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Hapkido evolved during the middle of the 20th century by selectively fusing a wide range of existing martial arts with new ideas and techniques. Tracing the evolution of Hapkido reveals the art’s relationship with other martial arts such as Aikido, Judo, Jujutsu, Taekwondo and other diverse styles such as Kuk Sool Won and Hwa Rang Do.

The birth of hapkido can be traced to the efforts of a group of Korean nationals in the post Japanese colonial period of Korea, Choi Yong Sul (b. 1904, d. 1986) and his most prominent students; Suh Bok Sub, the first student of the art, Ji Han Jae (b. 1936, ) undoubtedly the greatest promoter of the art, Kim Moo Hong, a major innovator in the art, Myung Jae Nam who forged a greater connection between the art and Japanese aikido and then founded Hankido, and others, all of whom were direct students of Choi or of his immediate students.

Choi Yong Sul

Choi Yong Sul’s training in martial arts is a subject of contention.

It is known that Choi was sent to Japan as a young boy and returned to Korea with techniques characteristic of Daito-ryu, a forerunner of aikido. Some claim that while he was in Japan, Choi became the adopted son of the patriarch of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, Sokaku Takeda.

This is contradicted by other claims asserting that Choi was simply a worker in the home of Takeda. In fact,the meticulous enrollment and fee records of Takeda Tokimune, held by Takeda Sokaku’s eldest son and Daito-ryu’s successor, do not seem include Choi’s name among them. Therefore, except for claims made by Choi himself, there is little evidence that Choi was the adopted son of Sokaku Takeda, or that he ever formally studied Daito-ryu.

Stanley Pranin, then of Aiki News and now editor of the, asked Ueshiba Kisshomaru about Choi Yong Sool and hapkido:

On another subject, it is true that a Korean named “Choi” who founded “Hapkido” studied Aikido or Daito-ryu?

I don’t know what art it was but I understand that there was a young Korean of about 17 or 18 who participated in a seminar of Sokaku Takeda Sensei held in Asahikawa City in Hokkaido. It seems that he studied the art together with my father and would refer to him as his “senior”.

If that’s the case the art must have been Daito-ryu.

I’ve heard that this man who studied Daito-ryu had some contact with my father after that.

Then he returned to Korea and began teaching Daito-ryu on a modest scale.

The art gradually became popular and many Koreans trained with him.

Since Aikido became popular in Japan he called his art Hapkido [written in Korean with the same characters as Aikido]

Then the art split into many schools before anyone realized it. This is what my father told me.

I once received a letter from this teacher after my father’s death. ( – Aiki News Magazine No. 77)

Some argue that Choi Yong Sul’s potential omission from the records, and the ensuing debate over hapkido’s origins, may be due to tensions between Koreans and Japanese, partly as a result of Japanese involvement in the occupation of Korea (see History of Korea). At the height of dispute, it is claimed by Hapkido practitioners that Koreans were excluded from listing, though this is contradicted by Takeda’s records which contain other Korean names.

While some commentators claim hapkido has a Japanese lineage, others state that its origins lay with indigenous Korean martial arts.

Choi Yong Sul’s first student, and the man whom some claim helped him develop the art of hapkido was Suh Bok Sup (also spelled Bok-Sub), a Korean Judo black belt when they met. Some of Choi’s other respected senior students are:

Ji Han Jae, Kim Moo-Hong, Won Kwang-Hwa, Kim Jung-Yoon, and arguably Suh In-Hyuk and Lee Joo Bang who went on to form the arts of Kuk Sool Won and modern Hwarang-do respectively (though some argue that their training stems from time spent training under Kim Moo-Hong).

Ji Han Jae

Do Ju Nim Ji Han Jae

(Founder of Hapkido)

Ji Han Jae was undoubtedly the prime mover in the art of Korean hapkido. It is due to both his technical contributions, promotional efforts and political connections as head hapkido instructor to the presidential body guard under president Park Jung Hee that hapkido became popularized, first within Korea and then internationally.

Whereas the martial art education of Choi Yong Sul is unconfirmed, the martial art history of Ji Han Jae’s core training is somewhat easier to trace. Ji was an early student (Dan #14) of Choi. He details that prior to opening his martial art school in Seoul, the Sung Moo Kwan, he also studied from a man known simply as Taoist Lee and a old woman he only knew as ‘Grandma’.

As a teacher of hapkido, Ji incorporated traditional Korean kicking techniques (from Taoist Lee and the art Sam Rang Do Tek Gi) and punching techniques into the system and gave the resulting synthesis the name hapkido in 1957. Hapkido is the Korean pronunciation of (Japanese) aikido and is sometimes referred to as its Korean cousin.

Although a founding member of the Dae Han Ki Do Hwe (Korea Kido Association) in 1963 with Choi Yong Sool acting as official Chairman and Kim Jung-Yoon as Secretary General and Head Instructor for the association Ji found himself not able to exert as much control over the organization as he might have wished. To this end and with the support of the Head of the Security Forces, Park Jong-Kyu, Ji founded the very successful Dae Han Hapkido Association (Dae Han Hapkido Hyub Hwe) in 1965.

Later when this organization combined with the organizations founded by Myung Jae-Nam (Korea Hapki Association/Hangook Hapki Hwe) and Kim Moo-Hong (Korean Hapkido Association/Hangook Hapkido Hyub Hwe) in 1973 they became the very extensive and influential organization known as the Republic of Korea Hapkido Association (Dae Han Min Gook Hapkido Hyub Hwe).

Ji was imprisoned for suspicion of conspiring against the government he subsequently left Korea in 1984. This organization was taken over by his student Master Oh Se-Lim who re-christened the organization by Ji’s first organization’s name the Daehan Hapkido Hyub Hwe and the ‘Korea Hapkido Federation’ became the preferred rendering in English. The KHF remains probably the most influential of the many hapkido organizations existing in Korea today.

This organization is still primarily run by students of Master Ji’s original Sung Moo Kwan dojang. In 1984, Ji moved first to Germany and then to the United States and founded sin moo hapkido, which incorporates philosophical tenets, a specific series of techniques (including kicks) and healing techniques into the art.

Two of Ji Han Jae’s notable students in Korea were Tae Man Kwon, Myung Jae Nam. Ji can be seen in the films Lady Kung-fu and Game of Death in which he takes part in a long fight scene against Bruce Lee.

After the death of Choi Yong Sul, Master Ji began to come forward more strongly with the assertion that it was really he who founded the Korean art of hapkido, asserting that Choi Yong Sul taught only jujutsu based skills and that it was he who added much of the kicking, and weapon techniques we now associate with modern hapkido.

He also asserts that it was he that first used the term ‘hapkido’ to refer to the art.

While both claims are contested by some of the senior most teachers of the art, what is not contested is the undeniably huge contributions made by Ji to the art, its systematization and its promotion world wide.

Grandmaster Geoff Booth
Founder of the International Hapkido Alliance

Grandmaster Geoff J Booth is a 8th Degree in Hapkido under the Art’s founder, Grandmaster Ji Han Jae (10th Degree).

He is also ranked in both Taekwondo and Southern Shaolin Tiger and Dragong Kung Fu.

Grandmaster Booth is the highest ranked non-Korean Hapkidoist in Australia.

Grandmaster Booth is the Founder and Chief Instructor of the IHA – International Hapkido Alliance and AHG – Australian Hapkido Group, which has branches all over the world. Grandmaster Booth teaches and trains at his Dojang in Moorebank. Over the years Grandmaster Booth has been recognised for his many outstanding achievements.


Kwan Nyom is the name given to the style of Hapkido taught by the Australian Hapkido Group.

The name translates from Korean as the “school of concepts”. This reflects the way that we teach Hapkido – the core techniques are the same as most traditional Hapkido schools, it is the way in which we teach them that is different.

Traditionally Hapkido is taught as set responses to set grabs, for example, 10 releases from wrist grab then 10 from cross wrist grab etc.This means that the students sees a wide variety of techniques repeated throughout the process of learning a defence from each of the major grabs and attacks.

Kwan Nyom students are taught concepts or formulae on how to apply a defensive technique, this is shown through the application of the lock to a number of different grabs. From there the student learns the concept and can then apply that technique regardless of where the attack is.

It becomes important to understand that certain techniques can be applied in certain situations due to their formula and once you truly understand this, the attack and where/how your opponent attacks you becomes irrelevant.

This helps in real life defence as you need to react in a situation that is not controlled or expected.

Having an understanding of the concepts of Hapkido means that you can apply whichever formula suits the situation, rather than trying to think what the defence should be against that particular attack.

Kwan Nyom Hapkido is simply one way to interpret and practice Hapkido. It is the culmination of Master Booth’s desire to create a better way for students to learn Hapkido.

The process is simple with the focus pre black belt being on the very practical use of Hapkido in self defence – this is shown through the concepts, strikes and falls that are taught.

At black belt students continue to study a set curriculum but also get the opportunity to study in-depth different variation aspects of Hapkido.

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