Hapkido is a powerful and innovative Korean martial art. Literally
translated, the word Hap means coordination of harmony, Ki denotes
the essence of power, and Do means the art or the way. Hapkido
incorporates powerful and fluid kicking techniques; highly effective
and flowing throwing techniques; and precise and sharp hand
techniques. This concise and practical martial art is the result
of a 1300 year pursuit of the Way.
Hapkido began in Korea through Buddhism. The techniques were
initially handed down through the hierarchy of monks to ruling
families and other royal officials as a means of self-protection
and personal safety. Unlike many other martial arts styles,
Hapkido was not generally known, or practiced. The recorded
history of Hapkido dates back to Sam Kuk Sidae (The Era of Three
Kingdoms, c. 3) Buddhism arrived in China from India circa 67
BC and was introduced into Korea in 372. The evidence of Buddhism
and Hapkido passing through the Korean court can be found in
various wall paintings depicting Hapkidoists during Kokuryo.
One of the three kingdoms, Sel La, formed a special youth group
called Hwa Rang
Do. The purpose of this organization was to train future
national leaders through stringent training, combining mental
discipline, martial art, and more traditional scholarship. Hapkido
techniques were taught for physical fitness and mental discipline.
Backje, the last of the three kingdoms, trained all of its people
with Hapkido. The three kingdoms united to form the Koryo dynasty.
During this dynasty, many Hapkido experts were brought to the
palace to perform demonstrations of the martial arts for the
ruling king and his court.
A monk grandmaster named Su-san, taught Hapkido to Korean monks.
These techniques were used in the Im Jin Wae Ran invasion. This
early predecessor to Hapkido flourished through many dynasties
but eventually lost its popularity when Buddhism was replaced
by Confucianism in Korea. Because Confucianism respects scholarly
discipline over physical force, Hapkido disappeared almost entirely,
passed down only through individual masters, monks, and, occasionally,
royal families as a secret self-defense.
More recently, Hapkido was reintroduced by the father of Hapkido,
Sool Choi (1904-1986). The Japanese Army invaded and ruled
Korea from 1910 through the end of World War II. During that
period it was not uncommon for Korean families and treasures
to be relocated to Japan. Young Sool Choi began his studies
at the age of nine. At this time many great warriors, in accordance
with ancient traditions, undertook annual pilgrimages throughout
Japan to improve their martial arts skills. During their travels
they visited local temples to offer prayers and donations. One
such warrior, Master Shokaku Takeda, paid regular visits to
the monastery where Yong Sul Choi resided. During one of Master
Takeda's visits, the resident Monks, seeing an opportunity,
beseeched Master Takeda to take the young Choi as a disciple.
Master Takeda was taught the art of swordsmanship by his Father
and Grandfather. Master Takeda taught a weaponless martial art
known as Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujitsu. This art emphasized the use
of joint locks, strikes and nerve attacks to neutralize an opponent.
By the time Choi returned to the mainstream world, 35 years
later, Korea had already been liberated from colonial Japanese
rule. Choi proceeded to impart the techniques he had learned
to a select group of disciples. These disciples began to spread
and popularize Hapkido during the Korean conflict in the 1950s.
Today, one would be hard pressed to find a Korean city without
Hapkido schools. Government organizations, military academies,
and special military units all contain Hapkido practitioners,
totaling over one million in Korea alone.
In the United States of America, Germany, Canada, Spain, Argentina,
Mexico, Brazil, China, and France, there exists a solid foundation
of Hapkido schools. This rapid spread and popularization has
been attributed to the efforts of master instructors and the
unique nature of Hapkido itself.