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The History of Hapkido

It should be first understood that a Martial Art is not invented or created by any one person. Techniques are developed by many over a great number of years. Just as wrestling, boxing, and fencing are unique to the western world, Martial Arts have been developed through a long history of Asian countries.

During the Three Kingdom Era (SAM-KUK-SHI-DAE) (from 57 B.C. to 688 A.D) Three Kingdoms competed on the Korean peninsula: KO-GU-RYO (37 B.C.) in the north, PAEK-JAB (18 B.C.) in the southwest, and SHILLA (57 B.C.) in the southeast. Martial Arts techniques much like those of modern day Hapkido were introduced to ancient Korea with the introduction of Buddhism in KO-GU-RYO approximately 372 AD. Evidence can be found in many of the ancient wall and cave paintings and sculptures from that period of time.
During the SHILLA (57 B.C. to 660 AD) and the United SHILLA Kingdom (676 AD to 935 AD) each kingdom gathered about them an elite group of young knights, the HWA-RANG (Flowering Youth) Warriors, who were highly disciplined, adhered to a strict code of ethics and were extremely proficient in the martial arts. These warriors, who were to train the future national leaders, were taught Hapkido techniques for their physical fitness, mental discipline and self-defense.

The SHILLA kingdom was overturned in 935 AD by the Dynasty of KO-RYO, from which then name "Korea" was derived. During the KO-RYO Dynasty (918 AD -1392 AD) Buddhism was the state religion and greatly influenced politics and administrations as well as martial arts. Many kings including king EYI-JONG, and king CHOONG-HEI, brought Hapkido experts into the palace to perform demonstrations of the martial arts. This is the beginning of Hapkido as a royal martial art.

In the history of Hapkido, a monk Grandmaster SU-SAN taught Hapkido to the monks who were successful in repelling the Japanese invaders during the IN-JIN-WAE-RAN invasion. This was a prime example of Hapkido applied on a grand scale.  
In the new CHO-SON dynasty (1392-1910) or YI dynasty as it is often called, the collapse of Buddhism came about and its subsequent replacement by Confucianism... which respects scholarly disciplines and looks down upon physical force or martial arts, brought about the down fall of martial arts. Painting, sculpting, and writing replaced the art of fighting. The country progressively took on an anti-militaristic temperament. By the end of the nineteenth century, martial arts had come to be looked down upon by the Korean citizen, if not completely banned in many regions.

Hapkido barely maintained its continuation through individual masters, Buddhist monks and royal families practicing the arts in seclusion. In an attempt to prevent the complete loss of the fighting arts, king JUNG-JO ordered his general LEE-DUK-MOO to compile a book of all the known martial techniques. The book known as MOO-YAE-DO-BO-TONG-JI has many detailed examples of Hapkido techniques recorded within its pages.

The CHO-SON dynasty was brought down by the Japanese in 1910. From 1910 to 1945 the Japanese ruled Korea. Under Japanese rule, all civil liberties were revoked. The Japanese closed many private schools and established their own public schools designed to assimilate Korean youth into the Japanese culture, omitting Korean language and history and stressing Japan's instead. The martial arts again suffered since the occupying Japanese would not even allow Korean sports, let alone Korean martial arts to be practiced. But as before those dedicated few continued to practice, quietly defying their invading rulers.

In 1945 after Korea regained control of their country, the martial arts once again gained popularity in this defense hungry nation. Hapkido was re-introduced by the man given the title of founder or father of modern day Hapkido, CHOI, YONG-SOOL. Before his death in 1987 Supreme Grandmaster CHOI taught all the Hapkido techniques to a few outstanding students, who in turn took on the task of popularizing Hapkido in modern Korea. Today, one cannot find a single city in Korea without Hapkido schools. All the government organizations, all the military academies and special military units have Hapkido instructors and practitioners totaling over one million already. In recent years the art of Hapkido has rapidly grown in popularity worldwide.