"Teaching the Warrior Spirit through Self-Discipline and Self-Defense"

A Brief History of Kong Soo Do Korean Karate

Note from Great Grandmaster Rick Jessee:

This is one version of the published history of the beginnings of Kong Soo Do however while living in Korea and being a Japanese karate practitioner I heard many different versions of this tale.

The popular version goes as follows:

Kong Soo Do is a Korean martial art. Its name is composed of the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters for "karate-do". In English it means "empty-hand way". However, it is different from Japanese karate-do. It is influenced by individual backgrounds of instructors.

"Chosun Yun Mu Kwan (sometimes Yun Moo Kwan) Kong Soo Do Bu" and "YMCA Kwon Bop Bu", two of the original five Kwans used the 'Kong Soo Do' name in its youth.

Yun Mu Kwan's founder Chun Sang Sup learned Okinawan Karate from Gichin Funakoshi. Chun had a very close relationship with Yoon Byung-In the founder of YMCA Kwon Bop Bu. Chun and Yoon would travel to train with other martial artists, sometimes traveling to Manchuria. They trained with each other so much that they became known as brothers.[1] Chun went missing during the Korean War; subsequently, this kwan voted to change its name to Jidokwan. After Chun disappeared in Korean War, the original students of Chun voted Master Yoon who trained in Chuan Fa in Manchuria as Jidokwan 1st President.

Kwon Bop Bu/Chang Moo Kwan - founded in 1947 by Yoon Byung-In who had studied Chinese kung fu (chu'an-fa, or 'fist method') in Manchuria and Okinawan versions of Chinese martial arts karate with Kanken Toyama in Japan. When Yoon trained karate at university karate club in Japan with Kanken Toyama, Japanese karate students pursued the Korean student and beat them up. Yoon Byung-in angered from the Japanese karate students, Yoon Byung-in sprung into action using Chuan-fa. He skillfully deflected and evaded the karate students' strikes and kicks to the point that they gave up and ran back to tell their teacher about what happened. Teacher Kanken Toyama invited Yoon Byung-in to tell him about the skillful non-karate martial art he used against his students. Yoon Byung-in explained to Toyama about his Chuan-fa education in Manchuria. Toyama appreciated the Chuan-fa background since he (Toyama) had studied Chuan-fa in Taiwan for 7 years, previously.

They decided to exchange knowledge; Yoon Byung-in would teach Toyama Kanken Chuan-fa and Toyama Kanken would teach Yoon Byung-in his Shudo-Ryu karate. Yoon later created his art and called as Kwon Bop Kong Soo Do. Early Chang Moo Kwan was mainly based on Chinese Kung Fu (ch'uan-fa). The early Chang Moo Kwan taught Palgi kwon (which influenced by Bajiquan).

Yoon went missing during the Korean War. His teachings were carried on by his top student Lee Nam Suk, who changed the name of the school to Chang Moo Kwan. Even though Yoon disappeared during the Korean War, information about him was later recovered by original Chang Moo Kwan student, Kim Pyung-soo in 2005, when he found Yoon Byun-in's family. Yoon's teachings were carried on by his top students Lee Nam Suk (Chang Moo Kwan), Park Chul-hee and Hong Jong-Pyo (both Kang Duk Won). During the Korean unification of the KTA in the 1960s a small sub Kwan broke away to form the Kong soo do kang yu do style founded by grand master Jae Soo Kwon. Its location was Yongsan District Korea outside of the U.S. military base; it then made its way to the United States. Outside of Korea very few martial artists know or practice this style today. The art stands for the hard and soft way or path of Korean empty hand.

A Deeper Look

To get an even deeper understanding of the roots of modern Kong Soo Do lets now look at the founder of the Karate System Yoon the originator of KSD studied. It was mentioned above that Kanken Toyama taught Yoon the system of Shudo-Ryu karate do. Not Shotokan as is professed by many. This system predates Shotokan. This system is purely Okinawan not Japanese although Toyama Sensei moved to Japan and opened what he named the Shudokan Dojo where Yoon trained. Here is an article that gives information on Toyama Sensei and Master Yoon.

The following are two versions of the life of Grand Master Kanken Toyama, whose karate teachings inluenced so many instructors and students studying martial arts today. The first is directly from Mikio Tanaka, his highest-ranking successor, which is short and concise, while the second and more detailed version was compiled by Takeo Hayashi - 5th Dan, a student of Mr. Tanaka for over 35 years.

TOYAMA Kanken
Dai Shihan,
Okinawa Seito Karate Do (Traditional Okinawan Karate)

Born on 24th September 1888, the 21st year of Meiji Era, in the Castle Town of Shuri, Okinawa, he trained Karate since childhood under the grand masters such as ITOSU, HIGAONNA, ITARASHIKI as well as his Bo Jutsu and Sai Jutsu by OGUSUKU, TANA, and CHIBANA.

In 1924, he moved to Taiwan and trained under CHIN Bussai of Taihoku, and RIN Kendo of Taichu to study Chinese Kenpo of Nan Ken Hoku Tai. He then moved to Tokyo in 1930 to establish his Karate Dojo, Shudokan. He died in November 1966, at the age of 78.

Here's the second version:

Kanken Toyama, the late great martial arts grandmaster, was born in Shuri, Okinawa the 21st year of Meiji on 24 September, 1888. His given name was Kanken Oyadomari and he was born into a noble family.

Toyama Kanken began his formal training in karate-do under Master Itarashiki in 1897. Later, he apprenticed himself to Anko Itosu, who then became his primary teacher and inspirational guide. He continued studying under Itosu until the master's death in 1915.

A school teacher by profession, Toyama's chosen field was the instruction of karate-do. In 1907 Toyama was named Shihan-dai (assistant) to Itosu at the Okinawa Teacher's College in Shuri City, and in 1914 he held a high office at the Shuri First Elementary School. Toyama was one of only two students to be granted the title of Shihanshi (protege); Funakoshi Ginchin was the other to receive this title from Itosu.

In 1924 Toyama Kanken moved his family to Taiwan where he taught elementary school and studied related systems of Chinese Ch'uan Fa ( kempo/kwan-bop ), which included Taku (Hakuda in Japanese language ), Makaitan, Rutaobai, and Ubo. Taku is one of central China's Hotsupu (northern school) Ch'uan Fa and is further classified as Neikung Ch'uan Fa (Shorei Kempo), that is, an internal method. Makaitan and Rutaobai, which the techniques of nukite (spear hand) came, and Ubo, all belong to the Nampa (southern school) Ch'uan Fa and are external methods or Waikung Ch'uan Fa (Shorei Kempo). These later three styles hail primarily from Taiwan and Fukuden, China. Toyama sensei was also known to have studied and taught Tai Chi Ch'uan Fa. Koyasu sensei studied t'ai chi from Toyama.

Early in 1930 Toyama moved again from Taiwan to mainland Japan and on 20 March 1930 he opened his first dojo in Tokyo. He called his dojo Shudokan meaning "The Hall for the Study of the Way" (in this case the karate-way). Toyama sensei did not claim to originate a new style, system or school of thought, nor did he combine the different styles he had learned. Those who studied under him basically learned Itosu's Shorin Ryu and the related ch'uan fa.

Toyama Kanken, now a Dai Shihan, founded the All Japan Karate-Do Federation (AJKF) in 1946.

There is some evidence that the AJKF actually got its start in 1930's, however the federation did not evolve into a full-fledged organization until it was officially documented and sanctioned in 1946. By establishing an organization such as the AJKF, Toyama's intention was to unify the karate of Japan and Okinawa into one governing organization, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and techniques. The federation became an authority for rank homologation and advancement issuing rank certification, and also created a forum for competition. This competition group later pioneered full-contact sparring which used modified ken-do protective equipment (bogu). The AJKF was successful in attracting importantly outside notable people such as Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose, founder of Chito Ryu Karate-Do. Dr. Chitose served in several senior positions in the federation including president and vice-president.

Toyama's specialties in karate-do were strong gripping methods (Useishi No Kata and the Aku Ryoku Ho) of Itosu and Itarashiki and similar Chinese methods of finger and hand strengthening. He was the author of books Karate-do Taihokan and Karate-do. In 1949 Toyama was awarded a special title of honor by the Governor of Okinawa, Mr. Shikioku Koshin. Aside from learning Shorin-Ryu from Itosu, Toyama studied and mastered other styles of karate from other notable masters of Naha-te and Tomari-te which also included Okinawan Kobu-do. (weapons) A few of his other teachers were Aragaki, Azato, Chibana, Oshiro, Tana, and Yabu.

It is also thought that when the Korean (Ch'uan fa) master, Yoon Byung-In came to train at his gymnasium, he also studied Northern Manchurian Kwan-bop with him. It is alleged that Toyama Kanken said that he and Yoon Byung-In should share techniques. Later Yoon Byung-In returned to Korea as a Shihan (master teacher) of the Shudokan and taught that style there.

Chun Moo Kwan Kong Soo Do

The united States Chun Moo Kwan was founded by Senior Grandmaster Rick Jessee in 1985. SGM Jessee had made a life study of Japanese Motobu Ha Shito-Ryu karate Do and Nihan Tenbuku-Ryu Jiu jitsu as well as Korean Hapkido. He began his training in 1963. He was awarded the highest black belt grade of 10th Dan in 2015 by one of karate's greatest fighting champions Hanshi Supreme Grandmaster Victor Moore and great Grandmaster Steve Sanders Muhammad in 2016.

SGM Jessee along the way also extensively studied the Korean art of Hapkido and lived trained and taught in South Korea for a period of six and one half years. While there he became the only American to ever receive the title of Gyung Gye Do Sah Bum. Gyung Gye Do provincial master and was a member of the master's demonstration team.

Master Travis Ginn has been an instructor and student of the martial arts since the age of 12 and has been training since 1984. He currently holds a 7th Degree Black Belt in the art of Kong Soo Do, 7th Degree Black Belt in the art of Motobu-Ha Shito-Ryu, 6th Degree Black Belt in the art of Tang Soo Do, 5th Degree Black Belt in the art of Goshin Jitsu, and 4th Degree Black Belt in the art of Hapkido. He is the Chief Master Instructor of the Ho Sin Sool Dojang at the Traditional Martial Arts Center in Etowah, NC in which he opened in January of 1998 after the birth of his daughter. He is also a Sifu in the White Crane Tai Chi System. In 2009 Master Ginn was voted "Master of the Year" in Tang Soo Do along with his school which was voted "Traditional Martial Arts School of the Year". Master Ginn has also studied arts such as Aikido, Isshin Ryu, Hun Gar, Wing Chun and Shorei Ryu in order to improve upon his system of self-defense and to improve upon his teaching of his system of martial arts. Master Ginn has since dedicated his life to the martial arts and to passing down his knowledge to his students as it has been passed down to him through the long lineage of masters before him.

In 2016 SGM Rick Jessee and Master Travis Ginn began a collaborative project. The project was to take Master Ginn's skills and knowledge of Korean karate and SGM Jessee's mastery of Japanese karate and develop a completely new version of Kong Soo Do using Motobu Ha Shito-Ryu and Tang Soo Do (a Korean version of Japanese Shotokan karate) as its base. The Hyung were changed to reflect the origins of KSD as well as the technical breakdown of the Ho Sin Sool self-defense techniques. This was a very successful project and in September of 2016 the new art was founded and Master Ginn placed as Chief Master Instructor and Co-Founder of Chun Moo Kwan Kong Soo Do. SGM Jessee (co-founder) lending the name Chun Moo Kwan from the Hapkido Kwan he founded in 1985.

In closing Kong Soo Do's roots go much deeper in Karate history than what is usually passed on by the average teller of it's origins. There are still dojo in Japan that have their roots in Kanken Toyama's Shudokan teachings. I hope you study and relish the rich history the system you are studying and will be excited to know that you were there to witness the birth of this new version of Kong Soo Do... It is a rare and exciting martial art!