Korean Connections (Rupert Atkinson)

http://aikido-in-korea.com by Rupert Atkinson

Korean Connections

After World War II many Koreans returned from Japan. One man, Choi Yong-sul, claimed to have learned Daito-ryu directly from Takeda Sokaku, saying that he had been his servant for some thirty years. Although there is no such official evidence in Daito-ryu records (there may be confusion in the records since Koreans had to have Japanese names – other Korean names have been verified in the records), it is evident that he learned something in Japan and, from what I have gleaned from others and seen with my own eyes by watching the few who stick to his original teachings in Korea, what is being taught today in Korea appears to be Japanese in style; it resembles Daito-ryu and, above and beyond that, is an effective aiki art in its own right. What is evident is that Choi had high skill; it may be that Choi learned from Takeda, a student of Takeda, or elsewhere. But he did learn something, that is certain. Choi was, by all accounts, illiterate. The fact that he knew the names of Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei itself suggests association in one way or another – such remains to be proven. Anyway, most modern Hapkido has undergone quite radical change since its early beginnings in the 1950s, mostly due to the addition and incoproration of kicking and more modern weapon techniques.

Choi Yong-sul was successful in passing on his art, which at various times had names such as Kido, Yusool, Yawara … but it was his students who changed the name to Hapkido, which uses the same Chinese characters as Aikido (apparently against Choi’s advice as he knew of the existence of Aikido in Japan). The addition of weapons and high kicks combined with movie fame and political connections ensured its growth and success. The twist is that many of the younger modern Hapkido teachers do not know their own Hapkido history; Choi Yong-sul has been erased and they assert that the art they do has existed in Korea for eons (perhaps an effort to erase Japanese links). There are, however, a few people still practicing exactly what Choi Yong-sul taught and due to the Internet – more are finding out and becoming interested. Another character in the tale is Jang In-mok. He also studied Daito-ryu in Japan (1920s-30s) and there is verifiable proof in the form of certificates and other records but he was not so successful at creating a large school and as such, few know of him and fewer still remain who follow his teachings. What I myself have come to realise is that Choi Yong-sul must have had great skill – all modern Hapkido can be sourced directly to him in much the same way that all modern Aikido, no matter what the school, stems from Ueshiba. The Jang In-mok line needs more research.

Kim Yun-sang is the present Doju-nim of Yongsul-gwan based in Geumsan, South Korea. He studied directly under Choi Yong-sul for the final thirteen years of his life and teaches Choi’s original art, Hapki Yusul , as he learned it, without modification. They do not have high kicks or weapons. This school’s techniques appear Japanese in nature, and have been verified as having their roots in Daito-ryu by a visiting Japanese Daito-ryu senior student, Mr M. Fukuoka, who wrote such in an article for the Japanese martial arts magazine Hiden.