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H.C. Hwang

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Blackbelt Magazine's 2004 Man of the Year

Son of Hwang Kee

In the Korean martial arts, Hwang Kee’s name is legend. He founded the Moo Duk Kwan, or Institute of Martial Virtue, just after the Japanese were driven from Korea at the close of World War II. It quickly became the most dominant of the five original kwan that emerged during those turbulent times. The name Hwang selected to describe the art he taught in those early days was hwa soo do in honor of the Hwarang warriors, but circumstances soon forced him to change it to tang soo do in recognition of Korea’s martial link to China and then to soo bahk do. The final appellation means “way of striking with the hand” and pays tribute to the ancient Korean art of subak.

Hwang envisioned the day when his traditional art would bloom nationally and internationally, and under his leadership, it did exactly that. When he passed away on July 14, 2002, it’s not surprising that many wondered who would succeed him, and some expressed concern over whether that person would be able to follow in the founder’s footsteps. They breathed a sigh of relief when Hwang Kee’s son, Hyun Chul Hwang, took the helm.

A soft-spoken man with exceptional skill, Hyun Chul Hwang has followed the Moo Duk Kwan path since 1954. He graduated from Korea University in 1969 with a degree in philosophy and began serving as the chief instructor at the headquarters dojang shortly thereafter. He held that post from 1970 to 1973, then spent part of 1973 and 1974 working as the chief Moo Duk Kwan instructor in Athens, Greece. A veteran of martial arts demonstrations all over the world, he was often seen engaging in furious sparring contests with other instructors despite the fact that he was a fifth-degree black belt. His self-defense skills soon earned him the respect of his peers.

In 1975 Hwang received his most challenging assignment to date: He was appointed chairman of the Technical Advisory Committee of the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation. The new job definitely kept him busy. He was required to attend every biannual rank examination held in the nine regions overseen by the organization. He was also tasked with standardizing the soo bahk do curriculum and making sure instructors around the world were familiarized with the changes. During his free time, he wrote detailed textbooks describing the history and techniques of the art.

In 1989 his duties doubled when he was named vice president of the World Moo Duk Kwan. Somehow he managed to hold both posts—until Hwang Kee died in 2002, that is.
The death of his father came as a real blow, but Hyun Chul Hwang barely had time to grieve. A few short weeks afterward, the board of directors of the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation voted to make the ninth-degree black belt its new president. He simultaneously became president of the World Moo Duk Kwan.

In the martial arts community, organizations frequently begin sliding downhill once their founders pass on, but not the Moo Duk Kwan. Hyun Chul Hwang immediately set about lifting the spirits of his followers and preventing the membership from disbanding. He then outlined his plan for the future of the art and the association and embarked on the two-year Vision Tour, a whistle-stop trip that would allow him to train with Moo Duk Kwan members around the world and brainstorm with them on the biggest challenges they faced. Everyone’s mind was put at ease, and the future of a fascinating and historical martial art was guaranteed.

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