1. Choi Yong-Sool
  2. Soe Bok-Seob
  3. Ji Han-Jae
  4. Kim Moo-Hong
  5. Myung Jae-Nam
  6. Lim Hyun-Soo


The history of Hapkido goes back to Kochosun (old name of Korea) era (BC 2333 – 108).

As Kochosun territory facing the North bordered on China, an early form of Hapkido emerged naturally as an effective means of protecting the country and its people from the war with China.

According to the oldest Korean scriptures, Sam-il-sin-ko, Hapkido is a way of cultivating people who practice it by concentrating Chon-ki (energy of the universe), Chi-ki (energy of the earth), and In-ki (energy of human) into his/her Dan-Jeon (the place where human energy is stored; about two inches below the belly button).

By practicing this he/she could use the energy at his/her will and apply the energy to various ways.

The ultimate attainment of this practice is to realise him/herself and to procure sagacity and rectitude.

The old form of Hapkido (Hapki-yu-sul) had been practised among nobility of the Shilla Dynasty (AD 350-918).

Some nobility of the Shilla Dynasty went abroad to Japan and settled there.

One of these noble families was Sam-rang-won-ui-kwang. They taught their skills to the famous Japanese Minamodo Family, of which Takeda Shogaku was a descendent (35th generation). Takeda Sokaku instructed Yong-Sul Choi, who is the founder of modern Korean Hapkido, for around thirty years. Of Shogaku’s pupils, Master Yong-Sul Choi was the only one who mastered all the secrets and special skills of Hapki-yu-sul.

Ueshiba Morie, who is the founder of Japanese Aikido, was another of Takeda Sokaku‘s pupils, but he mastered limited skills of Hapki-Yu-Sul as he stopped practising under Takeda Sokaku .Master Yong-Sul Choi trained Han-Jae Ji, who shaped the current form of Hapkido by compiling Hapki-yu-sul with Tae-Kyon (old form of Taekwondo). [18]

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 (1899?1986) and his most prominent students; 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.[5][6]

Choi Yong-Sool

Main article: Choi Yong-Sool
Choi Yong-Sool’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 Korea with techniques characteristic of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, a forerunner of Aikido. The next portion of the story is quite controversial in Daito-ryu circles but is claimed by many contemporary hapkido-ists and is attributed to Choi in an interview (released posthumously) reputed to have taken place during a visit Choi made to the United States in 1980.[7]

In the interview, Choi claims to have been adopted by Takeda Sokaku 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.[7]

This is contradicted by other claims asserting that Choi was simply a worker in the home of Takeda. In fact, the meticulous enrollment and fee records of Tokimune Takeda, Takeda Sokaku’s eldest son and Daito-ryu’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 Sokaku, or that he ever formally studied Daito-ryu under the founder of the art.[8]

Above: Retouched photograph of Takeda Sokaku circa 1888

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

“On another subject, it is true that a Korean named “Choi” who founded hapkido studied aikido or Daito-ryu?

I don’t know what art it was but I understand that there was a young Korean of about 17 or 18 who participated in a seminar of Sokaku Takeda Sensei held in Asahikawa City in Hokkaido. It seems that he studied the art together with my father and would refer to him as his “senior”.

If that’s the case the art must have been Daito-ryu.

I’ve heard that this man who studied Daito-ryu had some contact with my father after that. Then he returned to Korea and began teaching Daito-ryu on a modest scale. The art gradually became popular and many Koreans trained with him. Since aikido became popular in Japan he called his art hapkido [written in Korean with the same characters as aikido]. Then the art split into many schools before anyone realized it. This is what my father told me. I once received a letter from this teacher after my father’s death.”[9]

Some argue that Choi Yong-Sool’s potential omission from the records, and the ensuing debate over hapkido’s origins, may be due totensions 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, Ji Han-Jae, Chung Kee Tae, Kim Moo-Hong, and arguably Suh In-Hyuk (Hangul서인혁) and Lee Joo-Bang (Hangul이주방) 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).

Master Choi Yong-Sool  passed away on October 27, 1986 while many of his students, now masters and grand masters themselves, were continuously striving to develop the positive practice of Hapkido across the county (and throughout the world).

Soe Bok-Seob

Main article: Seo Bok-Seob

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).[5]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Ji Han-Jae

Main article: Ji Han-Jae

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-hee that 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 supposedlly studied from a man known as ‘Taoist Lee’ and an old woman he knew as ‘Grandma’.[5][24]

As a teacher of hapkido, Ji incorporated traditional Korean kicking techniques (from Taoist Lee and the art Sam Rang Do Tek Gi) and punching techniques 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.[10]

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-fuand 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 onlyyawara based skills and that it was he who added much of the kicking, and weapon techniques we now associate with modern hapkido.[25] 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,[26] what is not contested is the undeniably huge contributions made by Ji to the art, its systematization and its promotion worldwide.

Kim Moo-Hong

Main article: Kim Moo-Hong
(alternately rendered as Kim Moo-Woong or Kim Mu-Hyun)A student from the Choi and Seo’s Daehan Hapki Yukwonsool Dojang, was Kim Moo-Hong (김무홍),[5] who later taught at Seo’s main dojang in Daegu. Seo, who promoted Kim to 4th degree, credits Kim with the development of many kicks which are still used in hapkido today. Kim apparentally took the concepts from very basic kicks he had learned from Choi and went to a temple to work on developing them to a much greater degree. Later, in 1961, Kim travelled to Seoul and while staying at Ji Han-Jae’s Sung Moo Kwan dojang they finalized the kicking curriculum.[10]Kim went on to found his Shin Moo Kwan dojang (신무관) in the Jongmyo section of Seoul, also in 1961. Won Kwang-Hwa (원광화) also served as an instructor at this dojang. Kim’s notable students were Lee Han-Cheol (이한철), Kim Woo-Tak (김우탁; who founded the Kuk Sool Kwan Hapkido dojang), Huh Il-Woong (허일웅), Lee Joo-Bang (이주방; who founded modern Hwa Rang Do), Na Han-Dong (나한동), Shin Dong-Ki (신동기) and Seo In-Hyuk (서인혁; who founded Kuk Sool Won).[10]Originally a member of the Korea Kido Association, the organization sent Kim to teach hapkido in the United States in 1969. Upon returning to Korea in 1970, Kim looked to Ji Han-Jae’s move to set up his own organization and with the encouragement of his students followed suit and founded the Korean Hapkido Association in 1971. Later he combined this organization with the groups led by Ji Han-Jae and Myung Jae-Nam to form the Republic of Korea Hapkido Association.[10]

Myung Jae-Nam

Main article: Myung Jae-NamMyung Jae-Nam: Achievements/Activites Timeline
In 1972, Myung Jae-Nam (명재남) was one of the original members of the Korea Hapkido Association(대한 합기도 협회), which was formed in 1965 at the request of the South Korean President Park Jeong-Hee. The Korea Hapkido Association was formed with the assistance of Park Jong Kyu, who was the head of the Presidential Protective Forces and one of the most powerful men in Korea at the time.[10]Myung Jae Nam exchanged martial art techniques and information with an Aikido practitioner named Hirata in 1965, for a period of about four years and included many aikido-like techniques into his version of hapkido. He has produced Several books and videos on the subject of hapkido self-defense. Later Myung Jae-Nam broke away from all the other organizations and started to focus on promoting a new style, hankido. Until his death in 1999 he was the leader of the International Hapkido Federation.

Lim Hyun-Soo

Main article: Lim Hyun Soo

Lim, Hyun Soo is a long time disciple of Dojunim, Choi Yong Sul. Lim created the Jung Ki Kwan on October 24, 1974. In 1965 he visited Founder Choi, Yong Sul and had his first meeting with Hapkido. At first he was taught by Master Kim, Yeung Jae, Founder Choi’s pupil. He was then taught by Founder Choi, Yong Sul and became his pupil until 1981. During his time with the founder, he endured strict and intense training. Knowing Hapkido’s true value and meaning during his special training period with the founder, he opened the Jung Ki Kwan. In 1976 Founder Choi closed his place, joined the Jung Ki Kwan, and devoted his energy to it for the rest of his life.

The photo below contains many of today’s Grand Masters of Hapkido [17]

From bottom left to right:

Lee Tae-Jun, Myung Kwang-Sik, Han Bong Soo (The Founder of the International Hapkido), Choi Yong-Sul (The Founder of Hapkido), Ji Han-Jae (Grand Master of Shin-Moo Hapkido),
Song Young-Kil (Korean Hapkido Federation Technical Director),
Kim Deok-In (The Founder of the Duk Moo and Director of the Competition for the Korean Hapkido Federation), Kwon Tae-Man (The Founder of International Daemoo Hapkido Martial Art Association).

From behind left to right:

Myung Jae-Nam (Grand Master of the International Hapkido Federation), Unknown, Hal Bok, Yum Jong-Ho, Kim Jong-Taek (Current Secretary General of the Korean Hapkido Federation),
Kim Jong-Jin (Previous Secretary General of the Korean Hapkido Federation), Unknown, Unknown, Kim Hung-Su (The Grand Master of the Yun Moo Academy), Unknown.