Saturday, 1 February 2014

Honoring the Pioneers of Taekwondo; Chun Sang Sup

A while back I started writing a series of posts on the pioneers of Taekwondo. So far I have written one on Lee Won Kuk who founded the Chung Do Kwan, Hwang Kee who founded the Moo Duk Kwan, a commentary on Choi Hong Hi`s Theory of Power (Choi Hong Hi co-founded the Oh Do Kwan) and a post on Ro Byung Jik founder of the Song Moo Kwan. This time I will share what I know about a little well
Chun Sang Sup
Image Source
known Taekwondo pioneer; namely Chun Sang Sup.

Before I start with this post I must regrettibly inform you that I do not have a lot of material on Chun Sang Sup, but he had an important role in the Ji Do Kwan lineage so he deserves his spot in this series. I will therefore share what little I do know, and hopefully as time goes by and I get better sources I can fill out the blanks at a later date.

Chun Sang Sup is often credited to be the founder of the Yun Moo Kwan (it was reopened in 1953 as Ji Do Kwan), but he did not actually found that school. Yun Moo Kwan`s history actually starts before Taekwondo`s history and was founded as a Yudo (Judo) school in 1931. The headmaster (Lee Kyung Suk) of the school later hired Chun Sang Sup to teach Karate and Yudo before the end of WW2.

Early Years

Little is really known about Chun Sang Sup and if the information is out there it is not easy to come by. I have no date of birth and I do not know where in Korea he was born. What I do know is that he as many other original pioneers was of slight build (hinting of a reason for starting martial arts studdies but this is me reading between the lines of history again) and that he first studdied Yudo (Judo) while he lived in Korea (no school is mentioned and I do not have information on what rank he had either) in his youth before he moved to Japan for higher education. It was likely his connection with Yudo that later landed him the job-offering at the Yun Moo Kwan.  The fact that he was sendt to Japan for higher education also tells us that his family had a good income as only affluent and wealthy Korean families could afford such an education at the time.

Training in Japan

Now who he studdied with while in Japan seemed to be cut and dry information, but lately I have gotten some conflicting information on Chun Sang Sup`s training in Japan. In an interview with Lee Chong Woo (a student of Chun Sang Sup and a big name within Ji Do Kwan) Chung Sang Sup studdied at Takushoku University in Tokyo. Many have therefore concluded that Chun Sang Sup studdied Karate with Gichin and Yoshitaka Gigo Funakoshi at the University Karate Dojo. This is likely Eric Madis source in his excellent "storming the fortress" article series too. This is in my opinion the most likely source of his training and it would mirror the pattern we have established while looking at Ro Byung Jik and Lee Won Kuk`s training too. Both studdied Karate at the University they studdied. But I can not discount the other possibilities either. There was another teacher located in the same area that could also be the source of Chun Sang Sup`s training.

It is possible that Lee Chong Woo named the wrong university, or that Chun Sang Sup studdied Karate outside the University because in some interesting e-mail exchanges with Dr. Geroge Vitale (noted Taekwondo historian) he suggested that Chun Sang Sup really studdied with Toyama Kanken and therefore had the same teacher in Karate as Yun Byung In (founder of Chang Moo Kwan) and Yun Kwae Byung (he who reopened Yun Moo Kwan as Ji Do Kwan in 1953). Toyama Kanken also taught his style of Karate (Shudo Ryu or Shudokan) in Tokyo so it is entirely possible that this is Chun Sang Sup`s real source of Karate training. (Takushoku University is located in Tokyo.) In future articles when I will write about Yun Byung In and Yun Kwae Byung you will see that there might be some things that support this linkeage with Toyama Kanken. Dr. George Vitale`s source on Chun Sang Sup`s training was Kimm He Young`s new book on Taekwondo`s history. Kimm He Young has researched Taekwondo history the last 40 years so he has a huge head start on me so I will not argue against his claims. I do not have this book yet, but it is on my "to buy list" and I am looking forward to see what sources Kimm He Young has.

Opening the Karate department in Yun Moo Kwan

Before the end of WW2 Chun Sang Sup was aproached by the headmaster of the Yun Moo Kwan and asked if he could open a Karate division within Yun Moo Kwan which Chun Sang Sup did. He also taught Yudo at the Yun Moo Kwan. After WW2 was over Chung Sang Sup moved the Karate division to a
Chun Sang Sup, Yun Byong In and Lee Kyo Yun 1948
Image Source
seperate location and opened the "Yun Moo Kwan Kong So Do Bu" in 1946. "Bu (부)" can be translated with "Department", and this might be the reason why Yun Kwae Byong and Lee Chong Woo later reopened the Yun Moo Kwan under its new name Ji Do Kwan in 1953 to mark its independence from the Yudo School Yun Moo Kwan. The new Yun Moo Kwan Kong Soo Do Bu was dedicated to the study of Kong Soo Do (Karate) and the opening of this division is regarded by many as the founding of the Yun Moo Kwan in Taekwondo`s sense (and Ji Do Kwan too).

Chun Sang Sup was a skillfull administrator and teacher and it is mentioned in the sparingly information on him in Kang & Lee`s "A history of modern Taekwondo" that he was an intilectual who would most often wear suites. His administrative and teaching talents made Yun Moo Kwan the leading Kwan together with the Chung Do Hwe in the period 1946-49. As his student pool grew Chun Sang Sup was able to hire assistant instructors. The two he hired was none other than Yun Kwae Byung and Yun Byung In. Both of them had excellent reputations and had made a name for themselves in Japan, and both had been given the rank of Master by Toyama Kanken.

The fact that both of the instructors he hired to help him teach Karate was master students of Toyama Kanken can support the claim that Chun Sang Sup also was a student of Toyama Kanken. It would be natural to hire them if they all had the same teacher. On the other hand it might be that they knew each other since the number of Koreans training in Karate in Japan at that timeperiod could not be so great. Also they were Koreans living in the same area at the same time with the same interests. Anyone who has been abroad for a long time and isolated from your native country will recognize that the few people you meet who are from the same country as you are will easily becomes friends.

Yun Byung In would shortly after being an instructor for the Yun Moo Kwan go on to found the Chang Moo Kwan, and Yun Kwae Byung is reported to be teaching at two Korean Universities as well as the Yun Moo Kwan.

The End of Yun Moo Kwan

In 1950 the Korean war broke out and all Martial Arts schools were closed or at least driven far underground. Chun Sang Sup dissapeared during the war and dissapears from Taekwondo`s history too.
Outside Yun Moo Kwan in 1947
Image Source
Yun Kwae Byung assumed leadership after Chun dissapeared and eventually reopened the School to the public after the war under the new name "Ji Do Kwan" (Way of Wisdom Institute).

The Legacy

Chun Sang Sup was the original driving force for what was to become the Ji Do Kwan and had the most influential Martial Arts School only rivaled With the Chung Do Kwan in influence before the Korean war. Original Students of Chun Sang Sup founded their own Kwan`s after the war such as Lee Kyo Yun who founded the Han Moo Kwan (Korean Martial Institute). Chun Sang Sup was responsible for many important peoples early training in what was to become Taekwondo and helped lay the foundation of what was to become Taekwondo. There is little information on him and he was "only" active from around 1943 to 1950 so many overlook his importance and place within the history of Taekwondo. It is my hope that this post will increase the interest in this man and his teachings as well as more research into his history so we can fill in the blanks.

Special thanks to Dr. George Vitale for his sharing of information. Without him this would indeed be a short post:-)

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  1. Guess you already know about this page reg. Jidokwan history..

    1. Yes I did but thank you for sharing:-) If you click on the "Image Source" links just under the Pictures you will be taken to that very site;) It served as one of my sources for writing this post.

  2. Is it true Chun Sang Sup and Yun Kwae Byong were considered martial arts brothers who often trained together and traveled together and that they also went to Manchuria China to learn Chuan Fa and Tai Chi or something? I read that on wikipedia.

    Who was responsible for creating the Taekwondo chest gear (hogu) in the Jidokwan? Was it Byong? or one of his students?

    Did Judo techniques have a place in the Jidokwan?

    1. It was Yun Byung In (founder of Chang Moo Kwan) and Chun Sang Sup who were considered "Martial arts Brothers". I have seen References that they travelled together but I have no verifiable Sources that say that they travelled to Manchuria to learn Chinese Martial arts. Yun Byung In was allready considered a master of an unspesified Chinese Martial Art before he started his Karate training. He called his Chinese martial art Joo An Pa which is a korean pronounciation of Quan Fa which again is just a generic term for martial arts.

      Wikipedia is often a very bad Source for "Kwan era" Taekwondo since there are many conflicting stories and also a lot of fabricated ones. At one time it even suggested that Hwang Kee and Funakoshi travelled to China to learn the Pyung Ahn forms which would explain why both Moo Duk Kwan and Shotokan has the same forms and verify the old claim that Hwang Kee brought the forms back from China. This is obviously totally fabricated and outrageous fantasy but by many Dojang internet sites still cite this story as fact. If you have ever seen a Reference that Chang Moo Kwan and Ji Do Kwan are sister Schools or something along those lines you now know why:-) The founder of both Schools trained a lot together.

      I do not know who developed the first Hogu but it was a tough piece of Equipment! I think I have a Picture of an early one taken at the Kukkiwon Taekwondo Museum somewhere which I will share once I find it. It looked kinda like the modern ones, but they were stuffed With spliced wooden sticks. My teacher said that you needed to have good conditioned knuckles to strike it hard and at that time it was full contact. Face punching was allowed but no gloves were worn.. What is known is that Yun Kwae Byung (the reopener of Yun Moo Kwan as Ji Do Kwan) and other Korean Karate pioneers started the experimentation on full contact continous sparring allready while studying in Japan.

      As for Judo techniques, most of the original black belts of Yun Moo Kwan/ Ji Do Kwan were allready black belts of Judo. The techniques had a Place within several early Kwan as self defense techniques or Ho Sin Sul. Choi Hong Hi demonstrates several throws in his 1965 book and even in the modern Kukkiwon Textbook there is a classic Judo sacrefice throw demonstrated in the Kyoreugi section (I believe it is against a rifle. It is the one where the defender uses the forward momentum of the attacker and lies Down on his back throwing his attacker above him).

      I do not believe that Judo techniques were very systematically taught however, as the focus became simple and effective striking.

  3. Thanks for this information. It's very interesting and helpful in plugging in some of the lacunae in the early history of Korean karate/taekwondo. I read somewhere not too long ago that there was a sub or "annex" kwan with the Yun Moo Kwan name after the closing of the Chosun Yun Mu Kwan and the disappearance of Chun Sang Sup some time after the start of the Korean War in 1950. The annex kwan with the name Yun Moo Kwan may have co-existed with the revived style under the new Ji Do Kwan name for a period of time. What remains unclear to me is whether or not this was a variant offshoot of the original Chun Sang Sup school (in parallel with the group that became Ji Do Kwan) or a different school using the same name (which may have had a certain cachet due to its use as the name of a relatively long time, and well known, judo school in occupied Korea). Alternatively it may have had no relation I suppose because "Yun Moo Kwan" is a fairly generic name (Hall or Institute of Martial Study) and might have been reasonably adopted for that reason.

    The issue I'm wondering about is this: There is evidence that, while Yun Mu Kwan faded as a distinct style with the advent of the Korean War, there is abundant evidence that the name is still used extensively today among Korean stylists in Central and South America and, to a lesser extent, in the United States. Indeed, I know of at least two cases of Korean karatekas coming to the United States in the mid 1950's (when taekwondo was still experiencing unification pains!) and teaching an art with this name (Yan Moo Kwan on the West Coast, Yun Mu Kwan on the East Coast). It's not clear to me whether these men had been students of the old Chosun Yun Mu Kwan or of some offshoot ("annex" branch) or whether they were simply students of another school which shared the name or if they adapted the name themselves for its historic and generic characteristics.

    From what I have seen, the early Yun Mu Kwan had the look of a somewhat looser, generic form of Shotokan karate which would fit with the notion that there was a link with Chun Sang Sup at some point in the training history. But it would be interesting to ascertain whether there was only the one Yun Mu Kwan or not and also to what extent a style with that name survived after the disappearance of its founder, Chun Sang Sup and the revival under Yun Kwae Byung as Ji Do Kwan.

    Any help you can provide in clarifying this would be helpful.


    1. Thanks for your kind words Stuart:-) I am glad that people appreciate the historical posts and I will continue with the series in the near future:-)

      I have not heard that Yun Moo Kwan survived after the Korean war but it is very possible that other students of Chun Sang Sup kept a school open in his name or that as you say Yun Moo Kwan is a pretty generic name for a Martial Art school.

      As far as I know the only annex Kwan (I hate to write this because if I find out in the future that I am wrong I will regret this) that lasted quite some time and gathered a reasonable following was the "Han Moo Kwan" founded by Chun Sang Sup`s student Lee Kyo Yun, which even today has a following outside Korea. The original Han Moo Kwan was closely based on Chun Sang Sup`s teachings and Lee Kyo Yun always maintained that his lineage came directly from Chun Sang Sup. Today however I think that Han Moo Kwan`s teachings has evolved a lot since the 1950s. It is mentioned in several sources that other students of Chun Sang Sup opened their own schools but they were absorbed into the greater schools (i.e Ji Do Kwan) or if they lasted that long they became absorbed by the KTA in the early to mid 60s.

      I hope this helps allthough I do not feel I have aducately answered your question but it is the best I can do for now:-)

  4. I don't know how reliable this is but I found this article on-line: It recounts the occurrence of an "annex kwan" called "Yun Moo Kwan" apparently after Chun Sang Sup's disappearance and the closure of the old karate school at the Chosun Yun Mu Kwan. If it's accurate, it suggests either an offshoot school roughly parallel in occurrence with the activity of Jidokwan, or a school that bore the same name, either because the name had a certain cachet in Korean karate circles or because its generic meaning is really appropriate to any martial arts school (Hall [or "Institute"] of Martial Study). If either of the latter are the case there may have been no direct connection but if the former is the case then there's reason to suppose that the old Yun Mu Kwan of Chun Sang Sup did continue for a time under its original name. I studied in the 1970's under a Korean emigre who was teaching a style he called Yun Mu Kwan and I have found comments on-line about another Korean, who came to the American west coast in the same 1950's time period as my teacher who taught a style the commenter recalls as "Yan Moo Kwan" (which could, I suppose, match the "Han Moo Kwan" you name except for the first letter which you indicate was directly descended from the old Yun Mu Kwan).

    Anyway, you're correct that there is a real paucity of information about this stuff though I am trying to get as much as I can find and sort it all out. My teacher, by the way, moved away from the old Korean emphasis on high kicking and jumping to a more grounded, lower kicking approach though he continued to call it "Yun Mu Kwan" for all the time I studied with him.

    If you hear of any further information on the history of this seemingly lost Korean "style" I'd appreciate hearing about it. Thanks!

    1. I think I recognize the link you shared as leading to a pdf file of a translated book "A modern history of Taekwondo" by Kang & Lee. That work is pretty solid and it is referred to by both Eric Madis in his excellent article series "Storming the fortress" (it is available on and I believe that Alex Gillis used it to back some of his claims in "A Killing art - the untold history of Taekwondo". I am a huge fan of both Works and from what I gather you like the history part of Taekwondo so if you have not looked into them allready, I will recommend that you do:-) I do not remember Reading more about the Yun Moo Kwan after Chun Sang Sup`s dissapereance though.

      If I do learn more about it I will definitly share it here on my blog as I do not believe in keeping the knowledge I gain a Secret. I prefer to share as much as I can and the blog lets me organize my thoughts in a very constructive way:-)

    2. Thanks for the feedback. One of the things in the book at the link I offered was (somewhere around page 5 or 6 I think) a statement that, between the 1950s and '60s, during the period when the kwans were having trouble unifying under a single organization with common standards, etc.) a number of "annex kwans" were opened up, including one they dubbed "Yun Moo Kwan." They didn't make clear whether this was an offshoot of the old Chun Sang Sup Yun Mu Kwan or if it just borrowed the name.

      The important thing is they report it opening and operating in the post Korean War period, and we know the Chosun Yun Mu Kwan started publicly offering Japanese karate around 1946 and that by around 1948 Chun Sang Sup had relocated his school to another location. By 1950 and the start of the Korean War, karate training fell on hard times in Korea and, as we know, Chun disappeared into the north, never to be heard from again, his Yun Mu Kwan students losing their teacher and place to practice.

      When some of his students reopened a school with a new instructor, the school was given the new name of Jidokwan so Yun Mu Kwan effectively ceased to exist. And yet, if that link I gave you is right, Some time in the early to mid-fifties there was a Yun Moo Kwan school teaching in parallel with Chun's successor school of Jidokwan.

      So was this "annex kwan" just another offshoot of Chun's old school or did it just use the name . . . or were they a breakaway from the new Jidokwan (before Jidokwan was rolled out of independent existence and into taekwondo)?

    3. These are interesting questions:-) I will e-mail a few friends and see if they know more about this issue:-)

    4. I am sorry Stuart. I have forwarded Your questions to every knowledgeable person I know of and have an email and or facebook Connection to. No anwers I am afraid, but I tried. If I do learn anything I will either Write a comment here or make a New blog post (depending on how much information it is)

    5. Not to worry. Not everything is discoverable. There must be millions (no gazillions) of bits of information forever lost to us or irretrievably buried in the myths and legends of the past. That this question refers to a reasonably recent set of events instead of something more distant from us in time doesn't make it anymore discoverable, in principle, if the facts have already faded from memory! My guess is, unless there was something demonstrably reliable to be discovered we could just as easily end up with some misinformation that, for want of anything else, we'd be tempted to take as factual. Indeed, we can't even know that what we seem to know from the relatively few sources on the subject, is entirely reliable, even as we now have it!

      My own sense of this is that much of the Korean narrative is shrouded in myth and "tall tales," some of it spun from ignorance and other parts of it the work of folks with an agenda to advance. So, aside from the relatively limited story we have about the birth of the kwans and their growth into today's taekwondo, most of the rest is likely to be embellishment which, if we wait long enough and repeat among ourselves long enough becomes, to all intents and purposes, "fact."

      One of the things I note is that the early Korean founders were mostly young men who took up karate in Japan, brought it back with them to Korea and altered it to fit their strong desire to have something different. Whether the kicking influence that's evident in today's taekwondo arose from taekkyon or from Korea's proximity to northern China where taller stances, higher kicks and more acrobatic movements were the kung fu order of the day, is almost irrelevant. What we find is that the Koreans gave karate a different look, even before the emergence of a "unified" system called "taekwondo," and this "look" was a direct outgrowth of the decision to focus on kicking since high kicks require higher stances and greater bodily movement (to achieve higher reach and generate power from momentum) than the more tightly held Okinawan and Japanese techniques. The latter group of techniques demand a different rhythm and methods of movement generally from the kicking requirements in a kick oriented system emphasizing flexibility and leg reach.

      One thing strikes me though and that's that the young Korean men who brought karate back to Korea from Japan were probably, at least for the most part, less advanced than the skilled high level practitioners who taught them. This, of course, did not preclude the relatively junior Korean black belts from developing along their own lines and advancing to higher skills levels even as they focused on developing their own approach to hand and foot fighting within the old karate framework. But someone like Chun Sang Sup may not have been especially advanced, when you think about it, because he was so young when he disappeared he did not really have time to develop a lifetime's worth of skills and experience that his fellow youthful Korean karate exponents would have. So to the extent that Yun Mu Kwan names a style he founded or developed, it probably lacked the kind of tradition and refinements of some of the other styles that developed on the road to taekwondo, or of the Japanese styles that were, essentially, its older siblings!

      Of course, all styles of martial arts began somewhere with someone or some group of people and became only as good as their practitioners became and could pass along to their successors. Chun had no direct successors and no time to develop the style he "founded" beyond the basic level, leaving Yun Mu Kwan, perhaps, to become a blank slate of sorts. But will we ever really know? Perhaps not.

    6. Well Lee Kyo Yun founder of Han Moo Kwan did always maintain that his lineage was from Chun Sang Sup and not from Yun Kwae Byung`s Ji Do Kwan. Han Moo Kwan is still active outside of Korea eventhough it has evolved since its beginnings it is nevertheless a link back to Chung Sang Sup (provided that Lee Kyo Yun tells the truth:-) )

  5. And yet the record we have, limited as it is, does not appear to show Chun Sang Sup as especially accomplished in karate. He seems to have held a black belt in judo and Shotokan karate but he's not credited with any great feats or lineage that would seem out of the ordinary and apparently he brought in others, like Yoon Byung-In to do the karate teaching when he could. If modern black belts are any measure, having that rank alone does not make one a master or grant one bona fides to teach, let alone found a school. Chun's main claim to fame seems to have been bringing Shotokan to the Chosun Yun Mu Kwan, though it would soon be eclipsed by proponents of the similar but different style called Shudokan as the source of the Yun Mu Kwan syllabus. Still, if Lee Kyo Yung is to be believed, there is at least one line of descent, as you say. Then there's also that fellow I read about teaching "Yan Mu Kwan" in Oregon or Washington State in the U.S. in the 1950's and my own teacher practicing "Yun Mu Kwan" in the American northeast commencing in the mid fifties as well, in both cases before taekwondo was formally established. And all the "Yun Moo Kwan" schools still practicing as such in Latin America. So there's reason to suppose Chun's original Koreanized Yun Mu Kwan could have survived though the original system would likely have been little more than an unadorned Shotokan with higher, more extended kicking techniques.

  6. Check Japanese sources.
    Yoon Kwe-Byung opened the Kanbukan in Tokyo. He was the founder and director of that school, circa 1940. His partner, and vice-director was none other than the late Kinjo Hiroshi.

    I cannot find any photos of the original Kanbukan in Tokyo. I need somebody with access to very rare material that has never been published, if it exists. Today, the Kanbukan is called Renbukai Karate-do, a style instead of a dojo.

    Since Richard Kim called Kinjo Hiroshi a "walking encyclopedia of Karate", I'm pretty sure he knew 100% about the "tang soo do" or karate being developed in Korea at the time. After all, he served in Machuria too...

    1. I did not know his partner were kinjo hiroshi. Thanks for that piece of information and for taking your time to comment. I am really gratefull for that. I have written a detailed post centering on yun kwae byung himself where pretty much everything else you say is included. This post is about chun sang sup and that is why the others get such a superficial treatment:-) the link to yun kwae byung post: I hope you can read it and add to it if I missed anything:-) again thanks for taking your time to comment:-)

    2. Sorry Mr. Nilsen, I don't mean to confuse you.
      I mention this because information Eric Madis gave me shows Chun Sang Sup was Toyama Kanken's student and listed as a teacher. In the same book, Kinjo Hiroshi, Yoon Kwe-Byung and Yoon Byung-In are all listed.

      Not only that, but in the very first picture you have on this page, dated 1948, I am convinced Hwang Kee is to the left of Yun Byong-In. In some old photos, Hwang and General Choi can look similar - but the dead give-away is the angle of the ears and the part of his hair - and the slight tilt of his head. Choi always sits up straight like a General does!

      Sorry for these anonymous postings. I am a MDK TSD instructor from Canada and have a huge interest in these matters. My name is Rees Machtemes, and I'm easy to find on social media.

      -> The link between Hwang, Yun, Yun and Chun is Toyama, not only Funakoshi as many believe. There is a huge unpublished connection between Renbukai and the Korean kwans. It seems to never have been put in books in English or long since forgotten.

    3. Thanks. Great comment :-) I have never seen any references outside my correspondence with Master Vitale that Gm Chun was a student of Kanken. Much is overlooked in the early history of Kukki tkd and I'm very interested in it (hence much of this blog).

      Ps if you are a mu Duk Kwan guy you are going to love one of the posts I'm working on these days :-) it's very closely related to moo Duk Kwan :-)

      And please just call me Orjan. "Mr. Nilsen" makes me feel so old :-P

  7. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post.