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JI, Han Jae

JI Han Jae was born in 1936 in Andong, Korea. His family moved to Sun Yang, China when he was one year old. He attended school there until he was 9 years old (1945) when his family returned to Andong. JI reports that he began his martial arts training in Yawara a few years later with CHOI Yong Sul. The techniques he learned at this time were primarily joint locks, throws, a limited number of low kicks, perhaps 6-8 and a limited number of weapons. JI identified SUH Bok Sub as his senior since Suh began his training before JI in 1948 though JI consistently stated that he (JI) was taught by GM Choi. However, JI also reported that when he went to Seoul to open his school he had a 3rd Dan in Yu Kwon Sool from SUH Bok Sub so there is some level of controversy there. Also, during this time the name of the art being practiced underwent a number of changes including, yawara,  yu sool, yu kwon sool, and hapkiyukwonsool.  

What seems to be agreed on is that JI was apparently affiliated with Choi from at least 1953, when Choi began teaching out of his house, until 1956. During this time JI was a student at Taegu City Technical High School. In 1956 JI, perhaps about age 20, moved back to his home city of Andong where JI opened his first school, An Mu Kwan.  JI began to train with the son of a man JI has often referred to as “Taoist Lee”. Lee trained JI Han Jae primarily in mediation, the use of the Jang-Bong (6' staff), the Dan-Bong (short stick), and in Korean Taek-Kyun or Tek Gi yun, kicking. Many of the drills that JI was doing at this time are similar to plyometrics used in sports today. The kicking techniques and high jumping techniques were a good complement to the grappling techniques taught by Grandmaster Choi. In addition to the martial aspects of training, Lee also began JI on his mental and spiritual training. JI trained with Lee in numerous meditation and breathing exercises, after which he continued his training with Lee’s instructor, “Grandma.” who JI considers to be his spiritual teacher.

As an additional resource, JI was joined briefly by fellow Yukwonsool practioner KIM Moo-woong who had also trained, and was ranked, under Choi and Suh. JI and KIM Moo-Woong had trained together beginning in 1953. JI left and started his own school in 1956,claiming that he had a 3rd dan in Yu Kwon Sul. Kim had stayed with Choi another 5 years and opened his own school in 1961.  During that five years, JI had moved from Andong after an 8-month stint, deciding to relocate to Seoul in September of 1957. He stayed in a boarding house in Wang Shim Ri. The son of the owner of the boarding house, Hwang, Duk Kyu, was his first student at this dojang, called Sung Moo Kwan where he taught Dae Han Hapki Yu Kwon Sool.

In 1958, JI had moved his school to Joong Boo Shi Jang where he continued teaching until April of 1960. It was during this period that JI reports that he began to piece together the Yoo Sool (Yoo kwon Sool) teachings of Grandmaster Choi, with the methods of meditation, the Taek -Kyun kicking techniques, and the weapons techniques learned from Lee, along with the spiritual training he received from Grandma. The product was “Hapkido.” He had originally though of calling it "Hapki-Yoo -Kwan-Sool," but decided against that, feeling it was to long. Kim found JI at JI’s school ---- Sung Moo Kwan and, for an eight month period, Kim collaborated with JI through the Summer of 1961. Though the effort was fruitful for the art of Hapkido, differences ultimately caused the two martial artists to part ways. However, the kicking material for the art of Hapkido had been established.

General PARK Chung Hee (1917-1979) became the Korean President after he overthrew the government in May of 1961. JI was teaching at the Korean military academy at the time, and in 1962, JI moved to Kwan Chul Dong, to the Hwa Shin Department Store. By this time, his reputation had grown substantially and had built his Sung Moo Kwan School to about 400 or 500 students. After a demonstration and with assistance from Major Lee, Dong Nam, JI was given permission to instruct the military Supreme Council in Hapkido techniques. JI then received a government position teaching Hapkido to the President Security forces called the Blue House (a position he would hold until Park's death in 1979). During this time, he moved his school to Suh Dae Mon (West Gate section).

In the early 1960's Park, Chung Hee lifted import restrictions banning Japanese goods from Korea. JI found a book on Japanese Aikido and saw that the Chinese characters for Aikido were the same as for Hapkido. Discouraged that a Japanese art had the "same name" as Hapkido, he decided to drop the "Hap" from its name, calling his art simply, "Kido."

The Korea KIDO Association (Dae Han KIDOHAE) was officially recognized by the Korean Government on September 2, 1963. A public Non-profit foundation registered with the Korean Government the KIDOHAE is recognized and given official mandate by the ministry of Education and Culture to disseminate Hapkido/Martial Arts with the establishment of this association and its first administrative elections Grandmaster CHOI, Yong Sul elected to position of Chairman and LEE, KYU JIN, elected as President. The reason behind the formation of KIDOHAE was that after the Japanese Occupation of Korea ended in 1945, there was an explosion of Martial Arts in Korea by all the Martial Artists who had been living in an oppressed society for decades. With such rapid proliferation of Martial Arts styles, the top masters of Korean Martial Arts community felt that there needed to be a governing body to set guidelines and bring unity to the group. With Grandmaster CHOI Yong Sul as the Honorary Chairman, KIDOHAE was formed and registered with the Ministry of Culture

The first Hapkido federation, founded by JI in 1963 called the Kido Hwe and evolved into the Dae Han Hapkido Hyup Hwe founded in 1965. The original Kido Hwe started with 10 Hapkido gyms.

The central gym was run by JI.

The north gym was Kwang Sik Myung.

Bong Soo Han was in the south at the Osan Air Force Base.

One of JI Han Jae’s juniors, Kim, Jung yoon was named Secretary General. Because of this and that his Sung Moo Kwan students did not want to change the name to Kido, in 1965, JI Han Jae left the Korea Kido Association and established the Korea Hapkido Association. His students continued to call their martial art Hapkido, and continued to teach it the way they learned it. JI Han Jae also had become a powerful person in the government due to his instructor position. With this power, he was able to successfully operate his own organization without help from others who were being less then ethical in their lives as martial artists.

Three dominate Hapkido organizations, then, began to immerge during the next five years. These included the Korea Hapkido Association (founded in 1965 by Han-Jae JI), the Korea Hapkido Association (founded in 1969 by Jae-Nam Myung), and the Korean Hapkido Association (founded in 1971 by Kim, Moo Woong). Eventually, in 1973, the leaders of these organizations met and agreed to unify their association one. The new association was named Dae Han Min Kuk Hapkido Hyub Hwe (Republic of Korea Hapkido Association).

Today here are still several dominant Hapkido organizations in Korea. These include, the Korea Kido Association (In-Sun Seo, Pres.), the Korea Hapkido Association (Oh, Se-Lim, Pres.), and the International Hapkido Federation (Myung, Jae Nam, Pres.). The Korea Hapkido Association is still the most prominent Hapkido organization in Korea, and  graduates of the Sung Moo Kwan make up the majority of its instructors.

In 1967, JI traveled to Vietnam with some of his students to teach Hapkido to the soldiers fighting there. They conducted training and demonstrations from 1967 to 1969.
In 1969, JI first came to the United States as part of an exchange with President Richard Nixon’s security forces. He taught Hapkido to the US Secret Service, Special Forces, OSI, FBI, and CIA. While he was visiting and staying at Andrews Air Force Base, his good friend, Taekwondo Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, introduced JI to Bruce Lee. Lee was impressed with JI’s techniques and asked him to teach him.

JI taught Lee and also traveled to Hong Kong over the next few years to help choreograph martial arts movies and also star in a few of them. At this time, JI taught movie stars such as JIn Pal Kim, Angela Mao, Samo Hong among many others. He appeared in three movies, Hapkido (Lady Kung Fu), Fist of the Unicorn Palm, and Bruce Lee’s Game of Death. Extra footage of Game of Death was recently released as a movie called A Warrior’s Journey, which features 18 minutes of fight scenes featuring JI.

In 1979, President Park, Chung Hee was assassinated. JI resigned his position and became a member of the Min Jung Dang Party. JI, and the leader of the party, Kwon, Jung dal, were from the same home town and decided that it would be a good idea if JI organized the civilian security guards to be personal escorts of the president during travel. Before this training was made public, the head of the rival political party, Huh, Sam soo, found out about the idea and saw it as an opportunity to eliminate his rival. He informed the president that they were training these security forces in order to overthrow him. Many of the individuals involved were arrested and some were executed. JI was sentenced to a one-year prison term. He spent one year in prison because of his political affiliation. He spent 2 years in Korea after his release and then traveled to Germany to teach for three months. In 1984, Master Merrill Jung brought him to the United States.

It was at this time that Grandmaster JI Han Jae began teaching Sin Moo Hapkido (pronounced “shin moo”) and formed the Korea Sin Moo Hapkido Association. “Sin” means higher mind (the old character could be translated to mean “godlike,” but the meaning JI refers to is simply “higher mind” or “mental.”) “Moo” means martial art. Simply put, Sin Moo means, “Higher mind martial art.”

Much of the techniques are the same as what he taught while in Korea, but the emphasis has changed. The Sin Moo focuses more on the mental and spiritual aspects of Hapkido as well as controlling Ki or Chi and being able to use it effectively. He has also expanded the weapon repertoire (some he added while in Korea) to include the cane, handkerchief or rope, throwing techniques, and recently, the long scarf.

When Grandmaster JI first arrived, he taught some classes out of Master Jung’s school, and then opened a school in Daly City. He has also had schools in San Bruno, CA and Willow Groove, PA. In addition to Korea Sin Moo Hapkido, he also created the World Sin Moo Hapkido Association and the World Sin Moo Hapkido Federation. He currently lives in Trenton, NJ and travels throughout the world teaching classes and seminars. His students and those who know him now call Grandmaster JI Han Jae, “Dojunim”. It means, “honorable founder of the way.”

JI Han Jae. Personal interview by Sean Bradley in Cherry Hill, NJ in July 2006.
JI Han Jae. Personal interview by Sean Bradley, Yi-Pei Lin, and Frank Croaro in Seattle, WA in May 2006.
JI Han Jae. Personal interview by Scott Yates and Sean Bradley in Kenmore, WA on March 28, 2004.
JI Han Jae. Personal interview by Scott Yates and Sean Bradley in Seoul, South Korea on August 21, 2002.
JI Han Jae. Personal interview by Farshad Azad, Frank Croaro, and Sean Bradley in Chico, CA in May 2004.
Sin Moo Hapkido. http://www.sinmoohapkido.com
Kimm, He Young. Hapkido.