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Tang Soo Do 

We often see in many traditional Taekwodo clubs that Poomsae and long stance defence moves are also performed , this is in fact Tang Soo Do .  Some one training in Olympic Taekwondo probably won't ever experiance it but old school Taekwondo clubs often include Tang Soo Do Poomsae ( forms or Kata ) , it's on this page we delve deeper into Tang Soo-Do a art which precedes Taekwondo and influenced it's birth.

Tang Soo -Do is a Korean Martial art which has it's roots in Subak and Chinese arts of the North of China. It's Poomsae share many similarities to Karate Kata and even are in fact adapted Karate Kata from the likes of Shotokan Karate.

Tang Soo-Do in Korean has the meaning of '' The Way of the Tang Hand'' . And Tang Soo -Do in Japanese translates as Karate -Do.

The founder of Tang Soo Do is one Won Kuk Lee born in 1907 in Hanseong Korea. He was lucky in being from a well to do family. 

When later on the Japanese Occupation of Korea came about it made learning the arts quite hard as all martial arts where banned in Korea. But being of his families stature he was able to travel to Japan for studies. 

It was here he would take up Karate under Gichin Funakoshi , the founder of Shotokan Karate and also a great Jujutsu master.

In fact Won Kuk Lee was one of the first students of Funakoshi's Karate and the first who was not of Japanese origin.

On his return to Korea  he wanted to teach his art but found the occupying Japanese difficult to deal with.  Eventually he did get his wish and set up school under the name of Chung Do-Kwan..

When Korean independance came , Won Kuk Lee carried on teaching his art and it became quite revered through out Korea. But after being asked to head the Ministal of Internal affairs by the goverment and refusing Lee was branded a traitor in league with the Japanese and imprisoned, this was in 1947 . When released in 1950 he packed his bags and left Korea to live in Japan.  Leaving his Schools under the leadership of his best students of which Duk Sung-Son was one .

Won Kuk Lee did make visits to his students for events and to see how the schools where doing . In 1976 he immigrated to the USA .

Here he took a back seat taking up other hobbies and sometimes giving interviews . 

As a pioneer of Korean Martial arts Won Kuk Lee will go down in history in revitalsing Martial arts in Korea after the Japanese occupation , it's seems a shame he was persacuted by his own people in the end and felt it nessasary to leave his homeland. 

Won Kuk Lee passed away in Virgina USA in 2003 , he was 95 years old.

The Late GrandMaster Won Kuk Lee  

10th Dan Tang Soo Do

4th Dan Shotokan Karate

Tang Soo-Do in action 


Moo Duk Kwan

When it comes to Tang Soo -do in the modern era , it is the style Tang Soo-Do Moo Duk Kwan that many will be familer with. 

A man by the name of Hwang Kee born in 1914 in Korea , again like Won Kuk Lee from a wealthy family and was lucky enough to get a good education. 

In his early years he studied the Korean art of Taekyon . 

Of course in occupied Korea the Japanese had outlawed the practise of Martial arts . In a bid to avoid imprisonment Hwang Kee packed his bags and left for Manchuria to work on the railroad.

But his experiance of the area which was under Japanese rule  left him wanting to escape again , he decided on China and scaled the Great Wall to get in to China .  It was whilst here that he managed to find a Chinese Martial artist by the name of Yang to teach him Northern style Kung Fu. 

A feat in it self as the Chinese did not like to teach there arts to non Chinese .

After the War he returned to Korea , here he wanted to set up his own Martial arts school based upon his time learning different arts.  This was easy for him but getting students was another matter , then in the 1950's he named his school Tang Soo -Do Moo Duk Kwan , people where familer with the Tang Soo Do name and this brought students to his door. 

Hwang Kee believed that no one can reach perfection in the arts and thus the highest rank wore a Midnight Blue Belt as oppossed to a Black Belt . In 1995 Hwang Kee renamed his art to Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan .

Grand Master Hwang Kee passed away at the age of 87 in 2002.

One of his early students was one Master Jae Chul Shin  the founder of the World Tang Soo Do Association and the teacher of one  Carlos Ray Norris better known as Chuck Norris .

Tang Soo Do emblem

Notice how it bears a resembelance to the ITF logo for Taekwondo.

Grandmaster Hwang Kee

  • Tang Soo Doo Moo Duk Kwan , Blocks and Punches with stance.
    Tang Soo Doo Moo Duk Kwan , Blocks and Punches with stance.
Tang Soo Doo Moo Duk Kwan , Blocks and Punches with stance.
Tang Soo Doo Moo Duk Kwan , Blocks and Punches with stance.

Tang Soo-Do in the UK 

Martial arts in the UK more often then not spear head the spread through Europe. Many Martial art Masters from the Far East  have travelled to the UK over the years to promote their art .

With Tang Soo -Do it is no different. There is one man who started the Tang Soo-Do movement in the UK and that was Kang Uk Lee who arrived in the UK in 1974, Master Kang Uk Lee was born in Seoul Korea in 1936 . He studdied the arts from around 1948 under Grandmaster Hwang Kee of the Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan .

After the war where with the occupation making it hard for Martial arts practise as it banned he became a full time civilian Martial Arts Instructor.  In 1965 he was appointed the Chief Instructor at the Korean Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Association Centrel Gym by Grandmaster Hwang Kee. 

Later on he was asked to head the Associations clubs in Malaysia , from here he also oversaw the rest of the clubs over South East Asia. It was by chance that one of Master Lee's studnets went to the UK to study in 1972 and set up a Tang Soo Do School. In 1974 Master Lee was asked to come to the UK to oversee the school and instruct . Master Lee's enthusiam and expert tutorlidge attracted many other clubs who where interested in the art.

 This is how the United Kingdom Tang Soo Do Federation was established. 
Master Lee has published many books on the art of Tang Soo-do in the UK and abroad. Many are available on Amazon.

Tang Soo Do was different enough from Karate and attracted a broader range of students. As much of the training is Poomsae based intersped with sparring techniques and one step sparring. Tang Soo Do also has less strenous strength excersises even though it still incorperates Breaking techniques to hone a martial spirit within ones self .

Also the art stays true to Grandmaster Hwang Kee's vision of Tang Soo-Do and the top grade wears a Midnight Blue Belt , Not Black as used in other arts. 

Grand Master Lee still resides as  the head of the UK Tnag Soo Do Federation till this day . The federation is recognised by the UK Sports Council and most Tang Soo Do clubs in the UK are affiliated with it. 

There are some sixty one clubs across the UK affiliated to the federation at time of writing.

A lasting legacy indeed. 


Tang Soo Do Principles and Korean Terminology

The Principles of Tang Soo Do  are pretty much like those used in Taekwondo and although some minor differences their meaning is roughly the same. 

1- Be Loyal to your Country

2- Obediance to Partents and Elders

3- Respect to Instructors and Seniors

4- Self Control 

5- Never misuse ones art


Korean Terminology

Above - The History of Moo Duk Kwan by Grandmaster Hwang Kee , A good read if you can track it down.

Here we have the Korean words whcih might be used at the clubs you might attend. These are not all exclusive to Tang Soo Do but are used in across all Korean arts except for the obvious ones. 

Moo Duk Kwan  - A style of Tang Soo Do 

Soo Bajk Do  - Ancient name of Tang Soo Do

Kwan Jang Nim - is used for the Chief Instructor , as far as I know Korean arts don't have the various titles associated like Japanese arts and have a less complex range of titles much like the Chinese arts.

Sa Bom Nim - For Qualified Instructors , much like Sensei in Japanese or Sifu in Chinese . 

Kyo Sa Nim - Assisstant Instructor. again much like in Japanese arts where a Black Belt does not make you a Sensei , this has to be earned , a First degree Black or Midnight Blue belt has reached a expert level of the art. He still has a lot to learn to achieve that higher plane where it's ;ess about the fighting art but about guiding other students to their goal of being the best they can.

Kam Sa Hap Ni Da - Thank You

Do-Jang - Traning Hall , in Japanese this is a Dojo , in Chinese it's a Kwoon.

Do Balk - Training Uniform , In Japanese Gi , Chinese would use Saam

Kee Cho - Basic Moves

Hyung - Kata for Japanese or Form for Chinese 

Poomsae - is a combination of Hyung and Basics .


Masters of Tang Soo -Do

Chuck Norris

Martial artist , Karate Champion , Tang Soo Do Master , Chuk Kwon-do Founder , Judo , BJJ,  Action Star , Philanthropist

Yes Chuck Norris grounding in martial arts is Tang Soo Do , he started to learn when in the Military based in Korea.
If you observe Chuck in action you will see classic Tang Soo Do and  Taekwondo being performed , even though he has devised his own art based on his background in the arts , it still holds true to his original teachings under Grand master Jae Chul Shin .

Cynthia Rothrock

Martial artist , Tang Soo Do champion , Eagle Claw Kung Fu , Instructor , Action Actress , Weapons Expert 

Yes one of our banner stars and Champion Tang Soo Do  exponent Cynthia started training Tang Soo Do from a young age , being a forms and weapons champion five times , she got the call for Hong Kong and became the only Caucasian to have leading heroic roles in Hong Kong films.

Also having trained in other arts such as Kung Fu Cynthia is a Champion in pushing self defense for women and currently teaches in California and does Seminars World wide.

Grandmaster Hwang Jung Lee

Grandmaster 9th Dan Tang Soo-Do
Grandmaster 9th Dan Taekwondo
Action Actor

World renowned Martial arts master and ex- military combat Instructor  who came to fame in Hong Kong cinema in tiles like The Secret Rivals, Snake in Eagles Shadow and Drunken Master. Grandmaster Hwang has also travelled the world teaching seminars.