Thirteen centuries ago, the land currently occupied by North and South Korea consisted of three kingdoms - Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla. The people of Koguryo were known for their military and intellectual skills (head); the Silla were craftsmen (hands); and the Paekche were agrarian (feet).
Hapkido is the unique fusion of powerful and precise kicking techniques; fluid and highly effective throwing techniques; and decisive and sharp hand techniques. The philosophy of Hapkido stems from three basic principles: yielding to an opposing force, circular motion, and continual penetration.
During this time it was felt that the security of many lay in the strength of a select few. A group of elite young nobleman developed "a way of life." This Way was based upon adherence to a strict code of ethics and a disciplined life style dedicated to living in harmony with the natural laws of the universe. This group came to be known as Hwarang.
Wars and insurrections were a common part of everyday life. King Chin-Heung of Silla, in concert with the Mongols, succeeded in over-throwing the rulers of Koguryo and Paekche. The remaining royalty of the defeated Koguryo and Paekche kingdoms fled to the mountains or to neighboring islands. One group of people from Kokuyro sailed to the Island of Hokkaido, while another group sailed from Paekche to Kyushu, and established some of the first ancient settlements of Japan.
Those that fled to the mountains established monastic order and carried on their traditions in secret for the next 500 years. During this time, devoted monks practiced and refined their martial skills. Many of the monasteries developed their own fighting styles and concepts. The most effective and devastating style was known as Tae Kyon, 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. During the Japanese occupation a young boy, Yong Sul Choi, was sent to Japan. By age 9, Yong Sul Choi was alone and living with a group of monks in a Buddhist temple. Shortly thereafter, it became apparent to the monks that Yong Sul Choi was not suited for monastic life.
At this time, many great warriors, in accordance with ancient traditions, undertook annual pilgrimages throughout Japan to improve their martial arts skills. During their travels they visited local temples to offer prayers and donations. One such warrior, Master Sokaku Takeda, paid regular visits to the monastery where Yong Sul Choi resided. During one of Master Takeda's visits, the resident monks, seeing an opportunity, beseeched Master Takeda to take the young Choi as a disciple.
Master Takeda practiced the art of swordsmanship and a weaponless martial art known as Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujitsu. This art emphasized the use of joint locks, strikes, and nerve attacks to neutralize an opponent. Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujitsu, itself, originated from the Silla Dynasty of Korea. Sam Lang Won (Eui Guang in Korean), a Korean bureaucratic official who was also a Buddhist monk, taught this art to Japan's Minamoto Shogunate, the ruling family of Japan during the Kamakura feudal era. The Shogunate, in return, passed the art to members of the Takeda Clan where it remained for over 35 generations. Master Sokaku Takeda was the 37th generation.
The young Choi served as Master Takeda's assistant and student. Consistent with the training methods of those days, Master Takeda's training of young Choi was both tough and rigorous.
Yong Sul Choi remained in Japan for 35 years training under Master Takeda. Near the end of World War II, Yong Sul Choi returned to Korea and opened a small school in Taegu, the third largest city in Korea. He began training a small group of students informally. Yong Sul Choi is credited with the founding of modern day Hapkido.
Grand Master Bong Soo Han met and began training under Yong Sul Choi shortly after the end of the Korean War. He was one of the the master's original senior students, and was actively involved in the development of Hapkido. In the ensuing years, Grand Master Han established a close and devoted association with Yong Sul Choi, the Founder of Hapkido.