Hey everyone the reason why I am posting this thread is because I hardly ever hear much about HRD and whenever I do it's someone bashing the lineage or the Lee family or whatever.
I started HRD when I was around 9 years old and continued until I was around 13 (I know I was young but hear me out). First off, I don't know about the history of the HwaRang and whether they were real or not. Nor do I really care.
I was instructed by Eric T. Lee. (Joo Bang Lee's youngest son aka the one we never mentioned for some stupid reason). Eric was a great instructor 1) because he wasn't stuck up asshole 2) he looked like he could really fight (remember I was 9 yrs old) 3) and he taught us good a variety of techniques. The reason why I left HRD was for some reason Eric stopped teaching (I believe it was due to some family problems or so I heard) and was replaced by mediocre instructors none of which were good as Eric.
As for Henry Lee (Eric's older brother and Joo Bangs eldest son) I hear a lot crap being spoken about him and well ... I don't really know the guy but when he taught our class for a week it was quite dissapointing (ie no sparring and no grappling) and he seemed kind of big headed. After that week Eric was gone forever and I left HRD and few months after.
Although most people hear aren't attracted to the "cult like" aura of HRD, the physical part of the training is in my opinion great. The training was composed of forms, sparring, grappling, self defense, weapons training, and agility training.
The forms for the most part were cool looking (thats all I remember), the sparring was great. the rules go as follows: Punches to the head and body, kicks to head and body and legs, takedowns are allowed. The grappling was also very good Eric taught us things like the armbar, leglock, achilles heel lock and a variety of judo like throws.
Self Defense was also very good. They taught us basics like wristlocks, chickenwing, and a bunch of other stuff). The weapons they taught were: nunchukus (song ja bhong (korean)), staff, and kumdo (kendo). Aglity was composed of rolls, dive rolls, falling techniques and such. Eric wasn't hesitant having me spar the older students and we all went medium to medium hard contact. Obviuosly no full contact for me since I was just a little squirt at the time.
After Eric left, everything went downhill from there. The sparring was changed more to like TKD point sparring. This meant no more punches to the head, no takedowns and no kicks to the leg. Also they never bothered with grappling again. Also testing fees increased and "belt stripes" were required. This was a total dissapointment as I saw the transformation from a dojang to McDojang.
HRD was and could possibly still be a great art if you find the right instructor but don't count on it, it seems that most instructors in it are naive and gullible.
Feel free to ask me any questions about my experience and I will be more than happy to answer them for you.