Martial arts master Bong Soo Han dies at his Californian home

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, 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 that 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 slightly more than 100 black belts in more than 35 years of teaching in the United States.

He demanded his students give their all on and off the training mat - even when they made mistakes, the AP says.

"If you're going to fall, fall well," he would tell his classes.

Many martial artists in Hollywood came to train 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 Press.

Legendary Kung Fu Grand Master Eric Lee described Han as a true gentleman.

"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," Lee added. "He has a lot of quiet inside and peace that we can all learn from."

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 in Vietnam before coming to Los Angeles, where he set up his own school and frequently offered seminars for FBI agents.

Han stressed the Hapkido philosophy of "nonresistance," whereby students redirect their opponents' force, using circular movements rather than the rigid, more linear blocks of karate.

In a 2003 interview for his studio's newsletter, he described what he called his biggest accomplishment in the martial arts.

"Many people have self-doubt, and they often do not believe they can be successful," he said. "Through Hapkido, I show them that they can be successful in anything they do as long as they have the indomitable spirit and commitment to pursue their goals."

Han, who was the subject of numerous books on martial arts, was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1978, the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Taekwondo Times Hall of Fame in 2003.

Survivors include a daughter, Susan; son, Tad; and grandson, Edward.

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