The tradition of the Hwarang system has been an incredibly influential force and its impact was strongly felt in the East Asian region in ancient times, and has also reverberated through time, leaving a lasting mark for us. The Korean combat skills originally began over 5,000 years ago with the formation of the Kochosun kingdom. In order to protect the people and their territory this kingdom began the development of a strong combative system. Later, over 2,000 years ago, the kingdom of Silla (BC 57) was formed and they began the development of their own warrior system.
The Hwarang-do (花郎徒) system eventually spread to Japan and was probably influential in the development of the Japanese Samurai system and Bushido (Korean Musado), the moral outlook followed by both the Hwarang and Samurai. During this time much of the Japanese culture originated from the Korean kingdoms of Silla, Koguryo and Paekche. In addition to products and social customs, martial aspects were undoubtedly passed across the East Sea. The counterpart of the Silla Hwarang Jang Gun (화랑장군 花郞將軍) was the Japanese Shogun (쇼군 將軍), and the counterpart of the Silla Rang-do (랑도 郞徒) was the Japanese Shogun’s soldiers (his samurai) call Ryojin (료진 郞人).
It has been suggested that Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, the founder of Jujitsu (柔術), may even have been from Korea. This would indeed be significant since Jujitsu was the precursor of Judo (柔道, founded in 1910 by Jigoro Kano in Japan), Aikido, and Hapkido (合氣道). In fact, Yoshimitsu is considered to be the founder of Daito-ryu (big eastern) Jujitsu, an art that was transmitted through the Minamoto family line and then to their descendants, the Takeda family (from which both Aikido by Morihei Ueshiba and Hapkido by Yong Sul Choi developed). The basis for this claim is rooted in the fact that in Korean his name is pronounced as “Silla Samrang” (신라삼랑) and many Koreans who moved to other countries and used the name of their country as their given name because they still felt strong ties to their homeland.
However, the connection between Shinra Saburo and Silla is questionable. One should note that Shinra Saburo (新羅三郎) was a secondary name of Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (1045-1127), a sixth generation descendant of Emperor Seiwa (r. 858-876). The name Shinra (新羅) was given to him in association with the Shinra Zenshindo shrine, the Shinto shrine where his adult initiation rite was performed. Saburo (三郎, “third man”) indicated his position as the third son of Minamito no Yoriyoshi. His two older brothers Yoshiiye (1039-1106) and Yoshitsuna (1042?-1132) were given names following the same convention. Hachiman Taro (Yoshiiye) is based on the Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine in Kyoto and his position as the Taro or oldest child (一郎, “first man”). Kamo Jiro (Yoshitsuna) was given his name because his initiation rite took place at the Kamo Shrine in Kyoto and he was the Jiro or second son (二郎, “second man”).
Nevertheless, the potential influence of the ancient secret combat skills of the Hwarang upon subsequent Japanese martial arts should not be dismissed. Japanese soft styles such as Judo (柔道, mostly a sport version of throwing and choking), Daitoryu Yawara (大東流柔術, the same as Aiki Jujitsu 合氣柔術 comprised mostly of throwing, joint manipulation, and grappling), and Aikido (合氣道, mostly involving the use of an opponent’s strength and joint manipulation) were the same skills that evolved from Jujitsu. In Japan the Daitoryu Yawara (Aiki Jujitsu) and the Jujitsu names have mostly fallen out of use since World War II, and presently these branch schools usually appear as Judo and Aikido schools. The Jujitsu that has become popular in present times is called Brazilian Jujitsu and is mostly focused on grappling and ground locks. All of these Japanese soft-style skills share many similarities with the soft-style “Yusool” skills of the ancient secret combat skills of the Hwarang transmitted as “Um-Yang Kwon” (음앙권 陰陽拳), a name that expresses the combination of Yusool (유술 柔術 – soft skills) and Kangsool (강술 剛術 -hard skills). Given the early influence of Korean culture on Japan, some of these similarities probably reflect roots in the strong warrior spirit of the ancient Korean Hwarang tradition.