Hwa Rang Do History

The Hwa Rang Do | Hwa Rang Do History | Historical Development | Joo Bang Lee | Technique Structure | Tae Soo Do History | The Art of Hwa Rang Do | Hwarang Word Identity | Connections to the Hwarang | Code of Ethics | Student’s Progress

The name Hwa Rang Do is Korean for “The way of the Flowering Manhood”. It was named after the Hwarang, an elite youth order of the Silla kingdom during the Three-Kingdoms period, in what is now Korea. The Hwarang were an order of youths, mostly from aristocratic families, who were educated in artistic, academic, and martial fields of study.

While the founders and practitioners of Hwa Rang Do claim that their techniques are inherited from the fighting methods used by the Hwarang, there is a great deal of controversy among modern historians regarding whether or not the Hwarang were primarily a warrior order.

According to Joo Bang Lee, in 1942, a monk named Suahm Dosa took in he and his brother, Joo Sang Lee, to be trained. (Note that “Dosa” is actually his title, and it is roughly equivalent to “expert.”) They lived with him at the Suk Wang Sa Temple in the Ham Nam province of North Korea, before later escaping with him to Ohdae Mountain in South Korea during the communist take over. He had no formal syllabus to teach them, but rather taught whatever caught his fancy that morning.

After their training by Suahm Dosa, the two brothers spent some time learning other martial arts before they set out to create their own martial art.
They generated the syllabus from scratch, based on the techniques from Suahm Dosa that they could remember, and then started to teach it to the public. At this time, Joo Sang Lee moved to the United States to spread the martial art there.

Hwa Rang Do Temple

In January of 1969, Suahm Dosa died. But before he did, he gave the Hwarang title of Do Joo Nim (“Owner of The Way”) to Joo Bang Lee. He gave it to the younger brother because he was the one still in Korea and, in Suahm Dosa’s eyes, the one who cared more about the art. This did not sit well with Joo Sang Lee, and led to a falling out in later years.

In 1972, Joo Bang Lee moved (taking the World Headquarters of Hwa Rang Do with him) to California. He currently claims the title of “Supreme Grand Master” of Hwa Rang Do; it is supposed that he is the 58th successive holder of the title.

Hand to-hand combat is as old as the human race, and the different fighting styles that prevailed in different regions of the world took generations to evolve. Each individual country developed different combat skills in order to protect their country and their people. The evolution of the Korean combat skills began about 5000 years ago when KoChoSun was established. KoChoSun was a country that started on the Korean peninsula. This country established a strong military warriorship tradition, and their territory spread. Their territory spanned far from the original peninsula, and eventually included all of Manchuria and all most half of China.

Hwa Rang Do Warriors

The roots of what is now known by the modern martial art name Hwa Rang Do “The way of the Flowering Manhood” or “The art of the Flower Knights,” which was founded by Dr. Joo Bang Lee, originated from the combat skills of the Hwarang (Hwarang and Rangdo) system of the ancient Silla kingdom of Korea. These secret combat skills, which were called Um Yang Kwon, have survived the passage of time, and have been passed for 58 continuous generations.

Before we continue with this martial art history, it is important that we clear any public misunderstandings. In the modern time there have been some ignorant martial art historians that have produced mistaken accounts of history. Along with these historians, there are a number of people throughout the martial art community that have also made false claims about their own martial art and its relationship with the ancient Hwarang system.

These practitioners claim that the roots of their arts came from the ancient Hwarang, even when they have an inadequate understanding of the history of the Hwarang. These types of claims, which are also combined with inaccurate historical references, have been lies and have also caused a great deal of confusion within the public. So before we proceed further, it is imperative that you have an understanding of the terms and vocabulary associated with the ancient kingdom of Silla’s Hwarang warrior system and the martial art identity Hwa Rang Do.

Hwa Rang Do: The martial art name: “The way of the flowering manhood.” This is the name of the martial art identity that was founded in 1960 by Dr. Joo Bang Lee. He is the one who created the syllabus of this martial art for public instruction. He combined the spirit and philosophy of the ancient Hwarang warriors with the ancient secret Hwarang combat skills Um Yang Kwon that were passed to Dr. Lee from his master Suahm Dosa.

Hwarang: “Flower man” The title given to the leaders of the youth group from the ancient kingdom of Silla. This title was only received by the youth of royal family members, and not civilians.

Rangdo: “Fellows” The title of the Hwarang’s fellows. These people were the students disciples, and soldiers of the Hwarang, and all came from the civilian class.

Hwarang: – (Hwarangdo ) – The term used to refer to the ancient Hwarang warriors. The Hwarang and Rangdo together were called the “Flower knights.” In reference to these individuals as a group of people, the Hwarang (leaders) and Rangdo (fellows), two terms are used. Most references simply say Hwarang (s), but there are some later references that also use Hwarangdo . The “DO” suffix used here means a group of people. So the term pronounced Hwarangdo means a “group of flower men.”

As you can see the martial art name Hwa Rang Do (The Way of the Flowering Manhood) and the ancient Hwarang/Hwarangdo (Flower knights) youth group of Silla are different identities. They have the same Korean and English spellings, however their meanings are different. The “DO” term associated with the ancient Hwarang/Hwarangdo means a group of people. However, the “DO” term associated with the martial art Hwa Rang Do means the “Way” or “Art.” The Korean language uses hanja (the characters of the Chinese writing system) as wells as hangul (the Korean alphabet) to produce the written meanings of their language.

This combination has created a circumstance where words that have the identical Korean pronunciations also have completely different meanings. For example the hangul word pronounced, “DO” “” in Korean has 45 different meanings associated to it because of this connection with the Chinese language. Another example of this is the hangul word “Mudo .” This word means martial (military) arts , another “Mudo ” means inhumanity, and also another “Mudo ” means dance.

Even the word “Hwarang ” has multiple meanings. One is Flower Man “”, and the other is a picture gallery “Hwarang “. Because of these problems with translations, and the difficulties that surround the terms of these languages, we will show the hangul and hanja meanings with a phonetic spelling for an English equivalent. Another reason for this is the popularity of Hwa Rang Do has risen throughout the world, and we need to show these details in order to correct the wrong understandings that have been caused by ignorant histories. ~ Courtesy of Hwa Rang Do World Headquarters.