KWAN JANG NIM HWANG KEE
Founder of Tang Soo Do
Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee was born on November 9,
1914, in Jang Dan, Kyong Ki province where the DMZ is currently
located. His father, Hwang, Yong Hwan, had a dream in which he
saw the bright star (Sam Tae Song) before his son's birth. He named
his son "Tae Nam", which means "star boy".
Later his name was changed to "Kee". His father was a
scholar who had achieved a high level of academic recognition from
the last King of the Yi Dynasty, Ko Jong.
In May 1921, when young Hwang Kee was about seven
years old, it was a time of a traditional holiday called "Dan
O", which is the national May festival. During that time he
happened to visit his neighboring village, where a variety of folk
plays and festive activities were held. As he enjoyed seeing a
variety of folk plays such as Ssirum (traditional wrestling), archery
and roadraces around the village, he happened to see a group of
people in a tavern making noise that caused him to believe that
some trouble was developing. He saw a group of seven or eight young
men arguing with one man, and this argument soon progressed to
physical fighting. The group of young men began to attempt to beat
the man. The man was avoiding their attacks and countering with
various kicks to the group of young men. Soon the group of young
men fell one by one as a result of the man's strange moves. After
the attack ended, some onlookers said, "That is Tae Kyun",
and some said, "That is Sip Pal Ki", as they were departing.
The Kwan Jang Nim was so impressed by this man's performance that
he decided to find out what his art was about. He followed the
man at a distance and discovered where he lived.
Several days later, he approached the man's home
and sat on a hill nearby and looked down at his house. He saw the
man practicing some hand and foot movements with a partner. He
watched their practice closely with great interest and he realized
that these were the same techniques that the man had used facing
the group of seven or eight young men at the May festival. After
that, he often went near the man's home to watch him practice,
and he imitated and practiced what he saw from the man's techniques.
One day he decided to learn these techniques and
he asked the man to teach him. His request was refused because
Hwang Kee was too young. Although disappointed, he would go to
the man's home and watch him perform whenever he could and then
practice by himself what he had seen. This was the "Tae Kyun" that
had been handed down from the later part of the Yi Dynasty. This
experience was a major influence leading him to become a Kwan Jang
Nim, who would devote his entire life to Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan.
In the country of Korea some 70 years ago, the
educational system differed significantly from the present. Few
students became high school graduates. The Kwan Jang Nim entered
elementary school at the age of 11 and graduated high school in
March 1935. Following his graduation, he went to Manchuria to work
for the railroad company (May 1935).
In May 1936 he had the opportunity to meet a Chinese
master, Master Yang, Kuk Jin and to visit Master Yang's house with
a friend, Park, Hyo Pil, who worked with him at the Jo Yang Station.
During this visit, he learned that Master Yang was teaching a handful
of private students practicing a Chinese martial art in his home.쟄e
never lost his dream of learning the depth of the martial arts
following his experience when he was seven years old. He had trained
himself whenever the opportunity was offered and from whatever
source was available during the past 20 years; however, he never
had any organized or structured lessons, nor did he have access
to formal instruction or any dependable literature on the subject.
Mr. Hwang Kee was overwhelmed with happiness as
if he were dreaming, knowing that he was at the home of Master
Yang, who was highly renowned as a martial arts Master. He was
served tea by Mrs. Yang. His first impression of Master Yang was
of a man with a very gentle and healthy appearance with good energy,
who looked to be about 50 years old. Master Yang was taller than
Mr. Hwang Kee and kept his body healthy. That same day, Mr. Hwang
Kee humbly requested to be Master Yang's student. Master Yang refused
his request gently, saying that "I am not good enough to teach
you." Mr. Hwang Kee and his friend, Mr. Park, could not speak
Chinese well enough to present their sincere wishes to study at
that time. That evening they had a good dinner at Master Yang's
house, thanked the couple, and returned to their home.
That night Mr. Hwang Kee could not get to sleep
because of the excitement that he had experienced being with Master
Yang. He considered this to be once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to
learn the martial art from the Master, if he were accepted. He
was also concerned about what he would do if Master Yang really
would not accept him as a student. He tried to get to sleep that
night with mixed emotions of happiness and concern.
The next morning, he discussed things with his
friend, Mr. Park, and they decided to visit Master Yang again and
again until they were accepted. On their third visit, Master Yang
finally accepted them as his students. They were so happy to be
accepted that they practiced whenever they had the opportunity.
Because of their work schedule, they trained every other day. Mr.
Hwang Kee never missed practice with Master Yang. He accepted Master
Yang's instruction sincerely and his progress was exceptional due
to his sincere dedication and prior martial arts experience during
the previous 20 years.
Master Yang admired his dedication. Mr. Hwang
Kee and four other students were training under Master Yang during
this time. The training consisted of Seh Bop (method of postures),
Bo Bop (method of steps) and Ryun Bod (method of conditioning)
as their basic training. They also had trained in "Dham Toi
Sip E Ro" and "Tae Kuk Kwon," which were disciplines
of form and its combat applications.
In August of 1937, he had to leave Master Yang
and return to Seoul for personal reasons. During 1941, he went
back to Manchuria for a short time to visit Master Yang for instruction.
This was the last time he was able to enjoy Master Yang's instruction.
He could not communicate with or visit his Master again once China
became a Communist country in 1946.
Upon his return to Seoul after leaving his instructor
Master Yang, in 1937, the Kwan Jang Nim searched for an opportunity
to continue his personal martial arts training and, possibly, teach.
It was impossible at the time, for him to pursue his wishes in
martial arts activity due to the strict Japanese influence on all
facets of the Korean culture. (The country of Korea was occupied
by the Japanese from 1910 to August 1945). Because of this situation,
Gum Do (Ken Do) and Yu Do (Ju Do) were the only two martial arts
known to the general public. People did not have any knowledge
of Soo Bahk, Okinawan Karate, Chinese Wu Shu, or Kung Fu.
Because of this situation, it was impossible for
Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee to make his long-time dream come true.
He spent long hours of meditation and self-conditioning during
He started work at the Survey department of the
Cho Sun Railway Bureau in 1939. His working area was very peaceful
and quiet because it was in a separate building a little distance
from the main building. In this facility were located a lecture
room, a library, and various exercise rooms.
In his employment, although he earned a low salary,
he was very comfortable with the working conditions and especially
his work environment. He spent most of his time reading books from
the library. He particularly enjoyed reading about astronomy, philosophy,
and Okinawan Karate. It was a very pleasant surprise for him to
find karate books at the library, even though all the books were
from Japan. (No other books were avaliable from any other country
at that time and this was the first modern form of martial arts
books he had seen).
This was his first encounter with Okinawan Karate
and he found that he was able to study the art though books at
that time. Later, this knowledge influenced the Moo Duk Kwan system
when "Tang Soo Do" was adopted by Grand Master Hwang
Kee during the early part of the Moo Duk Kwan history.
Although Pyung Ahn Hyungs, Passai Hyungs, and
Kong Sang Kun Hyungs, etc., were practiced a little differently
from the original Okinawan Karate (unique use of the application
of offensive and defensive hip in all movements, and hip extension
and thrust kicking techniques as well as its interpretation), these
Hyungs were influenced by the Kwan Jang Nim's study of the books
on Okinawan Karate, as indicated in the Soo Bahk Do Deh Kahm (1970).
During that period of time, he had developed his
high maturity as a martial artist. Because he worked for the railroad,
he was able to travel without cost to anyplace where the train
could reach. He traveled to most of the famous mountains and to
Manchuria, which added to his experience and maturity in the martial
During the same period, there were a number of
wars initiated by Japan, which led to World War II. It was a very
Finally, Korea became an independent country on
August 15, 1945, as World War II came to an end. At the time it
became possible for Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee to fulfill his life-long
dream to dedicate himself solely to the martial arts.
During the previous 25 years, his maturity as
a martial artist had been conditioned
through his hard and long self-taught training of Tae Kyun and
his various experiences in both formal and informal martial arts
training, as well as the significant influence by his master, Master
Yang, while he was in China. It was not only Master Yang's technical
influence but also his desire to improve human character, which
proved an invaluable experience. The study of Okinawan Karate through
the available books at the library while he was employed by the
Cho Sun Railway Bureau in Seoul form 1939 to 1945 was also a great
With these experiences in martial disciplines,
he founded the Moo Duk Kwan and established its philosophy on November
From "The History of Moo Duk Kwan - Celebrating
the 50th Anniversary 1945-1995"