Hwang Kee Biography Introduction:
When you consider Hwang Kee's ability to synthesize the martial arts he learned, often without a teacher, it's clear just how intelligent and introspective a man he was. Though his parents didn't know this at the time they decided to name him "Starboy", the fact is that name hits the spot well.
Here is Kee's story.
Date of Birth and Lifespan:
Hwang Kee (AKA Hwang Gi) was born on November 9, 1914, in Gyeonggi, Korea. He died on July 14, 2002, at the age of 87.
Hwang Kee the Starboy:
Hwang Kee's father, Hwang Yong Hwan, had a dream about a bright star before the birth of his son. He then decided to name his son Sam Tae Song, which means Starboy. Later, he changed his name to Kee.
Kee's father was a scholar who had gained favor and special recognition from the last King of the Yi Dynasty.
Martial Arts Beginnings:
Kee attended a traditional holiday festival when he was about seven years old. This is where he fell in love with the martial arts, after witnessing someone with knowledge of them defend against a group of seven or eight men. Kee was amazed that the man was able to handle himself with only his hands and feet, utilizing an ancient Korean system of defense called Tae Kyun or Tae Kyon, which was heavy into kicking.
Kee asked to train with the man afterwards, but was refused. This didn't stop him, however, as he began to watch him from afar and practiced what he witnessed.
Chinese Martial Arts Influences:
Kee later graduated from high school, but along the way never forgot, nor stopped training the art he learned from watching the man at the festival so long ago. After high school, Kee began working for a railway company in Manchuria. While there, he met a highly proficient Chinese martial artist named Yang Kuk Jin. Kee asked to be his student and was refused gently. Afterwards, Kee and his friend Park Hyo Pil decided that they would continually visit Yang until he agreed to teach them. By their third visit, they were accepted as students.
Kee was taught by Mr. Yang until 1937, when he had to return to Seoul. He returned again in 1941 for a brief period, but was never able to see him again afterwards, as China went communist by 1946. One thing that stuck with Kee beyond the martial arts he was taught by Mr. Yang was the man's desire to improve human character.
Okinawan Karate Influences:
Japan had been occupying Korea for a long time; hence, the martial arts in the area were stunted, and it was hard for Kee to practice them as a result. Thus, he was forced to practice in secret, and while working with Cho Sun Rail Way Bureau in Seoul from 1939-45, read books on Okinawan karate, and incorporated them into his martial arts understanding.
Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan:
Kee had learned much from the Tae Kyun, Chinese martial arts, and Okinawan karate he had studied. He combined these into an art he called Hwa Soo Do. His Hwa Soo Do discipline was connected to the Hwa Rang warriors of ancient Korea, a group in which there is much speculation about. The literal translation of Hwa Soo Do is "the way of the Flowering Hand", as the Hwarang were in essence called "the Flower boys".
Kee opened his first Hwa Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Dojang (studio/training hall) on November 9, 1945, when World War II and the Japanese occupation came to a close. He changed the name from Hwa Soo to Tang Soo Do later, when he realized the public was much more familiar with the latter name. The name Tang Soo Do was first used by Won Kuk Lee, the first man to open a martial arts school after the Japanese occupation. Thus, Kee's style/school became Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.
Tae Kwon Do Uprising and Soo Bahk Do:
The Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan rose in popularity to the point that 75% of all martial artists in Korea practiced it. Black belts actually used their certificates to help gain employment in the country. In 1957, Kee discovered the ancient Korean martial art of Soo Bahk from the Muye Dobo Tongji. The Muye Dobo Tongji was a book commissioned in 1790 by King Jeongjo of Korea, which illustrated the Korean martial arts indigenous to the country. Kee incorporated these teachings into his Tang Soo Do discipline and named the art he incorporated Soo Bahk Do from the Soo Bahk Ki (hand striking technique) and Soo Bahk Hee (hand striking dance) he learned about. In 1960, the Korean Soo Bahk Do Association was incorporated and registered with the Korean government as a martial art. And in 1965 and 1966, Kee won two legal battles allowing him to keep Tang Soo Do as a valid martial art in the country, as Korea attempted to unify all the arts under the Tae Kwon Do banner.
During the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Moo Duk Kwan, Hwang Kee officially renamed the art from Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan to Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan.