Discover the True Essence of Hapkido. How to Harmonize

* Essence of Hapkido

Essence of Hapkido: Hapkido is a relatively new martial art, Choi, Yong Sool (alternative spelling Yong Shul Choi), the founder of Hapkido, was born in the town of Yong Dong, Choong Chung Province.

Which is located relatively near Taegue, South Korea in 1904. In 1909 Korea came under Japanese occupation. 

So it is believed that Japanese troops took Choi from his homeland at the age of seven to be assigned work in Japan.

And it was a very common practice, at this period of history, for the Japanese occupying forces to relocate young male Korean children to Japan for various types of labor.

Choi, Yong Sool stated in an interview conducted shortly before his death in 1982 that he had been abducted by a candy store owner, Mr. Morimoto.  And taken to Japan to be his son. As he did not like the man, he eventually escaped.

Essence of Hapkido - Choi Yong Sool

The actual causation for his transport to Japan may never be proven. Therefore if a Mr. Morimoto had been the causation. It would have sadly been for him to be a laborer and not a son. However we will never know.

So as fate would have it, Choi eventually came to work for, Sokaku Takeda. Takeda, who was the 32nd patriarch of Daito Ryu Aikijitsu.  

Mr Takeda was forty-four years old at the time Choi, a seven year old boy, came to his service. Hence Choi was given the Japanese name Yoshida, Asao.

The first or given name Tatujutu. In which was originally propagated as being the name Choi used in Japan in the August 1965 issue of Black Belt Magazine. However this is not a valid Japanese name. Therefore, it is historically inaccurate to believe he went by this name. But this is the name that Choi, himself, told people he used while in Japan.

Let;s continue with the Essence of Hapkido.

Essence of Hapkido - Beginnings

Most of all Choi remained with Takeda for thirty years until Takeda's death. Relieved of his duties, Choi returned to Korea. Mr Choi's first student was a successful brewery manager named, Suh, Bok Sup.

Prior to his study with Choi he had been awarded a 1st Dan Black Belt in Judo. This was under the direction of Korean Judo instructor, Choi, Yong Ho.

In February of 1948, Suh witnessed Choi, who was in his forties, get into a fight with several men. Choi rapidly devastated his opponents. 

Choi Young Sool

Choi Young Sool

Impressed with his technique, Suh summoned Choi to his office. And he inquired as to his style. This meeting eventually lead to Suh hiring Choi. Choi who had previously been a poor rice cake seller and hog farmer since his return to Korea. Hence Choi would teach Suh for several years privately, eventually also became a bodyguard for Suh's father, Suh, Dong Jin.

Essence of Hapkido - Hapkido History

Therefore Suh, Bok Sup became instrumental in helping Choi open his first school of self defense.  The school was established in February of 1951. And very importantly he also became his first Black Belt. However due to Suh's advanced understanding of Judo, Suh lent some of this knowledge to the system which later became known as Hapkido. Many of the basic sleeve grabs, shoulder grabs, and throws, used in Hapkido, can trace their origin to Judo.

The initial name of the system of self defense Choi taught was, Dae Dong Ryu Yu Sool. This is the Korean translation for Daito Ryu Jujitsu.

However initially, Choi taught his students a very pure form of Daito Ryu Aikijitsu. Many of the later students of Hapkido attempt to falsely date the origin of Hapkido to some ancient Korean art. This is historically inaccurate. Choi, himself, never made this claim.

Essence of Hapkido - History of Hapkido

* Choi Hong Hi

Choi Hong Hi

As time progressed and other Korean martial art pioneers, such as General Hong Hi Choi and Hwang Kee (Tang Soo Do) were rediscovering and expanding upon the offensive nature of Tae Kyon.

This lead to their discoveries influenced some of the advanced students of Choi, such as Ji, Han Jae.  

And these men slowly began to incorporate the very aggressive punching and kicking techniques into the overall understanding of Hapkido.

Most importantly Choi, himself, never taught kicking in association with Hapkido, however.

Hapkido's final criteria came through a long testing period.  As did the other martial art systems born on the newly independent Korean Peninsula. Even the name Hapkido went through various changes, including: Yu Kwon Sul, Yu Sool, Ho Shin Mu Do, and Bi Sool.

Today, there is no one system of Hapkido, as is the case with WTF Taekwondo.

As time has gone on, each teacher and organization has integrated their own understandings and self defense realizations into this art. There are, however, two distinct types of Hapkido.

Essence of Hapkido - Two Main Systems

The first are the schools which hold tightly to the original teachings of Choi, Yong Sool. This style of Hapkido will commonly be observed when visiting Hapkido dojangs located in the Taegue. These are found in the vicinity of South Korea. Here, the focus is placed primarily upon the Daito Ryu based joint locks, deflections, and throws.

The second distinct style of Hapkido is those instructors, schools, and organizations who trace their lineage to Grand Master Ji, Han Jae . (Whether directly or indirectly.) Therefore in these schools one will observe a plethora of punching, kicking, and weapon techniques. This is done in association with the joint locks and throws commonly associated with Hapkido. 

* Scott Shaw

Grand Master Scott Shaw

This style of Hapkido will commonly be observed at the dojangs based in Seoul, South Korea and, in fact, most of the Western world. This is the historical essence of Hapkido. My thanks to Grand Master Scott Shaw for this information. 

Essence of Hapkido - Kuk Sul Hapkido

The Essence of Hapkido in my linage is in some ways unclear. Master Oh was a Hapkido master when he moved to Canada and was also associated with the "General." It is said he received his Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do from General Choi. I can believe this since Mr Oh was in the Encyclopedia of Tae Kwon Do, Mr Oh passed away in 2015.

Essence of HapkidoOn Canada Master Oh's focus over the years went to Tae Kwon Do, however keeping the self defense aspects of Hapkido. He founded Tae Kwon Moo Do in the 90's because he did not like the full on "sport" direction of modern TKD. The Chung Oh linage in Hapkido comes from what is now Kuk Sool Won.

Essence of Hapkido - Hon Sang Mu Sa

Essence of Hapkido: As you can see the linage of my study of the first 16 years is very diverse. Unlike some martial arts, because of secrecy there is no clear path. While traditionally, to my understanding Hapkido has not Kata. However because of the Tae Kwon DO influence our system used the ITF or International Tae Kwon Do "Hyung."

This was good because it gave the art depth. Mr Oh was also a master of the Korean Sword art of Kum Do, which I never learned in his system.

Now in fairness Mr Oh did kick us out of his system in 1990 because of an argument with my direct teacher Master Philip Hollohan. 

Mr Oh's school still exists today, however I believe his son Thomas is not involved with it. I believe he has followed his own path. I have always gotten along very well with GM Thomas Oh.

Our friendship goes back to the 1980's. Sadly his brother "Ian" passed a few years ago.

* Grand Master Chung W Oh

Grand Master Chung W Oh

I am sure now you can see why I considered myself to be a martial arts orphan! This is why i decided I must learn as much as possible, and then incorporate this knowledge with my root system. 

And this is what caused me to rename and found an art. Plus it was the influences of what I was learning that was the reasons for the name, Hon Sang Mu Sa translates to Old Pine Tree way. Most importantly this name comes from my study of Kosho Ryu

Later knowledge from Small Circle Jujitsu, Cane MastersSystema and of course Kyusho Jitsu were added to the system. I teach Kyusho Jitsu to the world. And I do this because it makes every martial art more effective.  Part of the Essence of Hapkido.

My Essence of Hapkido

* Kosho Crest

What is my essence of Hapkido then? My learning of Hapkido has no philosophical base. This caused me to study Buddhism for about 10 years. However something happened in 2000 that gave my training essence. That was learning Kosho Ryu from Shidoshi Rick Buchan. 

I was not completely ready for this knowledge at the time as I was building a school. However I did personally practice and teach the art. To some students I did teach the philosophical basis. However in most cases these students were far from ready.

One night outside of Toronto, Shidoshi gave me great words of wisdom. He said my root system was Hapkido, my "art" was Kosho Ryu. This is because Kosho influenced all of the techniques of what I taught. It was the essence of all I was doing.

As I perused Kyusho Jitsu with an absolute passion, a passion I still have today. It is also influences by Kosho. In 2006 when I founded Hon Sang Mu Sa Hapkido it because my "root art.' A hybrid of all my studies. It incorporated all things I had learned with a combination of Hapkido, Kyusho, and Small Circle Jujitsu being major parts.

But the essence of Hapkido for me, became based on Kosho. And Hon Sang Mu Sa Hapkido is the result. Today I would not have named the art, because for me the Essence of Hapkido is based on Kosho as a foundation.  Therefore perhap Kosho Ryu Hapkido.

Essence of Hapkido in Conclusion

Essence of Hapkido CONCLUSION

I am getting older. I am not worried about being at the end of my time, I am still young at heart. But I am concerned about what has been created, if it will continue.

The other day I wrote an article on the fact that in my opinion martial arts needs a new paradigm. And it is OK that not all will agree. 

But it was curious that what I saw from some feedback is that most people miss the point. Much of the feedback was very ego based. But my view when I was in my 30's is much different than now in my 60's.

Martial arts is a journey, but many believe they have all the answers. No one does. The only answers you find are your answers. As Bruce Lee said. "All knowledge is self knowledge."

Here is a detailed article from the World Budo Alliance's Preservation of Martial Arts History Project on the History of Hapkido. I hope you enjoyed this article on the Essence of Hapkido.

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