Yong Sul Choi

The history of Korean Hapkido is closely linked with its creator, Korean-born Choi, Yong Sul (1904-1986). Choi's life was heavily influenced by the historical conflicts between Korea and Japan that ravaged Korea in the early to mid-20th century.

Born in the southern province of Taegu, Choi spent his early boyhood in Japanese-controlled Korea. Choi was abducted and taken to Japan at approximately age eight. While in Japan, he was abandoned and was taken to a Buddhist monastery where he was cared for by a monk. When the time came to choose a path in life, Choi elected to become a martial artist. As the monk was a good friend of Takeda, Sokaku Sensei, of the Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu school, Choi was taken to the Takeda clan to be introduced. Takeda, Sokaku liked the young Choi and took him into his household, giving him the Japanese name Asao, Yoshida.

The Takeda family was renowned throughout Japan for its style of martial arts called Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu. Although this martial art was a closely guarded family secret, Choi became a student of the style and spent three decades studying under the legendary Takeda, Sokaku Sensei.

There is some dispute over Choi’s status in the Takeda household. His supporters claim that he was enrolled in the Daito ryu Aiki Jujutsu school, while others, emphasizing the social and cultural milieu of pre-war Japan, deny such a possibility. As far as historians can ascertain, neither Choi’s Korean nor Japanese names appear in Takeda’s comprehensive school records. This is not surprising, as the Japanese at the time considered their race to be superior, and a Korean student would not have received the same treatment as a Japanese student.

Choi developed superb techniques under the tutelage of Master Takeda, and mastered the art of Aiki Jujutsu. After Takeda’s death in 1943, Choi returned to Korea. In the subsequent years, which saw the end of the war, Korea regained its independence. During this period, Choi became one of many martial artists who worked to recover and to revitalize Korean martial arts. This movement, so to speak, arose partly from post-war Korean efforts at unilateral armament, as well as the general public desire for some means of protection from future foreign occupation. This sentiment clearly influenced individuals who were interested in relearning Korean martial arts techniques that had been prohibited during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

During the years that followed, a large number of Korean martial arts appeared, including Hapkido, Tang Soo Do, and Taekwondo. It is difficult to separate which elements of these styles came from older Korean martial arts, and which came from other influences such as Japanese Karate, Budo and Aiki Jujutsu.

Combining the techniques of Daito-ryu with the techniques of the old Korean style T’ang Hand, Choi formulated the principle techniques of ?Hapkido”. This style came of age as an art in 1963 with the official use of the term Hapkido. Choi worked with Ji, Han Jae to develop and teach Hapkido to various military, police and elite bodyguard factions in Korea and around the world.

After travelling to the west and teaching Hapkido in North America, Grandmaster Choi passed away in 1986. Ji, Han Jae became the President of the Korea Hapkido Association, which was the only Hapkido organization recognized by the Korean government. This organization has been renamed the Korea Hapkido Federation and the current president is Grandmaster Oh, Se Lim.