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History of hapkido

Hapkido as we know it comes from Korea, but it has a convoluted development that can be traced across Asia from Japan to Korea. Korean martial arts historians argue that Hapkido can be traced in Korean History more than 2000 years, when it was believed to be practiced by the Buddhist monks and members of the Korean noble elite as a means of self-discipline and self-defense. The Martial Arts (Moo Sool) began in Korea through Buddhism. The techniques were initially handed down through the hierarchy of monks to ruling families and other royal officials as a means of self-protection and personal safety. The recorded history of Moo Sool dates back to Sam Kuk Sidae (The Era of Three Kingdoms, c. 3) Buddhism arrived in China from India circa 67 BC and was introduced into Korea in 372. The evidence of Buddhism and Moo Sool passing through the Korean court can be found in various wall paintings depicting martial artist during Kokuryo.

Moo Sool disappeared almost entirely during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Hapkido was reintroduced to Korea by the father of Hapkido, Dojunim (Founder) -Yong Sool Choi (1904-1986). Ji Han Jae is credited with establishing what is contemporarily called hapkido. He did so by combining the fighting and meditative skills he learned from Doju Choi, Yong Sul, the warrior monk known as Taoist Lee Dosa and an ascetic hermit nun known as Saramonim (commonly referred to as Grandma). The combined teachings gave birth to a system that focuses on the coordination of one’s mental, spiritual and physical energy into one. With the help of a group of dedicated disciples and  close friends Dojunim Ji, developed Hapkido in to a cohesive martial art that has spread throughout the world over the past six decades. Now days all over the world there exists a solid foundation of Hapkido schools.

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Dojunim Ji Han Jae-Shin Sun Nim

Ji Han Jae, Dojunim (Founder) was born in 1936 in Andong, Korea. He began his martial arts training in Yawara with Choi, Yung Sul at the age of 13. The techniques he learned at this time were primarily joint locks, throws, low kicks, and sword techniques. He trained full time with Choi until 1956. When Ji was eighteen, he began to train with a man he used to refer to as Taoist Lee Dosa. Ji used the term “Taoist” when he first arrived in the US when talking about Lee Dosa because it was the closest word he could find to describe him. Still it would be more accurate to understand Lee not as a Taoist but a wise man, with incredible martial skills, who followed ascetic practices. Lee was Ji’s Samrangdo Taekky instructor. Lee trained Ji, primarily in mediation, the use of the Jang-Bong (6' staff), the Dan-Bong (short stick), and in Korean Taek-Kyun kicking. With many kicking techniques and high jumping techniques, Ji had a perfect complement to the grounded techniques of Yawara taught by Grandmaster Choi. Lee also began Ji on his mental and spiritual training. He trained him in numerous meditation and breathing exercises He trained with Lee for almost five years after which he continued his training with Lee’s instructor,  “Grandma (Halmeoni).” Ji would spend hours with Grandma at a temple that was a healing complex for terminally ill individuals. He spent about 3 years with her and considers Grandma to be his spiritual teacher. He continued training with her until he left Korea.


Ji, Han Jae, opened his first dojang in Andong,at the age of 23. He called his new school the Moo Kwan and taught Yu Kwan Sool. After 9 month he relocated the Dojang to Seoul in September of 1957. Hwang, Duk Kyu, was his first student at this dojang, called Sung Moo Kwan. During April of 1960 Ji began to piece together the Yoo Sool (Yoo kwan Sool) teachings of Grandmaster Choi, with the methods of meditation, the Taek -Kyun kicking techniques, and the weapons techniques learned from Lee, along with the spiritual training he received from Grandma. The product was “Hapkido.” He had originally thought of calling it "Hapki-Yoo -Kwan-Sool," but decided against that, feeling it was too long. Instead he opted for using the word 'Do' meaning a path to follow, or a way of life, rather than simply 'techniques' as 'sool' implies. When General Park, Chung Hee (1917-1979) became the Korean President in May of 1961, Ji was teaching at the Korean military academy. After a demonstration and with assistance from Major Lee, Dong Nam, Ji was given permission to instruct the military Supreme Council in Hapkido techniques. Ji then received a government position teaching Hapkido to the President Security forces called the Blue House (a position he would hold until Park's death in 1979). In 1963, Ji, Han jae, Choi, Yong sool, and Kwon, Jang instituted the Korea Kido Association. In 1965, Ji, Han Jae left the Korea Kido Association and established the Korea Hapkido Association.


Three dominant Hapkido organizations began to immerge during the next five years. They were the Korea Hapkido Association (founded in 1965 by Han-Jae Ji), the Korea Hapkido Association (founded in 1969 by Jae-Nam Myung), and the Korean Hapkido Association (founded in 1971 by Kim, Moo Woong). Eventually, in 1973, the leaders of these organizations met and agreed to unify their associations. The new association was named Dae Han Min Kuk Hapkido Hyub Hwe (Republic of Korea Hapkido Association). From 1967 to 1969, Ji traveled to Vietnam with some of his students to teach Hapkido to the US and Vietnamese and Korean soldiers fighting there. Ji first came to the United States as part of an exchange with President Richard Nixon’s security forces. He taught Hapkido to the US Secret Service, Special Forces, OSI, FBI, and CIA. 


While he was visiting and staying at Andrews Air Force Base, his good friend, Taekwondo Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, introduced Ji to Bruce Lee. Lee was impressed with Ji’s techniques and asked him to teach him. Ji taught Lee and also traveled to Hong Kong over the next few years to help choreograph martial arts movies and also star in a few of them. At this time, Ji taught movie stars such as Jin Pal Kim, Angela Mao, Samo Hong among many others. He appeared in three movies, Hapkido (Lady Kung Fu), Fist of the Unicorn Palm, and Bruce Lee’s Game of Death. Extra footage of Game of Death was recently released as a movie called A Warrior’s Journey, which features 18 minutes of fight scenes featuring Ji.


Ji traveled to Germany to teach for three months in 1984. It was at this time that Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae began teaching Sin Moo Hapkido (pronounced “shin moo”) and formed the Korea Sin Moo Hapkido Association. “Sin” means higher mind (the old character could be translated to mean “godlike,” but the meaning Ji refers to is simply “higher mind” or “mental.”) “Moo” means martial art. Simply put, Sin Moo means, “Higher mind martial art.” Much of the techniques are the same as what he taught while in Korea, but the emphasis has changed. The Sin Moo focuses more on the mental and spiritual aspects of Hapkido as well as controlling Ki or Qi and being able to use it effectively. Dojunim has also expanded the weapon repertoire to include the cane, handkerchief or rope, knife and projectiles throwing techniques. Today there are still several dominant Hapkido organizations in Korea. These include, the Korea Kido Association, the Korea Hapkido Association, and the International Hapkido Federation. The Korea Hapkido Association is still the most prominent Hapkido organization in Korea. The graduates of the Original Sung Moo Kwan make up the majority of its senior instructors. Dojunim Ji Han Jae is Master Marquez' direct master instructor, mentor guide and teacher.

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Dojunim Choi Yong Sul

Yong Sul Choi (1904-1986): is recognized as one of the most influential people in Korean martial arts. Born in 1904 at Choong Buk province, he lost both his parents at an early age. As a child, Choi was kidnap and taken to Japan where he studied Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu under the the instruction of Sokaku Takeda (1859-1943) the head of the Daito Ryu Aiki-jujutsu school. Choi began his studies at the age of nine. By the time Choi returned to the mainstream world, Korea had already been liberated from colonial Japanese rule. He returned to Korea in 1945 and took a train to the city of Tae Gu where one of his bags was lost. Unfortunately for Choi, he had his money and his certificates for his martial arts training he had received in Japan in that bag. Choi had originally planned to return to hishome at Choong Buk province but decided to stay in Tae Gu since he had no money. After saving enough money in one year as a bread salesman, he began raising pigs.

Choi would get up early every morning to to go to the Suh Brewery and receive free grain chaff leftover from brewing so that he could feed his pigs. There were always many people lined up to receive the free grain chaff and on one particular morning the President of the brewery, Suh Bok-sub, looked out of his second story window to see a conflict between those who were waiting. He saw one man defend himself against several attackers with a minimum of effort. Suh was very interested in what he witnessed and had one of his clerks bring the man to his office. When Choi arrived, Suh inquired about the techniques he had used to defend himself and Choi asked why he was interested. Suh replied that he wanted to learn the techniques to use in a martial arts tournament.

Choi demonstrated a few simple techniques on Suh and immediately Suh begged for Choi to teach him. He promised to continue to give him free chaff along with money for his lessons and Choi agreed. Suh then built a dojang at the brewery and Choi was given the opportunity to teach Yu Sool to students. Later, "Yu Sool" was changed to Yu Kwon Sool" at the suggestion of Suh Bok-sub. While Yu Sool emphasizes joint locks and throws, Yu Kwon Sool includes punches and kicks. Suh began demonstrating Yu Kwon Sool and it soon became very popular among the public. Suh subsequently sold his brewery and opened a Yu Kwon Sool school In Tae Qu and in 1965, Suh opened a school in Seoul. Choi proceeded to impart the techniques he had learned to a select group of disciples. It was not until the 1957 that Hapkido was first taught to the common person when Choi students began to spread and popularize Hapkido during the Korean conflict.

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