The relevance of Mu Duk Kwan and Hwang Kee in Taekwondo history

The relevance of Mu Duk Kwan and Hwang Kee in Taekwondo history

Hi there, and welcome to the newest Mini-Lecture. My name is Ørjan Nilsen, and today I am going to talk a little bit about Taekwondo History. To be more exact, I am going to delve into Mu Duk Kwan, and the reason for that is because of a short discussion that I was involved in on Facebook. The gust of it was that someone shared a very interesting article from a blog not mine:-P about Hwang Kee’s 1958 Mu Duk Kwan book. The title of the book is Tang Su Do Kyobun or Tang Su Do Textbook in English. It was published originally in 1958 in Seoul, but the post was shared on facebook was more a translation of forms that was practised, which Hwang Kee listed. Now one of the first comments that was posted on that facebook page or the thread on facebook suggested that Mu Duk Kwan and Hwang Kee was not relevant for Taekwondo history. So we should not study any of his writings. Hwang Kee and Mu Duk Kwan was totally irrelevant for taekwondo he said. To a certain degree he is correct and to a certain degree I find that viewpoint very limiting and also false. The reason for this is that modern taekwondo was formulated as a gathering of several different schools or “Kwan”, and we who practise Kukki-TKD, or WTF TKD, or WT TKD today, we are a style which is a hybrid or… what should I say, all the schools joined together to form the style that we practise today. In ITF Taekwondo, or Chang Hon Ryu is primarily of Oh Do Kwan and Choi Hong Hi but if limit taekwondo to be just his (Choi’s) style, then you are correct, Hwang Kee is very little relevant for them. But to everyone else, who has a Kwan lineage, or who study Kukki-TKD, he is important, and I will tell you why Mu Duk Kwan was opened in 1945, and Hwang Kee did not study in Japan which was the norm for the Kwan foudners He started his study in Manchuria, China, where he studdied. He was working on the railroad and he learned of a man who could teach him Tai Chi and something called Ttam Ttui, which are linear forms that were pretty new at the time in the 1930s. In 1945 he travelled back to Korea where he founded his Mu Duk Kwan, School of Martial Virtue he did not call what he taught at that school Tang Su Do, Kwon Bup or Kong Su Do which were the normal terms He made his own term, which he called Hwa Su Do. Hwa Su Do, Hwa is the same as “HWArang”, and it means flowery hand Hwa is flower, and Su a term for hand. So the way of the flowery hand or the way of the flower hand was what he originally taught. His art did not really have any comercial succsess, so he went to Chung Do Kwan, which was already opened by Lee Won Kuk or Ee Won Kuk. and there he practised for a while. And according to Lee Won Kuk which is perhaps how you pronounce the name in English according to him (Lee) he (Hwang) only got an intermediate rank, a colour belt rank but he (Hwang) did change his style when he went back to focus on his own school. He adopted the term Tang Su Do, which you then see in the 1958 Tang Su Do Textbook title and he also implemented several Karate forms or Hyeong in his school. Now he and a man called Yun Kwae Byung, who was responsible for reopening the Ji Do Kwan, or after the Korean war, or Yun Mu Kwan as Ji Do Kwan after the Korean war they had a Su Bahk Do Association, they had their own organisation, where they worked together, exchanged forms which might explain how Hwang Kee could list so many forms in his textbook. The list that he provides in his book is far greater than the forms he actually document in that book. Hwang Kee worked in the railroad in Manchuria China, and he also worked in the railroad when he got back to Korea. So he had access to transportation, infrastructure, and warehouses where he could establish schools throughout Korea. So according to Hwang Kee, the far majority of martial artists in Korea during the early 60s they were part of his organisation. and in the late 60s we see a great influx of students from Hwang Kee and Yun Kwae Byung’s Su Bahk Do Association enter the Korean Taekwondo Association. They cite that one of the reasons why they quit the Palgwae forms, the Poomsae that they had already, or recently made was because the Mu Duk Kwan and Ji Do Kwan hadn’t really had a say in it they hadn’t had any influence on how the basics were done, or the Poomsae, the Palgwae. So they replaced the Palgwae with the Taegeuk, and they allowed the Mu Duk Kwan and the Ji Do Kwan to influence what was to become Kukki-Taekwondo. To get a clear picture on what the students of Hwang Kee brought to the table for the Korean Taekwondo Association, we can look to this textbook, the Tang Su Do Textbook from 1958 Now the reason why I said that it is true that Hwang Kee is not really relevant for modern Taekwondo is that his later inventions, the whole Su Bahk Do style with the Yuk Ro Hyung; 6 paths forms and the Chil Sung Hyung, or the 7 star forms and his technical evolution, toward a softer, more perhaps Chinese inspired, or natural movements inspired techniques, they came later, and you can say that anything that Hwang Kee contributed invented, perfected, the evolution of Tang Su Do in his style, the Mu Duk Kwan directly under him after the late 60s is irrelevant for modern Taekwondo but his early works is very relevant for us, because his students, they influenced the modern style of Kukki-TKD So many dismiss Mu Duk Kwan and Hwang Kee entirely , and I think that is very wrong. Another example you can pull in is that many of the later Grandmasters of Kukki-Taekwondo they came from Mu Duk Kwan. One of the finest examples might be Richard Chun, from New York in the USA. He was one of the earliest pioneers in the USA, he was not the first, but he was one of the earliest he wrote one of the perhaps best books on Kukki Taekwondo, one of the earliest most comprehensive taekwondo books in English, and before the Kukkiwon Textbook was widely available as it is today, you can order it on amazon right away. his textbook was very important, and it influenced a lot of other Masters. And he also kept teaching the Mu Duk Kwan Hyeong, the original Karate imported forms and you have his students keeping on influencing the Kukki-style You have Doug Cook, sorry if I misspronounced your name:-) He is also an excellent writer, he has written many books. Taekwondo Traditions, History, Philosophy is a good example of the older hard style traditional taekwondo it is very block kick punch, but it consists of many of the things that are perhaps lost in mainstream taekwondo like one steps and three steps, one step sparring and three step sparring the formal sparring kinds, and he also discusses meditation, history in a non political way so you do get a good history section in that book but what I am trying to say is that eventhough Doug influences a lot of people through his writings but he is a direct student of Richard Chun, who is from the Mu Duk Kwan. So how can you dismiss Mu Duk Kwan on the basis that Hwang Kee himself did not directly contribute to taekwondo, he did his own thing, but he is very relevant through his early works for us even today:-) And that is it for today 🙂


10 thoughts on “The relevance of Mu Duk Kwan and Hwang Kee in Taekwondo history”

  • I want to copy Hwang Kee's martial arts journey!
    Today I with go out and spy on a martial arts class at a park and learn martial arts from there,
    Then i'm a go learn kata and forms from books, then practice some random martial arts for 3 years then create my own martial arts with new made up forms! Just like Hwang Kee! Awesome!

  • Dham Toi or rather Tan tui are not new forms from the 1930s and Yang Taijiquan was around 100 years old by then….where do you get your misinformation and sources from? If you cant answer that then I take it it you lied just for this video?
    Tan Tui was founded during the Ming Dynasty as a component of The Hui Moslems Cha Quan martial art that is also considered a system and style on it own and is over 800 years old by the 1930 and spread all over China. Its one of the oldest northern Long Fist styles and is literally taught in nearly every northern style as a basic pattern. Tan Tui has 10-12 and 28 roads variations. lol
    So if I come off as rude I just cant understand why people like you feel the need to talk about stuff without researching facts…

  • There is Moo Duk Kwan school near where I live. I was thinking of joining a class for the first time but I want to know what is the main emphasis of the art. Does it focus more on the self-defense side or the forms?

  • Gary Cleveland says:

    There are still Moo Duk Kwan style Tae Kwon Do schools that teach the older Kicho, Pyung Ahn, and Bassai (Balsek) patterns as well as the old 1 and 3 step sparring techniques.

  • Of course Moo Duk Kwan is relevant to Tae Kwon Do. To suggest otherwise is utterly ridiculous. It is the largest single style system in the world today. Approximately two thirds of Tae Kwon Do finds it's origin in Tang Soo Do, Moo Duk Kwan, Soo Bahk Do or whatever you want to call it. When TKD became an olympic sport Tang Soo Do stylists were dominating forms and fighting nationwide. This is why they disallowed the Tang Soo Do forms and required Tae Guk instead. I was there when it all happened. Authentic Tang Soo Do was and is the best and always will be. Hwang Kee was a visionary who created the first mixed or blended martial art by taking the best elements from Japanese, Chinese and Korean systems. Much of the essence of the original art has unfortunately been lost through commercialization and sport.

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