Moo Duk Kwan can translate as "The School of Military Virtue."

The founder Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan was Hwang Kee. Hwang was an expatriate of Korea during much of its Japanese occupation. He details that he first secretly studied the Korean arts of soo bak do and tae kyon in his homeland, before leaving Korea in 1936 to work for the Southern Manchuria Railroad in China.

In early interviews, Hwang Kee stated that he studied numerous systems of Chinese martial arts while living in China. Later, it was revealed that he had also studied a system of karate while he was there. Is it significant that this was revealed later—or it is at least notable.
Hwang returned to Korea near the end of Japanese occupation and formalized his system of self-defense on his birthday, November 9, 1945. In 1946 his system began to be taught at the Yong San Railway Station in Seoul. It was called Tang Soo Do Bu, and he titled his martial arts organization Kyo Tong Bu Woo Hae. The Korean term tang soo literally translates as "knife hand," and the Japanese character used to depict this term is the same one used for karate. Since Hwang Kee's first school was in a railway station, many of his first students were railway employees. The school flourished for many years. Then, like most schools of martial arts on the Korean peninsula, it was closed on June 25, 1950, at the onset of the Korean War. In 1953, when the school reopened, Hwang Kee had changed the name of the system to moo duk kwan. He also changed the name of his organization to the Korea Soo Bahk Do Association. By 1955 this organization had ten gymnasiums, but its central headquarters remained near Seoul Station. During this same year, the Korea Soo Bahk Do Association hosted its first Sino-Korean martial arts championship.

By 1965, the various kwans of the modern Korean martial arts were merging under the banner of Tae Kwon Do. Hwang Kee resisted this trend, wishing to maintain control over his organization. As a result, two of his advanced students—Im Young Tek and Hong Chong Soo—broke away from their teacher, formed their own branch of moo duk kwan, and became a part of the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association. From this act, two distinct systems of self-defence, both called moo duk kwan, emerged.
Many advanced practitioners of tang soo do moo duk kwan followed this lead and broke away from Hwang Kee. They each became part of the Tae Kwon Do branch of moo duk kwan. Although the two moo duk kwans are relatively similar in style and structure, and most Korean moo duk kwan masters draw their lineage from Hwang Kee, the two moo duk kwans possess different forms and a some what different focus. The Tae Kwon Do branch of moo duk kwan does, however, possess substantially more members—approximately 500,000.
One interesting note is that tang soo do, unlike the other Korean martial arts, does not use the traditional black belt in its ranking system. Hwang Kee believed the black is the color in which all other colors merge—that is, any color that mixed with black also becomes black. If an individual wears a black belt, means that he has mastered the art. However, no one can ever truly master the martial arts, because they are a continual learning process. Therefore advanced tang soo do practitioners wear a navy blue belt.


Written by Conrad Howard — November 21, 2012

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