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Ji Han Jae

Ji Han Jae
is the founder of the Korean martial art Hapkido. Ji Han Jae, was born in 1936 in Andong, Korea. He began his martial arts training in Yawara with Choi, Yung Sul at the age of 13. The techniques he learned at this time were primarily joint locks, throws, low kicks, and sword techniques. He trained full time with Choi until 1956. When Ji was eighteen, he began to train with a man he used to refer to as Taoist Lee Dosa. Lee was Ji’s Samrangdo instructor. Lee trained Ji, primarily in mediation, the use of the Jang-Bong (6' staff), the Dan-Bong (short stick), and in Korean Taek-Kyun kicking. With many kicking techniques and high jumping techniques, Ji had a perfect complement to the grounded techniques of Yawara taught by Grandmaster Choi. Lee also began Ji on his mental and spiritual training. He trained him in numerous meditation and breathing exercises. He trained with Lee for almost five years after which he continued his training with Lee’s instructor, Saramonim “Grandma”. Ji would spend hours with Grandma at a temple that was a healing complex for terminally ill individuals. He spent about 3 years with her and considers Grandma to be his spiritual teacher. He continued training with her until he left Korea.

Ji, Han Jae, opened his first dojang in Andong,
at the age of 23. He called his new school the Moo Kwan and taught Yu Kwan Sool. After 9 month he relocated the Dojang to Seoul in September of 1957. Hwang, Duk Kyu, was his first student at this dojang, called Sung Moo Kwan. During April of 1960 Ji began to piece together the Yoo Sool (Yoo kwan Sool) teachings of Grandmaster Choi, with the methods of meditation, the Taek-Kyun kicking techniques, and the weapons techniques learned from Lee, along with the spiritual training he received from Grandma. The product was “Hapkido”. He had originally thought of calling it "Hapki-Yoo-Kwan-Sool", but decided against that, feeling it was too long. Instead he opted for using the word 'Do' meaning a path to follow, or a way of life, rather than simply 'techniques' as 'sool' implies. When General Park, Chung Hee (1917-1979) became the Korean President in May of 1961, Ji was teaching at the Korean military academy. After a demonstration and with assistance from Major Lee, Dong Nam, Ji was given permission to instruct the military Supreme Council in Hapkido techniques. Ji then received a government position teaching Hapkido to the President Security forces called the Blue House (a position he would hold until Park's death in 1979). In 1963, Ji Han Jae, Choi, Yong Sool, and Kwon Jang instituted the Korea Kido Association. In 1965, Ji, Han Jae left the Korea Kido Association and established the Korea Hapkido Association.

Three dominant Hapkido organizations began to immerge during the next five years. They were the Korea Hapkido Association (founded in 1965 by Han-Jae Ji), the Korea Hapkido Association (founded in 1969 by Jae-Nam Myung), and the Korean Hapkido Association (founded in 1971 by Kim, Moo Woong). Eventually, in 1973, the leaders of these organizations met and agreed to unify their associations. The new association was named Dae Han Min Kuk Hapkido Hyub Hwe (Republic of Korea Hapkido Association).


In 1967, Ji traveled to Vietnam with some of his students to teach Hapkido to the soldiers fighting there. They conducted training and demonstrations from 1967 to 1969. In 1969, Ji first came to the United States as part of an exchange with President Richard Nixon’s security forces. He taught Hapkido to the US Secret Service, Special Forces, OSI, FBI, and CIA. While he was visiting and staying at Andrews Air Force Base, his good friend, Taekwondo pioneer and Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee (who brought Tae Kwon Do to the United States), introduced Ji Han Jae to movie legend Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was impressed with Ji Han Jae’s techniques and martial-skill and asked him to teach him. In addition, Lee also insisted that Ji accept a part in what would prove to be his last film, the “Game of Death”.

Ji Han Jae taught Bruce Lee and also traveled to Hong Kong over the next few
years to help choreograph martial arts movies and also to star in a few of them. At this time, Ji Han Jae taught movie stars such as Jin Pal Kim, Angela Mao, Samo Hong, and Bruce Lee among many others. He appeared in four movies, “Hapkido” (aka. Lady Kung Fu), “Fist of the Unicorn Palm”, “Dragon Tamers”, and most famously Bruce Lee’s “Game of Death”.

In the movie “Game of Death”, Ji agreed to lend his image and skill to the making
of the movie as a favor to his friend Bruce Lee. He disallowed however, his name to be used at that time in the credits because his character was to be defeated in the film’s original script. Ji felt that this scenario was unrealistic and Lee agreed. Bruce Lee insisted that Ji wear a special uniform adorned with gold trim along with a special Gold Belt to represent the highest-level in Asian martial arts!

Extra footage of the original “Game of Death” film was discovered several years
ago, then released in a documentary movie called “A Warrior’s Journey”. Film-maker John Little, licensed by Bruce Lee’s widow Linda Lee, flew DoJuNim Ji Han Jae and Grandmaster Kenneth P. MacKenzie to Warner Brothers Studios in Hollywood, Ca. in 1999 in an effort to gather historical facts and to complete a documentary surrounding Bruce Lee and his final film. Other stars gathered in the making of the documentary included Taky Kimura of Jun Fan Gung Fu. “A Warrior’s Journey”, the re-release of the original “Game of Death” proved an international success and brought Hapkido further into the public eye. In addition to several rare interviews, the film features 18 impressive minutes of previously unreleased and long-time presumed lost fight scenes spotlighting Ji Han Jae.


Bruce Lee & Ji Han Jae

Bruce Lee & Ji Han Jae


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