The History of Tang Soo Do




Tang Soo Do is an eclectic art made up from various sources. Beginners to the art are introduced to the Okihawan Pyung Ahn hyungs together with the corresponding Ho Sin Sul applications. We then study both Northern & Southern Chinese influenced forms including the Naihanchi series, Seishan, Rohai and O-Sip Sah Bo.

Added to this there is the distinct influence of the Chil Sung (Seven Star) forms reflecting the founders martial art journey into China. Furthermore, the Korean influence can be found in the dynamic kicking techniques and unique use of hip twist in all offensive and defensive movements, in accordance with the teachings of Grand Master Hwang Kee.

Tang Soo Do is a traditional martial art with modern day application. It is both a hard and soft style, employing circular and straight techniques. Practice incorporates breathing exercises and meditation for health and well being which complements the Ho Sin Sul practical self defence training.

Early History

Both China and Korea have a long history of civilisation. Like all ancient civilisations, they have periodically engaged in military activity. This has led to the building up of a martial tradition extending to the present day.

Along the streams of the Aproh River are tombs dating back over 1500 years and the walls of these tombs show paintings of martial art practice.

During the 4th century A.D. (around 540 A.D.), a new king - Chinhung - came to power and called upon a famous Buddhist priest called Won Kwang to develop a system of martial art that was in harmony with the Laws of Nature. He and his monks were accomplished Chinese martial artists, as they had to be for their own safety. There are reliable records telling of the monks teaching lay people their martial art.

The Silla Dynasty (A.D. 668 - 935) was a period when the martial arts expanded rapidly in Korea - sculptures from this period can still be seen today. The Kingdom of Silla was one of the three Kingdoms in Korea. It occupied the south eastern part of the Korean Peninsula. It was notable for the military prowess of its young warrior class, the Hwa Rang.

The empty hand fighting of the Hwa Rang warriors was know for blending the hard with the soft, straight and circular attacks. The five basic principles of Tang Soo Do derive from the principles of these elite warriors who were schooled in art and science as well as martial arts.

The Muye Dobo Tongji was written in 1790 under the orders of King Jingjo. It is a much revered Korean text and contains a historical record of early archery and swordsmanship. There is one section on Kwon Bup: Fist Fighting Method. In the Hansu it is recorded - "The King watched the fist fighting (su bak) and archery contests". In the note it says that "Su Bak" is a martial art contest of wrestling. Within the training methods we find "Yuk Ro" (six paths) and reference to the Chil Sungse (seven star posture). The Muye Dobo Tongji contains illustrations of fighting methods including kicking the legs, sweeps and grappling. Grand Master Hwang Kee created a whole series of forms based on his interpretation of these movements.

Grandmaster Hwang Kee, was a martial arts prodigy, having mastered Tae Kyun and Soo Bahk Do at the age of 22. At that time, (1936), he travelled to northern China . There he encountered a Chinese variation of martial artistry and studied under Master Yang. It is believed that this experience influenced the development of the Chil Sung which are only found in Tang Soo Do.


Modern History

During the occupation of Korea by Japan (1907 - 1945) the practice of native martial arts was prohibited. This prohibition forced many Korean Soo Bahk Do Masters to emigrate, or to practise secretly.

Following the liberation of Korea in 1945, the Moo Duk Kwan ("Institute of Martial Virtue") and four other Martial Art Schools were formed. Grandmaster Hwang Kee set up the first Moo Duk Kwan school on 9th November 1945. The Moo Duk Kwan and Chi Do Kwan later formed the Korean Soo Bahk Do Association in 1960 to develop the study and practice of traditional Korean martial arts. Tang Soo (Soo Bahk) Do has since spread throughout the world.

In 1972 The Chief Instructor of South East Asia, Master Kang Uk Lee gave permission for one of his students from Malaysia, Mr Ivan C H Tnay Black Belt 2nd Dan, to start Tang Soo Do classes in the United Kingdom . Mr Ivan C H Tnay arrived in the United Kingdom in the Autumn of 1972 to study Accountancy. Mr Tnay taught Tang Soo Do at the YMCA in Watford until Master Lee's arrival in the Spring of 1974. Master Lee came to the United Kingdom as the representative of the Korean Soo Bahk Do Association.


The Five Basic Principles of Tang Soo Do

1. Be loyal to one's Queen and country.
2. Obedience to parents and elders.
3. Respect to instructors and seniors.
4. Self control.
5. Never misuse one's art.


The Tang Soo Do (Ho Sin Sul) Emblem

Ho Sin Sul means personal protection method. It incorporates the principles of Um & Yang and the laws of nature. If pushed the corresponding action is to yield or re-direct the opponents energy. It is therefore a method by which we use the opponents force against them. These forces are continually changing and we must learn to adapt. The aim is to turn a potentially violent situation to one of peace. Ho Sin Sul can be broken down int the three levels of Awareness (Shim Gong), Mental Planning (Neh Gong) and Physical Response (Weh Gong).

Application of these principles can mean anything from avoiding or walking away from a situation, having the confidence to diffuse it or taking action in the form of strikes or takedowns. The number of techniques is limitless.