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Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan

 History Lesson


There is a lot of myth and misinformation regarding martial arts, and Soo Bahk Do (Tang Soo Do) Moo Duk Kwan is no exception.  So lets start with the facts:


Hwang Kee founded the Moo Duk Kwan on November 9, 1945 in Seoul Korea. Moo Duk Kwan is Korean for "School of Martial Virtue". Hwang Kee combined what he knew of the Chinese and Korean martial arts he had studied into a style he called Hwa Soo Do.


Tang Soo Do is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters . The literal translation is "Tang (China) or open hand way". The same characters are pronounced karate-do in Japanese. The Korean public were much more familiar with the term Tang Soo Do, so Kee renamed his art Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.


In 1957, Kee made a discovery of Subak, a true Korean martial art, from Muye Dobo Tongji, a comprehensive and illustrated manual of the martial disciplines of Ancient Korea. Kee further developed the Subak system to be studied through the Moo Duk Kwan. It was Kee's wish to reconnect Korea to its traditions, so he renamed his art Soo Bahk Do.  This change was officially registered with the Korean Ministry of Education on June 30, 1960. 


Although the largest, the Moo Duk Kwan was not the only school in Korea - eight other Kwans had emerged by the mid 1950s. In 1961 the Korean Government ordered the various schools to unify under a single system, now called Taekwondo.  This caused a split in the Moo Duk Kwan. One group stayed loyal to Grand Master Hwang Kee, and still follow the official Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan curriculum, controlled by the World Moo Duk Kwan Inc.  The second group merged with the other eight other Kwans to form Taekwondo and follow the Kukkiwon curriculum. Taekwondo is now a competitive Olympic sport controlled by the World Taekwando Federation.


If you search the web you will see lots of references to Tang Soo Do.  As with many sports - through commercial interests, egos and politics - splinter groups will emerge.  Some Tang Soo Do clubs have their roots in Taekwando, but wanted to rekindle the more traditional aspects of the art. Others were formed by ex-Soo Bahk Do students who started their own schools rather than remain part of the World Moo Duk Kwan.


Remember "Tang Soo Do" is a generic Korean phrase equivalent to "Karate", so anyone is free to use it.  However, Soo Bahk Do, Moo Duk Kwan and the Moo Duk Kwan "fist" logo are registered trademarks of the World Moo Duk Kwan. Only federations officially recognised by the World Moo Duk Kwan have the right to claim they teach Soo Bahk Do and use the fist logo.  These organisations are listed under "member organizations" on the official World Moo Duk Kwan website.

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