Song Moo Kwan - originally named "Song Do Kwan" - is one of the nine original kwans (martial art schools) established in Korea after the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea at the end of World War II. It was founded in 1944. Until his recent death, its founder, Byung Jick Ro was the highest ranking taekwondo practitioner in the world, being the most senior practioner at the highest dan level.
Byung Jick Ro was born July 3, 1919, in Kaesung City, Korea. Frail health forced him to enter school a year later than normal. At the age of 12, his interest in the martial arts intensified as he watched the techniques practiced in local temples. He was inspired to train with intense dedication, which subsequently strengthened him and improved his health.
As a young man, Ro traveled to Japan to attend Chuo University. He sought out Shotokan founder, Sensei Gichin Funakoshi. Beginning in 1936, Ro studied Shotokan under Funakoshi, along with Chung Do Kwan founder, Won Kyuk Lee. Ro subsequently earned his black belt. During college vacations, he returned home and taught friends and neighbors the techniques he had learned. In February 1944, he returned to Korea, where he continued to create additional hand and foot techniques of his own.
Honoring numerous training requests, he opened the Kaesung dojang on March 11, 1944 in the Kwan Duck Jung archery school, establishing one of the first of the "original founding kwans". Unfortunately, due to the situation in Korea during this time, the dojang was forced to close within three to four months after opening. It was the end of World War II, and Korea was under Japanese occupation. Survival was the first priority for the people of Korea, and training in the martial arts was far from their minds. On May 2, 1946, Ro re-established his art at Dong Hung Dong. For the next few years, martial arts swept through the Korean general population and began to thrive as additional Kwans sprang up. However, war would again cause Ro and the rest of the founders to abandon their dreams, as the Korean War forced them to close their doors.
Early Song Moo Kwan practice sessions started with an hour of warm-up exercises consisting of lifting weights and then practicing on the Kwon Go (makiwara). Byung Jick Ro was known as a powerful puncher and kicker from his students. He always let his students punch the Kwon Go at least 100 times and then started the real practice. If students received the 4th Guep or higher, he let them spar. He was known to have his students practice in cold weather during winter and in the hot weather during summer.
One of Byung Jick Ro's original students, Young Sup Lee noted:
- "Every six months, there was testing for promotion. Mainly one step sparring, three step sparring, free sparring and forms were used to decide promotions. But free sparring was for 4th Guep and higher, and 1st Dan required breaking a board. If these rules were broken, the Kwan Jang was very upset."
In July 1946, Byung Jik Ro (Song Moo Kwan), Won Kuk Lee (Chung Do Kwan), Sang Sup Chun (Yun Moo Kwan), and Byung In Yoon (Chang Moo Kwan) met to discuss Korean martial arts and possible unification. Hwang Kee (Moo Duk Kwan) was not present. Nothing definitive came from the meeting.
In the 1960s, Ro's son and eventual successor, Ro Hee Sang began studying Hapkido in 1963 and Northern Shaolin Kung Fu in 1967. He (Ro, Hee Sang) subsequently became an instructor to the Korean Army and one of Korea's Taekwondo champions. He trained Karate, Hapkido, Kumdo and Northern Shaolin Kung Fu.
- Founder: Byung Jick Ro
- March 11, 1944: Song Moo Kwan founded at Ja Name Dong (Kwan Duk Jung), KaeSung City, Kyung Ki Providence
- May 2, 1946: re-established at Dong Hung Dong, KaeSung City, Kyung Ki Providence
- June 25, 1950: closed doors due to the Korean War
- September 20, 1953: re-established Ah Hyung Dong, Mapogu, Seoul, Korea