Early Tae Kyon masters from the Koguryo Kingdom (37 B.C.) taught TaeKyon to a select group of Silla Warriors. Silla was the smallest of three kingdoms, constantly under attack by Japanese pirates. These Silla warriors further developed the art, and became an elite fighting group called the Hwa Rang.
The Sila Dynasty eventually united the three kingdoms (668 A.D.), but was eventually overthrown by a warlord, Wang Kun, who established a new kingdom called Koryo (918 A.D.), and creating the Wang Dynasty. During this period, Hwa Rang Dan became Gook Sun Dul or Poong Wal Dul. Gook Sun or Poong Wal was the equivalent to a modern Army General, and each would have had hundreds to thousands of warriors to protect their region. This system was later adapted by the Japanese, and became known as the Samurai. Later, during the Koryo Dynasty, Tae Kyon’s name was changed to Subak.
The first widely distributed book on Subak was published during the Yi Dynasty (1397 to 1907). This book, Mooyae Dobo Tangji, written in 1790, contained illustrations substantiating the theory that Tang Soo Do (formerly “Soo Bak Ki”) had quickly developed into a very sophisticated art of combat techniques. This was the first time that Subak was offered to the public, previously having been limited to military use.
Although it was very popular publicly, Subak was gradually banned by the Yi Dynasty, due to fear of widespread rebellion. For centuries, Korean Traditional martial arts were taught in a relational manner, where one teacher would take on only one student for the whole of that teacher’s life. This system and its limitations forced many Korean practitioners to train using Japanese martial arts instead, which allow for more training opportunities.
During the second half of the Yi Dynasty, political conflicts arose, and a preference for debate over military action nearly led to the extinction of the Subak. The art’s emphasis was altered to one of recreational and physical fitness, and this caused a general lack of interest in Subak as an art form. For many years, Subak became fragmented and practiced in scarcity for the better part of a century.
Born in Dae Gu City, South Korea, Grandmaster Song Ki Pak started training at the age of 12, under the instruction of Cha Jay Won (a second-generation traditional instructor) in the Moo Duk Kwan system.
Pak achieved Black Belt in Moo Duk Kwan in 1951 from Master Cha – the only remaining master. Grandmaster Pak is considered a third generation Tang Soo Do master. This martial art genealogy, courtesy of the noted martial art historian Dr. He-Young Kimm from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was verified by Grandmaster Pak after discussion and clarification.
Grandmaster Pak taught traditional Tang Soo Do in Korea until 1961. He has trained U.S. Government soldiers, for the 7th infantry Military Police Company, and CIA operatives near Tong Du Chon City, South Korea. In 1969, Pak moved his school onto an army base, where he taught martial arts to the 5th Air Force Division, 6170 Combat Support Squadron.
In 1973, Pak moved to Jacksonville, FL, via Hawaii, and to Louisville, KY. In 1974, he moved to Lafayette, Indiana, where he taught nationally-recognized and celebrated senior students Pat Fraser, Gary Cohen, and Dave Richel. Grandmaster Pak moved back to Jacksonville, FL in 1975, and opened a school on Blanding Blvd. Master Curtis Hammond and Master Mike Arrington were two of his first students at that location. Pak, with the help of his students, built his own school, and relocated to a new location in November of 1978.
Pak built his second and current facility on Blanding Blvd in October of 1985. The studio is billed as the largest Tang Soo Do School in the world.
Biography courtesy of Senior Master Curtis Hammond
In 1909, the Japanese invaded Korea, and occupied the country for 36 years. In an attempt to control Korea’s patriotism, the Japanese banned the practice of all military arts, Korean languages, and even books that were written in Korean. This pervasive ban was responsible for a renewed interest in Subak, as a form of expression in Korea, and a means of connecting with heritage and self.
During this time, many Koreans organized themselves into underground groups, in order to practice martial arts. Others left Korea to study martial arts in other countries, such as China and Japan. In 1943, Judo, Karate and Kung-fu were officially introduced into Korea, and martial arts regained popularity. In 1945, Korea was liberated from the Japanese, and its people were once again allowed to study their cultural art.
In the few years leading up to this liberation, many different variants of Subak/Taek Kyon emerged in Korea, due to the influence of other martial arts styles. At this time also, a few select schools were formed to teach the Korean Martial Arts, each with a slightly different name. The largest and most prominent school was the Moo Duk Kwan, instructing in what they called Tang Soo Do. This school, or Kwan was founded by Hwan Kee.
Even as the art evolves, its foundation and philosophy is still based on the five codes of human conduct that the original Hwa Rang warriors lived by. Today, Tang Soo Do is practiced by students of any age to achieve self-improvement in all aspects of their lives.