Dojo Rat has an interesting two-part series concerning the death of taekwondo. Follow this link for an interview with Alex Gillis who has authored a book on the topic. Related: I just received the latest Black Belt Magazine E-newsletter. In it is an article about “America’s mercenary,” Michael D. Echanis. You can read the full article at this link.
Michael Echanis had studied judo since he was 4 and trained in taekwondo during his military service in Korea and Vietnam. But after his combat experiences, his concept of what constituted a practical, effective fighting art changed. He was on a mission to find a true warrior art that offered the skills and the intensity necessary for combat.
Along with a close friend, former Green Beret Charles Sanders, Michael Echanis traveled down the West Coast exploring different martial arts. After reportedly “trashing” a taekwondo school in Los Angeles, that school’s instructor presented him with a letter written in Korean addressed to Joo Bang Lee, grandmaster of the Korean art of hwa rang do. Michael Echanis took the letter to Joo Bang Lee, who referred Michael Echanis to one of his senior instructors, Randy Wanner.
This is the first time I’ve heard of Michael D. Echanis but it’s not the first time I’ve heard of hwa rang do. The short of the article is this: hwa rang do apparently passed the “deadly art” test for Mr. Echanis.
Hwa rang do is often translated as “way of flowering manhood.” It’s the art of the Hwarang warriors, a class in ancient Korea similar to the samurai in Japan. Sul sa refers to the elite Hwarang operatives whose training, missions and accomplishments made them the equivalent of the ninja. Schooled in the highest skills of hwa rang do, the sul sa were also skilled in assassination, intelligence gathering, ambushing, escape and evasion—all of which are of interest to modern spec-ops personnel.
Sabum v. I used to tell us a story of how taekwondo allegedly came from a Silla Hwarang. Unbeknownst to him, I always looked on those stories with a healthy dose of skepticism. This not so much because of disrespect to him or Korean martial arts. Rather, as an academic I know the many problems that often plague oral traditions. In addition, even if someone took the time to write things down there can still be problems. Based on these factors it is fairly hard to determine if hwa rang do truly is 2,000 years old.
Regardless of your opinion of hwa rang do’s history, this much I know: It’s certainly an interesting piece of Korean history that I want to learn more about! In addition to the abovementioned article, the late Mr. Echanis has also authored a series of books that Black Belt Magazine is promoting!
Based on the ancient hwa rang do techniques and the Hwarang warriors, The Complete Michael D. Echanis Collection combines close-quarters combat with lethal knife-fighting strategies, creating a necessary read for the modern-day fighter. Hand-to-hand combat techniques and tactics include how to develop ki power, why proper grip is essential when fighting with a weapon-knives, sticks or canes-as well as what techniques will disarm and control a potential attacker. The Complete Michael D. Echanis Collection is fully illustrated and also delves into the art of moving stealthily, which is known as un ship bop, the Korean counterpart to Japanese ninjutsu, otherwise known as sentry stalking in modern military vernacular.
For sure the book has made my list!
Let’s close this post with two videos: The first presents one version of hwa rang do history — click through to watch all parts. The second video contains some grainy footage from some 1960′s hwa rang do masters. After watching the footage I will say this: They look damn serious! I’d also say that if I was presented the opportunity I definitely want to give it a try.
Cool stuff and there’s more of it on YouTube!