hapkido history

Hwarang Warriors

Around the year 668, Korea ceased to be a colony of China and unified its three kingdoms (Kokuryo, Paekche and Shilla) under the command of the queen Chin Heung. It was a time of barbarism: only the strongest and most prepared survived because of the bloody wars between the Kokuryo Empire and neighboring peoples, such as Mongols and the Chinese. To ensure the survival and safety of the Queen, a small army of combatants was selected. They were strong men who knew ancient techniques of defense with empty hands and weapons (such as spears, swords, mount), and mastered other techniques (such as holding breath for several minutes and great concentration and control of the body). They were called Hwarang’s.

Hwarangs 280x280 - History

They received this name because, during the preparation phase, they met in the Buddhist temple Hwarang, where they received most of the teachings. There, they learned to master the body and refined the mind, studying literature, ethics and philosophy. This technique has developed for many years, transforming itself into what we know as Hwarang-do. The Hwarang-do is the basis of the development of all Korean martial arts and, especially, of the current Hapkido. Those well-prepared men defended the kingdom for many years against internal revolts and external enemies. They came to be called Samurang’s. Time brought changes in the political-cultural system with the new Yi Dynasty, and with the European Renaissance (giving importance to the arts and writing), these martial techniques began to be banished from the Korean peninsula by the local kingdom itself. They had lost weight in the face of the use of gunpowder from China. With this, the Hwarang’s, or Samurang’s, and their great masters ended up being banished to the mountains. For many years they lived there, in temples.

Invasions in South Korea

From 1567 to 1608, Korea suffered two major invasions from Japan led by the legendary shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The intention of Japan was to invade China, a country that posed a great threat. Hideyoshi asked permission to the Korean kingdom to enter its territory and to attack China, but it did not obtain it. It was that Korea had sealed the peace and had good relations with China. Then, on April 24, 1592, Japan invaded Korea with nearly 160,000 men. With the help of the Chinese generals, Korea resisted. But in the second invasion, on March 19, 1597, Korea was mined and weakened.

In the meantime, King Sonjo (Korea) once again asked for advice and help from the Chinese military. Among them there were Shaolin masters such as Niu Shu Zheng and Hei Hu Li. These generals knew that among the Korean army, the Tang Su (hands and feet defense) was still practiced and asked for the presence of these masters. They made some challenges so that they could compare the two techniques and Shaolin art showed supremacy. With some Chinese knowledge, Korean masters developed the Kwonbop Subak – grappling techniques and projections. After the invasion, many of these masters were taken into captivity in Japan. The development of these techniques gradually formed the whole of Hapkido.

Guerreiros Harangs3 - History


The Hwarang’s Techniques Books

Considering the vulnerability of Korea in 1790, King Chongjo (of the Li Dynasty) ordered the return of the Hwarang’s. To masters Lee Dok Um and Park Jae Ga, he asked them to record all their knowledge in four books – Muye Dobo Tongji. The first book deals with the techniques of long and short bamboo lance. The second one deals with Kum or Gum sword techniques with a single cut and two cuts. Already the third book, the subject is the mount with the use of the sword, the South Bong. The techniques Kwonbop Subak were subjects of the fourth book.

With this, the practice of martial arts returned to Korea, where they were worked and developed, until the Subak-do (type of judo, with throws and keys), Tang Su (blockages and attacks with hands and feet), of Taekyun (high and low kicks, base of Taekwondo) practiced since the Yi Dynasty. The latter two originated from the ancient Hwarang’s.

Choi Yong Sul

The story continues after Japan’s third major invasion of Korea in 1907. At that time, the now legendary Choi Yong South, then a three-year-old, was imprisoned and taken to Japan, where he was adopted by Sokaku Takeda – the sole representative of the family of Daito Ryu-Aiki-Jujitsu – and received the name of Hioshida, besides having been forbidden to speak in Korean. In the meantime, Choi met one of Takeda O’Sensei’s top graduates, practicing Daito Ryu-Aiki-Jujitsu: Murihei Ueshiba (founder of Aikido). After Takeda’s death, Choi became one of his successors at age 39.

After World War II, with the crisis that crushed Japan, Choi returned to Korea. As a martial artist, he goes in search of new knowledge. For two years, he trained hard for Taekyun (of Song Dok Ki) and Tang Su (similar to Chinese boxing), acquiring the necessary knowledge so that, together with Daito Ryu, he developed a technique that was globalized and of great technical diversity: YU KWON SOUTH. In this system, most martial arts originated from the Hwarang’s.  

Guerreiros Hwarangs2 - History

In 1948, Choi was 44 and began teaching Hapkido, forming some of his best disciples: Jin Han Jae, Bok Sub Suh, Joo Bang Lee, Kim Moo Wong, Kwang Whong, Kwang Wha Won, Hwang In Shik, In Hyuk Suh and Hwang Ki. Together with Choi, they founded Korea Hapkido in 1963, which later under the leadership of Ji Han Jae and Kim Moo Wong became the Korea Hapkido Association (KHA).

Source: CALDAS JR, Paulo (et al.). Hapkido: o caminho da energia coordenada. São Paulo: On Line, 2011.