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It was a Korean named Choi, Sea Oh who introduced Hapkido into the United States of America after he immigrated to Los Angeles in 1964, but it wasn't until the motion picture "Billy Jack", starring Tom Laughlin, was released that Hapkido started to become popular in America. The movie's fight sceens were choreographed by a student of Hapkido Grandmaster Ji, Bong Soo Han, who also performed the famous "Billy Jack kick" (crescent kick) in the film. This kick was called the kick felt round the world because of the effect it had on martial arts enrollments. The day after "Billy Jack" hit the theaters, thousands of new students enrolled to martial arts schools all over the country.

Hapkido is a modern, "complete" martial art in that it combines the use of deflection techniques, throws, takedowns, ground-fighting, and extensive joint locking techniques, pressure points, kicks, and strikes for practical self-defense. Hapkido employs both hard and soft techniques. There is also weapons defense training, most commonly knife, belt, kubatan, cane, and short staff techniques. Hapkido can be classified as a "combatives" art. This makes Hapkido very effective for self-defense, but also means that many of its techniques are unsuitable for use in sparring. The use of combatives techniques would result in injury, even when protective gear is used, so schools that do incorporate sparring into their curriculums must limit it to a limited subset of techniques and borrow procedures and methods from the sports martial arts.

The common English translations of the word Hapkido are "the way of coordinated power" or "the way of harmonious energy." it is a compound word made up of three Korean words: HAP, meaning coordination or harmony, KI meaning energy, and DO, meaning way. The Hapkido practitioner is trained to move dynamically in a way that creates a "balance" between defender and attacker that will re-direct an attacker's energy to the defender's advantage. The ultimate goal of Hapkido is to incapacitate an opponent in the most efficient and thorough manner possible.

The modern art of Hapkido did not exist prior to World War II, but its ancestral arts go back centuries. Daito-ryu aiki-jutsu goes back to Takeda, Soemon (1758-1853) and the first publicly recognized style of Jiu-Justsu was formed by Hisamori, Takenouchie in 1532. This Jiu-Jutsu Ryu was the result of centuries of development of techniques that first began to emerge in 8th century Japan. Evidence of native Korean martial arts, of which modern Tae Kyon still claims a direct link, can be found in writings and pictures from the ancient Koguryo Dynasty (37 B.C.- 668 A.D.), the terrirory of which spanned parts of modern day Korea and China.

There are certainly contradictions and different versions of the same events concerning the origin of Hapkido, but two men, Choi, Yong Sul and Ji, Han Jae are to be credited as the major contributors to the development of this art. While Ji, Han Jae clearly added most of Hapkido's kicks and has had a tremendous influence in the development and promotion of Hapkido, any study of the history of Hapkido should first begin with Choi, Young Sool's style. The bringing of Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jutsu from Japan to Korea by Choi, Yong Sul should be considered to be the begining of the art of Hapkido.

Choi, Yong Sul (1904-1986)

Choi, Yong Sul

The following paragraphs on the life of Choi, Yong Sul are derived from an interview he gave during during his visit to the united states in June of 1982. They cover his life, from his own view point, from the time he was abducted and taken to Japan until his return to Korea.

When Mr. Choi was a child living in the village of yong dong in choong chung province, Korea, he became acquainted with a Japanese businessman and candy store owner named Mr. Morimoto. Morimoto had no sons, so when the time came for him to return to Japan, he abducted Choi and took him with him, intending that Choi would become his son (Choi remembered being approximately 8 years old at that time). However, because of Choi's constant protesting and crying, Mmr. Morimoto decided to abandon him soon after they came to Japan. Morimoto dropped Choi in the town of Moji and went on his way leaving Choi to fend for himself. Choi managed to travel alone from Moji to Osaka where he was picked up by the police. Since he had no family in Japan, the police placed him to at a buddhist temple under the care of a monk named Kintaro, Wadanabi.

One day, after Choi had been living at the temple for about two years, Wadanabi asked Choi what direction he wanted to take in life. During his stay at the temple, Choi had been fascinated by murals of battles and paintings of famous martial arts scenes displayed throughout the temple, so when asked this question, Choi pointed to a scene on the wall depicting the martial arts and said this is what he wanted to be. It turned out that Wadanabi was a close friend of Takeda, Sokaku, the head of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu, and arranged a meeting between him and Choi. It appears that Takeda was taken with Choi and decided to adopt him. Upon Choi's adoption he was given the Japanese name Asao, Yoshida. He was about 11 years old at this time. This provided the opportunity for Asao (Choi) to study and practice Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu under Takeda's personal direction for over 30 years.

Takeda had a position as the teacher of the Japanese Royal Family and Asao was Takeda's assistant in all of his instruction. They taught high ranking government officials within the palace circle in Tokyo and traveled to various parts of Japan and taught select groups of people. When Asao was about 28 years old, Takeda and his most outstanding students traveled to Hawaii on an exhibition tour. Asao was the leader of the exhibition team under the direction of Takeda.

One of the most significant changes to Asao's life came toward the end of World War II. Japan was losing the war and, in a last desperate effort, the government began a special military draft that called up most of the prominent martial artists of the time. These martial artists were conscripted into special guerrilla-type units that were sent throughout the war zone. All of the inner circle of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu were drafted except master Takeda and Asao and, unfortunately, most were killed. Asao would have been drafted, but Takeda, through his status and influence, intervened and had Asao hospitalized for minor surgery, which kept him from being drafted. Takeda prevented Asao from being drafted due to his concern that if Asao was killed Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu would be lost in its completed form upon his death. Shortly before he died, Takeda informed Asao that he was the only student that he had schooled in all of his secrets and techniques. According to Asao, Takeda had developed and mastered about 3808 techniques in his system.

Japan's defeat in war, something that had never happened in all it's history, was devastating to Takeda. He felt that a great shame and loss of face had been placed on his ancestors by this defeat at the Hands of Japan's enemies. He felt a personal responsibility in this defeat and becase of this feeling was so strong, he decided that his only honorable path was to end his life, which he did by refusing to eat. Before dying, Takeda said goodbye to Asao and bade him to fulfill his long time desire to return to Korea. Takeda was concerned that because of Asao's position in his household and his Korean heritage, that it would be dangerous for Asao if he remained in Japan. Had Asao remained in Japan to succeed Takeda, theRE was a good chance that he would be assassinated, so he returned to Korea, with his household, shortly after Takeda's death.

Asao settled in Taegu Kyung Buk province of Korea where he changed his name back to Choi, Yong Sul. It is there that he established his first Korean dojang (school).

Ji, Han Jae (1936- )

Ji, Han Jae

When Ji, Han Jae was thirteen he began to train full time with grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul (whose style at this time was called Yoo Sool) and remained with him until 1956. He augmented what he learned from Grandmaster Choi by training under a master known as "Taoist Lee," from whom he learned Tae Kyon style kicking, Korean six-foot staff (jang-bong) and short stick (dan-bong) techniques, and meditation.

Ji, Han Jae began teaching in 1958 when he opened his first two dojang (schools) in Andong, Korea, which he named Sung Moo Kwan. From 1962 to 1979, Master Ji was a bodyguard to Korean president Park Chung-Hee (1917-1979). He was also instructor to the Military Supreme Council and the Presidential Security Forces, a position he held until president Park's death in 1979. In 1969, master Ji traveled to the united states to teach Hapkido to FBI and Secret Service agents, and other officials and in 1984 he moved to the united states and founded Sin Moo Hapkido.

Until the 1960's hapkido was known by various names: yu kwon sool, yu-sool, ho shin sool, and bi sool. One account identifies Ji, Han Jae as the first person to use the term Hapkido:

"...Ji began to piece together the Yoo Sool (Yoo Kwon Sool) teachings of Grandmaster Choi, with the methods of meditation, the Tae Kyon kicking techniques, and the weapons techniques learned from Taoist Lee, along with the spiritual training he received from "Grandma," to formulate his own style of martial art, for which he chose the name "Hapkido." he had originally thought of calling it "Hapki-Yoo-Kwon-Sool," but decided against that, feeling it was too long of a name. He thought of other martial arts he had heard of, such as Tae Kwon Do, Kong Soo Do, Soo Bakh Do, etc., where the word "Do" was being used instead of "sool". He liked this idea because the word "do" means a path to follow, or a way of life, rather tHan simply meaning "technique", as "sool" implies. The name Hapkido was chosen in 1959, and has been used ever since. The word itself can be translated as the "way of coordinated power." where "hap" means to unify or coordinate, "ki" means mental and/or physical energy, and "do" means a way of life, or the "path" or "way" of coordinating your mental and physical energy into one entity."

After he chose the name Hapkido to represent his art, Ji, Han Jae states that, out of respect, he gave this name to his teacher, Choi, Yong Sul to use. Choi did use the name Hapkido, but did not match his curriculum to Ji's -- leaving out the majority of the kicking techniques, and a lot of the weapons techniques that Ji employed. These facts have caused a controversy as to who the "Founder of Hapkido" is. I am of the opinion that that the title belongs to both men. The name is not nearly as important as the nature of Hapkido, which would certainly be different now is either one of these two men had not been involved in its development.

For more Hapkido Information see Hapkido - Open Directory - Sports: Martial Arts: Hapkido

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