The genesis of martial arts is actually difficult to trace. Today it is known that various self-defence techniques stem from the Indo-China region and had spread with Buddhism throughout Eastern Asia about 2000 years ago. Buddhist monchs were forced to develop defence and fighting techniques in order to protect themselves on their dangerous and treacherous journeys.

The roots of Hapkido can be linked to Buddhism too. It can be seen through the use of numerous leverage, joint lock and strength techniques (redirect the opponent's force by leading the attack in a circular pattern, thereby adding the attacker's power to your own based on the key concept, namely t to make the opponent merely unable to fight.

In Korea, a country that constantly had to defend itself against conquerors, developed many fighting styles and techniques. Between 18 A.C to 688 P. C. three kingdoms, Koguryo,  Paekche and Shilla were founded on the Korean peninsula.

Shilla (57 A.C – 688 P.C) which initially was the weakest and least developed kingdom flourished under striclty organised and newly developed leadership. It developed from existing tribal units and alliances. An elite of highly educated young men governed the kingdom and were considered the leading spiritual and moral force. They called themselves „Hwarang“ which means „Corps of the pink of the youth“.  Buddhism became the leading religion of the State.

During that time the occurred the development and first summary of special hand and foot techniques by the buddhist priest, called Won Kwang Bopsa , who passed on this martial art to the „Hwarang“ which later became the elitist fighters in the kingdom of Shilla. During the middle of the 6th century p.c. Shilla became the leading power and took over the other kingdoms of Koguryo and Paekche.

During the centuries that followed  the kindgom of Shilla became very affluent and influential. A period of piece ensued and, thus martial arts became secondary. Only in secluded monastaries was this art maintained and saved from its downfall, especially since it was used as a means to keep body and mind healthy.

Many different fighting styles emerged during the periods of 935 p.c. – 1392 pc: Koryo-Dynasty and during 1392-1910: Choson empire (in the West known as Yi-Dynasty). Tae-Kyon was one of the best known.

When Japan occuped Korea in 1910 and took over the rule of the country, martial arts were forbidden. However, various forms of martial arts were still exercised in secret. They had different names such as „Tang soo“ or „Hwa soo“.

During this time of suppression, the founder of modern Hapkido, Coi Young Sul emigrated to Japan. Master Choi had already acquired knowledge of „Tae-Kyon“ duirng his youth and now met with various grand masters of this art in Japan.

Following the end of the Second World War, Master Choi returend to Korea in 1945. At that time, only parts of complete systems of korean martial art still existed. One could differentiate between a „soft“ and a „hard“ style.

The hard styles, such as „Tea-kwon-do“ and „Tang-soo-do“ consisted of foot kicks and fist techniques; the soft styles were called „yusul“ and „ho sin mu sool“.
Choi Young sul was aware of the lack of a comprehensive system and so combined the korean style – „hard“ school of kicks and hits – with the so-called „soft“ school and knowledge of power efficiency techniques which he had learned in Japan. From there onwards he called the complete system Hap-Ki-Do.

First students of Master Cho were „Kwon-Tschang“  and „Ji Han Jae“. Ji continued to combine all styles which he had learned thusfar and called this martial art „Hap-Ki-Do“ since 25th July 1958.
The first Hap-Ki-Do school was founded by Master Ji in that same year. In 1959 Ji transferred his school to Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, where he became famous together with his first generation of Hap-Ki-Do – amongst which masters such as Kwang Sik Myung, Bong Soo Han, Kim Sou Bong and a few others. Hap-Ki-Do – all over Korea. Due to the efficiency of that system, in the years of 1970 to 1979, they succeeded in setting up the entire personal guard of the former Korean president „Park Chung Hee“ with Hap-Ki-Do people.

After the political upheaval in 1979, many Hapkido Masters emigrated, predominantly to America and Europe; only few remained in Korea.