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Moo Duk Kwan

JoongAng dojang

The Joong Ang dojang in 1955


Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do History Video

Vintage 1950s-1960s video from Moo Duk Kwan

Moo Duk Kwan ("School of Martial Virtue") is the name of the martial art school founded by Hwang Kee in Korea in 1945. It was one of the first martial arts schools ("kwans") to open after the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea at the end of World War II. During its history, Moo Duk Kwan has split several times into schools still that still use the name Moo Duk Kwan:

Regarding the duplicative names, see also: Trademark Dispute, below.


Hwang Kee is said to have begun studying Chinese martial arts in 1936 while working as an employee of the South Manchurian Railway, during the Japanese Occupation of Korea. After the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea (i.e., at the end of World War II), Kee began teaching martial arts in a storage room in the Yong San Railroad Station in Seoul. Some of this students were fellow railway workers. As the school expanded, Kee continued to find space for instruction at other railways stations. For this reason, his school was sometimes called the "The Railroad Dojang."

Kee claimed he was inspired to develop his own martial art after having witnessed as a child a man defend himself using the martial art Tae Kyon against a large group of men. Although the Korea Taekkyon Associate disputes Hwang's story, Hwang says that the man refused to teach him, leaving him to devise his own system based on what he had seen. Traveling between Manchuria and Korea during World War II, Hwang later successfully appealed to Chinese martial arts teacher Yang Kuk Jin for training. Kee combined what he learned of Chinese martial arts with Korean martial traditions to develop a style he called Hwa Soo Do ("the Way of the Flowering Hand"). This was the style he taught when he first opened his school in the railway storage room, on November 9, 1945.

Kee's initial efforts attracted few students, so in 1947 he rebranded the school, now calling his art Hwa Soo Do, and then eventually Tang Soo Do. Kee's revised style ultimately proved successful. By 1955 Kee's school had grown so much the he was able to lease his first commercial space, called the Joong Ang dojang. By this time the many kwans in Korea were in discussion about how to consolidate and unify their styles; at this point, the name taekwondo was being used to describe the new style. Though initially a part of the unification efforts, Kee withdrew Moo Duk Kwan from the unification efforts in 1958. That same year, Kee established the Korea Tang Soo Do Association.

Moo Duk Kwan Split[]

In 1957 Kee was introduced to the Muye Dobo Tongji by a librarian at the Korean National University in Seoul. It referenced the martial arts system of Subak, a bare hands and feet technique. Hwang Kee incorporated techniques inspired by the Muye Dobo Tongji and changed the name of his art to Soo Bakh Do on June 30, 1960. Many of his former students however continued to teach Tang Soo Do at their schools; this marked the first split within Moo Duk Kwan.

In addition, by 1965, still other students of Moo Duk Kwan were embracing the emerging "kukki" style of taekwondo. In March 1965 a faction of students led by Hong Chong Soo, Lee Kang Ik, and Oh Se Joon joined the taekwondo unification efforts of the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA). This marked a second split of the Moo Duk Kwan. All three groups however (Hwang Kee, his former Tang Soo Do students, and his students now embracing the kukki-style) continued to refer to their style as Moo Duk Kwan. During later KTA unification efforts, this duplication of names required the KTA to establish an "administrative" kwan called Kwan Ri Kwan as a way to designate Moo Duk Kwan members who were involved in taekwondo unification but were not part of the "original" Moo Duk Kwan.

Modern Moo Duk Kwan[]

As a consequence of the splits that occured in the 1960s, there are several organizations that now call themselves Moo Duk Kwan. These include:

  • Moo Duk Kwan Federation in Korea
    • Current President: Seo Wang-Reol
    • Current Vice President: Moon Dae-Won
    • Current Secretary General: Kang Shin-Chul
    • Previous presidents:
      • Hwang Kee: 1945
      • Lee Kang Ik: 1965
      • Hong Chong Soo: 1970s
      • Kim In Seok: 1970s
      • Choi Nam Do: 1980s
      • Hong Chong Soo
      • Kim Dong Kook
      • Chon Jae Kyu
  • Korea Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan Association
  • United States Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation

Trademark Dispute[]

In 1976 a Moo Duk Kwan organization ("The United States Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation") was chartered in New Jersey, USA; the organization trademarked the name "Moo Duk Kwan" for use within the U.S. (generally speaking, U.S. trademarks do not apply outside the U.S.; separate trademarks are required for each country in which a trademark is sought.) The organization has since actively initiated legal actions in the U.S. to deter trademark infringers, with a recent U.S. District Court victory resulting in a permanent injunction and $115,560 judgment against multiple instructors and even the arrest of a trademark infringer.

Note that though this particular trademark does apply specifically to the use of the Moo Duk Kwan logo in the U.S., it does not apply outside the U.S. (no U.S. trademarks do), and it does not apply to logos of splinter organizations such as the World Tang Soo Do Association, nor to the use of general terms such as "Tang Soo Do". Some successor organizations of Moo Duk Kwan also hold trademarks outside the U.S.

See Also[]