[R.I.P.] Song Soo Han (01/08/06) Hollywood's Martial Arts Teacher
- Hollywood's Martial Arts Teacher Dies
By DANNY POLLOCK
Korean martial arts master Bong Soo Han, who helped revolutionize
Hollywood's understanding of martial arts by creating fight sequences
for modern American films, died on Monday. He was 73.
Han died at his home in Santa Monica, said John Davis, director of
operations for the International Hapkido Federation, which Han
founded. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Han, who held a 9th-degree black belt and the title of grand master
in Hapkido, dedicated his life to spreading the martial art, which
combines the kicking and punching of Taekwondo and the joint locks
and graceful throws of Judo.
Often called the father of Hapkido in the Western world, Han was
careful about whom he promoted, awarding only slightly more than 100
black belts in more than 35 years of teaching in the United States.
Many martial artists in Hollywood trained with him.
"Grand Master Han is one of the finest men I have ever met, and it
has been an honor to call him a friend for over 30 years," action
star and martial arts expert Chuck Norris once told The Associated
Legendary Kung Fu Grand Master Eric Lee described Han as a true
"Everybody says he's a grand master-this or grand master-that, but
they don't act like it," Lee said of other martial arts experts. "He
does. He has a lot of quiet inside and peace that we can all learn
Han was discovered by Hollywood in 1969, shortly after he arrived in
the United States, while giving a Hapkido demonstration at a park
near Malibu. Actor Tom Laughlin saw him perform and asked for help
with his action film "Billy Jack."
Up to that time, most martial arts scenes in movies were portrayed by
actors with little martial arts training. Han choreographed fight
scenes for the film, now a cult classic, and served as a stunt man,
demonstrating a level of martial arts skill rarely seen before.
Han also worked on the 1988 thriller "The Presidio," as well as other
action films, and was featured in Wesley Snipes' 1998
documentary "Masters of the Martial Arts."
He began studying martial arts as a boy in his native Seoul and
trained under the founder of Hapkido, Young Sul Choi. He opened his
first school in Seoul in 1959 and later taught self-defense to U.S.
forces in Korea and Vietnam before coming to Los Angeles, where he
set up his own school and frequently offered seminars for FBI agents.
He wrote the 1974 classic "Hapkido, The Korean Art of Self-Defense"
and produced a series of instructional videotapes.
He was also the founder and president of the International Hapkido
Federation, which has affiliate schools in California, Hawaii, North
Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Indiana.