In the years following World War II -- long before the term "mixed martial arts" came along -- Choi Yong Sul and some of his first students decided to develop a unique Korean martial art specifically for self-defense using the best techniques from a variety of martial arts.
Using the unarmed Samurai fighting techniques brought back to Korea from Japan by Choi as a foundation, these Koreans mixed in kicking techniques from local temples, judo and ancient Korean fighting techniques to cover all the fighting ranges.
In addition to the kicking and hand striking, techniques include picking people up and slamming them to the ground ("throwing"), grappling and pinning, choking and twisting limbs until they lock up to cause pain or even dislocation.
This art became known as "hapkido," or "the way of coordinated inner power."
As hapkido makes use of some very serious techniques -- some which are even potentially lethal -- the art shouldn't be taught to children under the age of 16. After all, you can't lock away a child's martial art training when there isn't adult supervision like a gun.
Another reason children shouldn't be taught hapkido is that the repetitive practice of techniques which applying pressure to joints could possibly deform children's still-growing bones and joints.
Children who were interested in hapkido were advised to take taekwondo until they were old enough for hapkido.
This plan never quite worked out, however, as all who did so forgot about their interest in hapkido and ended up sticking with the taekwondo program they had invested so much time in or just quitting altogether.
In the summer of 2005, however, Jill Mills, a second degree hapkido black belt at the Cape Girardeau Moo Sul Kwan, came up with a great idea to address this problem: a pre-hapkido class for children ages 10-15 years.
Pre-hapkido focuses on general exercise, mostly high-repetition calisthenics that are an important part of hapkido training, and skills that will prepare children for the day they are old enough to join the adult class such as basic punches, kicks and throws along with breakfalling -- a skill which allows students to be thrown by other students without getting hurt.
This program has worked out so well in Cape Girardeau that the Sikeston Moo Sul Kwan's new owner, Lynn Sullenger, has decided to add the pre-hapkido program at his school.
The Sikeston pre-hapkido classes are taught by Jennifer Thomure, Sullenger's senior hapkido student.
As this demanding and difficult martial art will probably never attract as many students as taekwondo, I am happy to see children interested in this art finally provided with an opportunity to pursue it from day one, preparing for themselves for the adult class.
From what my instructor tells me, his instructor, the late great grandmaster Lee H. Park, always said the best martial art for children to study is judo. Unfortunately, full judo curriculum has never been available in this area.
While hapkido isn't judo, Moo Sul Kwan hapkido does have a strong judo influence in it and pre-hapkido includes a lot of the same material which appears in a judo class.
And like all quality martial arts, the pre-hapkido program imparts through guided activity self-discipline, self-respect and respect for others including authority figures.
While it isn't exactly judo, I can't help but think that Park would be pleased with this new option for kids.