A Concise History of Hapkido
and the Iowa Hapkido Club

This is a concise overview of the history of Hapkido and the lineage of the Iowa Hapkido Club. The names in bold represent the direct line from the progenitors and founder of Hapkido to the present Head Instructor of the Iowa Hapkido Club.

A Concise History of Hapkido

Hapkido has its origins in the Japanese martial art of Daito-ryu Aiki-Jujutsu (“Big Sword School of Aiki-Jujutsu”). This was a martial art that was developed not for the battlefield, but as a means of self-defense for warriors inside a palace when they were unarmed. The founder of the art was Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (1045-1127) who lived in an estate named Daito (the name of the style was taken from the place of origin). The art was passed down (often secretly) through many generations of his descendants, until Takeda Sokaku (1859-1943) began teaching it publicly. He traveled extensively giving seminars and is said to have had 30,000 students during his lifetime. Daito-ryu influenced the development of the styles of Aikido and Hapkido.

One of Takeda Sokaku’s students was the founder of Hapkido, Choi Yong Sul (1904-1986). He was born in Korea, but was kidnapped at the age of eight by a Japanese merchant and taken to Japan (this was during the period that the Japanese occupied Korea). Choi ran away from his kidnapper, begged in the streets of Osaka until he was caught by the police and lived for two years in a buddhist temple. However, he spoke Japanese poorly and was teased and beaten by the other children at the temple, so the monks sent him to live with Takeda Sokaku, the Daito-ryu instructor. It is not clear what status he had in the Takeda household, whether he was adopted by Takeda or simply worked there as a servant. What is clear however, is that Choi learned many if not all of Takeda’s techniques during the thirty years he lived with him.

Choi returned to Korea after Takeda committed suicide by starving himself in 1943, when it became obvious that Japan would lose the war. Choi and his family supported themselves for several years by selling rice cookies until they had saved enough money to buy some pigs. In February 1948, Choi was standing in line at a brewery for grain to feed the pigs, when several men tried to take his place in line. Of course, having practiced Aiki-Jujutsu for thirty years, he effortlessly defended himself against the men. The manager and son of the owner of the brewery, Suh Bok Sup, was a first-degree black belt in Judo. He was so impressed with Choi’s demonstration of skill that he asked him to teach him what he knew.

The two men opened a dojang together in 1951. Choi called the martial art he taught by several different names before deciding on “Hapkido” (The Way of Coordinated Power) in 1958. During this period, Hapkido was influenced by the previous martial arts experience of Choi’s early students. For instance, Suh’s Judo background led to emphasis on defenses against wrist and collar grabs. One of Choi’s more well-known students was Ji Han Jae, who studied with Choi until 1956, when he broke away to form his own school of Hapkido, which emphasized kicks and weapon techniques to a greater degree. These and other students added what they knew to the pure Aiki-Jujutsu (mostly joint locks, throws and chokes) taught by Choi.

We believe that one of Choi’s students was Park Jae Ho. This has not been verified and we know only that he was born around 1938 and that he taught Hapkido at Korean Judo College in the late 1960s. He moved to the US, probably in the 1970s, and for a time he might have lived in the Los Angeles area. If anyone reading this has any information about Park Jae Ho, please contact us.

History of the Iowa State University Hapkido Club

One of Park Jae Ho’s students was Pak Yong Chin. He was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1948. He suffered from poor health as a child due to the food shortages of the Korean War and was left orphaned by age eleven. Pak began practicing Judo in middle school to improve his health and to become stronger, and he excelled at the art. He began his Hapkido studies at age fifteen and also practiced Taekwondo. His high school martial arts teacher was Nam Jong Sun. In 1967 Pak began attending Korean Judo College (since renamed Yong In University) on a Judo scholarship, and continued his practice in Hapkido and Taekwondo. His Hapkido teacher at the college was Park Jae Ho. During the four years he attended college, part of Pak’s education was serving in the Korean Secret Service as a plainclothes bodyguard to the President and other important persons. When he graduated from college he held the ranks of 4th degree black belt in Judo, Hapkido and Taekwondo (he has subsequently been promoted to 6th, 8th and 8th, respectively).

Master Pak came to the US in November 1971. After a short stay with his sister in Hawaii, he took a position for a year teaching Judo at St. Mary’s College in Omaha, Nebraska.

In 1973, Master Pak accepted a position as martial arts instructor at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, the same position he still holds today. It is estimated that he has taught over 30,000 Hapkido, Judo and Taekwondo students during his four decades at ISU.

History of the Iowa Hapkido Club

Several students who trained in Hapkido at Iowa State University under Master Pak have opened their own clubs throughout Iowa. One of these is Michael Drahos, a 4th degree black belt who began practicing Hapkido in 1985 at ISU. After graduating from ISU, he moved to the Iowa City area and established the Hapkido Lesson Program at the University of Iowa in 1990. Master Drahos moved to Minnesota in 1998.

Brian Hayes, 5th degree black belt, and the current Head Instructor for the Iowa Hapkido Club, began practicing Hapkido in 1990 at ISU. He earned his black belt in 1993 while attending ISU veterinary school. After graduation, he moved to Eastern Iowa and continued practicing Hapkido with Master Drahos. Master Hayes assumed leadership of the Hapkido Lesson Program (a.k.a. the Iowa Hapkido Club) at the University of Iowa in 1998.

4. interviews with Master Yong Chin Pak, 2003
5. Hapkido: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique. Marc Tedeshi. Trumbull, CT: Weatherhill, 2000, pp. 26-32

Note: Like many historical accounts, much of this history is not well-documented.