GRANDMASTER YONG SOOL CHOI
Founder of Hapkido
Yong-Sool Choi (1904-1986), born in Chung
Buk province in Korea, was one of the most influential people in
the development of modern Korean martial arts. His parents died
when he was very young, and he was taken to Japan from Korea by
a Japanese candy maker when he was 8 or 9. Choi became very homesick
and was abandoned by the candy maker so he had to wander the streets
as a beggar which resulted in him being regularly assaulted by
A Japanese man noticed Choi's situation so he took Choi in and eventually adopted
him. Before Choi went to school to get an education, his name was changed to
His education was not a success because he did not speak enough Japanese to
understand the teachers. He became disinterested and often wound up fighting
with the other school-children, so he was asked if he wanted to get a regular
education or learn to fight.
He chose fighting, and went to a Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jutsu dojo with Sokaku Takeda
(1860-1943), where he trained for nearly 30 years. He began to make plans to
return home to Korea and did so in the winter of 1945. Upon his return, he
changed his name back to Yong-Sool Choi.
During the trip home, Choi lost his money and the certificates which were proof
of his training with Takeda Sensei. Because of this lack of money, he decided
to stay in Tae Gu rather than to return to his home in Chung-Buk. He worked
as a bread salesman on the street for a year, and managed to save enough money
to begin raising pigs. To feed his pigs, he would travel to the Suh Brewery
Company to obtain free leftover grain chaff.
In 1947, Bok-Sub Suh, who was the president of the Suh Brewery Company, witnessed
Choi defend himself successfully against several attackers, with little effort.
He was very impressed sent someone down to bring this man to his office.
Suh asked Choi what kind of martial arts he practiced. Choi didn't answer,
instead he just asked Suh to grab him by the lapel. When Suh grabbed the lapel,
Choi easily executed an elbow lock and threw Suh to the floor. Suh grabbed
Choi's lapel again, and he was thrown to the floor a second time. After being
defeated twice, Suh asked for Choi to teach him, promising him more free chaff,
as well as paying him for lessons.
Choi agreed so Suh prepared a Dojang at the brewery where Choi could teach
what he had studied for so many years in Japan.
Over the next few years, Choi began to establish himself as an outstanding,
well respected martial arts instructor. He called his art Yoo Sool (Korean
pronunciation of Ju-Jitsu). He mainly taught what he had learned from Takeda
Sensei, slowly adding other techniques, including some kicks and weapon techniques.
Suh suggested to Choi that the name Yoo Sool be changed to Yoo Kwon Sool, to
represent the fact that as well as joint locks and throwing techniques, they
were also practicing strikes and kicks.
After the end of the Korean war, he opened his own private school and began
to teach a few other students. This was in 1953. Some of the students during
this period had already founded, or have gone on to found their own martial
art styles. These include, Hwang-Kee (Tang-Soo-Do), In-Hyuk Suh (Kuk Sool Won),
Dr. Joo-Bang Lee (Hwa Rang Do), and Han-Jae Ji (Hapkido).