During the Silla Dynasty in Korea, 7th Century AD, about 1,350 years ago, an organization called the Hwa Rang Do was formed to train the young men of the Noble classes
to become emergency combat teams, ready to defend the region in times of need. The Hwa Rang Do, which translates roughly to “Way of the Young Flower”
was legalized and supported by King Chin Hung of the Silla Dynasty. These small groups lived in common quarters and drilled both mind and body with strict discipline
and teachings under the provisions of the Gentry Class. The martial art taught to the Hwa Rang Do, although nameless at the time, formed the basis of what would become
modern Hapkido. Various forms of Hapkido are found depicted on the stone walls and what remains of the ruins of what were Silla Dynasty buildings.
As time went on, the martial discipline of the Hwa Rang Do dissipated as more and more of the young noble men chose to prepare themselves for lives in business rather than war-craft. Most of the descendants of the original Hwa Rang Do chose to pursue intellectual training, preparing themselves to take the National Examination which led to becoming government officials and the like. The result was that maintenance of the martial arts degraded until only a shadow of the former arts remained. This remnant was called Taek Ki Yon and later became Taekkyon.
The art was maintained by monks in isolated monasteries preserving the original techniques and philosophies. With the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1910 all Korean martial arts were outlawed and the only practice and maintenance of the original forms was done in secret in isolated monasteries in remote mountain locations. The study of Japanese martial arts, namely Judo and Kendo, was allowed to a certain extent and the influences of these arts are seen in Hapkido in its throws and grappling moves as well as the relationship between Japanese Kendo and Korean Kum Do, meaning The Way of the Sword, is readily evident.
It was shortly after the Japanese occupations’ beginning that Choi Yong Suhl, the originator of modern Hapkido, emigrated to Japan. Having already mastered Tae Kyun in his youth, Master Choi studied a Japanese system called Daito Ryu or Dai Ju-Jutsu. This system of Ju-Jutsu is said to be the forerunner of Judo and Aikido. Master Choi returned to Korea after the end of WWII in 1945 and founded the first Hapkido school in Taegu, Korea.
Hapkido is a direct off shoot of the original Korean martial art form of Taekkyon. Japanese Ju-Jutsu can also trace it’s beginnings to Korean Taekkyon. Through it’s long history and consistent reworking through the ages to suit both the noble class that founded it’s principles teaching both physical and mental disciple that would carry over into a life of community service and understanding to the battle hardened Korean soldiers that fought to preserve Korea’s independence from every major nation on the continent throughout the years. This made it one of the first truly integrated arts that recognized the effectiveness of combining the best aspects of both the “hard” and “soft” styles into a very powerful combination of techniques and theories.
Eventually Master Choi and his top student, Ji Han Jae, brought Hapkido to Seoul to teach it to the public for the first time; over seventy-five percent of the Republic of Korea’s population lives in Seoul, making it the logical choice for expansion efforts. Master Choi eventually retired back to Taegu and died in 1987.
Today many of the legendary Hapkido Grand Masters who revitalized Hapkido and brought it to the west are no longer with us.