Yong-Sool Choi is recognized as the founder of Hapkido worldwide and was given the title of Dojunim. Yong Sool Choi was born in Chung Buk province in Korea. He is one of the most influential people in the development of modern Korean martial arts as the founder of Hapkido. His parents died when he was very young, and he was taken to Japan 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 other children.
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 Tatujutu Yoshida.
His education was unsuccessful. He did not speak enough Japanese to understand the teachers. He became disinterested and often fought with other children, so he was asked if he wanted to stay in school or learn martial arts.
He chose martial arts, 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 and 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. He decided to stay in Taegu rather than to return to 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, the president of the Suh Brewery Company, witnessed Choi defend himself against several attackers, with little effort. He was very impressed so he 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 a highly respected martial arts instructor. He called his art Yoo Sool (Korean pronunciation of Ju-Jitsu). He taught mostly what he had learned from Takeda Sensei, slowly adding other techniques, including some kicks and weapon techniques.
Suh suggested that the name YooSool be changed to YooKwonSool, to represent the fact that as well as joint locks and throwing techniques, they were also practicing strikes and kicks. Later the name became HapKiYuSool and then was shortened to HapKiDo which is written using the same characters that are used for Japanese Aikido.
After the end of the Korean war, he opened his own private school in Taegu and began to teach a few other students. This was in 1953. Some of his students during this period had already founded, or had gone on to found their own 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 (SongMuKwan Hapkido).
About the author: Richard Hackworth is fulltime professional Hapkido teacher and a natural medicine and nutritional research specialist. He is the owner / operator of the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies in Ocoee, Florida. He can be reached at www.facebook.com/worldmartialartsmedia Follow us at https://www.facebook.com/WorldHapkidoUnion