Tang Soo Do - A Brief History

The exact origin of Tang Soo Do, as well as any of the martial arts in general, is obscure, though there are a number of historical theories. However, the most credible and traditional view is that martial arts originated not in any one country, but in almost all parts of the world, as they needed to defend oneself.


Literally translated, the word "Tang" refers to the T'ang Dynasty of China, which reflects the shared cultural background between Korea (617-907 AD) and China.

The word "Soo" means hand, but implies fist, strike, punch, or defense. The word "Do" means way of life or art. Thus the words "Tang Soo Do" literally translate to the way of the China hand, but mean much more than that.

A broader and more comprehensive definition should include an explanation of how this art of self defense builds both inner and outer strength by developing its practitioners' mind, body spirit, and emotions. By training seriously, the student of Tang Soo Do is able to become more self aware, and therefor develop a higher level of conscious awareness. This occurs as the student progresses through the belt ranks and increases his/her focus, confidence, control (mentally, physically and emotionally). At the same time the Tang Soo Do student learns to set goals and achieve them. This goal orientation and attention to detail through practicing complex physical moves results in one of the most effective systems of self improvement ever devised.

Tang Soo Do at its essence is a self development program that teaches its practitioner that they must first become more, before they can do more, and have more.

Grandmaster John St. James on Tang Soo Do

"Tang Soo Do is a traditional Korean martial art which teaches empty hand and foot techniques, forms or practice patterns, self-defense and traditional martial arts weaponry. Most importantly, Tang Soo Do teaches to live a healthy and harmonious life. This ancient martial art traces its lineage back as far as ancient China.

In today's society, there is no doubt that martial arts training is on the rise and that people are becoming more interested in learning how to defend themselves. Tang Soo Do is an extremely effective method of self-defense. But there are many other reasons why men, women , and children from all walks of life have taken up Tang Soo Do training. This ancient form of martial art is known for having the most effective training methods for self-discipline, self-confidence, physical fitness, and stress management. In effect, Tang Soo Do is a superb vehicle for peak performance training. Our teaching develops the whole person; mind, body, and spirit.

Our teaching offers a blend of physical and mental development as well as state of the art leadership training. Our focus is on learning, growing, and sharing. Perhaps this is why our Federation has grown in a relatively short period of time to be one of the most respected organizations in the world. Our instructors conduct classes and programs geared for the entire family. Our classes emphasize structure, tradition, and proper etiquette or protocol. Our instructors are caring, compassionate, and there to serve. Our classes are done in a family friendly atmosphere which allows all students to grow at their own pace.

Some students join to lose weight while others join to build confidence. Some start to develop discipline and razor sharp focus while others come to reduce stress and improve their overall fitness. No matter what the reason, we are constantly told by our students how every aspect of their lives has improved since starting Tang Soo Do.

Whatever brings you to us, we welcome you and want you to know that the true goal of Tang Soo Do training is to use the lessons you learn in the studio to enrich every part of your life while enriching others."

Grandmaster John St. James
President and Founding Master
8th Dan
Atlantic Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation
Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Original Painting of Moo Do
by Senior Master Marc Sattler