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Hapkido History

"One should understand that martial arts techniques are not invented or created by a certain individual. It has been developed rather as a part of the history of a nation."

So starts the history section of Korean Hapkido, by Kwang Sik Myung, and in Hapkido's particular case, this is extremely so.

Hapkido in Korea was begun when Choi, Yong-Sool returned from Japan and started teaching a martial art that he had learned in his time there. This art was initially composed of throws and locks with few strikes, but as martial arts in Korea developed, additional techniques were added both by Grandmaster Choi and by several of his students who were extremely influential with regard to the progress of the art.

I'm actually not really going to comment much about Hapkido's development here. For those who are interested, I wrote a paper as part of my first dan test requirements about the History of Hapkido. Be warned---for those who are locked into a "what my master told me is true!" mentality, this paper is either going to be a shock to your system, or it'll be a waste of time for you to read it since you will ignore it completely.

There simply aren't many facts that are known about Hapkido's origin. The common story is that GM Choi in was taken to Japan when he was very young, and after some time was the houseboy/adopted son of Takeda Sokaku, current head of Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu (a very prestigious form of jujitsu), and learned Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu from him, becoming an expert and Master in that art. Choi then returned to Korea, where he began teaching this art. Over time, the art was expanded by others (Kim, Moo-Wong and Ji, Han Jae among others) to become the comprehensive art that it is.

Of course, some people add that Choi actually studied in a secret mountain retreat the entire time, and that Hapkido is descended directly from the ancient Hwarang warriors of the Silla Dynasty in Korea----that Hapkido is an ancient art thousands of years old. Or, in a similar vein, that Choi mastered Tae Kyun before going to Japan, then added that Korean art to the art he learned in Japan, so that what he taught when he returned was a mix of authentic Tae Kyun techniques, and a Korean version of jujitsu.

The problem is, the above paragraph isn't true, and the paragraph above it mostly can't be proven with regards to any connection to Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu.

As such, the short form of what is known to be true about Hapkido History is this:

Choi, Yong-Sool was taken to Japan when he was nine. He then stayed there for many years, then returned to Korea in 1945 after Japan withdrew their occupation. During his time in Japan, Choi, Young-Sool learned a form of jujitsu, which he then began to teach upon his return to Korea. Initially his art contained only the locks and throws of jujitsu, but over time it became more generalized including various kicks, strikes, and weapons. Several of Choi's students contributed significantly to the art, in particular, Ji, Han-Jae who can be credited with tremendous additions to the art in addition to being one of the most important people in Hapkido in terms of its expansion around the world.
More than that? Well, one can read lots of good information about different masters and grandmasters within the Hapkido world. In particular, I suggest reading Dr. He-Young Kimm's history notes in his Hapkido books, which should be required texts for anyone who wishes to continue learning Hapkido.