The Forms: Hwa Rang

Hwa Rang is named after the Hwa Rang Do, a National Institute sponsoring a youth group which originated in the Silla Dynasty during the Three Kingdoms era, which extended from 18 BC to 918 AD. Hwa Rang means “flower of youth.” [Hwa Rang Diagram] The group was formed to cultivate moral and patriotic ideals among Korean youth. The youth were taught to be brave, to love their country, and to be cooperative. Membership was restricted to educated young men of noble birth. A Hwa Rang candidate had to be a man of character, virtue, and countenance. The members were trained to improve their moral principles and military skills. They entertained themselves by listening to music and poetry, and traveled around the country visiting famous mountains and rivers. Their moral code, known as Sesak O Kye, resembled the Budo code of Japan and the code of chivalry of Europe. It was devised by a Buddhist monk named Wun Kwang Dae Sa. Buddhist monks played a major role in educating the Hwa Rang youth.

The tenets were as follows:
1. Loyalty to the king.
2. Faithfulness to one’s friends.
3. Devotion to one’s parents.
4. Bravery and absolute obedience on the battlefield, never to retreat in battle.
5. A prohibition against wanton killing of any form of life.

The Hwa Rang spirit eventually became the driving force for the unification of the three Kingdoms of Korea. This was accomplished because Silla was able to defeat both Ko Ku Ryo and Bak Jai, with the help of China, in 688. China then annexed a large portion of the former Ko Ku Ryo kingdom, which later became known as Manchuria. Eventually, the Hwa Rang Do, with its tenets, merged with Tae Kyon, the precursor of modern-day Tae Kwon Do. The Hwa Rang spirit has survived through the ages, and today it is used as the motto for youth. The 29 movements refer to the 29th Infantry Division, where Taekwondo developed into maturity, under the leadership of General Choi Hong Hi. Taekwondo became the national sport of Korea in 1955.

In the Ko Ku Ryo Dynasty, it was said that in the movements of the bong, or staff, mountains represented offense or attack, and rivers represented defense because the rivers provided speedy escape routes. Rivers also inspired deceptive defensive techniques. This was the reason people visited famous mountains and rivers to study them. (It is not known if this was a factor in the practice of the Hwa Rang youth visiting famous mountains and rivers.) Korea was the only country where Buddhist monks were permitted by their religion to carry weapons for offensive purposes. These monks were known as defenders of the nation. They used staff, cane, joint-locking, and pressure point techniques to bring attackers into submission because wanton taking of lives is prohibited. Click HERE for more information on the Hwa Rang, click HERE for more information on Silla, and HERE for more information on the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

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