Hwa Rang Do

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Hwa Rang Do
Hangul 화랑도
Hanja
Revised Romanization Hwarangdo
McCune–Reischauer Hwarangdo

Hwa Rang Do is a Korean martial art that was developed in the 1960s by Joo Bang Lee and his brother Joo Sang Lee. The name Hwa Rang Do is translated into "The Way of the Young flowers" or "The Way of the Flowering Knights." The artform has multiple areas of focus, including fighting techniques, weaponry, meditative practices, intellectual enhancement, and artistic pursuits.

History[edit]

The Ancient Hwarang[edit]

The martial art of Hwa Rang Do was named after a buddhist elite youth order of the Silla kingdom during the Three-Kingdoms Period known as the Hwarang in what is now Korea. These young men were cultivated from a young age to fill significant roles in politics, civil service, and the military duties. These individuals were selected exclusively from the royal family and aristocracy and led members of the broader public who were described as Rang-do. This group lasted through the Koryŏ Dynasty until they were officially disbanded at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty.[1]

The Founding of the Art[edit]

Joo Bang Lee's martial arts training started with his father who taught him Yudo and Kumdo at a young age. In 1942, Joo Bang Lee's father worked out a deal with a monk locally known as Suahm Dosa to take his sons into his home for traditional Korean training. Suahm Dosa claimed to practice within a tradition that had it's roots with the ancient Hwarang, which he called Um-Yang Kwon. (Note that "Dosa" is actually his title, and it is roughly equivalent to "hermit sage expert".) Both Joo Bang Lee and his brother Joo Sang Lee trained with Suahm Dosa at the Suk Wang Sa Temple in the Ham Nam province of North Korea, before the breakout of the Korean War and they had to flee south to avoid the communist military. The Lee family relocated to Seoul and Suahm Dosa, according to the Lee family, relocated to Ohdae Mountain.[2]

The Lee brothers continued their training with Suahm Dosa until 1950 when their family moved further south to Daegu. Being too far away to continue their training with Suahm Dosa, they began to be involved with the local martial art communities in the area. There, they met a martial artist named Choi Yong-sul, a practitioner of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu and who is recognized as the father of modern Hapkido. They continued their training with Choi through the 1950s and became registered Hapkido instructors in Seoul in the early 1960s. They stayed involved with the Hapkido community in Korea until the middle to late 1960s.[3]

In 1968, Suahm Dosa died and left the title of "Do Jo" to Joo Bang Lee, making him the 58th successive holder of this title. The two brothers then took all their martial art knowledge and generated the Hwa Rang Do syllabus, continuing with their teaching of Hwa Rang Do. In 1972, Joo Bang Lee moved to California, taking the World Headquarters of Hwa Rang Do with him.[4]

Early Days in America[edit]

Through the 70s and 80s, Hwa Rang Do grew throughout California and the adjacent states. Both Joo Bang Lee and Joo Sang Lee performed in expo style demonstrations and on TV shows including “That’s Incredible” and “Unknown Powers”. It was during this time as well that Hwa Rang Do became involved with the US Military, specifically the Army Rangers and Special Forces. With the assistance of one of Joo Bang Lee’s students, a Vietnam vet named Michael Echanis, Hwa Rang Do grew. As the 70s moved into the 80s, Joo Bang Lee’s sons, Henry Taejoon Lee and Eric Taehyun Lee moved into the spot light through working with expanding their involvement with collage clubs in California and performing at martial art expos and demonstrations. It was also at this time that Hwa Rang Do’s involvement with the military unfortunately was cut short. In September 1978, Michael Echanis was killed in the line of duty and their official involvement with the military ended shortly afterwards.

Time of Change and Development[edit]

As Hwa Rang Do moved into the 90s and the new Millennium, the younger generation began to make its mark on the art.

In the 90s, Hwa Rang Do schools popped up all over the world. Students who had been traveling to train with Joo Bang Lee started their own schools in countries like Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. Because of the amount of travel, Henry Taejoon Lee was involved in much of these developments making trips to Europe to help with the growth and development there. Today, Italy is one of the largest centers of Hwa Rang Do in the world with over a dozen Academies and clubs.[5]

It was also in 1990 that the World Hwa Rang Do Association introduced an introductory program to help new students learn and develop their skills in a more sport-like atmosphere. The program was named Tae Soo Do (Way of the Warrior Spirit) and all Hwa Rang Do schools that are associated with WHRDA are required to have this program. Students who learn Tae Soo Do learn the basic fundamentals of kicking and punching. They are also introduced to beginner level sweeps and throws. A black belt in Tae Soo Do has the same level of quality as a black belt in other martial arts including Tae Kwon Do and Karate. Once a student has a Black belt, they receive an honorary Yellow sash in the color ranks of Hwa Rang Do.[6]

In 2005, Henry Taejoon Lee headed operations to expand and grow the application programs within Hwa Rang Do to keep their students competitive with the larger martial art community and to expand their understanding of the many aspects of the core material. Gotoogi (solid fighting skill) is a grappling program to teach students the fundamentals of ground fighting and throws and takedowns. Gumtoogi (blade fighting skill) is a sword sparring program similar to Korean Kumdo, but with leg strikes and spin attacks. Bongtoogi (stick fighting skill) is a stick sparring program that allows students to learn to spar with both staff and double mid-sticks. Not all Hwa Rang Do schools use these additional sparring programs, but they are standard with all WHRDA licensed academies.

2010 to Today[edit]

Depending on the school, Hwa Rang Do academies and clubs will either stay more true to the traditional aspects of the art, focusing more on the core material and traditional self-defense or they will embrace the expanded application programs and work to grow their skills within a competitive sport environment. Many clubs and academies however look to find a balance between the two. WHRDA has continued its development of the sports applications by improving the quality of the Gotoogi, Gumtoogi, and Bongtoogi programs as well as introducing an advanced sparring program called Yongtoogi (courageous fighting skill).[7] This program was initially introduced in 2012 and has become the standard for all Hwa Rang Do color sash and black sash sparring within WHRDA. Yongtoogi consist of full round, semi-full contact sparring, with kickboxing, throws, and ground submissions. Also in 2011, the World Hwa Rang Do Association applied for 501c3 not-for-profit tax status. “Our desire to expand our humanitarian work around the globe led to the change,” said Grandmaster Taejoon Lee, President of the World Hwa Rang Do Association. Many of the members of WHRDA participate in public self defense clinics, humanitarian organizations like the Peace Corp, as well as other independent humanitarian missions both locally and internationally to help with this cause.[8]

Physical Techniques[edit]

The Martial System Overview: Mu Sul[edit]

Within the martial systems known as Mu Sul, a practitioner will learn various forms, techniques, and sparring methods. In addition, they will also learn meditation methods and mental/character development. The core traditional Mu Sul practices are divided into four categories:

Nae Gong (Internal Power): Nae Gong involves specific meditation practices that help with relaxation, building power, and increasing one’s physical performance of the art. These meditation methods are divided into both passive (Um) and active (Yang) methods. These meditative practices are seen a ways to break past our perceived limitations and perform extraordinary feats!

Wae Gong (External Power): Wae Gong is the physical part of the martial art where you take what you have cultivated through your Nae Gong practices and apply them. Wae Gong includes long forms, short forms, basic striking techniques, kicking test, and various self-defense techniques including defense against grabs and holds, defense against kicks, joint locks, as well as throws and sweeps. In addition to these, practitioners of Hwa Rang Do take advantage of the various sparring systems to truly test their skills in a dynamic and non-staged environment. These systems include sport-like point sparring system, situational awareness defense drills, full round semi-full contact sparring (Yongtoogi), and ground fighting with throws (Gotoogi).

Mugi Gong (Weapons Power): Mugi Gong is the weapons training portion of Hwa Rang Do. Various techniques and forms using weapons are taught including Ssang Jyel Bong (nunchaku), Jang Bong (long staff), and the Jang Kum (sword). Defense against other weapons, such as the knife and sword as well as teaching the use of Dan Bong (short stick) and cane are taught, but training with those weapons does not occur until black sash ranks. Traditionally, there are 20 different weapon categories that are taught at the master levels whose methods can be expanded out to include 108 traditional weapons. To keep up with their skills in weapons, there are also various sparring programs that students can use to test their skills. These include situational awareness defense drills, traditional Asian sword sparring (Gumtoogi) and Asian stick sparring (Bongtoogi).

Shin Gong (Mental Power): Shin Gong involves developing control over the human mind by cultivating focus and concentration, awareness of both yourself and others, and personal character development within the Hwarang honor systems. In addition to coming to a deeper understanding of Hwa Rang Do’s Meng Sae, there are traditionally 13 sub-categories of Shin Gong which include learning basic Asian emergency medical practices, methods of hermitage, methods of concealment as well as Asian models of psychology and philosophy.[9]

The Sash Rank System[edit]

Color Sash Ranks: In Hwa Rang Do, practitioners are given sashes to signify their progression through the martial art. Before Cho Dan (first degree black sash), the belt order goes from white to half-black:

  • White Sash: Moo Kub (ninth grade)
  • Orange Sash: Pal Kub (eighth grade)
  • Yellow Sash: Chil Kub (seventh grade)
  • Green Sash: Yuk Kub (sixth grade)
  • Purple Sash: Oh Kub (fifth grade)
  • Blue Sash: Sa Kub (fourth grade)
  • Brown Sash: Sam Kub (third grade)
  • Red Sash: E Kub (second grade)
  • Half-black sash: Il Kub (first grade)

Each Sash consist of a open hand long form, basic attack techniques, a set of defensive techniques, kicking test, short forms, and sparring methods, which, depending on the school, will include either a point sparring program or full round semi-full contact sparring, ground fighting and grappling, and weapons sparring with blades and sticks. There are also weapons forms at Yellow sash, Blue Sash, and Half-Black sash.[10]


Black Sash Ranks: After receiving a black sash, a practitioner earns the title Jo Kyo Nim (assistant instructor). In addition, every degree of black sash has its own title, and shows a respective knowledge level. Note that there can only ever be one ninth degree and one tenth degree at any one time.

  • Cho Dan: first degree black sash. Title: Jo Kyo Nim (Assistant instructor)
  • E Dan: second degree black sash. Title: Kyo Sa Nim (Instructor)
  • Sam Dan: third degree black sash. Title: Sa Bum Nim (Head Instructor)
  • Sa Dan: fourth degree black sash. Title: Susok Sa Bum Nim (Chief Instructor)
  • Oh Dan: fifth degree black sash. Title: Kwan Jang Nim (Master)
  • Yuk Dan: sixth degree black sash. Title: Do Sa Nim, or Dosa (Master)
  • Chil Dan: seventh degree black sash. Title: Su Suk Kwan Jang Nim(Chief Master)
  • Pal Dan: eighth degree black sash. Title: Kuk Sa Nim or Chong Kwan Jang Nim (Grandmaster)
  • Gu Dan: ninth degree black sash. Title: Kuk Sun (Head Grandmaster)
  • Ship Dan: tenth degree black sash. Title: Do Joo Nim (Supreme Grandmaster, Keeper of the Way)

When a student moves into the Black Sash ranks, the focus of the material shifts. The material expands on what was learned in the lower ranks and there is a stronger emphasis on weapons training, meditation practices, and specialized skill sets in various area of training. The material at each sash at this point can vary greatly, but will at least consist of a open hand long form and various sets of defensive techniques.[11]


Tae Soo Do Belt Ranks: For the acadamies that use the Tae Soo Do Program, practitioners have belts to mark their progression in the art. The belt system in Tae Soo Do uses the same structure as the color sashes in Hwa Rang Do.

  • White Belt: Moo Kub (ninth grade)
  • Orange Belt: Pal Kub (eighth grade)
  • Yellow Belt: Chil Kub (seventh grade)
  • Green Belt: Yuk Kub (sixth grade)
  • Purple Belt: Oh Kub (fifth grade)
  • Blue Belt: Sa Kub (fourth grade)
  • Brown Belt: Sam Kub (third grade)
  • Red Belt: E Kub (second grade)
  • Half-black Belt: Il Kub (first grade)

Each Belt consist of a open hand long form, basic attack techniques, kicking test, sets of defensive techniques, and sparring methods which include a sport-like point sparring program and a ground fighting grappling program. There are also weapons forms at Yellow Belt, Blue Belt, and Half-Black Belt.[12]

Philosophy[edit]

The Hwa Rang Do Meng Sae[edit]

Hwa Rang Do attempts to teach moral principles in addition to physical techniques, out of a belief that those who receive martial arts training must also be taught to use their skills responsibly. The foundation of Hwa Rang Do's code of behavior is the Hwa Rang Do Meng Sae, composed of the Oh Kae, and the Kyo Hoon. The five rules and nine philosophical principles of Hwa Rang Do.[13]

Hwa Rang Do Oh Kae (Five Rules of Hwa Rang Do)
Korean Numbers (1-5) Rules in Korean (Hangul) Translation
Il Sa Kun E Choong Loyalty to one's country
E Sa Chin E Hyo Loyalty to one's parents and teachers
Sam Kyo Woo E Shin Trust and brotherhood among friends
Sa Im Jeon Moo Tae Courage never to retreat in the face of the enemy
Oh Sal Saeng Yoo Teak Justice never to take a life without a cause
Hwa Rang Do Kyo Hoon (nine virtues)
Korean (Hangul) English
In Humanity
Oui Justice
Ye Courtesy
Ji Wisdom
Shin Trust
Sun Goodness
Duk Virtue
Choong Loyalty
Yong Courage

Seven Principles of Training[edit]

In addition to the Meng Sae, the Mul Sul practices of Hwa Rang Do also follow what is known as the Seven Principles of Training. They are:[14]

  1. Concentration
  2. Patience and Endurance
  3. Sincerity in Practice
  4. Speed
  5. Conservation of Energy
  6. Respect and Obedience
  7. Vanity (Lack of, Humility)

References[edit]

External links[edit]