It could be said that martial arts originated from the dawn of human existence, when one’s very survival depended on the ability to defend oneself.
In primitive times all cultures used traditional unarmed combat skills when fighting tribal wars and as self-defence against animal attacks; these methods of self defence eventually developed into unique hand and foot skills.
However, the origins of Tang Soo Do as we know it can be traced to the period of the Three Kingdoms in Korea, Shilla 57 BC-935 AD, Paekjae 18 BC-660 AD, and Koguryo 37 BC-668 AD. Many relics of Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Kee) from this era survive to the present day. One of the best known examples is the Koguryo wall painting depicting martial arts, which is at least 1500 years old. It was found in Jip Han Yern, on the lower part of the Ap Lok river which forms part of the border between Korea and China. Koguryo murals of the royal tomb reveal the lifestyle of the time; one of the murals excavated during the period 1935-40 depicts a scene in which two warriors are engaged in a hand to hand fighting in Tang Soo Do.
Many Shilla Buddhist sculptures, depicting monks practising martial arts, also survive in Korea. The guardians carved at the entrance of Sokkuram Grotto display postures similar to those found in Tang Soo Do.
An entry in the 18th volume of the History of Koryo, written about 800 years ago, mentions We Moon Lee who was appointed to the post of army commander by King E Jong, the 16th king in the Koryo dynasty (918 AD-1392AD), for his expertise in Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Kee). The Koryo army used Tang Soo Do as a combat technique as well as a form of fitness training.
Moo Ye Do Bo, one of the most influential books on martial arts in Korea, was written approximately 500 years ago during the Yi Dynasty and describes various martial arts techniques. The books increased the popularity of Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Kee) among the general public and the army began to use Tang Soo Do competitions as a method of recruiting soldiers.
Modern Tang Soo Do is heavily indebted to Grand Master Hwang Kee who founded the Moo Duk Kwan (Korean Martial Art Academy) on 9th November 1945.
Kang Uk Lee, now 10th Dan and one of Grand Master Hwang Kee’s most senior students, introduced Tang Soo Do to the United Kingdom and South East Asia in the early 1970s. His inspiration and guidance were instrumental in the increase in popularity and development of Tang Soo Do in Europe.