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History of Tang Soo Do

The Full Story

Our Background & Philosophy

Grandmaster Hwang Kee

Hwang Kee (Hangul: 황기; Hwang Gi; November 9, 1914 – July 14, 2002) was one of the most important figures in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do.  He was the founder of Soo Bahk Do and the school of Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.

He was one of the five original Korean founders of taekwondo martial arts Kwans.

Hwang Kee was born on November 9, 1914 in Jang Dan, Kyong Ki province of Korea, while it was under Japanese occupation. His father was a scholar and teacher, thus Kee was one of the few young men in the province to complete high school in 1935. He first studied martial arts, Soo Bahk and Tae Kyun while in school. Following graduation, he went to work for the Manchurian Railroad, where he claimed to have learned the martial art of Kuk Sool under Chinese Master Ynag Kuk Jin, although some of his peers doubt this assertion. Master Won Kyuk Lee of the Chung Do Kwan, claimed that Kee was a student at his kwan, gaining the equivalent of a green belt. Kee disputed Lee's claim, and acknowledged only Yang Kuk Jin as his teacher. Hwang returned to Korea from China in 1937, he wanted to continue his martial education, but the Japanese occupation limited his options. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, while working for the Cho Sun Rail Way Bureau, he began to study Okinawan Karate by reading books available at the local library.

In 1945, grandmaster Hwang Kee formed his first school. Initially he titled his first school Hwa Soo Do ("Flowering Hand Way") Moo Duk Kwan, and his first two attempts at running a school were unsuccessful. In the early 1950s, he changed the name of his school to Tang Soo Moo Duk Kwan because Tang Soo (a direct Korean translation of Chinese and Japanese "Empty Hand") was more familiar to Koreans from their exposure to Japanese martial arts. Much of the philosophy and many of the original forms (hyung) and techniques were direct derivations of Shotokan Karate, first created by Gichin Funakoshi.

In 1957, Kee claimed to have made several major discoveries in his reading the four hundred-page woodblock print Muye Dobo Tongji. The Muye Dobo Tongji was a book commissioned in 1790 by King Jeongjo of Korea, which illustrated indigenous Korean martial arts. Hwang Kee incorporated these teachings into his Tang Soo Do discipline. By 1953 and onward until 1960, the Moo Duk Kwan had risen to become biggest Moo Do organization in Korea, with close to 75% of all martial artists in Korea practicing Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.

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