Hopae Sool (호패술/號牌術) is a Korean weapon system which uses the Hopae, or “Name Tag”, as a weapon. During the Joseon Dynasty, all men over 16 were required to carry a kind of identification card, which was either made of wood or ivory, and was used to identify the rank and occupation of the bearer.
As martial arts were frowned upon during this time, weapons were not common and so men developed a martial art using this item, which was convienient as they took the Hopae everywhere. There are many theories as to the origin of the system, which was originally called Dantaebong or Bantaebong. Some also claim it was developed from primitive hunting tools. As there is no comparable art in Japan or China it is speculated to be a pure Korean martial art. The Korean martial arts scholar Han Byong-Cheol studied many styles in China between 1995 and 2003 and found nothing comparable to Hopae Sool.
Some claim that Hopae Sool was a self defense system developed by Buddhist monks. This is to to the fact that the majority of modern practitioners learnt the art from monks. Han Byong-Cheol had learnt from one such monk, named Wuolwoo. Wuolwoo had learnt the art while one a 1000 day prayer retreat on Mt Odae in Gwangwon province. Later he became the abbot of the Korean Temple in Bodhgaya, India, where he lived for 17 years. It was during this time that Han Byong-Cheol met him and learnt this skill in 1991.
Hopae Sool has many advantages as a weapon. It is easy to carry around, and has a string which the practitioner wraps around his/her hand. In this way it has some similarity to Nunchaku, however it is only single-ended. A Hopae can easily break bones, as has been tested on cow and pig bones. It is practical for self defense as it is both easy to learn, and easy to carry around.