A History of Hapkido and Our Lineage:


A History of Hapkido edited by Victor M. Cushing

*Some material from Grand Master Michael Wollmershauser     

*Some material from Master Michael Rowe                                                         

*Specific information on the early history of Grandmaster Choi was reproduced with the   permission of Dr. Scott Shaw.                                                                  

*Significant portions of History so marked are reprinted with the permission of Gordon Nore of the East York Hapkido- Karate Club and a fuller version of his contribution can be viewed at http://www.eyhkc.com/hapkido.html

Editor's Note:  Much of early Hapkido history is s difficult, if not impossible to establish accurately and is often based on oral recitations that cannot now be substantiated. 

 We leave it to the informed reader to draw their conclusions as the validity of claims made. 

A careful reader will note that there are contradictions contained in various contributor's versions of the same events.

It is clear that both Ji Han Jae and Choi, Young Sool were major contributors to this art and that Choi, Young Sool's style was probably closer to the source that is may be shared with Aikido while Ji Han Jae's style clearly added more kicks. Now without further ado, here is A History of Hapkido.


Hapkido is a martial art of Korean origin. Its name means literally "The way of coordination and internal power." Hapkido is a complete martial art in that it consists of: dynamic striking and kicking techniques, very similar to Tae Kwon Do, both hard and soft style deflection techniques, throws, takedowns, ground-fighting, and extensive joint locking techniques. Hapkido is the combination of two Korean Martial Arts - Yool Sool which comes from the Japanese art known as Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jutsu and Tae Kyon which is an ancient Korean Kicking Skill that was widespread during the time of the Three Kingdoms.

Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jutsu

Daito-Ryu can be traced all the way back to Senwa Tenno who is considered by many to be the very first in the Daito Ryu line. The techniques were basically the combat methods of the Minamoto clan that had been refined and perfected by General Yoshimitsu. The General is known to have studied the cadavers of criminals to understand human anatomy. The techniques of General Yoshimitsu were passed down and then combined with the Aizu techniques to become what is now known as Daito Ryu.

The origin of Daito-Ryu starts with Soemon Takeda (1758-1853). Soemon Takeda taught a system called aiki-in-ho-yo, "the aiki system of yin and yang," which he passed on to Tanomo Saigo. Saigo also had training in Misoguchi-Ryu swordsmanship and Koshu-ryu military science.

Tanomo participated in the Boshin war. Certain that Tanomo had been killed in a battle with the Imperial forces and determined to preserve the honor of the family name, his mother, wife, 5 daughters, and other members of his family committed ritual suicide. However, Tanomo's life had been spared. Tanomo then changed his name to Hoshina and served as a Shinto priest in various districts and later adopted Shiro Shida as his disciple-son. Shiro was extremely talented and mastered the Ryu's many techniques, later applying them with great success during the foundation of Jigoro Kano's Kodokan school of Judo. However, Shiro abandoned the practice of both systems, moved to Nagasakai and devoted himself to classical archery the rest of his life.


Tanomo had another heir to the Daito-Ryu, Sokaku Takeda (1860-1943), Soemon's grandson. Sokaku was no novice to the martial arts. At an early age he had obtained teaching licenses in Ono-ha Itto-Ryu swordsmanship and Hozion spear-fighting. Sokaku had also studied with the swordsman-saint Kenkichi Sakakibara of the Jikishin-kage-ryu.

Sokaku traveled widely, attracting a large number of students; he was reputed to have around thirty thousand students and nearly every budoka of note in that era was his student in one way or the other. One of these was his manservant Tatujutu Yoshida (Choi Yong Sool).

Choi, Yong Sool

This material on Grandmaster Choi is reproduced from the book, Hapkido, Korean Art of Self Defense* with the permission of the author, Dr. Scott Shaw

*Copyright 1996 -     Charles E, Tuttle Publishing Company pages 20 ff.

As mentioned above Choi Yong Sool studied Daito-Ryu Aiki Jutsu with Sokaku Takeda. Exactly how much training Choi received and in what manner is a mystery to this date. There are those that would have you believe that Choi became the adopted son of Takeda. However anyone understanding the Japanese of the time would know better. The Japanese considered themselves to be a divine race. The Koreans were beneath them. While it is possible that Choi became endeared to Takeda it is highly unlikely that he was adopted. Choi started life with Sokaku Takeda as his houseboy and later became his manservant. It is because of this position he was always on hand at training sessions. It is known that Sokaku Takeda sent Choi to defeat challengers. This was a very shrewd move on Takeda's part. If the challenger was defeated he was defeated by the manservant of Takeda and on top of that a Korean. Takeda usually overcame objections by his higher ranking students by saying the following "Who has been with me longer than my manservant Yoshida (Choi)?" After Sokaku Takeda died Choi left the service of the Takeda Clan and returned to Korea.

*The sections that follow are reprinted with the permission of Gordon Nore of the East York Hapkido- Karate Club and a fuller version of his contribution can be viewed at http://www.ekhkc.com/hapkido.html                                                                           

Some Hapkidoists regard Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae (1936- ) as the true founder of Hapkido. Certainly Hapkido would not be what is today without him; however, Master Ji, Han Jae himself gives much of the credit to Grandmaster Choi, Young Sool (1904-1986) for the creation of Hapkido.

There are many questions surrounding the early life of Master Choi. Following is the account Choi himself gave throughout his later years: Master Choi was born Chung Buk province of Korea in 1904 and was orphaned at the age of eight or nine. He was then brought to Japan by a candy maker who later abandoned him. Left to wander begging for food, he was adopted by a Japanese man who gave him the name Tatujutu Yoshida.

Life in Japan had been difficult for Choi. On the streets, he was regularly beaten by other children, no doubt because he was a foreigner. After his adoption, his time in school was equally unhappy. Yoshida (Choi) spoke little Japanese, and thus found his studies frustrating, and was getting into fights with classmates. Reportedly, his father offered him a choice: attend school or study martial arts. Yoshida (Choi) opted to learn to fight and was enrolled in Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jutsu (pronounced Dae-Dong-Ryu Hap-Ki-Sool in Korean.) His sensei was Sokaku Takeda (1860-1943) (3-See notes), with whom Yoshida claimed to have trained for nearly thirty years. With the end of World War Two and Japanese occupation of Korea at hand, Yoshida returned to Korea in the winter of 1945 and changed his name back to Choi, Young Sool.

On the way home Chung-Buk province, however, Choi had lost his suitcase containing all of his money and his certificates from Takeda Sensei, leaving him stranded in Tae Gu province. Again Choi was forced to earn a living on the streets, but now he had a family to support. After a year of selling rice cakes, he earned enough money to buy some hogs, which he fed with free leftover grain he acquired each morning from the Suh Brewery Company. On February 21st, 1948, during one of Choi's early-morning visits to the brewery, a group of men tried to steal his place in line for grain after he had volunteered to help draw water from the brewery's underground spring. A fight ensued, and Choi dispatched his attackers with the techniques he had learned in Japan.

Suh, Bok Sup (circa 1924- ), the manager of his family-owned brewery witnessed the battle and sent his servant to summon Choi to his office. Suh, a black belt in Judo taught by Choi, Yong Ho (193? - ), hoped to learn about the strange martial arts style he had witnessed. Fearing he would lose his allotment of grain, Choi refused, until Suh, Bok

Sup assured Choi that he would get it. Suh asked Choi to take him on as his student and invited him into his dojang in the brewery offices:

"I said to him that since I had no objection to money, please teach me whatever you know. I was able to judge his financial situation just by looking at him. I stood up and I took him to the room next to my office. I opened up the door and it was a big place with Tabor min mats, Japanese throwing mats. That's where I asked him to please show me the techniques. Since Choi, Yong Sool knew I was a first degree Judo, he told me to throw him. I didn't really feel like throwing him because he was much older than me [GM Choi was about 42 years of age]. I was somewhat hesitant to throw him yet I lightly grabbed him and he immediately used a pain technique on me. It happened all of a sudden, without explaining anything, he just did it. I got angry. Here I was, very gentle with Choi and I felt he wasn't too nice to me so I got mad. I wanted to take time but Choi, Yong Sool gave me no chance so I decided to fight back. I decided to throw Choi, Yong Sool and grabbed him on the shoulder. I found myself in trouble. In Judo, usually one person has touched the other person's body in order to throw him, but this time there was no touching involved. So, I was deeply impressed. So that's how the two of us got started. (American Hapkido Association Home page, 1997.)"

In return for private lessons, Suh provided Choi with grain, money, and the use of his private dojang to teach other students. Choi called his art Yoo Sool (Korean pronunciation for jujitsu), and began modify Takeda Sensei's style with some kicking and weapons techniques. Suh continued to train with Choi for many years. In 1951 Suh and Choi opened a school outside the brewery called Yu Kwon Sool Hap Ki Dojang. (4-See notes) In 1954, Suh's father, Suh, Dong Jin, ran successfully for the Korean National Assembly. Suh, Bok Sup prevailed in a physical confrontation with Chun, Se Daek, a brother-in-law of one of his father's political opponents:

"He is a big man for a Korean. My eyes would be at his chest level. He had a vicious reputation of killing two people, before 1945 and after 1945. One week before the election, Chun, Se Daek and I had a fight.... He had heard much about the reputation I had... He wanted to have some kind of fight with me. So, as I said, one week before the election we finally had a fight at a speech area where he was giving a public speech... That's when I ran into this man named Chun, Se Daek... That's when Chun, Se Daek grabbed me by the neck... I had thought about bending his wrist, but was afraid I would break it. He was such a strong man. I had considered throwing him using Judo, the man was way too tall for that. That's when I lowered my body and kicked him in the side and knocked him back away... He was a little scared.

The crowd came to break up the fight. Chun, Se Daek sent policemen to my home for reconciliation...He wanted me to come to his office to make peace... That's when a fist flew from Chun, Se Daek's brother. He had tried to trick me and I sprang up, stepped away and reposed getting ready to fight. We both stood up and I'd noticed that this man was taller than me. The man was about to use his boxing. Instead of fighting back, I just avoided the fists. Not one fist struck me. Now the man tried Judo, so I had decided to use his power. Each time the man grabbed me, I showed him another Hap Ki Do technique. That's when everyone in the office became in awe of my techniques. They knew it was definitely not Judo. That's the incident that made Hap Ki Do famous throughout the city of Daegue. (American Hapkido Association Home page, 1997)."

It was during this time that Assemblyman Suh engaged Choi as his personal bodyguard. Grandmaster Choi and Suh, Bok Sup continued train together and give demonstrations and Hapkido gained in popularity and respect.

Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae

Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae was born in Andong, Korea in 1936. When he was three, his family fled Japanese-occupied Korea for China. After the war, Ji, Han Jae's family returned to Korea In 1949, thirteen-year-old Ji began training full time Yu Kwon Sool with Grandmaster Choi, and remained with him until 1956. Training under a master known as "Taoist Lee," Master Ji learned Tae Kyon kicking, jang-bong (Korean for six-foot staff), the dan-bong (Korean for short stick), and meditation. Master Ji also studied spiritual power for five years under a woman monk known as "Grandma."

In 1958, Ji left Daegue city and returned to Andong where he opened his first two Yu Kwon Sool dojang which he named Sung Moo Kwan. (The second of these was located in a neck tie factory!) He kept the schools for nine months before relocating to Joong Boo Shi Jang, Seoul, in 1958, and remained there until April of 1960.

There began the martial arts careers of two of Ji's first and greatest students. In 1958 Bong Soo Han, who later founded the International Hapkido Association, began training under Master Ji, until he left for the United States eleven years later. Myung Kwan Sik, who began under Master Ji, would also move to the United States, where he founded the World Hapkido Association.

The following account identifies Ji as the first person to use the term Hapkido:

...Ji began to piece together the Yoo Sool (Yoo Kwon Sool) teachings of Grandmaster Choi, with the methods of meditation, the Tae Kyon kicking techniques, and the weapons techniques learned from Taoist Lee, along with the spiritual training he received from "grandma," to formulate his own style of martial art, for which he chose the name "Hapkido." He had originally thought of calling it "Hapki-Yoo-Kwon-Sool," but decided against that, feeling it was too long of a name. He thought of other martial arts he had heard of, such as Tae Kwon Do, Kong Soo Do, Soo Bakh Do, etc., where the word "do" was being used instead of "sool". He liked this idea because the word "do" means a path to follow or a way of life, rather than simply meaning "technique", as "sool" implies. The name Hapkido was chosen in 1959, and has been used ever since. The word itself can be translated as the "way of coordinated power." Where "Hap" means to unify or coordinate, "Ki" means mental and/or physical energy, and "do" means a way of life, or the "path" or "way" of coordinating your mental and physical energy into one entity.

During a conversation I had with Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae...it was related to me that after he chose the name Hapkido to represent his art, he gave this name to his teacher, Yong-Sool Choi to use -- out of respect. Choi taught under the name Hapkido until his death in 1986, even though he did not teach the complete curriculum -- leaving out the majority of the kicking techniques, and a lot of the weapons techniques. (Sin Koo Hapkido Home page, 1997) (5 - See notes)

In May of 1961, the Korean government was overthrown by General Park, Chung-Hee (1917-1979), who would later become the president. In 1962, Ji opened another dojang, in the Hwa Shin department store. Soon he would be hired as an instructor to Military Supreme Council and the presidential security forces. He held the latter position until President Park's death in 1979.

From 1962 to 1979, Master Ji was a bodyguard to Korean President Park in the Blue House. In 1969, Master Ji was brought to the United States to teach Hapkido to FBI and Secret Service agents, and other officials. In 1984, Grandmaster Ji moved to the United States and founded Sin Moo Hapkido. He later promoted his early students to the rank of ninth degree black belt -- Bong Soo Han in 1984 and Myung Kwan Sik in 1986.

Grandmaster Bong Soo Han is credited with popularizing Hapkido in the West and bringing it the big screen. His first film appearance was in the 1971 feature "Billy Jack." Master Han doubled for star Tom Laughlin and choreographed the film's fight scenes.  It is interesting to note, that Hapkido is not organized under the KTA, ITF or WTF, perhaps the only Korean art with this unique status. Hapkido in Korea is overseen by three organizations: The Korea Kido Association, The Korea Hapkido Association, and The International Hapki Federation.  


1. Korean custom places the family name before the given names. Some Koreans mentioned in this piece have adopted the western custom of placing the family name second. To avoid confusion, I have listed the names of Koreans in the manner in which were historically known, or in the way in which they prefer to be known. Where the family name occurs first, I have inserted a comma, Smith, John for John Smith. For example Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae uses the traditional Korean name order and is therefore properly addressed as Grandmaster Ji. On the other hand Grandmaster Bong Soo Han uses the western order and is properly addressed as Grandmaster Han.

2. Chung Do Kwan was the original of this group. Founder Won Kuk Lee and his family fled to the extreme south of Korea after war broke out, at which time many of his students formed their own kwons.

3. There is much speculation about the accuracy of Grandmaster Choi's own account of this period of his life, in particular his true relationship with Takeda Sensei, who also instructed Morihei Usheba, the founder of Aikido. Grandmaster Suh, Bok Sup, Choi's first student, seems to agree with Choi's account; although provides no hard evidence of his belief. In an interview with Master Michael Wollmerhauser, Choi implies that Takeda Sensei had adopted Choi. One reason for skepticism is that Takeda Sensei was a prominent martial artist who only taught upper class students. Choi, an orphaned Korean living on the streets, would hardly have fit the bill.

4. Another account of this period suggests that Choi changed Yoo Sool to 'Yoo Kwon Sool at Choi's suggestion. Following his confrontations with Daek, Chun Se, he recommended adding the word kwon to reflect that the style also included kicking techniques. (Shin Koo Hapkido Home page, 1997).

5. More disagreement. Choi's account differs: "In 1958, Choi, Yong Sool and I agreed together to officially add the "Do" to "Hap Ki" to have the lasting name "Hap Ki Do" and no one else did this."

Ji Han-Jae

In 1949, at the age of 13, Ji Han-Jae began his marital arts training in Yoo Sool under Choi Yong-Sool. He trained full time with Choi until 1956 when Ji moved back to his home city. Ji began training with a gentleman he called Taoist Lee at the age of 18. Lee trained Ji primarily in meditation, staff, short stick, and Tae Kyon kicking. During this period Ji learned spiritual power from a lady monk known only to him as "grandma."

In Andong, Ji Han-Jae, a 3rd Dan at the time, opened his first dojang which he called An Moo Kwan and began to teach Yoo Kwon Sool. After teaching for about 9 months he decided to move to Seoul. While in Seoul he stayed in a boarding house in Wang Shim Ri. While in Seoul Ji called his Dojang the Sung Moo Kwan.

In 1958, Ji moved his school to Joong Boo Shi Jang where he continued teaching until 1960. It was during this period that Ji began to piece together the Yoo Kwon Sool teachings of Grandmaster Choi and the meditation and kicking techniques of Taoist Lee, along also with the spiritual lessons he had learned from "grandma." He is said to have developed the name Hapkido for this art. He had originally thought of calling it Hapki-Yoo-Kwon-Sool, but decided that it was too long of a name. The name Hapkido was chosen in 1959 and has been used ever since.

Ji Han-Jae claims to have given the name Hapkido to his teacher Choi Yong-Sool to use out of respect. However, Choi's student Suh Bok-Sub claims that Choi was already using the name by that time. Records in this regard are sketchy and no definite answers are to be found.

In the early 60's Park Chung-Hee lifted import restrictions that banned Japanese goods from Korea. It was at this time Ji found a book about Aikido. Ji found the Japanese Spelling of Aikido was the same as Hapkido. Discouraged that a Japanese art had the same name Ji dropped the Hap calling his art simply Kido.

On September 2, 1963 the Korean Government granted a Charter to the Korea Kido Association. This association was granted the right to regulate and supervise the standards of teaching as well as the promotion requirements of Black Belts in 31 different Korean martial arts. The first chairman of this association was Choi Yong-Sool. Later on due to many differences in politics and philosophies Ji Han Jae left the Kido Association and returned to calling his art Hapkido.

Today there are three Hapkido Organizations in Korea. They include: the Korea Kido Association (Pres. Seo In-Sun), the Korea Hapkido Association (Pres. Oh Se-Lim), and the International Hapki Federation (Pres. Kim Moo-Woong)

*The editor wishes to thank Gordon Nore for his permission to reprint major sections of the History of Hapkido presented above form the East York Hapkido-Karate website.  A fuller version of his contribution can be viewed at http://www.eyhkc.com/hapkido.html


Picture below and listing of many of today's Grandmasters courtesy of www.dur.ac.uk/hapkido.club.





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.



 GM Ji, Han Jae continues to teach and promote Hapkido.

Photo taken in Pennsylvania in JAN 2003.


Left: Michael Crivello, IMHF Center: GM Ji, Han Jae, Right: Chief Master Victor M. Cushing IMHF



 Personal History and Our Lineage Section:

If you want a Hapkido Family Tree showing how   we relate to the founders of Hapkido, click here.


Grand Master Kim, Jung Yoon










Kim, Jung Yoon - one of Choi, Yong Sool's first students.                                                 Kim's style was named  Moo Sool Won until the name "Hapkido" was adopted.        Another name for this style of Hapkido is Han Pul.

Han Pul is a Korean style of martial art unlike most popular styles.

Han Pul is for people of all ages interested in the serious pursuit of martial art techniques and philosophy.       Han Pul is NOT sport karate. There are no kata or tournaments.                                                                                           Students learn focus & technique, not just power & contact.

Han Pul stresses:

  • Long, powerful strikes and kicks that use the power of
    the whole body
  • Focused techniques that forcefully neutralize the opponent's attacks
  • Joint manipulations for throws, take-downs, pins,
    and weapon defense
  • Fighting skills such as falling, rolling, blocking, avoiding,
    and jumping
  • Relaxed intensity with pinpoint delivery of forceful
    techniques to pressure points
  • Practical self defense, street fighting, and the use of
    common objects as weapons as well as weapons training in knife, short stick, and cane









Grandmaster K. S. Hyun





















Grandmaster Hyun is one of the few 9th degree Hapkido Black Belts in the United States. He began his study of Hapkido in 1958 at the age of 13 as a student of Grand Master Kim, Jung Yoon.

He is a graduate of Seoul National University with a degree in music and served in the Korean Air Force as a self-defense instructor. Grandmaster Hyun came to the United States in 1969 to teach at Carroll College in Wisconsin. After arriving in Chicago in 1971, he opened his first school at Kedzie and Lawrence.                    In 1973, the school moved to its present location at Western and Diversey. Having trained over 10,000 students since beginning in the U.S. in 1969 and 6,000 police and corrections officers. 

Grandmaster Kwang Seek Hyun continues to personally oversee the training and development of his students.

Hapkido Picture Chicago, IL 1995

Left: Chief Master Victor Cushing                                                          Center: Grand Master Kwang S. Hyun                                                     Right: Master J. Ahn


Chief Master Victor Cushing


8th Dan Modern Hapkido


Chief Master Cushing is an internationally certified master instructor in Modern Hapkido    and holds an eighth degree black belt in that style.

Hapkido is a Korean martial art oriented to street fighting or defensive tactics rather than competitive or sports oriented training. Hapkido techniques include strikes, punches, kicks, joint locks, chokes, pressure points, throws, pins, grappling, and ground fighting. Hapkido was used as a basis for teaching hand-to-hand combat to Special Forces Troops (Green Berets) in Viet Nam.

Chief Master Cushing has been a black belt instructor since 1989 starting at Hyun’s Hapkido School in Chicago, IL, providing martial arts training to Illinois law enforcement units. This school has shown various law enforcement agencies to incorporate its techniques into their defensive tactics. Agencies trained include the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, Cook County Corrections Officers, U. S. Naval Intelligence units, and police forces from over 25 other cities.

Modern Hapkido training is ideal for anyone who is looking for training that is focused on self protection. This training deals with how to defend yourself in real situations; in the street, a parking garage, or any place you need to defend yourself or the people you care about. Modern Hapkido is 100% self defense, there are no forms. All kicks are directed to the lower part of the body, and no acrobatic skills are required to use these kicks.

Modern Hapkido employs throws in a selected and limited manner that does not require any unusual strength to execute its techniques. It obviously is better to be strong than weak, but awareness and good technique will improve your chances of surviving/escaping regardless of your size/strength.

In September 1998 The World Head of Family Sokeship Council inducted Victor M.  Cushing into their Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for his contributions to Hapkido. In July 2000, he was inducted as Master Instructor of Self Defense into the World Karate Union Hall of Fame. In December 2000, he was named Master Instructor of the Year by the American Defensive Arts Association.

He is a member and sponsor of the American Women’s Self Defense Association (AWSDA) and the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers (ASLET). Chief Master Cushing is a Pennsylvania and Illinois licensed Private Detective who owns and operates Blue Knight Detective Agency which specializes in complex Civil and Criminal Investigations.

Chief Master Cushing has trained in Hapkido for the past 24 years. He has also trained in other martial arts styles including Tae Kwon Do, Kali\Escrima\Arnis, Filipino Martial Arts, which stress edged weapons (knives) and sticks, Judo,                 and Shorei-Ryu, a hard style Karate noted for explosive counter attacks. 

Other than materials specifically identified as being contributed by other authors Copyright 2005 - Victor  M. Cushing