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Martial arts in Korea can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC to 668 AD). The martial arts were introduced by Buddhist monks and were developed by a warrior class called the Hwa Rang. These warriors were highly disciplined and followed a strict code of ethics. They trained the nobles, royal bodyguards and military troops in the martial arts.
The Silla Kingdom (668 AD - 935 AD) marked the start of Korea's cultural development. Buddhism expanded and was the catalyst for the construction of numerous temples and works of art. Hapkido flourished during these times and the practice of martial arts was considered very honourable. Hapkido became a royal martial art during the Koryo Dynasty (935 AD - 1392 AD) which replaced the Silla Kingdom.
The Yi Dynasty, also known as the Joseon Dynasty, (1392 AD - 1910 AD) followed the Koryo Dynasty and during this period Confuscianism became the most popular religion of the country. Scholarly practices were encouraged, and the use of physical force was frowned upon. Martial arts were completely banned in some regions and Hapkido was practiced by royalty, bodyguards and Buddhist monks in seclusion. Painting, sculpting and calligraphy took the place of martial arts as the country became progressively more anti-militaristic.
The Yi Dynasty was renamed the Taehan Empire near the turn of the century. This empire was brought down in 1910 by the Japanese, who subsequently occupied Korea until 1945. During this time all civil liberties were revoked by the Japanese. Korean language was prohibited and only Japanese history was taught in an effort to assimilate the Korean people into the Japanese culture. The Japanese did not allow the practise of any Korean sports or martial arts during this period. However, the Korean martial arts were still practised in secret and the techniques were passed from father to son.
In 1945, when Korea regained its independence, martial arts regained popularity as the country once again sought to strengthen itself by embracing its roots. A martial artist named Choi. Yong Sul began teaching martial arts in Korea around this time. With the help of his student, Ji. Han Jae and many others, Choi breathed life back into Korean martial arts. The style he taught became known as hapkido and he is known as the modern day founder of hapkido.
Hapkido means" the way of coordinated power" and teaches the development of Ki energy. The techniques of Hapkido are combative, not competitive. Even the practice of hapkido can result in devastating injuries and must be undertaken with extreme caution. Hapkido is considered one of the most effective and practical martial arts in the world. It is taught to military personnel, police forces, special forces, security units and bodyguards worldwide.
The Korea Hapkido Federation (formerly the Korea Hapkido Association) is the only organisation recognized by the Korean government. Many hapkido schools have affiliations with this organisation, which boasts 2 million students worldwide.
Korean Hapkido was introduced into Prince George, Canada in October 1968 by Master Chol Kim. Shortly after the first hapkido school was opened Michael Forster became a student. Training was hard in the early days and facilities were poor. Training on rough concrete floors, performing breakfalls on compressed wood chips covered by hard carpet material, in a freezing cold dojang was all the students could expect. Michael Forster trained diligently, seven days a week, sometimes for up to six hours a day, and in 1971 was awarded a 1st degree black belt by Master Kim.
It became necessary at this time for Master Kim to move away and, because of his conscientious hard work and dedication to hapkido, Master Kim left the school to the guidance of Michael Forster. The name of the school became the Northern Interior Hapkido Academy. This was later changed, after Michael became a student of Master Song.Jae Han, to the Korean Hapkido Institute.
The traditions of Korean Hapkido have been carefully protected in the Korean Hapkido Institute. Master Forster has developed the curriculum to the highest standards. There are 465 joint-locks and throwing techniques taught up to 1st dan level, not including kicking and striking techniques. For most students it takes approximately five years to achieve this level. Students of Master Forster learn to focus on developing skill and technique and not to be concerned with rank and belt color.
Although thousands of students have trained in the Korean Hapkido Institute, only a select few have endured to reach 1st dan level and only a handful of those have gone beyond.
Hapkido places a strong emphasis on the development of internal energy known as Ki. Ki is applied in all techniques and is developed through breathing exercises known as dan jon ho heub bup.
The style of hapkido taught at the Korean Hapkido Institute is called Sung Moo Kwan, the name given by Grand Master Ji.Han Jae to his main gymnasium. He later changed the name to Sin Moo Hapkido; however, the style remained the same. The techniques taught at the Korean Hapkido Institute are traditional hapkido as it was originally taught.
The Korean Hapkido Institute is affiliated with the Canadian Hapkido Association under the direction of Grandmaster Song.Jae Han, and through Master Chol Kim, to the Korea Hapkido Federation (formerly the Korea Hapkido Association), formerly under the direction of Grandmaster Oh.Se Lim.
Michael Forster was born in England in 1943 and moved to Canada in 1964. He arrived in Prince George, British Columbia in 1966 where he began his study of hapkido under the direction of Chol Kim.
During this time Michael trained for many hours with Master Kim's senior student, Terry Chung. Terry had trained in both tae kwon do and hapkido, and willingly shared his skill and knowledge. A bond of friendship has remained ever since.
In 1971 Michael received a 1st degree black belt from Master Kim and in 1972, when Master Kim moved away, he was appointed instructor of the school.
After opening four more schools in Northern British Columbia and organizing a women's self defence-program, Michael traveled to Los Angeles to train with Master Choi. Sea Oh, who had been instrumental in introducing hapkido to the United States.
In 1973 he became a student of Master Song.Jae Han. Master Song and his brother had recently moved to Canada from Korea and were instructing hapkido in Edmonton, Alberta.
Michael received instruction from both Master Song.Jae Han and Master Song.Jae Sam. Grandmaster Song.Jae Han has continued to be Michael's mentor and inspiration for nearly four decades, and in January 2001 it was he who awarded Michael his 7th degree black belt.
In 1979 Michael's book, Korean Hapkido for Self Defence was penned, and 2007 saw the third printing of this publication.
Returning to England in 1980 to study acupuncture and oriental medicine, Master Forster opened a hapkido school in Leamington Spa, and for three years taught women's self-defence at the University of Warwick.
Upon returning to Prince George in 1983, he opened an acupuncture clinic and resumed teaching hapkido.
In 1985, on a visit to Calgary, Alberta, with sons Russell and Lee he trained with Grandmaster Yoon. Byung Ock, and then in 1986, in California with Grandmaster Han. Bong Soo and Grandmaster Ji.Han Jae, who had previously awarded Michael Forster his 2nd and 3rd dan certificates.
During 1991-3, Master Forster received instruction from Grandmaster Myung.Kwang Sik and joined the World Hapkido Federation. He will always be grateful for the instruction received from Grandmaster Myung.
In August of 1996, on behalf of Grandmaster Oh.Se Lim, former President of the Korean Hapkido Federation, Master Chol Kim presented Michael Forster with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to maintaining the purity, integrity and tradition of Korean hapkido.
Master Forster has studied sword techniques since 1971 and between 1998 and 2001 received formal instruction from Grandmaster Kim.Sung Boo in Vancouver. He also trained in kendo and has taught kumdo and kumsool at the Korean Hapkido Institute in Prince George for several years.
Philosophy has always played an important role in hapkido training. The development of ki or internal energy is paramount. One should never be in a hurry to learn a martial art. It will take the rest of your life.
Master Forster's personal philosophy is that hapkido is not about fighting, but developing character. Through the study of medicine, he has personally completed the circle which integrates the healing and the martial arts.
Master Forster has devoted his life to the art of hapkido, and has generously passed his knowledge on to his sons, granddaughters and thousands of students; never once deviating from the promise he made to keep hapkido pure.
The history of Korean Hapkido is closely linked with its founder, Choi.Yong Sul (1904-1986), whose life was influenced dramatically with the invasion of Korea by forces of the Japanese Empire in 1910.
Born in Yong Dong in Chungcheongbuk-do province, Choi was abducted in 1912 at the age of eight and taken to Japan by a merchant named Morimoto. Morimoto,who had lost his own sons, wanted to adopt the young Choi. Choi however proved to be a troublesome child and the merchant abandoned him on the streets of Moji. Living the life of a beggar, he made his way to Osaka where he was apprehended by the police and taken to a Buddhist temple in Kyoto that cared for orphans. The temple abbot, a monk named Watanabe. Kintaro, cared for the young Choi for two years.
Choi had a difficult time at the temple, he was a foreigner and his Japanese was poor. He was often beaten by the other boys and had a propensity for fighting. Watanabe observed Choi's interest in the temple murals depicting war scenes and arranged to take him to meet his friend Takeda. Sokaku (1859-1943), who was renowned throughout Japan as the inheritor of the daito ryu aiki jujitsu system.
Daito ryu aiki jujitsu was founded by Minamoto. Yoshimitsu in the 11th century. The art became a closely guarded secret and was taught only to the highest ranking members of certain samurai families. At the end of the Meiji era, Saigo. Tonomo (1829-1905), passed this martial fighting system onto Takeda. Sokaku and for the first time the art was taught to students outside the family hierarchy.
Takeda's home and dojo was in Akira on Shin Shu mountain where Choi, having now been given the Japanese name Yoshida. Asao, lived and trained with the legendary master for 30 years.
Takeda. Sokaku died on April 25th 1943, releasing Choi from any obligations that he may have had to the daito ryu school.
After the second world war (1939-1945), he returned to Korea and settled in Taegue, capital city of Gyeong Sangbuk-do province, where he earned a living selling rice cakes. By 1948 he had earned enough money to buy some hogs. To fatten the hogs he needed grain, which he earned by pumping water at the Suh Brewing Company. While waiting for grain at the brewery he became involved in a dispute with several men over position in the line. The ensuing altercation was witnessed by Suh. Bok Sub, the chairman of the company and son of the owner. Suh was impressed with Choi's skill and invited him to teach at a makeshift dojang that had been created on the premises. Subsequently, Suh. Bok Sub became the first student of Choi. Yong Sul.
In 1951 Choi and Sub opened the first formal dojang, the Korean Yu Kwan Sool Hapki dojang, and in 1958 Choi opened his own dojang using the name hapkido. (Ji. Han Jae claims to have first used the name hapkido and then gave the name to his instructor out of respect. Another source claims that the name and the eagle logo were first used by Jung Moo Kwan). In 1963 Grandmaster Choi became chairman of the newly formed Korea Kido Association, an umbrella organisation of all Korean martial arts. He also served as a body guard for the father of Suh. Bok Sub, who was a congressman.
Traditional martial arts, as well as Korean culture, were suppressed during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945), but when the war ended there was a resurgence of martial disciplines. Many pioneers of the martial arts arose, including Choi. Yong Sul, creating a resurgence of the Korean martial arts.
This influenced students of Choi. Yong Sul such as Ji. Han Jae, who began to incorporate the aggressive striking and kicking techniques of taek kyun into the basically defensive style of daito ryu. Choi. Yong Sul however, never taught kicking techniques in conjunction with his jujitsu style.
The status of Choi. Yong Sul as a student of Takeda. Sokaku is sometimes disputed. Some claim that he was a student of the daito ryu school while others maintain that he was a servant or houseboy. Although neither his Korean nor Japanese name appear in Takeda's records, this could be explained by a reputed fire which destroyed a number of documents. To further complicate the issue, Choi's belongings, including his certificates from Takeda. Sokaku, were lost or stolen at Younson station on his way back to Korea.
Regardless of Choi's position, he excelled under the direction of Takeda. Sokaku and mastered the art of daito ryu aiki jujitsu.
In 1982 he traveled to the United States, visiting various schools, expressing his wish that the different factions of hapkido become united. Choi died in 1986 at the age of 82 and is buried in Taegue city. His son, Choi. Bok Yeol became his successor, but died a year later in 1987. At that point no other successor had been appointed. In the year 2000, Kim. Yun Sang became the third doju.
Grandmaster Song. Jae Han was born in Seoul Korea in 1942. He began training in the martial arts at age 12. Grandmaster Song. Jae Han's brother, Master Song. Jae Sam was also an avid Hapkidoist from a young age. The brothers were among the first generation of Hapkido students in Korea to train under Grandmaster Choi, and Grandmaster Ji.
In 1969, Grandmaster Song. Jae Han moved to Edmonton, Canada and began teaching Hapkido. In 1973, his brother, Master Song. Jae Sam also moved to Edmonton and opened a hapkido school. Several years later, Grandmaster Song. Jae Han re-located to Vancouver where he opened a school on Main Street. The brothers were among the first Hapkido instructors in North America and are considered to be pioneers of the style. They originally developed and directed the Canadian Hapkido Association.
Grandmaster Song. Jae Han stresses the importance of development of personal character and ethics in his teaching. He strives to instill a sense of internal peace in his students and discourages competitiveness. A very philosophical man, Grandmaster Song guides his students through a process of realization he describes as Do (pronounced doe), which means the way and often reminds of the difference between Do and do.
Grandmaster Ji. Han Jae was born in Andong, Korea in 1936. In 1949 he began his martial arts training in the city of Taegue with Grandmaster Choi.Yong Sul.
The style taught by Grandmaster Choi was the daito ryu aiki jujitsu system that he had learned in Japan from Takeda. Sokaku but Choi used the Korean translation for jujitsu and called his art yu sool.
Ji. Han Jae trained with Grandmaster Choi until 1956, then returned to his home in Andong. He opened his first school, calling it the An Moo Kwan while still calling the style Yu Kwan Sool. Among his early students in Andong was Oh. Sa Lim, the current president of the Korean Hapkido Federation.
At the age of 18, Ji trained in the ancient Korean martial art of Sam Rang Do Tek Gi with a man known only as Taoist Lee. He learned to use the jang bong (long staff) and the dan bong (short staff) and the unique kicking style of the art. At approximately the same time he received spiritual training from a lady monk known to him only as grandma.
In 1957 Ji relocated to Seoul where he founded the Sung Moo Kwan school. This school produced many of the prominent teachers of hapkido including Myung. Kwang Sik ( the founder of the World Hapkido Federation), Choi. Sea Oh (who formally introduced hapkido into the United States in 1964) and Han. Bong Soo (who founded the International Hapkido Federation and became famous in his role in the movie “Billy Jack”, which increased the popularity of hapkido).
A significant change to hapkido occurred in 1961 when Ji trained for eight months with another former student of Choi.Yong Sul. Kim. Moo Hong had trained in a Buddhist temple, learning special kicking techniques from the monks. Together, Ji and Kim finalised the kicking curriculum of hapkido, including spinning and jumping kicks, which were not taught by Choi as part of the daito ryu system. In addition to this, Ji developed techniques to counter attacks from practitioners of a variety of martial arts and incorporated them into the hapkido syllabus.
Hapkido therefore continued to evolve with the assimilation of the techniques of Choi. Yong Sul and the kicking style of Sam Rang Do Tek Gi.
The name hapkido came into being around 1959. Controversy remains as to the creator of the name. Ji. Han Jae claims credit but another source claims that the name and the eagle logo were first used by Jung Moo Kwan.
Ji Han Jae became president of the Korea Hapkido Association, the only organisation at the time to be recognised by the Korean government. This organisation has since been re-named the Korea Hapkido Federation. The current president is Grandmaster Oh. Sa Lim.
In 1984 Grandmaster Ji. Han Jae moved to the United States and renamed his style Sin Moo Hapkido. In light of this transition Grandmaster Ji is entitled to use the title DoJu Ji, which implies founder, as Ji is the founder of Sin Moo Hapkido.
Master Chol Kim is from Seoul, Korea and a student and close friend of Grandmaster Oh. Se Lim, president of the Korean Hapkido Federation. He arrived in Prince George, British Columbia with his wife Wonhui and sons Bill & Terry where he opened the first Canadian Hapkido Dojang in October 1968. During a boxing match, at which George Chuvalo was the main celebrity, Master Kim gave a demonstration of hapkido. Michael Forster saw this demonstration and developed an immediate interest in Hapkido. He became a student of Master Kim's the following week. Michael became close friends with Master Kim and his family and worked diligently to achieve his black belt. Master Kim moved to Vancouver in 1972 and appointed Michael Forster as instructor of the Prince George Hapkido Dojang.
Master Forster has maintained a close relationship with Master Kim over the years and retains strong feelings of gratitude and appreciation for training he received from his first instructor. Master Kim also maintained a close relationship with his instructor in Korea, Grandmaster Oh.Se Lim.
Hapkido techniques are based on the theory of dynamics; the theory of spinning, and the theory of joining, (contact and one step).
In the theory of spinning, one moves the opponent with left or right movement with the whole body becoming a dynamic centre.
Centripetal force is generated by drawing the opponent into ones center and then, using centrifugal force, a devastating counter attack is applied, reciprocally casting the opponent outward, just like the moving center of a tornado propels its natural ferocity.
The theory of joining, (contact and one step), dictates that when two moving objects come together, the speed generated is the total speed of the two objects. Control of an opponent is achieved by making use of this relative speed and the smooth circular position change of the defender. More force is added to the defence by utilizing the power generated by the incoming attack, joined by the outgoing force. A frontal attack is therefore avoided by moving sideways and diverting the opponents strike, thrust or kick, then changing position by advancing one or more steps.
Little strength is used in deflecting the attack, but by use of relative force and speed, a devastating counter attack is applied.
There is an oriental proverb that states that a man of the martial arts must, without fail, observe the rules of etiquette. A man of martial arts who does not observe the proper etiquette is a ruffian, because martial art is a weapon.
To teach an undisciplined man martial arts is the same as to let a mad-man have a knife; he too, becomes a man without reason. Therefore the rules of etiquette are always emphasized.
Respect and loyalty to your masters and instructors and pride in your dojang are paramount in martial arts training.
Rules during practice
The Dojang Oath
Hapkido, literally translated , means "the way of coordinated power". Hap means "to join with" or "coordination", Ki denotes the essence of "internal energy " and Do is defined as "the art" or "the way.
By definition, hapkido is a collection of unarmed combat techniques, involving the skilled application of strikes, kicks, blocks, throws and joint locks, used for self-defence. It is an art that is both offensive and defensive in nature, utilizing circular motion and the re-direction of an attacker's force to the defender's advantage.
An effective and comprehensive means of self-defence, hapkido incorporates many areas of skill. At black belt levels, techniques are taught for both classic and impromptu weapons. Knowledge of healing arts such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and bone setting is required at higher dan levels.
The well rounded and all inclusive nature of hapkido makes it one of the most effective martial arts for self-defence. The very nature of this success makes hapkido a style that does not condone competitive arenas. There are two main reasons for this:
This is the realization of the true meaning of martial arts; that they are truly not about violence, but about knowledge as well as the development of character and personality in the student.
Korean hapkido stems from three basic principles:
The first is hwa (non-resistance). In this, one defeats their opponent by meeting brute force with grace and agility in order to deflect, rather than clash against, an opponents power. It is the principle of the willow bending to the wind, dancing amongst the currents, rather than being splintered by a rigid stance meant to defy force.
The second is won (circular motion). This principle incorporates the use of circular, flowing movements, which are preferred over linear movements, for reasons of energy conservation and effectiveness. A body that is not held rigid with over-exertion and muscular strength, can move more quickly and with greater energy, than the body consumed by the notion of its own sheer power. It is also free to change direction with a change in circumstance. It is never locked in any course of action, rather it remains free to choose and to re-choose.
The third is yoo (water principle). This refers to the total penetration of an opponent's defences through continual attack. In hapkido, the opponents energy and the ferocity of his motions are re-directed to thwart an incoming attack. In this way, he is defeated by his own brute force. Water will either flow gracefully and quietly 'round an obstacle, or it can, through quiet perseverance, channel a way through, depending on the nature of the obstacle. The power of water is borne of patience and the ability to change direction. Water does not meet strength with brute strength.