The exact origin of Tang Soo Do, as well as many martial arts in general, is obscure, although there are a number of historical theories. However, the most credible and traditional view is that martial arts originated not in any one country but in almost all parts of the globe, as they were needed by primitive people.
Meaning of Tang Soo Do
Literally translated, the word “Tang” means T’ang Dynasty of China, which reflects the shared cultural background between China and Korea(617 – 907 AD). “Soo” means hand, but it implies fist, punch, strike, or defense, etc. “Do” means way of life or art. Thus “Tang Soo Do” means “The Way of the Tang Hand.”
Development in Early Ages
The ancestral art of Korean Tang Soo Do can be traced back to the period of the three kingdoms. At that time, Korea was divided into three kingdoms.
Koguryo was founded 37 BC in northern Korea. The Silla Dynasty was founded in 57 BC in the southeast peninsula, and Paekche was founded in 18 BC.
After a long series of wars, the SIlla Dynasty united the three kingdoms in 668 AD. During this period of time, the primitive martial arts were very popular in warfare. This is evident by mural paintings, ruins, and remains which depicted Tang Soo Do in those days.
Among the three kingdoms, the Silla Dynasty was most famous for its development of martial arts. A corps formed by young aristocrats, called “Hwa Rang Dan,” was the major group who developed those arts. These warriors were instrumental in unifying the peninsula as the new Silla Dynasty(668 AD – 935 AD) and furnished many of the early leaders of the dynasty. Most Korean martial arts trace their spiritual and technical heritage to this group. The names of some groups and arts reflect this, such as Hwa Rang Do or Hwa Doo Do.
The Unified Silla Kingdom was overthrown by a warlord, Wang Kun, in 918 AD, and a new kingdom called “Koryo” lasted for 475 years. In 1392 AD, the new kingdom, Yi Dynasty, succeeded and lasted about 500 years. Approximately a thousand year period elapsed between the two dynasties. Tang Soo Do became very popular with the general public. In those days it was called Kwon Bop, Tae Kyun, Soo Bahk, Tang Soo, etc.
The very first complete martial art book was written at this time. This most important book is called “Mooyae Dobo Tongji.” It was written in 1790 AD and contained illustrations that substantiate the theory that “Soo Bahk Ki,” the formal name for Tang Soo Do, had quickly developed into a sophisticated art of combat techniques.
The subsequent occupation of Korea by the Japanese military regime took place from 1909 to 1945. During this period, practicing and teaching of martial arts was restricted.
After World War II, 1945, this restriction was lifted. Several martial arts training schools were erected at that time as follows:
- Moo Duk Kwan, by Hwang Kee
- Chi Do Kwan, by Kwai Byung, Yun
- Chung Do Kwan, by Duk Sung, Son
- Song Moo Kwan, by Byung Jik, No
- Chang Moo Kwan, by Nam Suk, Lee
- Yun Moo Kwan, by Sang Sup, Chun
The founders started to organize their own organizations respectively, and Master Hwang Kee organized the “Korean Soo Bahk Do Association” on November 9, 1945.
Besides the Soo Bahk Do Association’s existence in Korea, there were various types of other martial arts called “Kong Soo” or “Tae Soo.” In 1965 all of these various systems were united into one organization called the “Korean Tae Kwon Do Association,” and the art was called “Tae Kwon Do” uniformly.
As a Korean national sport, Tae Kwon Do initiated a new era and instructors were dispatched throughout the world, and international tournaments were held. In those days, Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do were divided with Tang Soo Do striving to remain as a traditional martial art while Tae Kwon Do held its world games and sports.
Cheezic TSD Development*
“While serving in the U.S. Air Force in Korea, Grandmaster Cheezic began the study of Tang Soo Do under Grandmaster Jae C. Shin. Grandmaster Shin is today the head of the very large and important World Tang Soo Do Association, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Grandmaster Cheezic received his black belt in October 1960 from Grandmaster Hwang Kee, who developed and established the discipline of Tang Soo Do as we know it today. Hwang Kee and Jae C. Shin are historic figures in international martial arts.
Master Cheezic came home to Waterbury, Connecticut in 1960 and in that year opened a Tang Soo Do dojang. Over the years this dojang has grown into the Cheezic Tang Soo Do Federation that today includes over 50 locations in 13 states including several international locations. Since the beginning over 25,000 students have been enrolled. In 1999, the Federation awarded its thousandth black belt and continues to grow. Included in our list of 2,000 plus black belts over 80 active master-belts.
Our training is traditional, encompassing the refinement of technique, hyung (forms) and dae ryun (sparring). We encourage the pursuit of excellence in our Art and applaud our students and instructors achievements both within our discipline and in their scholastic or personal achievements. Members of the Federation at all levels regularly take part in exhibitions and tournaments at home and abroad. Teams representing our Federation have competed throughout the United States; and internationally in Europe, Asia, the Carribean, and Australia.
The bedrock of the Federation has always been and continues to be its emphasis on respect for the traditions, beliefs, and practices which characterize Tang Soo Do.