History of Tang So Do

Tang Soo Do in Beech Grove

History of Tang Soo Do

Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan is one of the most popular of Korean martial arts. Hundreds of thousands of martial artists practice the art around the world. The following is a brief history of Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan. This Document was compiled from the many writings of the Grand Master of Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.

Grand Master Hwang Kee

The modern martial art of Tang Soo Do is more than 65 years old. It began when Grand Master Hwang Kee began teaching it in Seoul, Korea in the fall of 1945. He mastered Soo Bahk Do and Tae Kyun by the age of 22. In 1936, Master Kee traveled to northern China where he encountered a Chinese variation of martial artistry called the Tang Method. He studied the Tang Method of Kung Fu from 1936-1945 and combined it with Soo Bahk Do to develop what he would call Tang Soo Do. Grand Master Hwang Kee has been the driving force behind the spread of Tang Soo Do throughout the world. He continues to head the Moo Duk Kwan from his headquarters in Seoul, Korea.

The Moo Duk Kwan was one of the main schools of martial arts at the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea in August of 1945. Hwang Kee was the founder. Other major Korean martial arts schools in 1945 were Yon Moo Kwan, YMCA Kwon Pup, Chung Do Kwan and Song Moo Kwan. Member styles of the original schools expanded to many in Korea by 1950. They included Mook Duk Kwan, Ji Do Kwan, Yon Moo Kwan, Han Moo Kwan, Kang Duk Won, Kang Moo Kwan, Cheong Moo Kwan, Chong Do Kwan, Chong Kyong Kwan, Kuk Moo Kwan, O Do Kwan and Song Moo Kwan.

Tang Soo Do (also called Soo Bahk Do) is the name Hwang Kee uses for the original form of weaponless fighting. The Grand Master wrote, “The history of Tang Soo Do is perpetual. It is difficult to indicate where it was started or who was the first person who originally practiced it.” Tang Soo Do was practiced during the Kokuryo Dynasty (37-668 A.D.), the Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D.), the Koryo Dynasty (935-1392 A.D.) and Yi Dynasty (1392-1907 A.D.) The Japanese occupied Korea from 1907-1945 and did not allow the open practice of Korean martial arts. Tang Soo Do was practiced in private during the Japanese occupation. Hwang Kee introduced a modern version of ancient Tang Soo Do in 1945. Modern Tang Soo Do derives its hardness from Soo Bahk Do and its softness from northern Chinese Kung Fu. Grand Master Kee said his art is 60% Soo Bahk Do, 30% northern Chinese Kung Fu and 10% southern Chinese Kung Fu.

Hwang Kee also incorporated some of the foot techniques of Tae Kyun in modern Tang Soo Do. Tae Kyun was a style of fighting that developed toward the end of the Yi Dynasty. It employed only foot techniques. Hwang Kee wrote that Tae Kyun was a form of street fighting and lacked mental discipline.

Other martial arts practiced at the end of the Yi Dynasty included Sip Pal Ki, Sam Sip Yuk Ki, Sip Pal Ban, Sip Pal Jip, Sam Sip Yuk Jip, Sip Pal Jong, Sam Sip Yuk Jong and Tang Soo Do. The martial art of Sip Pal Ki included 18 military weapons which included the staff, sword, and spear.

Ancient Tang Soo Do was practiced in China as well as Korea. It was widespread during the age of Chun Chu (about 2,700 years ago). The ancient document “Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji” called the martial art of China “Soo Bahk Ki.” Chun Chu preceded the Han Dynasty. Soo Bahk Ki expanded during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), the Yang Dynasty (220-618 A.D.), the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), and the Song Dynasty (907-1126 A.D.).

Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan means “a brotherhood and school of stopping inner and outer conflict and developing virtue according to the way of the worthy hand.” Some have shortened the definition to “Art of the knife hand.” Here is what Grand Master Kee said about his art: “It is not a sport. Though it is not essentially competitive, it has great combat applications. It is a classical martial art, and its purpose is to develop every aspect of the self, in order to create a mature person who totally integrates his intellect, body, emotions, and spirit. This total integration helps to create a person who is free from inner conflict and who can deal with the outside world in a mature, intelligent, forthright, and virtuous manner.