Choi Yong-sool bigraphy, stories - Founders

Choi Yong-sool : biography

November 9, 1904 - June 15, 1986

Choi Yong-sool ( November 9, 1904 – June 15, 1986), alternative spelling Choi Yong-sul, was the founder of the martial art hapkido. He was born in today's Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea, and was taken to Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea when he was eight years old. Choi later claimed that he became a student of Takeda Sōkaku, and studied a form of jujutsu known as Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu (大東流合気柔術) while in Japan; 장보고와 정년 그리고 송징] this is disputed due to the historically tense relationship between the two sides and lack of clear documentary evidence.

Choi returned to Korea after the end of the World War II and in 1948 began teaching his art at a brewery owned by the father of his first student Seo Bok-Seob ( Suh Bok-Sub). He first called his art "Yu Sul ()" or "Yawara ( 柔術)" later changing it to "Yu Kwon Sool ( 柔拳術)" and "Hap Ki Yu Kwon Sool ( 合氣柔拳術)" and eventually Hapkido.Hentz, Eric (editor), Taekwondo Times Vol. 16, No. 8. Tri-Mount Publications, Iowa 1996. "The Beginning of Hapkido; An Interview with Hapkido Master Seo, Bok-Seob" by Mike Wollmershauser.

Choi Yong-Sool was honored with the titles doju ( 道主), which can be translated as "Keeper of the way", and changsija ( 創始者), which simply means "founder". The arts of Hapkido, modern Hwa Rang Do, Kuk Sool Won, as well as lesser known arts such as Han Pul all show influence of the teachings of Master Choi.Kim, He-Young. Hapkido (alternately The Hapkido Bible). Andrew Jackson Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 1991.


Choi's claims of being a student of Daito-ryu under Takeda Sokaku are contested and unsupported by the fee and attendance records of Takeda Sokaku which still exist today. However, since Choi was Takeda's house servant, others claim it is logical to assume he was trained by him or at least in his dojo. While staying in Japan, Choi is said to have taken on a Japanese name and was known as Asao Yoshida (吉田朝男) according to a posthumously released interview, or Yoshida Tatujutsu according Seo Bok-Seob. The claim by some that the lack of documentation was due to his Korean ancestry is difficult to uphold since other Korean students are mentioned in the records. Still there is a strong similarity to the techniques taught in Daito-ryu and the techniques of hapkido.

Argued also is the source of the name hapkido for the art which Choi Yong-Sool's student, Ji Han-Jae, claims to have coined the name for the art. Seo Bok-Seob however states in a 1980 interview that it was Jung Moo Kwan who first used the term to refer to the art as well as the symbol of the eagle to represent the art.


According to Choi he was abducted from his home village of Yong Dong in Chungcheongbuk-do in 1912 by a Japanese sweet merchant named Morimoto who had lost his own sons and wished to adopt Choi. Choi resisted and proved so troublesome to the candymaker that he abandoned him in the streets of Moji, Japan. Choi made his way to Osaka as a beggar and, after having been picked up by police, was placed in a Buddhist temple which cared for orphans in Kyoto. The abbot of the temple was a monk named Wantanabe Kintaro..

Choi spent 2 years at the temple and had a difficult life there, not only in school but with the other children due to his poor Japanese language skills and his Korean ethnicity which made him stand out in Japan. Apparently due to the boy's tendency of getting into fights and his intense interest in the temples murals depicting war scenes, when asked by Watanabe what direction that he wished for his life to take he expressed interest in the martial arts.

The temple monk (Wantanabe Kintaro) was reputedly a friend of Takeda Sōkaku, the founder of the Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu system, which is a Japanese martial arts system emphasizing empty handed methods based upon the sword styles and jujutsu tactics in which Takeda was an expert. Takeda Sōkaku is also famous for having taught Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.

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