Grand Master Hwang In Shik

Hwang In Shik (also Whang Ing-Sik, born 1940) is one of the foremost Korean hapkido teachers today. A great popularizer of the art in Asia through his work in the Hong Kong based films of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Angela Mao, he is known nevertheless as one the top teachers of the art and was eventually awarded a 10th degree black belt, the highest rank possible in the art, by the World Hapkido Association.

Early years

Born in Sunch'on, north of Pyongyang in present day North Korea, Hwang In-Shik and his family moved to Seoul while he still a young child and it was there that he was first exposed to the martial arts, first to Tang Soo Do and then, when he was 13 years old, to the art of Korean hapkido.

Hwang identifies his teacher as Choi Yong Sul, the founder of the art. According to Kim Hyung Sang of the Ulchikwan dojang Hwang's first teacher was Kim Yong-Jin. Hwang In Shik achieved his black belt grading at age 16 and was sent shortly thereafter to the Korea Hapkido Association headquarters presided over by Ji Han Jae. A very important time in the history of the development of the art, many of the prime movers in hapkido today were his seniors there including Han Bong Soo, Kim Chong Sung and Myung Kwang-Sik. Hwang was known in particular at this time for his superlative kicking ability.

He was eventually promoted to 7th dan in 1976 by the Republic of Korea Hapkido Association (Dae Han Min Gook Hapkido Hyub Hwe) and was appointed as chief instructor for the association headquarters. In this capacity he became an influential and well known teacher of the art.

Connections to Hong Kong cinema

Hong Kong film maker Huang Feng brought Hung Chin-pao (Sammo Hung), Jackie Chan, Tang Wei-cheng, Hu Yin-yin, Mao Ying (Angela Mao), Chang Yi and Chin Hsiang-lin to Seoul for location shooting in 1972. Huang Feng was also looking for impressive new techniques to infuse into the Hong Kong action sequences and so had his stars train at the Korea hapkido headquarters for about four months under Hwang and KHA leader Ji Han Jae.

Many of the impressive kicking techniques we see in Hong Kong cinema today are a result of the cross cultural influence of this time. Hung Chin Pao had a particular affinity for the training and some of his signature techniques such as his jumping double front kick come directly from the hapkido syllabus.

Very impressed by the talents of the hapkido-ists both Hwang In-Shik and Ji Han Jae were invited by Huang Feng to come to Hong Kong to develop a film idea inspired by the director's experiences in Korea. The film, made the same year, was titled Hapkido and is known abroad under the English title Lady Kung-fu. It starred Angela Mao, Sammo Hung and Carter Wong (Huang Chia-Da).

Hwang In-Shik's high flying kick atop Hong Kong skyscraperIn the film, both Ji and Hwang basically play themselves, hapkido master and foremost student teaching the art to a group Chinese students. In this and subsequent films such as Fist of Unicorn we are treated to displays of Ji's impressive jointlocking and throwing ability and Hwang's equally impressive kicking skills.

Hwang went on to star in his own right in a number of films, the first stage of his career ending after the death of Bruce Lee who Hwang had been in talks with concerning a part in the Game of Death the week that Lee passed away. (Hwang had also appeared briefly in an unflattering role in Bruce Lee's Way of the Dragon, oddly as a Japanese karate instructor.) Hwang returned to Korea, and for the next few years starred in a series of Korean martial arts movies, including A Wandering Hero, Black Leopard and Black Spider. Hwang then immigrated to Canada and opened up a dojang in the city of Toronto for all intents and purposes retiring from the cinema.

Later Jackie Chan, a stuntman from Hwang's early films, successfully rose to prominence in the Hong Kong film world and managed to coax Hwang out of retirement to make the most popular Hong Kong film of the day The Young Master, featuring in its original form a 15 minute fight scene between Chan and Hwang, and Dragon Lord, where Hwang also played a villain with fantastic fighting skills over which the hapless Chan must overcome.

All of the above films contain a great deal of Korean hapkido and did much to promote the name of the art in both Hong Kong and back in Korea where the Chinese films were also enjoyed. Kim Jin Pal went on to open a hapkido dojang in Hong Kong where many of the same Hong Kong stars would periodically train.

Life in Canada

In 1976 Hwang immigrated to Canada and started a family. He opened a dojang in one location and then moved shortly thereafter to the Greek area of Toronto known as the Danforth, where he still continues to teach and train on a daily basis.

After moving to Canada, although occasionally lured back into making the odd film, his chief focus became developing a group of strong students. His senior ranking students currently under his direction are Hwang Young-ho, Eric Sanderson, Matthew Rogers, Courtney Campbell and Jimmy Vlachos. Students who received black belts in addition to these students were Karl Kriese, Kevin Thistle, George Wong, Keith Stewart and Clement Chan. Although they are either retired or not currently under his direction, they are among the very few black belts Master Hwang has personally awarded to direct students since he began teaching in Canada in 1976.