There are two major personalities who have made Hapkido what it is today, Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul and Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae. Due to the various and partially contradicting predicates it can not be determined precisely who of these two can be regarded as the founder of Hapkido. However, the fact is that both were instrumental in bringing this development about and therefore both could be refereed to as founders of Hapkido.
Grandmaster Ji, Han Jae
In 1936 GranMaster Ji, Han-Jae was born in Andong, Korea. In 1949, at the age of 13, GM Ji began his training in the Korean Yu Kwan Sool Hap Ki Dojang under GM Choi. GM Ji was one of GM Choi’s best students. GM Ji studied at GM Choi until 1956. Afterwards he continued his studies with a master named “Taoist Lee”, and here learned the Tae Kyon kicks, Jang-Bong (long stick), Dan-Bong (short stick) and techniques of meditation. With a nun, (that he knew only as “Grandmother”), he learned spiritua tech-l niques. In 1958 GM Ji left Taegu and returned to Andong, where he opened up his own Dojang, named Sung Moo Kwan. At that time he held the 3. Dan in Yu Kwan Sool. Only nine moths later he moved to Seoul. Here, two very famous Grand Masters, who later emigrated into the USA, began their HapKiDo carrier. GM Han, Bong-Soo (founder of the International Hapkido Federation) and GM Myung, Kwang-Sik (founder of the Wold Hapkido Federation). Later he awarded them both the 9. Dan. Han, Bong-Soo 1984 and Myung, Kwang-Sik 1986. In Seoul GM Ji began to develop his own style by combining the techniques learned at GM Choi with the Tae Kyon kicks, the weapon techniques, and the spiritual techniques. He called this new material art HapKiDo. (As already mentioned above, he passes this name to GM Choi as a sign of reference.) At that time there was a boxing school close to his Dojang. Until then only defense techniques against punches were used, based on the assumption that the arms remains stretched after the punch. In those days this was the technique taught by some material arts. Boxing means the arm retracts immediately after the punch. Therefore, GM Ji developed some defense techniques against these ”snapping” punches. Many HapKiDo techniques were product of the Korean circumstances, no matter if they were developed by GM Choi, GM Ji or other HapKiDo masters. Defense techniques against knives were of elementary importance as the underworld criminals were almost exclusively equipped with knives. Defense techniques against kicks were developed to defend oneself against Tang Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, Kwon Bupand and Taekwondo. The Dan Bong (short stick) techniques against sword attacks were developed, because Kendo is widespread in Korea. In 1961 the Korean government was overthrown by General Park, Chung-Hee who shortly after became president of Korea. In 1962 GM Ji opened up a Dojang in the Hwa Shin department store. Next he became trainer of the military crack troops and of the president’s security service. In addition, he became the president’s bodyguard. In the early sixties the import relations concerning Japanese goods loosened and a book about Aikido fell into GM Ji‘s hands. He noticed that the sign for Aikido was exactly the same as for HapKiDo and decided to change the name from HapKiDo to Kido. In 1963 GM Ji became member of the Korean Kido Association, but he left in 1965 after some differences of opinion and founded the Korea Hapkido Association. Within an information and exchange program between the Korean government and the Pentagon GM Ji arrived in USA in 1969. There, GM Ji coached some of president Nixon’s bodyguards, FBI agents, and various special task forces. During this stay he met Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was very impressed by GM Ji and asked him to coach him. Between 1972 and 1974 GM Ji shot many films in Hong Kong. “Game of Death” with GM Ji as adversary of Bruce Lee. “Hapkido”, with Sammo Hung (known for his films with Jackie Chang) and Angela Mao Ying. Later this film was renamed as “Lady Kung Fu”. “The Dragon Tamers” , with Jackie Chang as action director. During his stay in Hong Kong coached GM Ji Bruce Lee. Together with Kim, Moo-Hong and Myong, Jae-Nam, GM Ji founded the Republic of Korea Hapkido Association in 1973. The name was changed into Korea Hapkido Association later. Until 1979 GM Ji was chairman of this organization. As his successor followed his student Oh, Se-Lim, who began his HapKiDo studies at GM Ji 1958 in Andong. In 1980 the Korea Hapkido Association was renamed as Korea Hapkido Federation. In 1979 the Korean president Park, Chung-Hee fell a victim to assassination. The assassin Kim, Chae-Kyu, was the head of the Korean CIA. GM Ji was imprisoned for about one year. The assassin had been a close student of GM Ji, and GM Ji had supported him in becoming the head of the Korean CIA. Therefore, he was accused of having been involved in the planning of the assassination attempt. In jail he developed his new system, which he called Sin Moo Hapkido. Sin Moo Hapkido aims even more at the spiritual side of the martial arts. Around 1981 GM Ji made a trip to Hong Kong and prepared his immigration into the USA. In Hong Kong he played minor roles in the film “Tower of Death” and in some other films. In 1984 GM Ji traveled via Germany, where he met his two students Kim, Sou-Bong and Song, Il-Hack, into the USA. There he opened up a Sin Moo Hapkido school in Daly near San Francisco.
Many high-ranking masters of HapKiDo emigrated from Korea to make HapKiDo known throughout the world. Many settled in the USA. Most of the GM in HapKiDo are former students of GM Ji, even if today many of them regard GM Choi as their teacher. There are different statements of why these students turned away from GM Ji. In an interview GM Ji had the following explanation: he had been successful when he had been far too young. Many of his students had been younger than him. After having also studied at CM Choi, they passed the much older and therefore more respected GM Choi as their teacher. Another Korean statement says, that many Korean masters consider GM Ji as jointly responsible for the assassination of president Park, and therefore still hate him. Furthermore many people regard it as a degradation of HapKiDo, that GM Ji was defeated so fast as a master of HapKiDo in the film “Game of Death” with Bruce Lee. Again and again there are discussion on who introduced which techniques in HapKiDo. Some say, that – in the true sense – GM Choi coached pure Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu until his death. On the other hand, some argue that he united a number of Korean material arts. It is said that he showed a keen interest in Kumdo and Kendo, what would suggest that he contributed to the sword techniques. GM Ji claims the integration of the cane techniques, the long and short stick techniques, and a large part of the kicks into HapKiDo. Some Hapkido masters developed own styles and united traditional HapKiDo techniques with other martial arts and/or techniques of meditation, sciences of dance and health. Some styles tend more to strong techniques like fixed blocks and short techniques. Other became eve more soft and expansive within their movements, and approximate to Aikido. The environment of the school and the master always played an important role. As they usually lived off their students, they had to adapt to the material arts common in the regions, and offer techniques against them.