History of Hapkido

Hapkido (UK/ˌhæpkˈd/ HAP-kee-DOH,[1] US/hɑːpˈkd/ hahp-KEE-doh,[2] also spelled hap ki do or hapki-do; from Korean hapgido [hap̚.k͈i.do]) is a highly eclectic Korean martial art. It is a form of self-defense that employs joint locksgrappling, and throwing techniques similar to those of other martial arts, as well as kickspunches, and other striking attacks. It also teaches the use of traditional weapons, including knifeswordrope, ssang juhl bong (nunchaku), cane (ji pang ee), short stick (dan bong), and middle-length staff (joong bonggun (analogous to the Japanese jō), and (Japanese), which vary in emphasis depending on the particular tradition examined.

Hapkido employs both long-range and close-range fighting techniques, utilizing jumping kicks and percussive hand strikes at longer ranges, and pressure point strikes, joint locks, and throws at closer fighting distances. Hapkido emphasizes circular motion, redirection of force, and control of the opponent. Practitioners seek to gain advantage over their opponents through footwork and body positioning to incorporate the use of leverage, avoiding the use of brute strength against brute strength.

The art was adapted from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu as it was taught by Choi Yong-Sool (최용술) when he returned to Korea after World War II after having lived in Japan for 30 years. This system was later combined by Choi´s disciples with kicking and striking techniques of indigenous and contemporary arts such as Taekkyon, and Tang Soo Do; as well as various throwing techniques and ground fighting from Japanese judo.

Hapkido is rendered "합기도" in the native Korean writing system known as hangul, the script used most widely in modern Korea. The art's name can also however be written "" utilizing the same traditional Chinese characters which would have been used to refer to the Japanese martial art of aikido in the pre-1946 period. The current preference in Japan is for the use of a modernsimplified second character; substituting  for the earlier, more complex character . The character  hap means "coordinated", "joining", or "harmony";  ki describes internal energy, spirit, strength, or power; and  do means "way" or "art", yielding a literal translation of "joining-energy-way". It is most often translated as "the way of coordinating energy", "the way of coordinated power", or "the way of harmony".

Although Japanese aikido and Korean hapkido share common technical origins, in time they have become separate and distinct from one another. They differ significantly in philosophy, range of responses, and manner of executing techniques. The fact that they share the same Japanese technical ancestry represented by their respective founders practice of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, and that they share the same Chinese characters, despite  being pronounced "ai" in Japanese and "hap" in Korean, has proved problematic in promoting Hapkido internationally as a discipline with its own set of unique characteristics differing from those common to Japanese martial arts.[citation needed]

 

The birth of modern hapkido can be traced to the efforts of a group of Korean nationals in the post Japanese colonial period of Korea, Choi Yong-Sool (최용술) (1904–1986) and his most prominent students; Chinil Chang, his personally chosen successor, Seo Bok-Seob, the first student of the art; Ji Han-Jae (born 1936), one of the earliest promoters of the art; Kim Moo-Hong, a major innovator; Myung Jae-Nam, a connector between the art of hapkido and aikido, Myung Kwang-Sik the historian and ambassador, all of whom were direct students of Choi or of his immediate students.[3][4]

Master Choi Yong-Sool (circa 1954)

Choi Yong-Sool (최용술)'s training in martial arts is a subject of contention. It is known that Choi was sent to Japan as a young boy and returned to Koreawith techniques characteristic of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, a forerunner of aikido.

The subsequent history is quite controversial in Daitō-ryū circles but is claimed by many contemporary hapkido-ists and is attributed to Choi in an interview that took place during a trip Choi made to the United States in 1980 to visit his direct lineage successor Chin il Chang in New York City.[5] In the interview with Chin Il Chang, Choi is claimed to have been adopted by Takeda Sōkaku when he was 11 years old and was given the Japanese name, Yoshida Asao. He claims to have been taken to Takeda's home and dojo in Akita on Shin Shu mountain where he lived and trained with the master for 30 years. The interview also asserts that he travelled with him as a teaching assistant, that he was employed to catch war deserters and that he was the only student to have a complete understanding of the system taught by Takeda.[5]

This is contradicted by other claims asserting that Choi was simply a worker in the home of Takeda. The meticulous enrollment and fee records of Tokimune Takeda, Takeda's eldest son and Daitō-ryū's successor, do not seem to include Choi's name among them. Therefore, except for claims made by Choi himself, there is little evidence that Choi was the adopted son of Takeda, or that he ever formally studied Daitō-ryū under the founder of the art.[6]

 

Retouched photograph of the master of Daito Ryu Aiki-jujutsu Takeda Sōkaku (circa 1888)

Stanley Pranin, then of Aiki News and now editor of the Aikidojournal.com, asked Kisshomaru Ueshiba about Choi Yong-Sool and hapkido:

Some argue that Choi Yong-Sool's potential omission from the records, and the ensuing debate over hapkido's origins, may be due to tensions between Koreans and Japanese, partly as a result of the Japanese occupation of Korea. At the height of dispute, it is claimed by hapkido practitioners that Koreans were excluded from listing, though this is contradicted by Takeda's records which contain other Korean names. While some commentators claim hapkido has a Japanese lineage, others state that its origins lay with indigenous Korean martial arts.

Choi Yong-Sool's first student, and the man whom some claim helped him develop the art of hapkido was Seo Bok-Seob, a Korean judo black belt when they met. Some of Choi's other respected senior students are: Chinil Chang, Lim Hyun-Soo, Ji Han-Jae, Chung Kee Tae, Kim Moo-Hong, and arguably Suh In-Hyuk(Korean서인혁) and Lee Joo-Bang (Korean이주방) who went on to form the arts of Kuk Sool Won and modern Hwa Rang Do respectively (though some argue that their training stems from time spent training under Kim Moo-Hong).

Choi's first student and the first person known to have opened up a dojang under Choi was Seo Bok-Seob (서복섭, also spelled Suh Bok-Sup).[3]

In 1948, when Seo Bok-sub was still in his early 20s, he had already earned his black belt in judo and was a graduate of Korea University. After watching Choi Yong-Sool successfully defend himself against a group of men when an argument erupted in the yard of the Seo Brewery Company, Seo who was son of the chairman of the company, invited Choi to begin teaching martial arts to him and some workers at the distillery where he had prepared a dojang.[8]

In 1951, Seo opened up the first proper dojang called the "Daehan Hapki Yukwonsool Dojang (대한합기유권술도장)". Seo also incorporated many of judo´s throws and ground work techniques to the teachings of master Choi. The first symbol for hapkido was designed by Seo, which was used to denote the art was the inverted arrowhead design featured in both the modern incarnation of the KiDo Association and by Myung Kwang-Sik's World Hapkido Federation. Choi Yong-Sool was also employed during this time as a bodyguard to Seo's father who was a congressman. Seo and Choi agreed to shorten the name of the art from 'hapki yu kwon sool' to 'hapkido' in 1959.[9]

Grand Master Ji Han Jae (left) and Hapkido founder Choi Yong Sul (right).

Ji Han-Jae (지한재) 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 Chung-heethat hapkido became popularized, first within Korea and then internationally.

If the martial art education of Choi Yong-Sool is unconfirmed, the same must be said for martial art history of Ji Han-Jae's training, apart from his time as a student of Choi. 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 (성무관), he also supposedly studied from a man known as 'Taoist Lee' and an old woman he knew as 'Grandma'.[3][10]

As a teacher of hapkido, Ji incorporated traditional Korean kicking techniques (from Taoist Lee and the art Sam Rang Do Tek Gi) and punchingtechniques into the system and gave the resulting synthesis the name hapkido in 1957. Hapkido is the Korean pronunciation of (Japanese) aikido and is sometimes erroneously referred to as its Korean cousin.

Although a founding member of the Korea Kido Association(대한기도회) in 1963 with Choi Yong-Sool as titular Chairman and Kim Jeong-Yoon as Secretary General and Head Instructor for the association Ji found himself not able to exert as much control over the organization as he might have wished. To this end and with the support of the Head of the Security Forces, Park Jong-Kyu, Ji founded the very successful Korea Hapkido Association (대한 합기도 협회) in 1965.[8]

Later when this organization combined with the organizations founded by Myung Jae-Nam (Korea Hapki Association/한국 합기회) and Kim Moo-Hong (Korean Hapkido Association/한국 합기도 협회) in 1973 they became the very extensive and influential organization known as the Republic of Korea Hapkido Association (대한민국 합기도 협회).

In 1984, after being released from prison for fraud, Ji moved first to Germany and then to the United States and founded Sin Moo Hapkido (신무 합기도), 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 Kwon Tae-Man (권태만), Myung Jae-Nam (명재남) and Chang Young Shil (장영실) who is the current president of the International Hapkido Federation. Ji can be seen in the films Lady Kung-fu and Game of Death in which he takes part in a long fight scene against Bruce Lee.

After the death of Choi Yong-Sool in 1986, Ji came forward with the assertion that it was he who founded the Korean art of hapkido, asserting that Choi Yong-Sool 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. The reality being that Grandmaster Choi Yong-Sool taught him little of the original art and higher level techniques so he fabricated a new system on his own terms.[11] He also asserts that it was he that first used the term 'hapkido' to refer to the art. While both claims are contested by some of the other senior teachers of the art,[12] what is not contested is the undeniably huge contributions made by Ji to the art, its systematization and its promotion worldwide.

 

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