A Brief History of Tang Soo Do

A Brief History of Tang Soo Do

A Brief History of Tang Soo Do, Moo Duk Kwan, & The International Tang Soo Do Federation, Inc.


The martial art of Tang Soo Do is relatively modern. However, its basis, the Korean art of Soo Bahk Do, dates back many centuries. Tang Soo Do is a composite style, being 60% Soo Bahk Do, 30% Northern Chinese, and 10% Southern Chinese. Our kicking techniques, for which Tang Soo Do is unsurpassed, are based on Soo Bahk Do. Soo Bahk Do was first developed during the Silla Dynasty (618-935 A.D.) but enjoyed its flowering during the Koryo Dynasty (935-1392 A.D.).


Tang Soo Do is both a hard and soft style, deriving its hardness in part from Soo Bahk Do and its flowing movements from the Northern Chinese systems.


The man who developed Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, Grandmaster Hwang Kee, is a martial arts prodigy, having mastered Tae Kyun (another Korean system not related to Tae Kwon Do) and Soo Bahk Do at the age of 22. At that time (1936), he traveled to Northern China. There he encountered a Chinese variation of martial artistry called the Tang Method. From 1936 to 1945, he combined Soo Bahk Do with the Tang Method and developed what was to be known as Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.


Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan (a brotherhood and school of stopping inner and outer conflict and developing virtue according to the way of the worthy hand) is not a sport. Though it is not essentially competitive, it has great combat applications. It is a classical martial art and its purpose is to develop every aspect of the self, in order to create a mature personality who totally integrates his intellect, body, emotions, and spirit. This total integration helps to create a person who is free from conflict and who can deal with the outside world in a mature, intelligent, forthright, and virtuous manner.


Over the past 30 years, thousands of Americans have studied Tang Soo Do in Korea. Korean instructors have been sent around the world, and there are now major Tang Soo Do organizations in more than 16 countries. There are roughly 200,000 Tang Soo Do students world-wide, with over 20,000 Dan (black belt) holders.


Anyone who has studied with the Grandmaster knows how demanding he is (He was once heard to have said, “If you want to do front and reverse punches right, you must spend 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 3 years doing nothing else”). With many Americans holding degrees, teaching and promoting without standardization or regulation, and without communication or leadership, the Grandmaster decided that a United States organization must be established to raise the level of what was being taught.


          The result of that decision is the International Tang Soo Do Federation, guided by Grandmaster C.S. Kim, run by volunteer members, devoted to the growth and continuation of Tang Soo Do in the United States, and the maintenance of standards of excellence set by Grandmaster Hwang Kee.

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