The Hwarang-do consisted of two groups: the leaders and the cadets. The "Hwarang" (leaders) were selected from among the sons of royalty between the ages of 16 and 20. The "nangdo" (cadets) were assembled from the rest of the young nobility, totaling between 200 and 1000 at any given time, but sons of low ranking families were also members. However, not all Hwarang were men; women served in the upper hierarchy. Each band of Hwarang was led by a woman known as Won Hwa "original flower" who was a mother figure to the young men and only engaged in combat when absolutely necessary. The Hwarang were organized on a clan or village basis with a fixed social structure. They learned traditional values through communal life and rites, and learned mutual understanding and friendship through military arts, poetry, and music.
The young men were educated in many disciplines, including history, Confucian philosophy, ethics, and horse riding. They were taught to use the sword, staff, hook, spear, and bow and arrow. They were extensively trained in archery (mounted and un-mounted), swordsmanship, military tactics, and of course, in Subak. The martial art itself was taught but the Buddhist ideals of self-sacrifice and compassion for the weak were also stressed. They were trained in the Buddhist doctrine of the Maitreyanna (Future or Messiah Buddha) sect. Many Buddhist priests, including the famed Won-hyo (617-686 AD), for whom the Taekwondo hyung "Won-hyo" is named, were Hwarang during their youth. Other notable members were Kim Yu-Sin and Kim Chun-Chu, both of whom contributed to the unification of the three kingdoms.
The Hwarang were well trained in filial piety, loyalty to the kingdom, and sacrificial devotion to society. The Hwarang-do was a philosophical and religious code followed by valiant warriors—not a fighting style in itself. In the beginning, the Hwarang primarily fought using Subak. They studied Subak as a systemized martial art at their learning houses and it gradually became popular among ordinary people. Their exploits were recorded in the Records of the Hwarang (Hwarang Segi) by the Eighth Century scholar Kim Tae-mun. Although this book has not survived, passages and synopses from it were recorded by Kim Pu-sik (1075-1151 AD), the Koryo historian said to have compiled the History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk Sagi) in 1145 AD.