su ryub – Hunting and fishing
9. Jung chi, ko jun – Politics and Classical Literature

Those who passed all of the required tests were designated Sun Bi, brave and intelligent warriors. This Sun Bi enjoyed the highest prestige of the social classes. They carried five short knives and a small sharpening stone. During this period, they participated in many martial arts contests, including empty hand fighting, fighting with stones, hunting and archery. The victor received widespread recognition, and awards of distinction.

In Silla, the most outstanding group of martial artists was called Hwa rang do  (young flowery group). The leaders of the groups were the handsome and intelligent sons of noble warriors. The leading young warrior was called Hwa Rang, and the followers were called Nang Do. Therefore, Hwa Rang do means young warrior and his followers. The groups traveled to the rugged mountain areas and to the rivers and seashores to train martial arts and produce healthy bodies and minds. Training included the study of classical literature as well as music and dance. Through this kind of training, Silla created strong young warriors who eventually became the backbone of the area. History demonstrates that Hwa Rang Do warriors were a major force in the eventual unification of Korea.

The Hwarang do were required to train in the following martial arts areas:
1. Kung Sa – Archery
2. Tu ho – throws
3. SooBahk – strikes
4. Ki Sa – Archery practiced on horseback
5. Tae Kyon – kicks
6. Su Ryup – hunting and fishing
7. Su Young – Swimming
8. Gum Sool Bub – Swordsmanship

A very popular martial art practiced during the Silla period was Bi Kak Sool, better known as Tae Kyon. According to the book Che Wang Un Ki, Bi Kak Sool emphasized kicking and was divided into three grades. The average student kicked to an opponent’s leg, advanced students kicked to an opponent’s head and experts kicked at an opponent’s sang too or the bound hair  on the top of the opponent’s head.

There is also another interesting historical record on empty hand fighting.  According to a section on General Kim, Yu-shin in the history book Sam Kuk Yu Sa,  in 647 A.D., General Jung Ryang’s troops were stationed in Myung Wal Castle.  Queen Jin-duk’s troops occupied Wal Sung Castle. On the night of the tenth day, a shooting star fell toward Wal Sung Castle.  General Kim perceived this as a bad omen and ordered his men to construct mannequins and set them on fire. The flame from the burning figures illuminated the dark sky, which he believed countered the bad luck brought by the burning  star.

King On-jo established Paekche, one of the Three Kingdoms, in 17 B.C. He was the son of King Dong Myung of the Koguryo Kingdom. Marital arts were practiced and handed down from generation to generation. In 320 A.D., King Bi-Ryu ordered a martial arts training center, to be constructed west of the capital. The King ordered his warriors to train in archery on the first and fifteenth days of each month. Contests were held once a month under the light of a full  moon.

The training of these warriors included, but was not limited to:
1. Ki sa – Horsemanship
2. Mok bong – wooden pole fighting
3. Gum sool – Swordsmanship
4. Soo Sool – empty hand fighting
5. Jong da bub – defense against attack from multiple attackers
6. Bul bub – Buddhist sutra
7. Ko jun – Classical literature

The Soo Sool (empty hand fighting) practiced in Paekche was one of the earliest and most organized martial arts in Korean history. According the history book, HaiDong Un Ki, the master instructor used his hands like a powerful sword. It was recorded that General Chuk taught this fighting art to his warriors.  During their training, two practitioners exchanged strikes and blocks. If one partner was careless in blocking, the text stated, “The student could be severely damaged by the strike, and could die from his injuries.” Needless to say, practitioners seldom neglected to block.

According to the same book, a Silla citizen named Whang Chang-nang went to Paekche when he was seven years old. He performed a beautiful ssang gum hyung  (double sword form) throughout the kingdom. Soon, he became famous and was summoned to perform for the King at the royal palace. During his performance, he stabbed the King with his swords, but not successful in his assassination attempt. Shortly, thereafter, he was executed. In Silla, they honored Whang Chang-nang by creating masks of his face and performing the hyung (double sword form). They passed this form down through the generations, and though modified, it is still practiced to this day.

Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla in 668 A.D., the popularity of martial arts gradually declined. And warriors no longer held the highest governmental positions as the government relied more on the civil service for leaders.

In 918, descendants of the Koguryo and Paekche staged a coup and installed General Wang Kun as the first King of the Koryo Kingdom. Koryo is the name from which the west derived the name Korea.

Once again, warrior dominated the government. A later king, King Kwang-Jong realized that if the warlords remained powerful, the kingdom would not last  long. He introduced the national civil service examination system in order to diminish and control the power of the warlords. The King required sons of the warlords to study classical literature, history and political science as well as train in the martial arts. After completing and passing the civil service test, the King would employ them. Another method of maintaining control over the warlords was to arrange marriages between the royal families and the warlord families. In this way, he could manipulate the local and central warlords at the same time. Those who passed the national civil service test were hired to work in governmental positions. They were civilians, but also possessed military powers and were called civil-military officials. When invasions or rebellions occurred, the officials served as commanders of troops in the military. Many famous generals such as Kan, Kam-chan, Yun Kwan, Kan Jo, Park Su, and Wong Jong were  well-educated civil-military officials.

Another typed of soldier, were the professional warriors, hired according to their martial arts abilities. These warriors were stationed along the northern border areas to defend against the Mongolian and Manchurian barbarians. They were also stationed along the southern coastal areas to defend against Japanese pirates. They did not enjoy the distinction of being authoritative figures during the Three Kingdom Period. They existed to receive orders from the civil-military officials and to guard the frontiers and coastal areas.

This discrimination continued during the twelfth century. Additionally, ill treatment of the professional warriors by the King and his civil-military  officials increased over time. King Ye-jong was not wise enough to be a King.  He was a playboy who was only concerned with his own amusement and with visiting places of entertainment. His partying companions were civil-military officials and his bodyguards were the generals of the professional warriors. He embarrassed his warriors by making them perform the martial arts at parties. At one, Don-jung, son of the prime minister set the beard of General Chung Jung-boo  on fire for amusement.

At another, a general performing su bak ki (empty hand and foot techniques) was struck in the face and pushed to the ground. By 1170 AD, these incidents of disgraceful treatment angered the professional warriors to the point of seeking revenge against the King and the civil-military officials. Their chance came when the King and his companions were partying outside of the palace at Bo Hyun Won. The generals of the professional warriors seized the capital. Later they arrested and executed the King and his civil-military officials. The rebellion was important lesson to the royal family and government bureaucracy.

One of the three leaders of the rebellion was General Lee, Eui-min. He was an expert in Soobahkki (empty hand and foot techniques). Because of his expertise,  the new King made him a special general. After the coup, martial arts contests were held between different divisions of the military annually during the month of May. As a byproduct of the coup, each general maintained his own Sa Byung (private army) in order to protect his safety. The private armies were secretly trained in martial arts. Some of them specialized in Too Gum Sool (Knife throwing techniques) to an opponent's knee or Jang Gum Sool (Long sword techniques) to cut an opponent's wrist.

During the Koryo Kingdom, one of the most prestigious martial arts training programs included training martial arts on horseback. Archery training, sword fighting, spear fighting, and hunting were high martial arts skill for the upper-class warriors and civil-military officials during this period. The King mandated training in archery on the sixth day of each month for central and local officials. They were made to practice from a distance of forty to eighty paces from the target. Inspectors from the capital city were dispatched to the local districts to test the skill of the local officials. Officials had to hit a target a minimum of five times out of ten attempts in order to pass the  inspection. A measure of expert skill was the ability to extinguish the flame of a candle at night.

As far as empty hand martial arts, Soobahkki was most popular. King Myung-jong  (1174) was one of the kings who loved to watch this event. He ordered contests among the warriors in the Joong-bang group, one of the strongest martial arts groups. This group considered a part of the royal army. The winner of the contests received special military rank in addition to an award. Soobakki, soon became a popular road to military promotion. General Lee, Sung-kei was a master archer and a commander in the northern frontier.

In 1394, he overthrew the Koryo Kingdom and established his own named Lee Chosun or Lee Kingdom. General Lee, recognizing the danger of military power in  the future, adopted Confucian concepts of superiority of civil officials over  military officials, absolute loyalty to the King, and reverence for the father  of the family. He also instituted the policy of Kwa Ku or public service testing. He divided the testing into two divisions, one for civil officials and one for military  officials. The Moo Kwa (test for military officials) was held at three-year intervals.

The Moo Kwa was divided into three periods, Cho Shi, Bok Shi, and Jun Shi  (first, second and third test). The first test was held in the autumn at the central training facility in Seoul. One hundred twenty men from eight provinces passed the first test. The second test was held in Seoul under the sponsorship of the defense minister. The participants were tested in various martial arts techniques, Confucianism, history, classical literature and military service. Only twenty-eight passed. The third test was completed in the presence of the King. The results were as follows: three warriors received kap (A), five warriors received eul (B), and twenty warriors received byung (C).

At the beginning of the kwa ku system, military officials received the same treatment as civil officials. Internal struggles for the title of King among the royal families and factional struggles among civil officials in addition to long  periods of non-aggression by outsiders (Manchurians and Japanese) produced a  reduction of military personnel. Consequently, the importance of martial arts training diminished.

Following two hundred years of peace, Japan attacked Korea in 1592. This attack forced the Korean King to flee to the Korean-Manchurian border. The Korean people suffered during the seven years of war that followed. The defense of the country depended heavily upon volunteer soldiers, monk  soldiers, and small groups of the royal army. Martial Arts training were  revitalized by the Japanese attack.

Examples of the marital arts techniques that these soldiers were trained  in were:
1. Gum Sool Bub – Sword Techniques
2. Kung Sool bub – Archery
3. Ha jo bub – Jumping from great heights
4. Hen jo bub – long jumping techniques
5. Jo sang bub – high jumping techniques
6. Jun ha bub – rolling techniques
7. Nak bub – controlling your body when falling
8. Jo wol bub – hurdling techniques
9. Jik ju bub – running techniques
10. Su young bub – swimming techniques
11. Jam young bub – underwater swimming techniques
12. Ku jo bub – navigation techniques
13. Jin bub – battle or military strategy
14. Chuk ho tan jang bub – infiltration, espionage, intelligence gathering  techniques
15. Chun moon bub – meteorological techniques
16. Eui yak Sool – medicinal and natural herbs and acupuncture techniques

The seven-year war ended with the sudden death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in August of 1598. The new Japanese leader, Togukawa Iyesu, sent an envoy to Korea with the hope of establishing normal diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Korean King, not trusting the new Japanese ruler, increased level of martial arts training. In 1790, King Jung Jo ordered Master Lee, Duk-moo to research and record the state of . Master Lee wrote Mu ye Do bo Tong ji, a famous series of books containing techniques.  The books were organized as follows:

Book I – Chang (Spear Techniques) – Illustrated volume on the use of the long spear, bamboo spear, special types of spears and the use of weapons on horseback.

Book II – Gum Sool (Sword Techniques) – Illustrated the use of the short sword, long sword, and Japanese sword.

Book III – Gum
Ki sa bub (Sword Techniques) – Illustrated the use of special swords on horseback and bong Sul, using the pole as a weapon.

Book IV – Kwon bub (Hand and Feet Techniques) – Illustrated the methods to use  the hands and feet in offensive and defensive situations.

According to Master Lee, Duk-moo, the power of a strike to a vital point could  lead to deafness; render unconsciousness or kill and opponent. The master said that if a warrior trained in these techniques and in Ki training, he would be capable of killing a tiger. He also warned that since these techniques were so dangerous, an instructor should not teach students who could not be trusted. It was suggested that a  student was worthy to study these techniques only after he had achieved the  qualities of virtue, trust, intelligence, bravery and discipline.

Following World War II, martial arts in Korea began to boom again. In order to understand history, one must first understand Korean  cultural history. Korean marital arts are a major part of Korea’s cultural history. For example, to become a Zen mong, one joined a temple and became a novice. The head monk of the temple then selected a teacher for the novice. Under this teacher, the novice received a certain amount of training. The first teacher recommended the student to a second teacher at a different temple.

After a few years of training under the second teacher, the student was allowed to become a traveling monk and began traveling around the country.  During this time, the traveling monk experienced life as he met other teachers. After he completed his travels, the monk then settled in the temple of his choice and became a mature monk. As he grew older and wiser, he reflected on his past teachers and selected the best one of all. He then called himself a student of that teacher. This kind of tradition is seen in the martial arts community. Students learn martial arts from different teachers. After being taught by each teacher, the student then selects his best teacher and tells others that he is a student of that teacher.

A second aspect of Korean culture is that it is a part of the Asian culture. Geographically, Korea is a peninsula located between China and Japan. Korea has served as a bridge between these two nations for thousands of years. These people of three countries exchanged their culture by peaceful means and during times of war. Through the exchanges, the original culture Korea’s culture evolved into a second stage of a new culture. Through the generations additional influences advanced the Korean into new stages.

history was affected in the same manner. Traditional were influenced by the Chinese and Japanese and developed into new . The Chinese and Japanese also experienced the same process of martial arts evolution.

Can be divided into three distinctive categories:
1. Empty hand vs. empty hand fighting
2. Empty hand vs. weapons fighting
3. Weapons vs. weapons fighting

There are also three ways to divide techniques:
1. Kwan Jyel Bub – Seizing: joint twisting, throws, holding and choking
2. Dan Shin Ki Bub – Trembling Shock: striking, punching and kicking
3. Moo Ki Sool – Weaponry: short sword, long sword, short stick, long pole, cane, spear, rope, stone throwing, and knife throwing


Modern

The art that was developed into what we recognize today as Hapkido was introduced to the Korean public by Yong Sool Choi (1904-1986). At the age of 8, he was taken to Japan by a businessman. He lived in a monastery until the age 11 and was then taken by Japanese Daito Ryu Aiki Jujitsu Grand Master Sokaku Takeda to be a house-boy. Yong Sool Choi stayed with him for about 30 years. Being Korean, it is not really known if Yong Sool became a top student or not, but I a sure being there for 30 years, he picked up quite a few techniques. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, was also a student of Takeda. Hapkido and Aikido both have significant similarities to Daito Ryu Aiki Jujitsu, so it would seem that Hapkido's link to it is real, regardless of how and where Choi was trained. Choi returned to Korea after Takeda's death and began teaching these techniques as Yudo, he also began studying the Korean art Taekyon and Soobahki. Ji, Han Jae, began studying under Choi and eventually started his own school, where he taught what he called Hapkido, which when written in Chinese means the same as Aikido. Along the way, Hapkido adopted various techniques from TangSooDo, TaeKyon, and other Korean kwans (schools).

In the last 40 years, with the research done by the Honorable Chief Master In Sun Seo, In Hyuk Seo (Kuk Sool), Soo Bang Lee and Sang Bang Lee (Hwarangdo) on Korean techniques found in the Korean tribal communities, Korean monasteries and interviews with very old citizens have produced techniques that had no Japanese influence… subsequently the “hap” has been dropped in some organization and the words “Ki Do” have been kept.

Our organization is a certified member in good standing with the , Hanminjok Hapkido Association and the Kong Shin Bup Kuk Sool of the National Association.



Brief Hapkido Principles (more detail information through our system Moohapsool)

PRINCIPLE OF HWA (Harmony)
Even though the force of a technique is directed straight at you, do not oppose that force but instead go with it. In this way, one harmonizes with the force becoming one with it and taking the energy from the force and combine with your own. It is also known as "Non-Resistance", that is if someone pushes, you pull, someone pulls, you push.,This also applies to relationships in one's life. Whether it is between husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, boss or co-worker.

PRINCIPLE OF WON (Circle)
Once you harmonize with the force, one then utilize the circular principle and deflect it and re-direct the force in another direction. The circle is always present in Hapkido techniques; it may be a small circle such as that used in a dynamic wrist lock or a medium circle such as in an arm/shoulder bar, or
large circle which is performed when executing a throwing technique.

PRINCIPLE OF YU (Water)
When you engage from an attack, you must be like water which has been penetrated by a stone; no sooner has the stone divided the water, the water flows together again to surround and envelop the stone, or when that stone in the path of a babbling brook, the water moves around the stone, or waits in front of the stone until it collects enough of itself to pass over the stone. When the water flow is strong, it will push the stone along the water's path. Similarly, we "go with the flow" in the execution of our techniques.






    
  
 
  Training and Practice  
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Knife Throwing

 
     
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