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  • Writer's picturePSBN David

What is Kuk Sool Won - And why should you care?

This will be the first of a 3-part series! I’m going to break these up into the (summarized) history of Kuk Sool Won, the history of Kuk Sool Won Victoria (namely following KJN McCondach), and finally my personal thoughts on Kuk Sool and how it’s shaped me.

So let’s begin!

On the surface, Kuk Sool Won can pale in comparison to other arts in a few different – but key – ways. Below the surface level, however, Kuk Sool Won has the same bona fides as every other major martial art out there. This is a difficult barrier to overcome in attracting new students as what Kuk Sool Won is, how it formed, and what it teaches requires a bit of an explanation. So how do you get the name recognition compared to Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Karate? How do you get across that, yes, the art is “young” compared to these? You write a blog, of course! This may not change the world overnight, but every step is one more towards the goal. This is how you reach your Black Belt and beyond.


A Brief History of Kuk Sool Won

Kuk Sool Won started with the Grandmaster, In Hyuk Suh, in Korea just before the war. As a child, he was hand picked by his grandfather, Myung-Duk Suh, to learn everything he knew. In Hyuk Suh’s grandfather had taught as a Master Instructor in the Korean Royal Courts and was well-regarded within the martial arts community. As Korea was still occupied by Japan at the time and martial arts were restricted, In Hyuk Suh was taught in secret.

In Hyuk Suh learned under his grandfather for a number of years this way until his grandfather was discovered by Japanese troops and killed. In Hyuk Suh was 12 years old. His grandfather had seen the possibility of this and prepared a plan for his grandson to continue his training: Myung-Duk Suh had prepared letters of introduction for In Hyuk Suh to bring around Korea to masters of many different styles. This marks the point where Kuk Sool Won truly began its inception.

Armed with his letters, In Hyuk Suh struck out around Korea to each of these masters and learn what they had to offer. In Hyuk Suh began to learn Tribal martial arts (Sado Mu Sool), Buddhist martial arts (Buldo Mu Sool), and supplementing further knowledge about the Royal Court martial arts (Koong Joong Mu Sool). By the time he was 20 years old, In Hyuk Suh had been to hundreds of schools.

Over the next few years, In Hyuk Suh began to compile his knowledge, taking all the pieces from various martial arts he had learned and turning them into a single martial art system. Kuk Sool Won was officially founded in 1961, and In Hyuk Suh officially became Kuk Sa Nim, our Grandmaster.

Kuk Sool Won is just closing in on its 60th anniversary now. This is a bit of an odd thing to say for any martial art as many of them are always bragging about who is more ancient than who. Kung Fu styles are a great illustration of this. As there are records stretching back thousands of years, schools can gain some legitimacy from this. Kuk Sool Won is the same as this, but as so many different styles of Korean martial arts have been combined into the one system, it doesn’t make sense to pick any one particular style under it and adopt the same name for better “brand recognition”. Doing so would not just mislead people around what we do, it’s also disrespectful to the history of the other styles encompassed under the Kuk Sool Won system.

Kuk Sool Won is a living history of Korean martial arts. With over 800 schools across 27 countries, Kuk Sool Won has over 1.3 million students. Some have criticized the syllabus for being too large, seeing it as scattered. These criticisms don’t take into account the amount of knowledge students are taking in. Compared to many other martial arts, Kuk Sool Won is a slow burn. At early belts, you learn many different concepts, so it can seem disjointed. When you reach your first degree, you start to see the connections more as you begin to teach and study your earlier training. As you continue past your first degree, you begin to see the meaning behind the techniques; you can generalize concepts into their base components and apply them elsewhere in your practice. These are the same building blocks that you can see in every other martial art.

This is the true essence of what Kuk Sool Won is.

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