Mountain Academy History


Hwang Kee and the Moo Duk Kwan

Hwang Kee was born in 1914, in Jang Dan, Kyong Ki province of Korea. When Hwang Kee was about seven years old, he witnessed a man being attacked by several other men. The solitary man used Taekyon techniques to defeat his attackers and Hwang Kee followed the man asked if he could learn the techniques. Of course, at this particular time, Korea was occupied by Japan and the practice and teaching of Korean martial arts was forbidden. Even though the man wouldn’t teach Hwang Kee, he often went to the man’s house to watch him practice and then imitate what he had seen. For the next 14 years, although there were no formal or structured classes he could attend, he took advantage of every opportunity to learn and practice Taekyon and Subak.

At age 21, Hwang Kee went to Manchuria to work for the railroad and while he was there, he met a Chinese martial arts master named Yang, Kuk Jin. Master Yang instructed Hwang Kee in a variety of Chinese martial arts styles. When Hwang Kee returned to Korea in 1939, he continued to practice his martial arts skills in private and, in addition to his Korean and Chinese styles, he studied Okinawan Karate.

When Korea regained its independence in 1945, Hwang Kee immediately siezed the opportunity to pursue his martial arts full time and started a Tang Soo Do school in Seoul named Moo Duk Kwan. Hwang Kee was, of course, recognized as a martial arts master and was referred to as Master Hwang Kee. Master Hwang Kee’s school, Moo Duk Kwan, which means ‘Martial Virtue School’ was one of five kwans established immediately after liberation. The others were Chong Do Kwan (Blue Wave School), Song Mu Kwan (Pine Tree School), Chang Mu Kwan (Martial Development School), and Yon Mu Kwan (Yon Martial School).

In 1955, all of the kwans except for Moo Duk Kwan ceased to exist as they adopted the new term Tae Kwon Do to describe the new Korean martial art. Master Hwang Kee made it clear that his objective was to strengthen Tang Soo Do’s links to Taekyon and Subak by means of the Muyadebo-tongji (the classical martial arts text written in the late 18th century). He felt that the way to make martial arts a source of national pride again was to study and incorporate as much of the traditional martial arts skills as possible rather than just change the name and arbitrarily change the techniques and curriculum to make it distinct from Karate.

Kyung Won Ahn

Kyung Won Ahn studied directly under Master Hwang Kee.

Vernon Foster

Vernon Foster studied under Master Ahn while stationed in Seoul for the US Army. When he returned home to Mississippi, he established the first of several Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do schools in New Jersey and New York. Later, Vernon established a series of schools called Koast Karate Klub in Mississippi and Alabama. Vernon Foster became Master Vernon Foster in 1984 when he received his 5th degree black belt from Master Ahn. Master foster attained 8th degree black belt and is now retired from martial arts.

John Rankin

John Rankin first studied martial arts while serving in the US Navy- Submarine Service and after his discharge he studied Tang Soo Do under Master Foster in Gulfport, Mississippi. In 1971, John attained his first degree black belt and he established his first Tang Soo Do Tae Kwon Do school in Pascagoule, Mississippi. John competed regularly in full-contact sparring competitions and won several Southeast US championships during the period 1972 to 1977. John also studied Hapkido under Master Ye Young Kim and in 1974 John received his first degree black belt in that discipline.

After moving to Wisconsin, John studied Go Shin Ryu Karate under Steve Gafbatz in Wausau, Wisconsin and in 1978 received his first degree black belt. While in Wisconsin, John also established another Tang Soo Do Tae Kwon Do school called the Wisconsin Academy of Martial Arts, advanced to second degree black belt level in Go Shin Ryu and studied Iaido for two and a half years.

In 1980, John moved to Colorado and in 1981, he attained his second degree black belt in Tang So Do Tae Kwon Do under Master Chul Woo Jung in Denver. Also in 1981, John established the Mountain Academy of Martial Arts in Kittredge, Colorado. In 1982, John was awarded his third degree black belt by Master Foster and then in 1984, his fourth degree black belt in Tang So Do Tae Kwon Do. In 1985, John earned his 2nd degree black belt in Hapkido and his first degree black belt in Iaido.

John was awarded 5th degree black belt (attaining the title of Master) in Tang Soo Do Tae Kwon Do by the Governing Board of the Moo Duk Kwan Association, New Orleans, LA in 1987. In 1991, Master Rankin was awarded his sixth degree black belt and in 2003, his seventh degree black belt by the Moo Duk Kwan Association.

The Mountain Academy Group

In 1981, Master John Rankin established the Mountain Academy of Martial Arts in Evergreen a short time after he moved to the area from Wisconsin. Even though it wasn’t Master Rankin’s objective to establish additional schools, several of his high-ranked students expressed interest in running their own schools. Tom Feagans established a new school in Idaho Springs in 1992, Master Rankin established a new school in Lakewood in 1996 and Bruce Bishop took over the operation of the original Evergreen school. Currently, the Mountain Academy group of schools consists of the following three  schools:

  • Mountain Academy of Martial Arts (Lakewood, Colorado)
  • Clear Creek – Gilpin Academy of Martial Arts (Gilpin County, Colorado)
  • Clear Creek – Gilpin Academy of Martial Arts (Idaho Springs, Colorado)

Four times a year, the schools come together for the official belt tests where students are assessed by the senior instructors, including Master Rankin. The schools also get together for occasional social events and tournaments where students can compete in forms and sparring. There are approximately 150 students between the five schools.