In Japanese, the word karate can be thought of in two ways, as the Kara syllable is spoken the same way for both “China” (directly from Tode) and also as “empty”. Both “China hand” and “empty hand” have significance for martial artists. However, Funakoshi, for cultural reasons did not think the Japanese people would accept karate with the “china hand” translation so he changed the meaning of karate (still pronounced the exact same way although written differently) to “empty hand”.
Karate arrived to Korea thru the Japanese occupation of the peninsula during WWI and WWII. As is often the case, conquering nations outlaw cultural rituals, holidays, art, weapons etc – and this included the endemic Korean martial arts. Therefore, Japanese karate became popular because it was allowed. Translated from Japanese, karate–do becomes Kong Soo Do in Korean. Most of the original 5 kwans taught Kong Soo Do, even though they referred to their system by their kwan name. Won Kyuk Lee is supposedly the first to use the term Tang Soo Do, changing Kong Soo Do (empty hand way) back to it’s original Okinawan meaning china hand way. Perhaps to pay homage to the Okinawan and Chinese roots of karate, but also perhaps to differentiate himself from the other kwans teaching Kong Soo Do.
Hwang Kee allegedly trained with Won Kyuk Lee and opened his own school teaching “Hwa Soo Do”, which means “Art of the Flowering Hand”. However, this terminology for the art of karate was not well known, and Hwang Kee was forced to change the name of the art to Tang Soo Do – possibly through the recommendation of Won Kyuk Lee.
The 5 kwans attempted to consolidate the name of their art by combining Tang Soo Do with Tae Kyun (one of the original Korean fighting systems) to form Tae Kwan Do, however Hwang Kee was opposed to this idea. Many of his students left to form Tae Kwan Do, presumably under coercion from the government – who was also in favor of consolidating the kwans to create a one national art and sport. Hwang Kee himself was imprisoned for not converting to Tae Kwan Do.
Hwang Kee combined what he knew of the Chinese and Korean martial arts he'd studied into an art he called Hwa Soo Do, referring to the Hwa Rang warriors of ancient Korea. Translated literally the name means "the Way of the Flowering Hand" and opened his first Hwa Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Dojang (Studio/Training Hall) on November 9, 1945. Due to the public's unfamiliarity with the term Hwa Soo Do, he had difficulty in building interest. Because of this, Hwang Kee made the decision to rename his art Hwa Soo (Tang Soo) Do. The public was much more familiar with the term Tang Soo Do and this simple change was instrumental in conveying that he was teaching a martial art. Eventually the art would come to be known as Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, an amalgamation of the school's name of Moo Duk Kwan combined with the martial art of Tang Soo Do. The name Moo Duk Kwan means "School of Martial Virtue".
By 1953 and onward until 1960, the Moo Duk Kwan had risen to become one of the strongest martial art organization in Korea, with close to 75% of all martial artists in Korea practicing Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan. Dan members (Midnight Blue Belts, as opposed to black belts) of the Moo Duk Kwan were so highly respected that their certificates could be used as credentials when seeking employment.
One philosophy that Hwang included throughout his art was that no one could ever reach perfection. This was visible in his decision to use the Midnight Blue Belt over the Black Belt and to never promote nor accept the rank of 10th dan. This was also due to the fact the Koreans thought of black as the color of then end (death), and that the midnight blue sky was limitless, just like the training and knowledge that one could practice in a lifetime.