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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 29537
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2022 1:12 am    Post subject: Original Kwan History: Song Moo Kwan Reply with quote

Song Moo Kwan: "Pine Tree School" One of the original Kwans founded after WWII and before the Korean War.

The Song Moo Kwan (originally called the Song Do Kwan from what I’ve read) was initially founded in 1944 by Byung Jik Ro in Kaesung, at the Kwan Duck Jung archery school. Song Moo Kwan was the first of the original Kwans to open. He was forced to close the school three to four months later, as the Japanese were still occupying Korea at the time. Byung reopened the school in Dong Hung Dong in 1946. It closed again during the Korean War and reopened in 1953. Byung referred to his art as Kong Soo Do, as well.

Martial Heritage

According to Taekwondo Wiki, Byung became interested in the Martial Arts at the age of 12, when he observed techniques being practiced in local temples. Byung traveled to Japan and attended Chuo University as a young man, as many Koreans did during the occupation. The website states that Byung sought out Funakoshi, and studied Shotokan Karate under Funakoshi, along with Chung Do Kwan founder Won Kyuk Lee, earning his black belt. It goes on to state that Byung returned home to Kaesung in February 1944, “where he continued to create additional hand and foot techniques of his own.” If he was studying Shotokan that entire time period, then that’s around 8 years of Karate training prior to opening his own Kwan back in Korea. He then opened his school, which closed, and reopened again in 1946.

Taekwondo Wiki mentioned on it’s timeline that Byung also studied Kung Fu of some form, but I have not seen any other information on this.

Several accounts I’ve read stated that Byung’s classes started early, with an hour of warm-ups consisting of weightlifting and makiwara striking. One of Byung’s original students, Young Sup Lee (or Lee Young Sup), gives an account of what his early gradings were like: "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." (quoted from Taekwondo Wiki).

In July 1946, Byung Jik Ro, met with Won Kuk Lee of the Chung Do Kwan, Sang Sup Chun of the Yun Moo Kwan, and Byung In Yoon of the Chang Moo Kwan to discuss possible unification of these Kwans, but nothing came of the meeting. Hwang Kee of the Moo Duk Kwan was not at the meeting. Unknown if he wasn’t invited, or if he was invited but did not show up.

According to, on May 25, 1953, Byung met with one delegate from each of the founding Kwans and seven representatives, held a conference, and established the Korean Kong Soo Do Association. Byung was elected is executive director, and interestingly, a Yudo (Judo) instructor, Young-Chu Cho, was elected as vice president. No president was elected. states that dissention set in, and the association dissolved.

I found this rather interesting: in the 1960’s, Byung’s son and future successor, Hee Sang Ro, began studying various Martial Arts. In 1963, Hee studied Hapkdio, and in 1967 he began studying Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. Taekwondo Wiki also mentions that he studied Karate and Kumdo. Hee moved to the US in 1976, and eventually became the second grandmaster of the Song Moo Kwan, which had been in the States since 1965. Hee included the study of all of the above arts in Song Moo Kwan, along with "Hosinsul," which I believe is just "self-defense" (at least, that is what we refer to it as in our school).

It appears that Byung was active throughout the history of the Kwans in unification efforts, first with the Korean Kong Soo Do Association, and later with the Korean Tae Soo Do Association on September 19, 1961. Byung eventually became the 4th president of the Korea Taekwondo Association. According to “A Modern History of Taekwondo,” written by Kang Won Sik (Song Moo Kwan) and Lee Kyong Myong, it states that Byung "…tried hard to promote Taekwondo such as creating the President’s Championships. He ran the Seoul Song Moo Kwan Central Dojang and taught Taekwondo to police officers. However, Ro Byung Jik still had a strong love of his own Kwan and he felt that Dan certification must not be issued by the KTA, but instead by the Kwans. The irony was that Ro Byung Jik was President of the KTA, but he loved his Song Moo Kwan more than the KTA." I’m guessing that Byung probably stayed with his own thoughts on teaching and promotion, and perhaps didn’t cobble onto the idea of standardization that the Kukkiwon and WTF would push. The same source states that Byung resigned his position as president a year later.

From that same source, it appears that on August 7, 1978, 10 Kwans finally compromised and closed the Kwan system, and Proclamation was signed that finalized "Kwan unification." For the Song Moo Kwan, this was signed by Chun Jung Woong. But by this time, Byung’s original Song Moo Kwan was living on in the US, amongst other areas. I haven’t been able to really find information in regards to a "split" like that which occurred with the Moo Duk Kwan.

It appears that the Song Moo Kwan has evolved quite a bit from Byung’s beginnings in Korea. It seemed like he didn’t shy away from his Karate origins, and his son really upped the ante by studying the other styles he did, and I’d be really interested in seeing what classes are like at the current Song Moo Kwan. I don’t know that I’d refer to it as “Korean Karate” like I do with Moo Duk Kwan/TSD, but it definitely appears to have gone beyond TKD. It seemed difficult to find as much information on the Song Moo Kwan, so I appreciate anything others can offer on this subject matter. I don’t know of any books authored by any Song Moo Kwan stylists, but if anyone else knows of some, I’ll add them to my collection.
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