Han Bong-soo

Han Bong-Soo
Born 25 August 1933(1933-08-25)
Incheon, Korea
Died 8 January 2007(2007-01-08) (aged 73)
Santa Monica, California, USA
Style Hapkido
Teacher(s) Choi Yong Sul[1]
Rank 9th dan hapkido[2]
Website official website
Han Bong-soo
Hangul 한봉수
Revised Romanization Han Bong-su
McCune–Reischauer Han Pong-su

Han Bong-Soo (August 25, 1933–January 8, 2007), also known as Bong Soo Han, was a martial arts instructor, author, the founder of the International Hapkido Federation, and one of the foremost practitioners of hapkido through his participation in books, magazine articles, and popular films featuring this Korean martial art.[3] He is often referred to as the "Father of Hapkido" in America.


Early life

Han was born on August 25, 1933, in Incheon, South Korea. He began his study of hapkido as a teenager with Yong Sul Choi in Seoul, Korea.[4][5] Han studied and refined this Korean martial art for more than 50 years. He held the rank of 9th dan black belt in hapkido. He was the founder of the International Hapkido Federation, and was its president until his death.

During the occupation of Korea by Japan between 1910 and 1945, all school-age children were required to read, write, and speak Japanese. In addition they were taught judo and kendo for discipline and physical education. Han studied these arts from 1943 to 1945.[6]

From 1948 to 1950, Han studied kwon bup, which was a mixture of Chinese chuan fa methods and Shudokan karate, and earned a black belt in the art under Byung In Yoon.[citation needed] Yoon's teachings later led to the development of one of the Korean schools of kong soo do and greatly influenced[citation needed] two of the early schools who helped to form modern taekwondo, the chang moo kwan and the jido kwan. At the outbreak of the Korean War, all martial arts schools in Korea were closed.[7]

Han began his training in Hapkido after going to see a demonstration put on by the founder, Yong Sul Choi. From then on, he committed himself to hapkido training under Choi.

In the late 1950s, Han would meet with other instructors to train and exchange ideas. From time to time, between 1956 to 1959, he traveled to Hwa Chun, Kang Won Province, where he spent time training in the art of tae kyon, under Bok Yong Lee.[6]

Discovering hapkido

Han and his friend, Seo Oh Choi, were both employed by the Hankuk Shil Up Company which assisted other companies in bidding on army surplus goods.[citation needed] Both had prior training in striking based martial arts, Choi in the Jidokwan taekwondo and Han in kwon bup and tae kyon. They joined Ji's Joongbooshijang hapkido dojang in 1958[citation needed] to receive extra training in order to become bodyguards to Korean Labour Party presidential candidate Jun Jin-Han. When Jun withdrew his candidacy they both decided to continue their training in hapkido.[8]

Han being older, a native of Seoul, and a senior student of Yong Sul Choi, assisted in promoting the first hapkido school in the country's capital city.[citation needed] In 1959, Han opened his own hapkido school in the Samgangji section of Seoul.[citation needed] Han became one of the most important teachers[citation needed] in the influential Korea Hapkido Association and taught many important people in both the Korean military and the Korean presidential guard.[citation needed] Eventually, he secured a position teaching martial arts to U.S. security personnel at the Osan American air force base where he continued to teach for 6 years.[citation needed]

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Han taught self-defense to hundreds of American and Korean military personnel as part of a demonstration team for the Korea Hapkido Association.[9]

United States

In 1967, Han emigrated to the United States of America,[citation needed] first staying with and teaching at his friend S. O. Choi's hapkido school in California.[citation needed] Han later opened his own school in Los Angeles in 1968.[citation needed] His early years were difficult and he worked in a factory during the day while he taught at a struggling hapkido school in the evening located in an economically depressed area.[citation needed] Later, he relocated his school to the Pacific Palisades area in an effort to be closer to Hollywood and the movie industry.[10]

On July 4, 1969, Han Bong Soo was giving a demonstration of hapkido at a park in Pacific Palisades, California. In the audience was Tom Laughlin. After a spectacular demonstration, Laughlin approached Han about being involved in a movie project called Billy Jack. Han gained critical acclaim for staging and performing some of the most realistic martial arts fight sequences in a film. Before Billy Jack, movies contained at most brief references to martial arts, with fights portrayed by actors who had little training. With Billy Jack, Han introduced authentic hapkido techniques to Western audiences.[3] In its sequel, The Trial of Billy Jack, he received a co-starring part where he spoke about and demonstrated the art, mentioning the art by name for the first time.

Han continued to choreograph fight sequences and bring martial arts to the big screen. In 1977, he played the evil Dr. Klahn in the spoof film, The Kentucky Fried Movie, and in 1980, he appeared as the Karate Master to a group of boys in the action-comedy film, The Little Dragons. In a serious demonstration of pressure-point techniques, Han also arranged the fight scene in which Sean Connery uses one thumb to defeat a burly assailant in the 1988 movie, The Presidio.

Han has been the subject of many magazine and newspaper articles, martial arts magazine cover stories, and was a member of the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame in 1978 and the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame in 1999. He was also featured in the A&E documentary, The Martial Arts and the Wesley Snipes-produced Master of the Martial Arts.

In addition to being cited in dozens of martial arts books, he wrote many articles on the Way of martial arts, and also authored the book, Hapkido, The Korean Art of Self-Defense, that was published by Ohara Publications in 1974, which is now in its 23rd printing. He completed a series of ten instructional Hapkido DVDs which are in worldwide distribution.

In 1974, Han founded the International Hapkido Federation. On July 6, 2006, Black Belt Magazine presented the International Hapkido Federation with its 2006 Industry Award for Best Traditional School for its commitment to preserving the legacy of Hapkido. Han's legacy is kept alive by the continued efforts of several of his students: most notably Eric Friske, Danny Cruz and Stephen Cord of Mushin Hapkido, Phillip Turner of Morning Calm Hapkido, Monty Hendrix as the U.S. East Coast Director of the World HapKiDo Association, Steve Bettencourt and Jim Lerman of Bettencourt's Taekwondo, and Julia Khan of Do Shim Mudo.

Han died at his home in Santa Monica, California, on January 8, 2007. He was laid to rest in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.


  1. ^ "Martial arts master made impact". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117957412?refCatId=25&query=billy+jack. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  2. ^ "Bong Soo Han, 73, Orchestrator Of Martial Arts Scenes". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B03E1DF1030F937A25752C0A9619C8B63. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  3. ^ a b "Bong Soo Han, 73; grand master of hapkido won film fans for martial arts". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jan/14/local/me-han14. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  4. ^ Han, Bong Soo. Hapkido: Korean Art of Self-Defense. Ohara Publications, 1974.
  5. ^ Shimatsu, Rodger. "Three Principles of Hapkido Combat." Karate Illustrated, November 1970, Vol. 1, No. 12, pp. 10-17.
  6. ^ a b Walker, Byron. "Reflections of a Master: The Philosophies of Hapkido Stylist Bong Soo Han." Martial Arts & Combat Sports, September 2001.
  7. ^ Rogers, Matthew. "Hapkido Master Bong Soo Han; The Passing of a Legend." Black Belt Magazine, Active Interest Media, May 2007 - Based on information from Master Kim Soo.
  8. ^ Kimm, He-Young. Hapkido II. Andrew Jackson Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1994.
  9. ^ Kimm, He-Young.Hapkido (alternately The Hapkido Bible). Andrew Jackson Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 1991
  10. ^ Han, Bong Soo. 20th Anniversary of the International Hapkido Federation; Interview with Bong Soo Han, Panther Productions, 1995.
  • International Hapkido Federation (2005). "International Hapkido Federation". Retrieved November 3, 2005.
  • uncredited (2005). International Hapkido Federation Student Manual.

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