Thirteen centuries ago, the land currently occupied by North and South Korea consisted of 3 kingdoms – Kokuryo, Paikche, and Silla. The people of Kokuryo were know for their military and intellectual skills. The Paikche were agrarian and the Silla were craftsmen.

During this time it was felt that security of many lay in the strength, physical and mental endurance of a select few. A group of elite young noblemen developed “a way of life”. This “way” was based upon adherence to a strict code of ethics and disciplined life style dedicated to living in harmony with the natural laws of the universe. This “way came to be known as Hwarangdo.

Wars and insurrections were a common way of life. King Chin-Heung in concert with the Moguls succeeded in over-throwing the rulers of Kokuryo and Paikche. The Silla Dynasty was born.

Upon defeat, the remaining royalty of Paikche and Kokuyro kingdoms fled to the mountains or to the sea to escape execution. A group of people from Kokuyro sailed from Paikche to Kyushu and established some of the first ancient settlements of Japan. It is said that many parts and concepts of Japanese “Bushido” are based upon Hwarangdo practices drawn from this ancient community. Those that fled to the mountains established monastic order and carried on their traditions in secret for the next 50 years.

During this time the Martial Art aspect of Hwarangdo was practiced and refined by devoted monks. Many of the monasteries developed their own fighting styles and concepts. The most effective and devastating style was known as Tae Kyon. This is primarily a martial art of kicking.

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. At this time, a young boy, Yong Sul Choi – 9 years old, and his parents were sent to Japan. By the age of 12, Yong Sul Choi was alone and living with a group of monks in a Buddist temple. After a few years, it was apparent to the monks that Yong Sul Choi was not suited for monastic life.

Yong Sul Choi

Yong Sul Choi

At this time many great warriors – in accordance with ancient traditions – would make an annual pilgrimage throughout Japan seeking matches to improve their fighting techniques. During their travels they would visit local temples offering prayers and donations. One such warrior, Master Sokaku Takeda, would pay regular visits to this monestary. The monks, seeing an opportunity, beseeched Master Takeda to take the young Choi as a personal assistant.

Master Takeda was an expert in many forms of martial arts, including sword, spear and weaponless Jujutsu. After mastering many different art forms, including unique forms of breath control, use of mental power and spiritual energy (ki), and training in numerous Jujutsu schools (where he was often asked to provide the training), Takeda chose to retain the name of the martial art system with direct lineage through his family, Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujitsu.

The style of Aiki Jujutsu taught by Master Takeda emphasized the use of "internal power," combined with a wide variety of joint locks, "pressure points" attacks targeting the nerves of the human body, and devastating strikes, any of which could be utilized to control and neutralize an opponent.

Choi (pronounced "Chay") spent 35 years with Master Takeda, serving as a personal assistant to the Master. In the course of this service, Choi was privy to all the lessons provided by the Master throughout his travels, including those taught to only the most senior Japanese students trained and promoted by Takeda.

Because Choi spent his childhood and much of his adult life with Master Takeda, there are many Korean masters who believe that Choi was the person in Takeda's direct lineage who truly learned and understood the “correct” application (“transmission”) of the over 3,000 techniques taught by Takeda.

Following the passing of Master Takeda, Choi returned to his native Korea. It was Grand Master Choi (Yong Sul) who introduced this unique martial art form to Korea, where it was combined with the Korean indigenous kicking arts, which became modern day Hapkido

As taught by Master Bong Soo Han, Hapkido is a Way of Life, with the goal being “Perfection of Character,” attained through the coordination of Mind, Body and Spirit, by practicing meditation, “breath control,” (Ki exercises) and the rigorous physical martial art techniques of Hapkido.