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History and Culture of Hapkido

Historical Interview

Hapkido Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul (1904-1986)
Mr. Choi, the founder and Grandmaster of Korean Hapkido, discussed his personal history in an interview given during his visit to the United States in June of 1982.

When I was a child, I lived in the village of Yong Dong in Choong Chung Province, Korea. At this time there were many Japanese people in my region because of the Japanese occupation of Korea. I became acquainted with a Mr. Morimoto, who was a Japanese businessman and candy store owner. Morimoto had no sons. When the time came for him to return to Japan he abducted me and took me with him to Japan, intending that I would become his son. I did not like this man and because of my constant protest and crying he abandoned me in the town of Moji soon after we came to Japan. From Moji, I traveled alone to Osaka. I soon gave myself up to despair and while crying and wandering aimlessly, I was picked up by the police. When the authorities found out that I had no family in Japan, they arranged for me to be cared for at a Buddhist temple. I lived there for about two years under the care of the monk Kintaro, Wadanabi.

I think about 8 years old.

While living in the temple, I was fascinated by murals of battles and paintings of famous martial arts scenes displayed throughout the temple. When the time came, Wadanabi asked me which direction I wanted my life to take. I immediately pointed to a scene on the wall depicting the martial arts and said this is what I want to be. Kintaro, Wadanabi was a close friend of Takeda, Sokaku and arranged my introduction to him. Takeda, Sokaku liked me and feeling great sympathy for my situation, decided to adopt me. Upon my adoption he gave me the Japanese name Asao, Yoshida. I was about 11 years old at this time.

His home and school were located on Shin Su Mountain in the area of Akeda.

Takeda, Sokaku was the head of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu. I lived in his home and learned under his personal direction for over 30 years. I was his constant student, and for twenty years of my training, I was secluded in his mountain home.

Yes, at that time I was my teachers’s assistant in all of his instruction. While in Tokyo, we also taught high ranking government officials within the palace circle. Also, we traveled to various parts of Japan and taught select groups of people.

Yes, when I was about 28 years old it was arranged by politicians for my teacher and his most outstanding students to travel to Hawaii in order to give an exhibition tour.

I was the leader of the exhibition team under the direction of my teacher.

At the time of the Hawaiian tour there were five of us; Takeda, Sokaku, myself (Asao, Yoshida), Jintaro, Abida and two others whose names I cannot at this time recall.

No, we continued to tour and teach and at the same time I continued to learn through Master Takeda’s instruction.

World War II changed things in many ways. My teacher and I worked for the government by capturing military deserters that would hide in the mountains near our home. We would return these men, unharmed, to the authorities. The most significant changes happened toward the end of the war. Japan was losing the war and in a last desperation effort the government instituted a special military draft that called up most of the prominent martial artists of the time. These highly trained people were conscripted into special guerrilla-type units that were dispersed throughout the war zone. All of the inner circle of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu were drafted except Master Takeda and myself. Most were killed in the final fighting of the war.

I was going to be drafted but Takeda, Sokaku intervened. Through his status and influence, he had me hospitalized for minor surgery. This stopped the process of my conscription and prevented me from being drafted. He prevented me from being put into the war because he felt that if I was killed Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu would be lost in its completed form upon his death.

Shortly before he died, my teacher informed me that I was the only student that he had schooled in all of his secrets and techniques.

Yes, he ended his life by refusing to eat.

Japan had never before been defeated in war. Takeda, Sokaku felt that a great shame and loss of face had been perpetrated on his ancestors by Japan’s defeat at the hands of the Allies. Being a man of leadership, he felt a strong personal responsibility in this defeat. Becase of this strong feeling, he decided that his only honorable path was to end his life.

He said goodbye to me and spoke of my long time desire to return to Korea. He bid me to do so. He was concerned that because of my position in his household and because of my Korean heritage, that I would be assassinated if I remained in Japan. Had I remained after his death to succeed him, it would have been dangerous.

I returned, with my household, shortly after Takeda, Sokaku’s death.

We settled in Taegu Kyung Buk Province. Here I established my first Korean dojang, and have made my home here ever since. After returning I changed my name back to Choi, Yong Sul and the name of my art to Hapkido.

Benefits of Hapkido

Unfortunately, we live in a very violent time at which if we have the necessity to leave our houses to work, to study, to shop or simply take a stroll, there is the possibility of being victims of some type of aggression and lately the possibilities have increased. The worse thing is that we are not even safe in our own homes, it doesn’t even matter the security system that we have, if someone wants to break in they are going to break in. I would like to practice Hapkido simply as a sport, or to be a better human being, without concerning myself with whether or not the techniques that I use, are going to be effective in a defensive situation. But evidently, because of the time that we live in we need to consider that the main objective of learning a martial art is to be an excellent street fighter, and securing our survival in this violent world. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other benefits that stem from the practice of Hapkido, on the contrary, it’s an extremely beneficial activity for student in every aspect: physical, mental or spiritual. Physically, it benefits us in the three more important aspects of the physical training conditions: strength, endurance and flexibility due to the progressively intense training that a Hapkido student must be put through as a person moves forward within the martial way, training becomes more intense more demanding to us and pushes us to the maximum of our possibilities. This perfects us physically and makes us strong, this favors us when we have “to defend” ourselves from viruses and bacteria, strengthening our health.

Mentally we get benefits through the great concentration and focus abilities that Hapkido practice requires, this is because in each technique, each blow and each kick we should put everything of ourselves, all of our fears, all of our concerns, all of our love and feelings should accompany each technique that we execute. In this way, Hapkido practice is good for us as a way to express ourselves through the technique. All of this requires us to adopt a conscience of the HERE AND NOW and therefore focusing all our being in what we are doing. In this way, we develop great concentration. I believe that we all realize the importance of this in our daily life, either in academic learning, in the work place or in any activity that we conduct. For every activity we need to exert concentration; the practice of Hapkido develops such ability. Spiritually, Hapkido practice favors us fortifying our spirit, becoming trained to control our emotions and feelings, and increasing our trust on ourselves at the same time. Don’t forget that some form of meditation is practiced in most of the martial arts and when it is not done during class, then it is surely practiced in a parallel fashion since meditation is an inseparable aspect of the Hapkido practice. We are not only beneficiaries in these aspects; we also learn to value human life and to carry our lifes in a much more pacifistic manner. Although people transform into a lethal weapon by learning Hapkido with full knowledge of what they are capable of, this knowledge makes people realize that what used to be a threatening situation no longer is. Before Hapkido they might have reacted aggresively but after some time in the way of the martial art it doesn’t even seem as a danger. Masters in the art will only apply the technical knowledge that they have acquired through hard training when it is extremely necessary and when our own life or the life of a loved one is in true danger.


All Martial Arts have different concepts that sets them apart from the others. In Hapkido there are many concepts. Theory is an important part of the curriculum since the success in martial arts is achieved through the mind and not so much through the body.


The study of Hapkido involves much more than bare hand techniques. Throughout history, weapons have played an important part in the martial arts of all nations.
In the following list there are the traditional korean weapons skills that are practiced at Hapkido Ckeong Kyum Association