PMA Hapkido History
is very distinct from most known Hapkido systems.
Most Hapkido systems originate from Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul but
ours does not.
Park's Martial Arts founder, Grand Master Sung Hong Park,
learned the art of Hapkido under his teacher Ki Soon Lee (see pictures/story below).
Many of the details associated
with Great Grand Master (GGM) Lee's life have been difficult to come
by. As you read further you will come to understand why. (Note: We
have attached the title of "Great Grand Master" to Ki Soon Lee's name out of deep respect and
reverence. It does not accurately reflect his title during the period
of time discussed herein.)
GGM Lee began teaching in Seoul Korea
soon after Japanese left in 1945. Unfortunately we do not know Lee's exact
teacher (but we are continuing our research to this day). GM Park
believed that GGM Lee was chosen among other children only after long
observation and a thorough character evaluation. This was most likely
performed without GGM Lee's knowledge.
Instead of perpetuating the
approach of one teacher to one or a few pupils, as GM Lee was taught, Lee
was compelled, (or possibly directed by his teacher), to open his art to
the general public through a dojang (training
But GGM Lee's style of martial arts had no formal
name. (Note: GM Park said that the lack of a systems name was an
understandable characteristic back then.) So, in order to grow
and promote the art GGM Lee needed to come up with one. After due
consideration he finally decided on a term that he heard called "Hapkido". He felt this word best expressed his art
form. GGM Lee's intentions in using this name were honorable, and unlike
modern times there were no copy write or trademark considerations to
account for with a martial arts system and or name.
GGM Lee is to the far right wearing a black suit. GM Park is a young man in
this picture and is located in the next to last row towards the back. He is
slightly to the left of the Korean flag. The officials are in the gray
suits seated. The second gentleman to the left (balding hair) is a very
high Korean official (equivalent to the Secretary of State) who had come to
this province to recruit assistance in strengthening Korea. Next
to him (to his immediate left) is the equivalent of the provinces Mayor.
GM Sung Hong Park
After the Japanese's
left the occupation of Korea
the Korean nation had a great need to strengthen itself internally. So
eventually GGM Lee was visited by several important Korean officials with
just this purpose in mind (see photo above).
These provisional government officials approached
GGM Lee to establish community leaders from his martial arts student base.
GGM Lee's & GM Park's Story
GM Park started his
studies under GGM Lee at the approximate age of 11 years old. He continued
training uninterrupted until he was called to the mandatory Korean military
service for 3 years.
While GM Park was in the
military there was no contact with GGM Lee. It was sometime during this
period that GGM Lee abandoned martial arts for good.
GM Park tells us that GGM Lee
lost several of his most senior students within a short period of time due
to mandatory military service. GM Park was one of the 5 highest ranked
Apparently, GGM Lee had
difficulty retaining students due to the extreme severity of his training.
We are told that many times his students would leave crying and later their
parents would come to inquire about it. GGM Lee would firmly and frankly
explain that true martial arts training was difficult and if a child was
too weak to train correctly then he had no reservations about dismissing
Needless to say this was not a
popular position to take, and in modern terms far from being politically
correct, but the times were hard and GGM Lee remained resolute in his
convictions and teaching methodology.
When GM Park was decommissioned
from service, he went back to GGM Lee's dojang to
continue his studies only to discover that he was no longer there. After
asking several people what happened he was told that GGM Lee had given up
martial arts and opened a jewelry shop down the street.
GM Park was shocked and
confused upon hearing this news. That a martial arts Master of GGM Lee's
caliber would abandon martial arts was very hard to imagine. Yet to abandon
it and become a jewelry shop merchant was beyond belief (verging on insult
in that day and time).
So, GM Park decided to approach
GGM Lee at his jewelry shop. Upon entering the shop GM Park respectfully
greeted him as was customary. But GGM Lee refused to acknowledge GM Park on
a personal level and even though GM Park knows that he was recognized, GGM
Lee only offered to sell GM Park jewelry.
Since GM Park couldn't gain any
information from GGM Lee he left stunned and very confused. So GM Park
proceeded to investigate what actually happened to GGM Lee by speaking with
various persons.(Note: Only years later,
with the advent of wisdom gained through experience and time, did he admit
to understanding why GGM Lee acted the way he did.)
It seems that many, if not
most, of the martial arts schools were too concerned with growth at the
expense of compromising technique and self integrity.
GGM Lee was disgusted that the
Korean people as a whole, along with some of his students, were being
swayed to join other watered-down martial arts schools. In short, these
schools would sell or promote undeserving people to higher ranks, etc.
The crescendo of the
dishonorable schools influence reached a breaking-point in GGM Lee while GM
Park was doing his mandatory military service.
The story goes that GGM Lee's student
base had weakened and in order to make amendment he developed the only plan
of defense he could think of. GGM Lee posted a physical challenge to all
the areas martial arts school "masters". This challenge
would be the equivalent of a front page ad in the USA Washington Post to
meet on the Capital
Plaza for a fighting
When the fight day arrived GGM
Lee showed up but no other Master did.
To make maters worse the gathered people ridiculed GGM Lee and he was more
or less looked upon as foolish after that day.
As an honorable man GGM Lee vowed at that time to
abandon the martial arts for good and to let the people have the
watered-down versions they wanted. He was fed up and done with them all.
The sadness of GGM Lee's
situation was terrible but GM Park was determined to continue his training
While in the military GM Park
had meant another Hapkidoist, (in particular a
student who studied under Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul's
Hapkido system). This colleague was able to
arrange a review board to evaluate GM Park's ranking and status based on
his known "Hapkido" techniques and
It should be noted here that when GM Park went
into the military he was only a second dan black
belt under GGM Lee. Yet after this review boards testing he was promoted to
a 5th dan due to the advanced level of GGM Lee's
techniques/teachings. It is unlikely that GM Park was promoted to said rank due to any political or monetary gain as was
common among many of the watered-down school practices.
Once Master Park
immigrated to the USA
in 1979 he decided not to pursue further ranking under Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul's Hapkido or the Korean Ki Do
Association. This decision was apparently based on his belief that neither
system's were sufficient in technique and knowledge to provide him with
continuing education and ranking.
Grand Master Lee is the third person from the
right wearing the dark suits. Master
Park is the first
student to the immediate left of the dark suited man furthest on the right,
as you look at the picture.
GGM Ki Soon Lee
GM Sung Hong Park
Notation of Interest:
claims that GGM Lee was the best martial arts Master he has ever known. One story in particular which caught our attention
many years ago was this. GGM Lee carried a rock in his hands no matter
where he went. He would constantly squeeze and strike the rock as a hand
conditioning discipline. His hands became so strong through this practice
that he could catch a punch, squeeze and break the metacarpal bones of the