There are two major personalities who have made Hapkido what it is today, Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul and Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae. Due to the various and partially contradicting predicates it can not be determinated precisely who of these two can be regarded as the founder of Hapkido. However, the fact is that both were instrumental in bringing this development about and therefore both could be refereed to as founders of Hapkido.
Grandmaster Choi, Yong-Sul
In 1904 Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul was born in the Korean province Chung Buk. There he lived in a village named Yong Dong. During this time the Japanese occupied Korea. At the age of eight Grandmaster Choi met a Japanese candy merchant named Morimoto. Mr. Morimoto had no son and when he returned to Japan he kidnapped GM Choi, taking him away as his adoptive son. But GM Choi resisted vehemently against this adoption and turned out to be so difficult that Morimoto left him to his fate only a short time after their arrival in the village of Moji, Japan. GM Choi went alone to Osaka and earned his living by begging. After being picked up by the police, he came to into a buddhistic temple to a monk named Kintaro Wadanabi. There he lived for 2 years. Life in Japan was not easy for GM Choi. He spoke poor Japanese and therefore he had big problems at school. Furthermore he was a foreigner and therefore was often flogged by other children. So Kintaro Wadanabi decided to send GM Choi to his friend Sokaku Takeda (1859-1943).
Sokaku Takeda was the head of Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu. Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu (Dai = big, to = sword, Ryu = school, Aiki = combined senses, Jujutsu = soft material art) is one style of the old Japanese Ju-jutsu, which first of all uses hand, elbow and shoulder joint locks to defend against various armed and unarmed attacks. Many movements can be compared to motions of the Japanese art of fencing with the long sword. Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu was founded in the 11th century by Minamoto, Yoshimitsu. Tradition of the time dictated that in the beginning only the highest-ranking samurai of the Takeda family were taught in this art. Over centuries Aikijujutsu was passed on only within certain samurai clans. After the end of the feudalism in the Meiji era Saigo,Tanomo (1829-1905) passed this system of fighting on to Sokaku Takeda. Takeda broke the rules and, for the first time, coached outsiders. For about 30 years GM Choi lived in Sokaku Takedas household. However, there are different variations of which social status he had. In an interview GM Choi himself declared that he had been adopted by Sokaku Takeda. According to other sources, he began as a “house boy” and later became Sokaku Takeka’s personal servant. Last but not least, some say that he just attended some seminars at Sokaku Takeda. During his stay in the house of Sokaku Takedas GM Choi called himself Yoshida Asao (GM Choi, statement in an interview) or Yoshida Tatujutu (statement of Master Suh, Bok-Sup in an interview). According to his own statements GM Choi was the only one to learn all 3808 Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu techniques. Another famous student of Sokaku Takeda was Morihei Ueshiba(1883-1969), the founder of Aikido. As it seems to be clear that Japan was going to loose World War II, Sokaku Takeka committed suicide by starving himself to death. Before he died he ordered GM Choi to return to Korea. On his way back to Korea GM Choi�s whole luggage was stolen at the Station of Younson: including all his money and the certificates he had obtained from Sokaku Takeda. GM Choi settled in Korea in the village of Taegu, situated in the Kyung Buk province, and changed his name back to Choi, Yong Sul. Here, he and his family survived by selling rice cookies for several years. However, February 21st 1948 changed the tide of history. After a few years GM Choi had saved a small amount of money and had bought some pigs. To fatten them he needed grain, which he earned in a Korean brewery producing Korean wine. In this brewery the employees were paid with grain for helping to pump water from a subterranean source. That day, February 21st some people tried to take up Choi’s position in the queue in front of the grain counter. GM Choi not only defended himself successfully against the attackers, but he did it with the greatest of ease.
Suh Bok Sup
Suh, Bok Sup, manager and son of the brewery’s owner watched the fight from his office. He was impressed by the techniques with which GM Choi could defend himself. Suh, Bok-Sup owned the first Dan in judo, and, therefore, recognized that GM Choi was a master in a very effective material art. He called GM Choi in his office and asked him to teach him. GM Choi agreed, and Suh, Bok-Sup paid for his training lessons with money and grain. The fact, that GM Choi’s first student held the first Dan in judo had an effect on the development of Hapkido. All Defense techniques against holds at the wrist, sleeve, collar and against judo throws go back to these roots. Of course, in the beginning Suh, Bok-Sup was >mainly interested in how to defend himself against judo attacks. GM Choi named the material art, he had learned, Yawara. GM Choi changed the name of his material art several times. Among others he called it: Yu Sul (Soft Art), Yu Kwon Sul (Soft Hand Art), Hapki Yu Kwon Sul (In Unit with Ki Soft Hand Art) A few years later GM Choi became a bodyguard and head of the security department of Suh, father to Bok-Sup, and also a congressman. On February, 12th 1951 GM Choi and Suh, Bok-Sup together opened up a Dojang named Korean Yu Kwan Sool Hap Ki Dojang. In 1958 GM Choi, Suh and Bok-Sup decided to change the name of the material art taught by them into HapKiDo. (Statement of Master Suh, Bok-Sup in an interview) There are different statements on who used the name HapKiDo first. Another variation is, that Ji, Han-Jae created the name and then passed it to GM Choi, in order to honor him. Sometime 1958 after GM Choi opened up his own Dojang. In Suh, Bok-Sups Dojang also taught Kim, Moo-Hyun,
who, according to Suh, Bok-Sup, created the HapKiDo kicks. Kim, Moo-Hyun had learned these kicks in various Korean temples. Kim, Moo-Hyun had a very close contact to GM Ji, Han-Jae and stayed some time in GM Ji, Han-Jae’s Dojang in Seoul. It is very likely, that during this time a number of HapKiDo kicks were developed. Sometimes Suh, Bok-Sup went to Seoul and taught there at the university. In 1963 GM Choi became chairman of the newly founded Korean Kido Association, an umbrella organization of all Korean material arts, acknowledged by the Korean government. In 1982 GM Choi traveled into the USA, trying to combine HapKiDo. He appointed Chang, Chin-Il his successor and hoped, that he would be able to unite the HapKiDo masters living in the USA. But GM Chois wish was not fulfilled. GM Choi died 1986 at the age of 82 and was buried in Taegu.
Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae
Ji Han Jae
In 1936 Grandmaster Ji, Han-Jae was born in Andong, Korea. In 1949, at the age of 13, GM Ji began his training in the Korean Yu Kwan Sool Hap Ki Dojang under GM Choi. GM Ji was one of GM Choi’s best students. GM Ji studied at GM Choi until 1956. Afterwards he continued his studies with a master named “Taoist Lee”, and here learned the Tae Kyon kicks, Jang-Bong (long stick), Dan-Bong (short stick) and techniques of meditation. With a nun, (that he knew only as “Grandmother”), he learned spiritua tech-l niques. In 1958 GM Ji left Taegu and returned to Andong, where he opened up his own Dojang, named Sung Moo Kwan. At that time he held the 3. Dan in Yu Kwan Sool. Only nine moths later he moved to Seoul. Here, two very famous Grand Masters, who later emigrated into the USA, began their HapKiDo carrier. GM Han, Bong-Soo (founder of the International Hapkido Federation) and GM Myung, Kwang-Sik (founder of the World Hapkido Federation). Later he awarded them both the 9. Dan. Han, Bong-Soo 1984 and Myung, Kwang-Sik 1986. In Seoul GM Ji began to develop his own style by combining the techniques learned at GM Choi with the Tae Kyon kicks, the weapon techniques, and the spiritual techniques. He called this new material art HapKiDo. (As already mentioned above, he passes this name to GM Choi as a sign of reference.) At that time there was a boxing school close to his Dojang. Until then only defense techniques against punches were used, based on the assumption that the arms remains stretched after the punch. In those days this was the technique taught by some material arts. Boxing means the arm retracts immediately after the punch. Therefore, GM Ji developed some defense techniques against these “snapping” punches. Many HapKiDo techniques were the product of the Korean circumstances, no matter if they were developed by GM Choi, GM Ji or other HapKiDo masters. Defense techniques against knives were of elementary importance as the underworld criminals were almost exclusively equipped with knives. Defense techniques against kicks were developed to defend oneself against Tang Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, Kwon Bupand and Taekwondo. The Dan Bong (short stick) techniques against sword attacks were developed, because Kendo is widespread in Korea. In 1961 the Korean government was overthrown by General Park, Chung-Hee who shortly after became president of Korea. In1962 GM Ji opened up a Dojang in the Hwa Shin department store. Next he became trainer of the military crack troops and of the president’s security service. In addition, he became the president’s bodyguard. In the early sixties the import relations concerning Japanese goods loosened and a book about Aikido fell into GM Ji’s hands. He noticed that the sign for Aikido was exactly the same as for HapKiDo and decided to change the name from HapKiDo to Kido. In 1963 GM Ji became member of the Korean Kido Association, but he left in 1965 after some differences of opinion and founded the Korea Hapkido Association. Within an information and exchange program between the Korean government and the Pentagon GM Ji arrived in USA in 1969. There, GM Ji coached some of president Nixon’s bodyguards, FBI agents, and various special task forces. During this stay he met Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was very impressed by GM Ji and asked him to coach him. Between 1972 and 1974 GM Ji shot many films in Hong Kong. “Game of Death” with GM Ji as adversary of Bruce Lee.
“The Game of Death”
“Hapkido”, with Sammo Hung (known for his films with Jackie Chang) and Angela Mao Ying. Later this film was renamed as “Lady Kung Fu”. “The Dragon Tamers”, with Jackie Chang as action director. During his stay in Hong Kong GM Ji coached Bruce Lee. Together with Kim, Moo-Hong and Myong, Jae-Nam, GM Ji founded the Republic of Korea Hapkido Association in 1973. The name was changed into Korea Hapkido Association later. Until 1979GM Ji was chairman of this organisation. As his successor followed his student Oh, Se-Lim, who began his HapKiDo studies at GM Ji 1958 in Andong. In 1980 the Korea Hapkido Association was renamed as Korea Hapkido Federation. In 1979 the Korean president Park, Chung-Hee fell victim to assassination. The assassin Kim, Chae-Kyu, was the head of the Korean CIA. GM Ji was imprisoned for about one year. The assassin had been a close student of GM Ji, and GM Ji had supported him in becoming the head of the Korean CIA. Therefore, he was accused of having been involved in the planning of the assassination attempt. In jail he developed his new system, which he called Sin Moo Hapkido. Sin Moo Hapkido aims even more at the spiritual side of the martial arts. Around1981 GM Ji made a trip to Hong Kong and prepared his immigration into the USA. In Hong Kong he played minor roles in the film “Tower of Death” and in some other films. In 1984 GM Ji traveled via Germany, where he met his two students Kim, Sou-Bong and Song, Il-Hack, into the USA. There he opened up a Sin Moo Hapkido school in Daly near San Francisco. Many high-ranking masters of HapKiDo emigrated from Korea to make HapKiDo known throughout the world. Many settled in the USA. Most of the GM in HapKiDo are former students of GM Ji, even if today many of them regard GM Choi as their teacher. There are different statements of why these students turned away from GM Ji. In an interview GM Ji had the following explanation: he had been successful when he had been far too young. Many of his students had been younger than him. After having also studied at GM Choi, they passed the much older and therefore more respected GM Choi as their teacher. Another Korean statement says, that many Korean masters consider GM Ji as jointly responsible for the assassination of president Park, and therefore still hate him. Furthermore many people regard it as a degradation of HapKiDo, that GM Ji was defeated so fast as a master of HapKiDo in the film “Game of Death” with Bruce Lee. Again and again there are discussion on who introduced which techniques in HapKiDo. Some say, that – in the true sense – GM Choi coached pure Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu until his death. On the other hand, some argue that he united a number of Korean material arts. It is said that he showed a keen interest in Kumdo and Kendo, what would suggest that he contributed to the sword techniques. GM Ji claims the integration of the cane techniques, the long and short stick techniques, and a large part of the kicks into HapKiDo. Some Hapkido masters developed own styles and united traditional HapKiDo techniques with other martial arts and/or techniques of meditation, sciences of dance and health. Some styles tend more to strong techniques like fixed blocks and short techniques. Others became even more soft and expansive within their movements, and approximate to Aikido. The environment of the school and the master always played an important role. As they usually lived off their students, they had to adapt to the material arts common in the regions, and offer techniques against them.