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Martial Arts: Korean Arts: Taekwondo

Storming the Fortress:  A History of Taekwondo

Part Three:The First Korean Schools: The Shudokan Schools

By Eric Madis

Toyama Kanken, founder of the Tokyo Shudokan.

Yun Byung-in and the YMCA Kwonbopbu

Yun Byung-in

Yun Byung-in (1920-1983) was born in Mu-sun, Manchuria on May 20, 1920 (McLain, April 2009).  Mu-sun was a small town located close to Hsinking (now named Changchun) in the Jilin Province of Manchuria.  Manchuria, a large region of northeastern China, became the Japanese-controlled puppet state of Manchukuo from 1932-1945. Hsinking, a large center of industry, became the capital of Manchukuo in 1932.  The Jilin Province had the largest Korean ethnic population of any of the three provinces of Manchuria in the early 20th century, and still does to this day. 

Yun was the second of three sons of Yun Myong-keun, the owner of a distillery.  His grandfather, Yun Young-hyun, was a Korean of noble birth who had been appointed as a chief administrator of the Korean island districts of Gojae and Tong-young during the later years of the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910 A.D.).  Yun Young-hyun moved his family to Manchuria after losing this position sometime after the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1909 (McLain, April 2009). 

Yun attended elementary and secondary school (at that time, an eight-year program) in Manchukuo and graduated in 1938.  According to Kim Pyung-soo, the founder of Chayon-ryu and a person who has dedicated an enormous amount of time to recovering much of Yun’s legacy, Yun began studying quanfa (Chinese: “fist art”/chuan fa) during his elementary school years.  Apparently, at this time (the 1930s), the majority of quanfa instructors in some areas of Manchuria were Mongolian, and this was the case with Yun’s instructor (McLain, April 2009).  However, the instructor’s name is still unknown after all these years, which is unfortunate, considering the significant impact he is said to have had on Yun and his legacy.  Neither Yun nor his students had or have specified his instructor’s name or the specific style of quanfa that he was said to have studied.  However, based on Yun’s legacy (Yates, 1991), it appears that he may have studied changquan (Chinese: “long fist”) and possibly the Yang style of taijiquan (Chinese: “grand ultimate fist”/taichichuan) (Madis, 2003).  The Yang style of taijiquan was being taught liberally to non-Chinese during the early 20th century (Draeger and Smith, 1969: 35-39; Harvey Kurland, personal communication, March 21, 2000; Robert Smith, personal communication, December 31, 1999).  This was also true of changquan, but to a much lesser extent (Hsu, October 1986). In addition, the possibility of Yun’s instructor being Mongolian may explain to some extent how a young Korean boy was able to study Chinese quanfa.  Other factors that may have affected this were the Yun family’s wealth and Yun’s serious nature, sincerity and intelligence (McLain, April 2009).

Yun went to Tokyo, Japan in late 1938 to study agriculture at Nihon University (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 1, Section 4; McLain, April 2009). Yun also studied karate at Nihon University under Okinawan instructor Toyama Kanken (1888-1966), founder of Shudokan karate (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 1, Section 4; Madis, 2003). Toyama, whose primary instructors had been Itosu Ankoh, Higashionna Kanryo, Aragaki Angichi and Azato Ankoh, had also studied quanfa during his years as an elementary school teacher in Taiwan (1924-1930), just prior to his move to Tokyo in 1930. According to numerous sources, Toyama was impressed with Yun’s quanfa skill and the two exchanged knowledge (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 1, Section 4; Madis, 2003; McLain, April 2009). Yun soon became the captain of Nihon University’s karate team and eventually was awarded a master’s certificate and the rank of fourth dan (Japanese/Korean: “degree of black belt”) by Toyama (Toyama, 1959).  Yun’s name is sometimes transliterated in Japanese to In Hei Jin (Toyama, 1959).  One of the styles of quanfa that Toyama had studied in Taiwan was taijiquan, and he is known to have taught this to several of his advanced students (International Shudokan Karate Association, 2001).  

Toyama Kanken had two other notable Korean students:  Yun Kwei-byung (see section on Yun and the Jidokwan) and Kim Ki-whang (1920-1993). Kim became captain of the Nihon University karate team after Yun’s graduation from Nihon University, and would later return to Korea with a rank of third dan (Burdick, 1997; WWK, 1983).  However, the records of Toyama indicated that Kim would eventually be awarded a master’s certificate by Toyama (Toyama, 1959).  Kim later returned to Korea, where taught at Sung Kyun Kwan University.  He then relocated in 1964 to Silver Springs, Maryland in the United States, where he taught tangsoodo, and later taekwondo, until his death on September 16, 1993 (Burdick, 1997; Corcoran, January 1994).

Choi Hong-hi, founder of the Ohdokwan, stated in a 2000 interview that Yun also taught karate and quanfa on the rooftop of a Tokyo YMCA during the 1940s (Kimm, January 2000).  

Yun Byung-in with YMCA Kwonbop bu students

Yun returned to Korea after the end of World War II in 1945.  He began teaching kongsoodo (Korean: “empty hand way”/karate) and kwonbup (Korean: “fist art”; Chinese: quanfa; Japanese: kenpo) on September 1, 1946 at Kungsung Agricultural High School (Burdick, 1997) and shortly thereafter at the Yunmookwan for Chun Sang-sup.  Several months later, he established his own school, the Seoul Kwonbup Bu at the Jong Ro YMCA in Seoul (Kang and Lee, 1999: Chapter 1, Section 4; McLain, April 2009).  

There is some evidence to suggest that Yun taught some Chinese forms (Yang and Bolt, 1982; Yates, 1991) and that he varied students’ training according to body size (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 1, Section 4).  However, no solid evidence exists of an extensive Chinese-based curriculum, nor one that employed Chinese training methods, such as push hands or sticky hands exercises, qigong (Chinese: “energy gathering”/chi kung) or specific conditioning methods for the proper application of Chinese forms. Yun’s legacy is rather more of a karate-based curriculum, and his assistant instructor was Lee Num-suk, whose former martial arts experience was self-study of karate from one Funakoshi’s texts (; Dussault and Dussault, December 1993; Madis, 2003).

Yun disappeared during the Korean War, much like his friend Chun, Sang-sup the founder of the Yunmookwan (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 1, Sections 2 & 4). Kim Pyung-soo has become a leading authority on Yun, after years of research, direct martial arts study with several of Yun’s original students, and personal contact in recent years with Yun’s family members.  Kim reports that Yun’s disappearance took place sometime in August 1950, after the Korean People’s Army (KPA; the army of North Korea) had attacked and overrun much of South Korea (beginning in June 1950). Yun’s older brother Yun Byung-du, a captain in the KPA, either forced or convinced Yun to come to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) with him.  Yun was in all likelihood forced, since he would have had to leave his wife and an eight month-old daughter, and ultimately he ended up in a prisoner of war camp on Gojae-do Island (McLain, April 2009).  Abductions were common in Korea during the Korean War and for many years after the armistice between North and South Korea (KWAFU, 2006; Daily NK, 2007).

Yun’s students Lee Nam-suk and Kim Sun-bae opened a school in Seoul at the end of the Korean War in 1953, calling it the Changmookwan.  Two others members of the Changmookwan who were also senior students of Yun at the YMCA Kwonbup Bu, Park Chul-hee and Hong Jung-pyo, separated from the Changmookwan in 1956, opening a school called the Kangdukkwan (Kang & Lee, 1999, Chapter 1, Section 4). 

Kim Pyung-soo’s research has shown that Yun Byung-in was appointed to teach kuk sool (Korean: “national (martial) art”), designed specifically for combat, to an elite group in the DPRK capital of Pyong-yang from January 1966 until August 1967. However, Yun was discharged from this position in late 1967, since what he was teaching was not a sport.  It seems that DPRK officials were interested in countering the growth of the South Korean sport of taekwondo with a combat sport of their own.  Yun was sent back to his previous home of Cheong-jin, where he worked in a cement factory until his death from lung cancer in 1983 (McLain, April 2009).

Yun Kwei-byung and the Jidokwan

Yun Kwei-byung (1922-2000) began his karate study while attending secondary school in Osaka, Japan.  His first teacher was Okinawan instructor Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952), a student of Itosu Ankoh, Higashionna Kanryo, Arakaki Seisho, and Chinese quanfa instructor Gokenki.  Mabuni, the founder of the Shito-ryu school of karate, was widely respected for his encyclopedic knowledge of karate forms (Japanese: kata; Korean: hyung).  Another notable Korean student of Mabuni was Yun Pon-gun, who founded the Shinpo-ren school of karate in the early 1940s.  This school was renamed the Butokukan in 1963 under his student Kokichi Yoichi (Japan American Butokukai Karate Association, 2010). 

Yun Kwei-byung


Yun continued his karate training under Toyama Kanken while he was a student at Nihon University in Tokyo.  He eventually received undergraduate and graduate degrees in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry (Takaku Kozi, Renbukai official, personal communication, October 12, 2000). Because of his education, refinement and karate skill, Yun distinguished himself in Japan, where there was considerable prejudice against Koreans. 

Mabuni Kenwa

In 1940, Yun established the Kanbukan (Japanese:  “Korean Martial Arts Institute”), a sister school to the Shudokan, in the Kudanka district of Tokyo (Sekiya, June 2004).  This school, which was renamed the Renbukan in 1950 by Nakamura Norio, offered classes in karate and open exchange between different martial arts (Marchini & Hansen, 1998) and welcomed both Korean and Japanese practitioners.  Other notable Koreans in Tokyo who trained regularly at the Kanbukan included Mas Oyama (Korean name: Choi Hyung-yi) who received his 4th dan from the Kanbukan, Oyama’s Goju-ryu instructor So Nei-chu, and martial arts historian and Zen Bai Butokukai founder Richard Kim (Jinsoku, 1956).  Yun was considered an innovator in jiyu kumite (Japanese: “free sparring”; Korean: jayu daeryon) and soon attracted a sizable following in Tokyo (Nagashima Toshi-ichi, Renbukai official, personal communication, November 19, 1999). Nakamura Norio, one of the earliest members of the Kanbukan, and noted Okinawan karate instructor/historian Kinjo Hiroshi, both of whom trained and taught at the Kanbukan during the 1940s, have said that, in its early days, the Kanbukan taught traditional karate, innovative free-sparring, and bogu kumite (Japanese: “sparring with protective armor ”; Korean: hogu daeryon), as well as judo and kendo (Nakamura, May 2000).  Today, Yun is still one of the very few Koreans found on Japanese karate lineage charts, although his name is often transliterated as “In Giei”, “In Gekka”, “Yun Gekka” or other close variations. 

Yun was an active member of the mindan (Japanese: “public group”); the Korean resident’s association in Japan.  Even during World War II, he had a large banner on the Kanbukan that read, “Alliance for the Promotion of Establishing the Republic of Korea” (Jinsoku, 1956).

Although other Koreans studied with Toyama, Yun Kwei-byung and Yun Byung-in (no relation) are the only two to have received master certificates by the mid-1940s (Takaku Kozi, Renbukai official, personal communication, October 12, 2000; International Shudokan Karate Association, 2001, Toyama, 1959).  Some sources have written that Yun Kwei-byung was eventually awarded a rank of seventh dan in Shudokan karate by Toyama (Losik, 2001). 

 In 1948, Yun returned to Korea (Nakamura, 2000) to teach animal husbandry at Konkuk University (World Karate Championships, 1970).  He later was hired by Chang Sung-sup of the Yunmookwan as a chief instructor (Kang & Lee: Chapter 1, Section 2) and was the founder and coach of the karate teams at both Konkuk (Seoul National) and Korea Universities (Hwang, 1995: 22, 39-40; Michael Sol, personal communications, February 6, 2000).

Following Chun Sang-sup’s disappearance in 1950, Yun became the director of the Yunmookwan, which he renamed the Jidokwan (Korean: “Wisdom Way Institute”).  Whether this name change took place before, during, or after the Korean War is still a topic of controversy.  The disorder caused by the Korean War, including the uprooting of much of the South Korean population to the city of Pusan far at the southern tip of the peninsula, disrupted or postponed regular training at all schools, although some training took place in Pusan.  Therefore, most of the kwan (Korean: “institutes”), including the Jidokwan, were re-established in Seoul after the end of the war in 1953.

Despite Yun’s training in Shito-ryu and Shudokan karate in Japan, he continued to teach the Shotokan versions of the forms at the Yunmookwan, and later the Jidokwan.  These included the kiecho (Korean: “basic”; Japanese: kihon/taikyoku), pyong ahn (Japanese: heian), passai (Japanese: bassai dai), chulgi (Japanese: tekki/naihanchi), and kong sang kun (Japanese: kanku/kwanku/kusanku) forms.  These versions had been taught previously at the Yunmookwan under Chun, so it is likely that Yun saw no need to change them after Chun disappeared during the Korean War.  In addition, the Shotokan versions were popular at numerous other schools in Korea and Japan, which made form competition at tournaments simpler.  During Yun’s leadership of the Kanbukan in the 1940s, Shotokan forms were sometimes taught alongside the older Okinawan versions, thanks in part to Koide Masuyoke, a Shotokan and kendo practitioner from Waseda University who trained at the Kanbukan (Marchini & Hansen, 1998; Nakamura, 2000).  That Yun was familiar with the Shotokan versions and that he taught them as a hired senior instructor at the Yunmookwan, could explain the Shotokan influence in the core Jidokwan forms (Cho, 1968, Funakoshi, 1973). 

Jidokwan is sometimes transliterated “Chidokwan” in North America. This romanization was sometimes used by Cho Si-hak (Henry Cho), a student of Yun and a major proponent of the style in the United States since 1958 (Burdick, 1997/1999; Cho, 1968: 1; Cho, 2008).   However, Cho did also use the Jidokwan spelling (Cho, 2008).

Yun actively participated in the many discussions and unification efforts between kwan (Korean: “[martial arts] institutes”) in the 1950s and 1960s, including the Korean Kongsoodo Association, the Korean Taekwondo Association and the Korean Taesoodo Association (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 2, Sections 2,4, and 5).  However, like other first generation founders of Korean karate, such as Hwang Kee (Moodukkwan), Ro Byung-jik (Songmookwan), and Choi Hong-hi (Ohdokwan), Yun had growing disagreements with younger generation leaders over the direction of Korean karate (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 2, Sections 6 and 10). 

Yun Kwei-byung and Hwang Kee at 1961 Goodwill Tournament in Japan.

Yun’s Jidokwan joined Hwang Kee’s Korean Subakdo Association in 1961, at that time the largest martial arts association in Korea (Hwang, 1995: 44).  Yun and Hwang brought Korean karate teams (comprised of members from the Jidokwan and Moodukkwan) to Japan in 1961, 1964 and 1970 for goodwill competitions and the World Karate Championships (Hwang, 1995: 39; World Karate Championships, 1970).  Yun and Hwang also officially resigned from the Korean Taesoodo Association in 1962.  However, a split in the Jidokwan occurred in 1967 when senior instructor Lee Chong-woo (born 1928) led a group of younger generation Jidokwan members to join the Korean Taekwondo Association (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 1, Section 2).

Like other older generation leaders of Korean karate, Yun found himself increasingly marginalized in the 1960s and 1970s (Kang & Lee, 1999: Chapter 2, Sections 6 and 10), and he withdrew from the growing taekwondo movement to put more time into business (S. Henry Cho, personal communication, May 22, 2000).  His death in 2000 was almost unnoticed in the taekwondo community.



Part 4 – The First Korean Schools:  The Mavericks



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About The Author:

Eric Madis is a Pacific Northwest recording artist, guitar instructor and Tang Soo Do instructor.  He began his martial arts training in 1963 and his study of Korean martial arts in 1982, and holds a master rank in Tang Soo Do.  His instructors were pioneers of Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do.  Mr. Madis’ previous publications are in the fields of ethnomusicology and martial arts history. 

The author would like to personally thank S.Henry Cho, Harvey Kurland, Ron Marchini, Patrick McCarthy, Tom Militello, Toshi-ichi Nagashima, Graham Noble, Robert Smith, Michael “Kim” Sol, Joseph Svinth and Kozi Takaku for their personal communications and assistance. 

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Yun Byung-in, Toyama Kanken, Shudokan, Yun Kwei-byung, Kim Ki-whang, Choi Hong-hi, Ohdokwan, kongsoodo, kwonbup, Sang-sup, Yunmookwan, Kim Pyung-soo, Lee Nam, Kim Sun-bae, Park Chul-hee, Hong Jung-pyo, Changmookwan, Kangdukkwan, kuk sool, Jidokwan,Yun Pon-gun, Shinpo-ren, Kanbukan, Renbukan, Nakamura Norio, Mas Oyama, Choi Hyung-yi, So Nei-chu, Richard Kim, mindan, Yunmookwan, Jidokwan, Yunmookwan, Koide Masuyoke, Chidokwan, Cho Si-hak, Henry Cho, Hwang Kee?s Korean Subakdo, Moodukkwan

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