Soo Bahk Do and Moo Duk Kwan

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Moo Duk Kwan is split into two groups. One is Soo Bahk Do, formerly Tang Soo Do, and earlier Hwa Soo Do. The other is Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan.

Soo Bahk Do was founded by Hwang Kee, November 9, 1945. Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan merged together with eight other Kwans to form Taekwondo. For disambiguation see Moo Duk Kwan (disambiguation).

Meaning: The name Moo Duk Kwan means “School of Martial Virtue”

  • Moo – military, chivalry, martial; within the ideograph the inner part of the symbol is the word for “stop” and the outer part means “weapon”
  • Duk – benevolence, virtue, goodness, commanding respect; within the ideograph on the left it means “little steps” or “to happen”, and on the right the character means “moral”; thus moral steps or perhaps virtuous conduct
  • Kwan – large building, palace, library; again within the ideograph the left part looks like a roofed building and technically means “to eat” (under a roof).

History: Hwang Kee witnessed martial arts as a young boy and was in love with it ever since. He watched a man defend himself using only his hands and feet from a large group of men.

Around the age of 22, Hwang began working on the Chosun Railway and could freely travel between Manchuria and Korea. At this time, Korea was in the midst of the Japanese occupation during World War II. In search of formal training he found Yang Kuk Jin, a prominent Chinese martial arts teacher who took Hwang Kee and a friend, Park Hyo Pil on as students after several requests.

This is disputed by some who say that Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee offered no evidence of his training with Yang Kuk Jin. Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee wrote of his study on Karate books. He learned Japanese Kata and taught them using abdominal and hip contraction and expansion.

Hwang Kee combined what he knew of the Chinese and Korean martial arts he’d studied into an art he called Hwa Soo Do, referring to the Hwa Rang warriors of ancient Korea. Translated literally the name means “the Way of the Flowering Hand” and opened his first Hwa Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Dojang (Studio/Training Hall) on November 9, 1945. Due to the public’s unfamiliarity with the term Hwa Soo Do, he had difficulty in building interest.

Because of this, Grandmaster Hwang Kee made the decision to rename his art Hwa Soo (Tang Soo) Do. The public was much more familiar with the term Tang Soo Do and this simple change was instrumental in conveying that he was teaching a martial art. Eventually the art would come to be known as Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, an amalgamation of the school’s name of Moo Duk Kwan combined with the martial art of Tang Soo Do.

Grandmaster Hwang Kee, Founder of Moo Duk Kwan

By 1953 and onward until 1960, the Moo Duk Kwan had risen to become one of the strongest martial art organization in Korea, with close to 75% of all martial artists in Korea practicing Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan. Dan members (Midnight Blue Belts, as opposed to black belts) of the Moo Duk Kwan were so highly respected that their certificates could be used as credentials when seeking employment.

In 1957, a librarian at Korea National University in Seoul contacted Hwang Kee about a book that he’d found. Thought to be destroyed with all other records by the Japanese, the librarian presented Hwang Kee with the Moo Yei Dobo Tong Ji, a comprehensive and illustrated manual of the martial disciplines of Ancient Korea. Listed as the final discipline was combat with the bare hands and feet, known as Subak. As it was the Grandmaster’s wish to reconnect Korea to its martial traditions, his art took on the “Soo Bahk Do” name and this change was officially registered with the Korean Ministry of Education on June 30,1960.

It was during this period that a political crisis in Korea stalled the growth of the Korean Soo Bahk Do Association, Moo Duk Kwan, and marked the beginning of a 30-year period of difficulty for the organization. Around 1964, an attempt was made toward unification of the Moo Duk Kwan, then the largest organization of any martial art system in Korea, and Tae Kwon Do.

Moo Duk Kwan The Last Legend

Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee decided against unification when he realized the criteria was unfair to the Moo Duk Kwan, and basically a political move to absorb the art into Tae Kwon Do.

After the failed attempt, political pressures were exerted on the organization and the art suffered. Although it was recognized by the government, Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan certification was not publicly accepted for employment reference purposes. Instructors had a difficult time processing their passports when they needed to travel abroad to teach the art, and the Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan was prohibited from attending any international events. Soon after, the government issued a countermand order for the Korean Soo Bahk Do Association. The Kwan Jang Nim took this case to the Supreme Court in 1966 and won, thus insuring the future of the organization.

Political pressures continued until 1979, making it difficult for the Kwan Jang Nim to travel outside of Korea. However, he continued to promote the art tirelessly. Amazingly, even during this period of adversity, Moo Duk Kwan branches were established in the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Malaysia, Brunei and Australia, Today the Moo Duk Kwan is alive and well as an evolving, living Martial Art.

History according to Tae Kwon Do Moo Duk Kwan: In 1961 the Korean government initiated a movement to unify all of the martial arts schools in existence under one governing body, to be called the Korean Tae Soo Do Association, only later to be renamed the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association. The purpose of this body was to unify the Kwans and allow for great growth of this newly named Korean martial art.

According to the current General Secretary of Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan, YU of Seoul, Korea and those same minutes reprinted in “A Modern History of Taekwondo”, official records and minutes of the meetings of the Kwan Unity committee show that Hwang Kee was upset that he would not lead the unified group, and after agreeing to the merger, backed out.

The two senior students of Hwang Kee — Lee Kang Ik and Hong Chong Soo of Moo Duk Kwan and the majority of Moo Duk Kwan members left Hwang Kee to join with the Kwan Unity Movement.

Lee Kang Ik became the first president of Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan, which for a time became the largest group in the merger into what is know today as Kukkiwon.

Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan, Korea, also known as the Moo Duk Hae, still exist today as mostly a social friendship club and not as a martial art system. The Moo Duk Hae endorses the Kukkiwon (Taekwondo) curriculum 100%. Every year the Moo Duk Hae in Korea has an anniversary celebration where members from all over the world attend, including some members from the Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan.

The Present Day: Hwang Kee died on July 14, 2002 peacefully in his bed. The founder named a successor to the art in a living will which was safeguarded by the Board of Directors of the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation. His son, Hwang Hyun Chul (Jin Mun) was named the new Kwan Jang Nim, and is the second lifetime president of the World Moo Duk Kwan. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan celebrated its 60th Anniversary on November 9, 2005. As 2006 opens, the art is practiced on all six of the livable continents by close to 300,000 practitioners worldwide with close to 45,000 having attained at least their first degree midnight blue belt rank.

HC Hwang Kwan Jang Nim was appointed the second lifetime president of the World Moo Duk Kwan six (6) days upon the passing of his father, July 20, 2002 by a living will appointment by the founder. This decision was unanimously endorsed by the Board of Directors of the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation, Inc. (also known as the U.S. Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation, Inc.) as well as the various designees of worldwide chapters of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. There are federations which were fully endorsed by the founder of the Moo Duk Kwan, the late Hwang Kee, Kwan Jang Nim as continuations of the affiliates of HC Hwang’s Moo Duk Kwan, and are still endorsed today by HC Hwang, Kwan Jang Nim.