Yong Shul Choi, who from 1919 to the beginning of World War 11, had studied Daito-ryu aiki-jujitsu in Japan, founded the Korean martial art of hapkido. Around 1939-40, Choi combined his knowledge of aiki-jujitsu with the Korean styles of hwarangdo and taekyon.
Until the 1960ís hapkido was known by various names: yu kwon sool, yu-sool, ho shin sool, and bi sool. In the early 60ís the Korean Kido-Association was formed under the leadership of Choi.
Choi was assisted by his students Han-jai, In Hyuk Su, and Moo-wung Kim. Later a number of his students left and formed a rival organization, the Korean Hapkido Association. Today there are more than one million members in each association. There are three major hapkido pioneers in the United States. Sea Oh Choi, bong Soo Han, and He-Young Kimm. Sea Oh Choi, who immigrated to Los Angeles in 1964, introduced Hapkido in America.
However it was the motion picture, “Billy Jack” that rocketed the Korean art to popularity in America. Choreographed by Bong Soo Han the movies fight scenes laid the foundation for almost every action film that followed.
The “Billy Jack kick,” (crescent kick) was called the kick felt round the world because of the effect it had on martial arts enrollments.
The day after “Billy Jack” hit the theaters, thousands of new students flocked to martial arts schools all over the country eager to learn the moves made popular by Master Han and the filmís star Tom Laughlin.
The origins of Hung Gar, or “Hung Family Style,” are steeped in history and legend, beginning with the style's birth in the Shaolin Temples of Southern China, where supporters of the fallen Ming Dynasty gathered to plan uprisings against the newly established Ching Dynasty. The last Abbot of the Fukien Temple, Zen Master Gee Sin, gained fame as a martial arts genius during his time there as an instructor. Two of his most famous students were Hung Hei Guen, whose son, Hung Man Ting, later founded the art of Hung Gar, and Bak Mei, who lives in infamy as the traitor whose betrayal brought about the demise of the temple.
When the temple was finally sacked, Hung Hei Guen escaped, only to be pursued and later killed by Bak Mei. After the death of his father, Hung Man Ting vowed revenge. He realized that to do this sucessfully he needed to combine the powerful techniques of his father with the agile ones of his mother, Fong Wing Chun - who was also an expert in Kung Fu. This new style he created was still in essence Southern Shaolin Kung Fu, but Hung Man Ting was a fugitive and Shaolin Kung fu was associated with the rebellion. To avoid persecution, the style was renamed Hung Kuen - and is now referred to as Hung Gar.
Hung Gar has several trademarks. Most noted is the “1000 Pound Horse Stance,” which requires the practitioner to stand, feet apart and legs bent, with their bodyweight equally distributed (thus appearing to ride a horse.) A person in this stance is said to be unmovable, “appearing to weigh 1000 pounds.” Also well cited is the “No Shadow Kick,” made famous by the late master Wong Fei Hung, who reportedly kicked so fast that it did not cast a shadow.
Masters of Shaolin Kung Fu took lessons from the behavior of animals they observed in nature. Invaluable to Hung Gar is that of the Tiger and the Crane. Hung Hei Guen was a master of the powerful Tiger techniques, while his wife Fong Wing Chun was a expert in the movements of the elegant Crane. The combined strength of the Tiger and the Crane is the heart of Hung Gar Kung fu. The result is an art that is regarded not only for its strength training but also for its spirituality.