The martial art of tang soo do is relatively modern. However, its basis, the Korean art of soo bahk do, dates back many centuries. Tang Soo Do is a composite style of soo bahk do influenced by the Northern Chinese arts and the Southern Chinese arts. Our kicking techniques, for which tang soo do is recognized are based on the moo duk kwan style as developed by the grandmaster Hwang Kee. Tang soo do is both a hard and soft style, deriving its hardness in part from soo bahk and its soft flowing movements from the northern Chinese systems.
The founder of tang soo do, Hwang Kee, was a martial arts prodigy, having mastered tae kyun(another Korean system not related to tae kwon do) and soo bahk do at the age of 22. At that time, (1936) he traveled to northern China, where he encountered a Chinese variation of matrial artistry called the tang method. From 1936 to 1945 he combined soo bahk do with the tang method and developed what is now known as tang soo do. In November of 1945, he founded TANG SOO DO MOO DUK KWAN Federation in Seoul, Korea in order to teach the style he had developed. In his teaching, he stressed equally the spiritual, physical and mental disciplines. In September of 1957, Grandmaster Hwang Kee and his fellow association of black belts began teaching U.S. military personnel at the 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul. Fifty-two of these American servicemen achieved "dan" status. Among those Americans was the martial artist Chuck Norris, while stationed at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea in the early 1960's. Norris began studying tang soo do with Jae Chul Shin.
Over the past thirty years, thousands of Americans have studied tang soo do in Korea. Hwang Kee brought the traditional art of tang soo do moo duk kwan to America in 1964 in the delegation of one instructor: San Kyu Shim. Other instructors followed over the years, until in 1975, he personally came to America and established th U.S. Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation in New York. At about the same time that Sang Kyu Shim was beginning in America, Chuck Norris, the ex-Air Force officer, brought his new-found knowledge of karate to America, settling in the Los Angeles area.
Branching off from Hwang Kee's organization, he altered traditional Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan to strengthen the weaknesses he perceived to exist in the style. Upon his return to the U.S. from South Korea as a new black belt in tang soo do, Norris began his tournament sparring career with a series of losses to skilled hand technicians. Tang soo do had taught him a variety of kicks, but the style was deficient in effective hand techniques. To reverse this losing tournament trend and to improve his hand skills, Norris began training with Japanese stylists to learn their punching techniques. The result is tournament karate history. While establishing himself in tournament competition, movies and television, he opened more studios. He eventually dropped the name "tang soo do"completely, and entitled his evolved style the Chuck Norris System. Meanwhile, as Chuck Norris was heading in one direction, black belts who had trained under him were also branching off and opening karate studios of their own. Among those instructors was Dennis Ichikawa, who was over the last two decades, fortified the weaknesses he perceived to exist in the system he learned. Now he teaches what he believes to be a complete and well-balanced system. He has combined the aesthetics which constitute our style as an art form, with the strong and practical techniques which enable practitioners to defend themselves efficiently. As did Hwang Kee, Grand Master Ichikawa recognizes the spiritual and mental disciplines to be equal in importance to the physical ones. Through example, and sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle leading, instills courage and a sense of honor and respect in his students. Maintaining the traditional tang soo do working techinqies and manners of conduct, and expressing appreciation of our country's opportunities, and patriotic loyalty, Grand Master Dennis Ichikawa and his instructors below him now proudly carry on "AMERICAN TANG SOO DO".