GM Han begins his story. “I was born in South-Korea in the village of Kan Jin in the Cholla Namdo prefect on the 5th of august 1954. I began my hapkido training in 1965. My first instructor was Lee, Sung Kang (9th degree black belt). GM Lee lives now in Spain. I received my first degree in hapkido from him in 1967. My grandmaster was Myong, Jae Nam. GM Myong was the founder of International Hapkido Federation (IHF). GM Myong is also my cousin, on my mother’s brother side. (Elder brothers son)
In those times, in the beginning of my hapkido training, the training was hard, very hard. There was much basic training. In those days the training consisted of much kicking, punching, falling and sparring. GM Lee was a very hard instructor. He was an “old school” kind of instructor. With all that comes with that term. During my high school time I also received a 2nd degree black belt in taekwondo. But my biggest love has always been hapkido. I remember that we used to train every day from 16:00 to 18:00. Mondays to Saturdays. Saturdays are not a holiday like in Europe. Therefor our training followed the school schedule.
Every Korean male has to do mandatory military service in the Korean army. I joined the ROK army in 1975, and was assigned to the 28th Division with Gyeong Ji Do. My unit in the 28th Division was also responsible for patrolling the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which divides North from South-Korea at the 38th parallel. This service is very tough and demanding on the soldiers that did the patrolling. Many have been killed on duty because of all the mines that were burried in the DMZ. In the army we all trained taekwondo. It is mandatory. It’s like physical Ed.
In the army I was fortunate to continue to train and conduct demonstrations in hapkido. I must have done something right in the service because I received an invitation to enrol into officers training. But I politely declined that offer. I wanted to finish my time in the service as soon as possible so I could continue with my hapkido training.
After the military, I moved to Incheon in Seoul, where I opened my first hapkido school in 1978. You need to have a 4th degree black belt to open your own dojang. In the beginning, I had 50 – 60 students training in my dojang. As a comparison, in 1978 there was around 100 hapkido dojangs in Seoul. Now there are over 1500 dojangs. Therefore, you can say that hapkido has grown a little bit since those days. (GM smiles)
In the beginning, many other hapkido masters came and visited my dojang to check me out. To see who and what I was. Like every other hapkido dojand some “bad guys” who only wanted trouble, also visited me. Nevertheless, I was never that afraid. I had many friends, and my dojang was located close to the Incheon Police Academy where my aunt’s brother was head principal.
In these times, I worked hard to promote hapkido in Korea. So in 1981 I chose to move to Won Ju city. There I opened a new hapkido dojang. In the new dojan, I also began to train American military personnel from the local military base. Later some of the Americans came to my school outside the army base to continue the hapkido training with me. I remember the American soldiers as being very good students. They were eager to learn, they trained hard and it was fun teaching them. Several of the GI’s recieved their black belts during their duty in Korea. I know for a fact that one of my old students from that time is now a General in the National Guard in Oklahoma.
There have always been problems between the Korean Hapkido Federation (KHF) and the International Hapkido Federation (IHF). Since the KHF had the blessing of the Korean Government they tried hard to “break” the IHF, and they almost succeeded . Many of the IHF masters stopped training when the problem between the KHF and the IHF reached its peak in those times. At the same time this was happening, I was interviewed by the Korean television while my students and I were doing training in ice water to show new spirit and cleansing of the spirit in the traditional way.
This gesture was seen by many of the other IHF masters and they were encouraged to start training again and keep fighting to keep the IHF alive as a federation.
Even though there were many problems on federation level, I was still promoting hapkido the way I could best. In 1989, I was elected General Secretary of the IHF. Because of being appointed General Secretary I chose to move back to Seoul to work at the IHF headquarters. At that time, I was also the 2nd head instructor of the IHF.
In 1990 I met Seo, Myeong Soo, who was a member of the technical committee of the European Taekwondo Union (ETU). I was invited to come to Europe to help him with hapkido seminars. As I conducted hapkido seminars around Europe I had the opportunity to meet a lot of European taekwondo instructors. Many of these instructors wanted to learn hapkido.
It was in 1992 I met GM Cho, Woon Sup (of Norway) for the first time in Korea. The same year I was awarded 8th degree black belt in hapkido from my grandmaster for my work promoting hapkido around the world. Well, back to my first meeting with GM Cho. He was visiting to learn more about hankido. Hankido was a new martial art that GM Young, Jae Nam had constructed.
I was the General Secretary of the IHF until 1993. After my time as General Secretary was over, I chose to open a new hapkido dojang in Seoul. Three years later, I chose to leave the IHF altogether. This was a big decision to make. I took a lot of time before I finally decided to leave the IHF. I felt there was too much politics involved. Hapkido I felt, was no longer the main focus of the federation.
Before I left the IHF I already had thoughts about a new federation, one where politics was not that prominent and also had a more modern approach to training. You see, without progress and innovation any art will cease to evolve and eventually die out. Well, that is my meaning anyway. Hence the word “game” in the federations name. 1997 was an important year for me. That year I founded the World Hapkido Games Federation (WHGF). The same year I was awarded the 9th degree black belt for my work in hapkido and for founding the WHGF.
Many of my students and instructors in Korea and abroad helped me founding the WHGF. I owe them much for their hard work in the founding of the WHGF. The same year I began compiling and writing the curriculum for the WHGF where my philosophy and techniques where outlined. I also made two videos showing the techniques from the curriculum.
The reason for founding the WHGF was that I saw that many of the different hapkido federations were divided due to internal problems within the federations and consequently drifting apart into fractions. I wanted to establish a gathering point, a neutral place where everyone could meet and train hapkido event though they were from different federations. Thus, the WHGF. (When one speaks about “games” I mean “hanmadang”, Games is a good word for the Korean word “hanmadang”) I wanted to make a game where every hapkidoist could come and show of their techniques. A game not unlike the Olympics, where one could meet in good spirit and thought.
At these games, we could meet and rebuild lost relationships, get new ideas and also swap ideas around hapkido. So a major part of the WHGF is to be a gathering point, a place to meet, become friends and getting new ideas. Also to arrange the techniques into a curriculum where they are written and standardized.
We have had three hanmadangs (games) since the WHGF was established. They have been very successful. These games are not for Koreans only. Many foreign hapkidoists came to the games too. The first game was held in 1998. The second one was in 1999. The third was in 2000. The games in 2001 was not held because we had problem with organizing the games itself.
We plan this year’s game in August; it will be the fourth games .Actually the fifth if one should count the games that not was held due to the problems we had organizing it. This year we plan to have other styles in the games. Not only hapkido. Martial arts like Son Moo Do, Kun Moo Do, Gyongdang, taekyon and hanmudo will be represented.
I am very excited. This will be the first time I have invited other martial arts to the games. I hope the games will be a fun time for everyone, not only for the participants but also for the audience. It will be a great opportunity for others to see that we can cooperate together, even woth though different ideas and philosophy when it comes to training. We can come together and maybe also learn from each other at the same time.
This year we will try to have a European hanmadang in October. I hope that GM Cho will come too. I hope that by bringing us all together we can show each other that the techniques are special but not asecret. I want to open up the techniques so that others can see and learn them. Maybe also incorporate the techniques into their own style of training.
Besides this I want openness and maybe a kind of positive revolution. In that I mean a revolution through the openness in the techniques. Letting the techniques flow between the federations, instead of being locked inside the federation without renewal.
My biggest wish is that all the hapkido federations will come together into one federation. I am using the internet promote my ideas about this idea of mine. I was the first in Korea to use the internet to introduce hapkido. This was back in 1997. I have registered two domains. These are taekwondo.co.kr and hapkido.co.kr. They are both very popular today (today not working).
I think the internet is a good thing for hapkido. It gives me the opportunity to give out information and ideas fast and direct. I work hard to connect people. In 1999 I arranged a meeting with many of the different martial art founders in Seoul.
The following founders attended:
Grandmaster Lim, Dong Kyu (Gyongdang)
Grandmaster Chung (jung) (taekyon)
Grandmaster Seol, Juk Un (sonmoodo)
Grandmaster Kimm, He-Young (hanmudo)
Grandmaster Kang, Ung Soon (kunmudo)
Grandmaster Myeong, Jae Ok (haejunmusool)
Grandmaster Park, No Won (Mooyodangong)
If you ask me who the founder of modern hapkido is, I must say that according to me this is Ji, Han Jae. Choi, Yong Sul is the father of hapkido, but GM Ji made it what it is today. He started the fire, so to speak. I have met GM Ji several times and he is a great hapkido person.
I have now been working on a project called hapkido time capsules. In these capsules masters and students can record their training and techniques, record who their instructors were. This is all being recorded through the internet. For the time being we have recorded over 3000 persons and their lineage in hapkido. This has been done so that people can find their lineage openly. Many federations have the same, but they are closed for others to look into. I think that is a shame. That is my meaning anyway. It does no good keeping such records closed. Let it be open so that every student can see their lineage in hapkido. This makes it easy for the student to find relations and also bonding people in hapkido together.
What will be the future for hapkido? Ah, if I only knew. My wish for the future is to change the system so that it becomes universal. Now federations (present time) are kind of egoistic in their way of thinking. In this I mean how techniques and how the organization are organized. I wish, and hope that all the federations can start to talk with each other. When they start to do this, they will find out that they really can learn from each other. From this we can build relations further, and bring the cooperation to a higher level. First talk, then action…
What do you think hapkido will be in the year 2020?
(By now GM Han’s face get more serious) “I think that in the year 2020 we will be one global federation. This is my wish and my goal that I work towards. I hope that what I have started others will continue for a long time after my time is over.
Thank you very much for you time GM Han!
(Interview with GM Han, Jung Doo at TTU Summercamp 2002, Brandbu – Norway by E. H. Valholm)
GM Hans Brief Biography
In 1965 His first step in one of the greatest martial arts, Hapkido, at his hometown and learned and taught under master Myung, Yoon Gun
In 1967 Promoted to 1st black belt degree by master Lee, Soo Kang at the province of Southern Jun ra
In 1969 Promoted to 2nd black belt grade by master Lee, Soo Kang at the province of Southern Jun ra
In 1974 Promoted to 3rd black belt grade at Seoul and learned under master Myung, Yoon Gun
In 1978 Promoted to 4th black belt grade by master Myung, Je Ok at Incheon
In 1981 Promoted to 5th black belt grade by master Myung, Je Ok at Incheon
In 1986 Promoted to 6th black belt grade by master Myung, Je Ok at Incheon
In 1990 Promoted to 7th black belt grade by master Myung, Jae Nam at Seoul
In 1996 Promoted to 8th black belt grade by master Myung, Jae Nam at Seoul
In 2003 Promoted to 9th black belt grade and established Global Hapkido Federation (GHF)
GM Han’s Professional History
In 1973 a headquarter master of Hapkido Yunmookwan in which lots of martial art trainers practice to improve their art skills
In 1978 opened Hansung Hall (Dojang) in Incheon
In 1981 opened Wonjoo Hapkido Hall in the city of Wonjoo
In 1983 opened Samsung Hapkido Hall in the province of Choongbuk
In 1985 opened Backam Hapkido Hall in Yoingin
In 1988 worked as a master in charge of business department at IHF (International Hapkido Federation)
In 1990 opened Life Hapkido Hall in Seoul
In 1990 started to perform as an international hapkidomaster in some countries; Netherlands, Belgium, German, and Israel
In 1997 opened the first martial art website for Hapkido and Taekwondo in Korea
In 2003 changed the name World Hapkido Games Federation to Global Hapkido Federation (GHF) Throughout 1997 to 2004, established overseas branch offices and halls in the world; Belgium, Netherlands, German, Austria, Israel, France, Spain, United States, Canada, Brazil, Singapore, Hungary, Croatia, Russia, Switzerland, and Iran
In 1999 Appointed chief of business affairs in Korea Traditional Martial Art Council
In 2000 President of Korea Martial Art Network
In 2000 Adviser of Culture Maker Co. (www.mooto.com)
In 2001 President of Korea Martial Art Culture Center
In 2004 President of Center for Cure-Exercises (CFCE)
GM Han’s Literary Works (Writings)
Oct. 1997 “Life Hapkido” published by Hapminsa Co.
Oct. 1998 made and produced CDs for guidance of promotion(al) examination
Mar. 1999 “Manual for Hapkido; WHGF” published by WHGF
Apr. 2000 planned a program “Hapkido Doin (Spiritual Guide) Exercises” which means exercises for health
Oct. 2003 video tape “Hapkido Self-Defense Technique & Hapgido Cure Exercises” produced by GHF
Apr. 2004 made and produced video tapes for promoting from lower grade to 1st black belt and from 2nd black belt to 4th black belt
In 1990 the first International Hapkido Games at Jangchung gymnasium, Seoul
In 1995 the first World Hapkido Friendship Games at the Center for Citizen of Yangchun-district, Seoul
In 1998 the second World Hapkido Games at Goodong gymnasium, Kwangjoo
In 2000 the third World Hapkido Games at Mokpo indoor gymnasium, Mokpo
In 2002 the first World Martial Art Games at Kwangmyung indoor gymnasium, Kwangmyung
In 2010 began researching Hapki-Zen
In 2015 started actively promoting Hapki-Zen