Kong Soo Do (also spelled Kong Su Do, "the way of the empty hand") -- sometimes colloquially called "Korean Karate" -- is the name of the martial art practiced by some of the earliest kwans (martial arts schools) in Korea after the end of the World War II at the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea (see: Taekwondo History). As such, it may be considered a style of traditional taekwondo, much like Tang Soo Do.
The name "Kong Soo Do" was used initially by two kwans in particular as the name for their martial arts style:
- The Yun Moo Kwan (which later became the Ji Do Kwan) - this school likely taught a variation of Shotokan karate as originally taught by Funakoshi Gichin; the style of karate originally taught at Yun Moo Kwan was brought to the school by Sang Sap Chun, but this was likely later infused with Shitō-ryū karate by Kwe Byung Yoon when the school became Ji Do Kwan.
- The YMCA Kwon Bop Bu (founded by Byung In Yoon, this school later became the Chang Moo Kwan) - this school practiced a variation of Shūdōkan karate as originally taught by Kanken Toyoma.
By the end of the Korean War, some other early kwans (such as Song Moo Kwan and Chung Do Kwan, both of which had roots in Shotokan karate; Chang Moo Kwan; and Han Moo Kwan) had begun to use the name Kong Soo Do as well. Kong Soo Do is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters for the word "karate-do"; essentially, Kong Soo Do was considered to be a Korean version of karate. (The term Gwon Beop is also sometimes used to refer to Korean karate, though Gwon Beop also has a more general meaning.)
By 1959 the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed to unite the martial arts style of the early kwans, so the term Kong Soo Do fell out of favor; for a time the name Tae Soo Do was used as the name for this notional, unified martial art. Eventually however the name taekwondo was adopted instead. Most of the early kwans now refer to their martial art as taekwondo.