The history of Soo Bak Do is lost in antiquity, and it is therefore impossible to trace the true beginning of this art, however, taking into consideration the knowledge of history that man has derived today, we can assume that Tang Soo Do can be traced back to the Central Asian Plateau, perhaps 1 million years ago – that is the place and period that the majority of historians consider to be the beginning of the history of man. As all animals have some means of self-defense, be it protective coloration, offensive odors, poison glands, or tooth and claw, man, having no special defense mechanisms as he is a generalized animal, must have used his bare hands and feet to protect himself in these early stages of his development.
We can therefore safely assume that our ancestors used these bare hand and foot methods, and we can say that a crude form of Tang Soo Do existed with the first man.
Doubtless, modern Tang Soo Do is the vestige of this primitive age, and is the origin of all the present day martial arts and sports.
Some Japanese Karate authorities believe that a renowned Buddhist monk, Daruma Daesa journeyed overland from Indiato Chinato instruct the Liang Dynasty Monarch on the tenets of Buddhism. To make this nearly impossible journey over the Himalayasrequired mental and physical endurance unequalled by ordinary man. When he arrived in Chinahe went to an monastery called Shaolin -ssu and taught Buddhism to the Chinese monks, but they soon became physically exhausted from the sever discipline and intense pace that this Indian patriarch set. He then explained that until the body is completely under conscious control, one could not hope to meet the stringent requirements of freeing the self, and attaining enlightenment – he therefore began to teach them a method of physical and mental discipline, and came to be the greatest fighters in China, so great in fact, that the national sport of China. Although this story is dramatic, there is little historical data to back this up. In spite of their insistence on Daruma’s superhuman feat of traveling over the Himalaya’s to China, extensive historical data shows that he came into China during the Yang Dynasty during the reign of King Moo Je, and that he came by sea not land. He initially attempted to teach Buddhism to King Moo Je at Kwan Joo, but the king refused him as he did not welcome the Buddhist teachings. Daruma then went to Ui country in Chinawhere he was invited to teach by King Myong Je on So Rim Temple in meditation and devotion until his death nine years later. This occurred during the 6th century AD. There is a precious book on the martial arts which indicates that Tang Soo Do was being practiced during the period of the fourth king Ae Je of the Han dynasty of China, nearly 2,000 years ago. Obviously the Bodhavista, Daruma could not have introduced Tang Soo Do Do nearly 500 years later.
An argument is still raging about the origin of Tang Soo Do; some Japanese Karta experts insist that the art is of Japanese origin, others say began inChina and spread from there, and others still profess diverse theory’s of the origin of this art. Although it must be admitted that the Oriental culture began inChina, it is not necessary to believe that the Martial Arts began inChina. Many Koreans claim that the Martial Arts were started by Kim Yoo Sin, commander of the knights of the Sin Ra Dynasty of Korea, as wall drawings of that period show arts being practiced by these Knights. I do not believe any of these theory’s are correct. This art came from neitherChina notJapan norKorea, but is apparently a natural development which occurred in different places as it was needed for defense. To credit any one country, and especially any one individual, is completely incorrect.
Ways and methods of development have differed according to place and time and it would be impossible to point to any one individual and say that he even systematized the art. Thus will I leave the question of its origin, and instead attempt to see its development, avoiding exaggeration, arbitrary presumption, misunderstanding and prejudice, in the sincere and scientific manner; thereby establishing an essential and scientific theory of the history of Tang Soo Do. With this theory, each nation or individual can learn the art in accordance with its (or his) present circumstances. This I believe is our mission for the development of the Martial Art, and our legacy to future generations.
With this in mind, I will divide the history of Tang Soo Do into four stages.
First: The instinctive Action Age. From the dawn of man, approximately one million years ago, when no conscious action was involved in defense.
Second: Conscious Action Age. From the Stone Age, about 0.2 million years ago to the end of the primitive era. During this age, man acted consciously to develop methods of protecting his body and gathering his daily needs. This was the period in which mankind began to spread into Asia and Europe from the Central Asian Plateau, and the Martial Art, of its rudimentary beginnings, spread with them.
Third: Early Age of Systemization. This is the Iron Age which covers the period from 10,000 to 2,600 years ago, at which time the Martial Arts were consciously developed and systematized by civilized man.
Fourth: Age of the Flowering of the Arts. This period begins about 2,600 years ago. And is the period in which the Art reached its fullest development in various systems in difference parts of the world. This is the period which is interesting for us to study.
With the above steps in mind we can see Tang Soo Do’s history in the proper perspective. Certain evidence is documented to show part of the history of this art during the fourth age. It was formalized by Yi Ui Sop during the reign of Sung Jong, the 18th King of Korea, about 750 years ago. There are traces of this art inIndia which can be seen up to 2,400 years ago. It formalized in Europe about 500 years ago and in Japan only 40 years ago.* There are record in Greece which indicate that such an art was popular there about 2,400 years ago. This European development is the origin of modern day wrestling and boxing.
*Note: Depending on when this was written that would be approximately early 1900′s and probably hints toward Funakoshi Gichin bringing Shotokan to Japan. ObviouslyJapanhad its own systems of self defense. GM Hwang Kee even states that Martial Arts are naturally developed where ever needed. So this reference is I believe to the systematization of the arts as styles.
written by Grandmaster Hwang Kee and translated by Dr. Robert Sohn