Choi Yong Sul

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Also known as Asao Yoshida and Tatsujutsu Yoshida
Korean-Japanese martial arts master

Choi was born in Choong Chung province, Korea, then under Japanese occupation. A Japanese shopkeeper in his village, who had no sons, kidnapped Choi when he was about eight years old and took him to live in Japan, intending to make him his heir. But soon after arriving in his town of Moji, he dumped the little boy, because of his constant homesick crying, leaving him to live on the streets. The police picked him up and placed him under the guardianship of a Buddhist temple's monk, Kintaro Wadanabe, in Kyoto.

When he was about 11 years old he was placed with Takeda Sokaku, a friend of the monk. This was because Choi showed a great interest in the temple's murals showing battle and martial arts scenes, and Asao was the martial arts teacher of the Japanese royal household and a friend of Kintaro. Takeda adopted Choi and gave him the Japanese name Asao Yoshida, partly to avoid the racial prejudice against Koreans which was rife in Japan.

For 30 years Choi studied with Takeda, most of that time secluded in the mountains, but he also became his father's assistant in teaching high-ranking Japanese. About 1932 he first went overseas, as a member of an exhibition team, to Hawai'i. His father's influence helped Choi avoid the Japanese army draft during World War II, and he was the only member of the school's inner circle, aside from Takeda himself, to survive. After the war Takeda committed suicide in shame for his country's defeat, and advised Choi to return to Korea to live, and this he did shortly afterwards.

He established the modern martial art of Hapkido there, based on techniques learned from Takeda's art of Daito Ryo Aiki Jujutso.


Pichal, Marcel. "Hapkido." Available at:
Sheya, Joseph K. "Historical Interview: Hapkido Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sul (1904-1986)." [Includes portrait]. Available at:


20th Century
Ethnic or Religious Identity Confused or Concealed, Racism
Estrangement from Adoptive or Foster Family
School-age Years, Adolescence
To Provide Heirs, As Protégés, etc.
Abducted by Parent or Adopter
Priest, Religious, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Patron, Apprentice Master or Owner
Others ("Strangers")
Trans-Racial, Trans-Tribal, International or Trans-Cultural Adoption or Fostering
Street Children, Children Who Grew up Without Adult Supervision (at Least Temporarily), or Ran Away
Institutional Care
Disrupted or Failed Placements
Related Topics
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