Tang Soo Do, (pronounced “tong sue doe”) is a traditional Korean Martial Art and is primarily a system of empty handed self defense dating back about 2,000 years. This style or system was originally used as a way for the common people to protect themselves from the sword of the Samurai.
The “Tang” represents the chinese influence on the development of modern Tang Soo Do. Grandmaster Hwang Kee, who founded the Moo Duk Kwan, giving Tang Soo Do its current form, spent many years in China, as Korea was occupied by Japan, and Koreans were forbidden from practicing their own traditional martial arts. Many Koreans escaped the Japanese occupation, and worked and trained in China until the end of the 2nd World War ended the occupation. Grandmaster Hwang Kee was among that number.
The word “soo” is translated “hand” or “open-hand.” There are many techniques for striking that involve using open-hands. And “open-handed” also carries with it the implication of being un-armed. While there are certain weapons that some students learn how to use, and there are many techniques designed to defend against weapons, the art of Tang Soo Do is the art of un-armed, “open-handed” self defense.
Finally, the word “do” is related to the chinese word “tao” or “dao,” and means “way” or “path.” So Tang Soo Do, contrary to the understanding of many non-practitioners, is not a sport or a hobby. It is a way of life, a path to follow. As such, it carries with it not only techniques for striking and blocking and kicking, but a philosophy for living, mental aspects to be cultivated, respect to be given and earned and more.
Korean martial arts developed approximately 2000 years ago. Korea was then divided into three kingdoms: Koguro in the North, Paekche in the Southwest, and Silla in the Southeast. At this time martial arts were very primitive.
Korea was first unified under the Silla Dynasty(688-935AD). At this time, the Hwa Rang Dan warriors combined the philosophy of the monk Won Kwang, who was the originator of the principles of our own Tang Soo Do, with Soo Bahk Ki (the art of foot and body fighting) to form the traditional art of Soo Bahk Do. The Hwa Rang Dan warriors aided in the unification of thier country and were the first martial artists to include a code of chivalry in their practice.
The Yi Dynasty (1392-1910 AD) followed the Koryo Dynasty and assured the continuation of Korean martial arts in two significant ways. First, the martial arts book, Mooye Dobo Tongi was written, which substantiated the sophistication of the combative art of Soo Bahk Ki. Second, as Soo Bahk Ki replaced Soo Bahk Do within the military, Soo Bahk Do became recreational for the common people.
Korea was occupied by the Japanese from 1909 through 1945. During this time, the Korean people were forbidden to practice martial arts. Tae Kyun and Soo Bahk Do practitioners went underground to continue their training. In 1945, after World War II, these restrictions were lifted and many martial artists, including Moo Duk Kwan, as organized by Hwang Kee, were established. Master Hwang Kee combined Tae Kyun and Soo Bahk Do with the Chinese “Tang” method of martial arts and founded the organization called the Korea Soo Bahk Do Association, on November 9th, 1945, also known as Tang Soo Do.
In 1965, the Korea Tang Soo Do Association was established in an attempt to unite the Korean Martial Arts under one name. However, the Tang Soo Do practitioners chose to remain as traditionalists rather than join the sport oriented Tae Kwon Do organization.