Kuk Sool Won

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Kuk Sool Won is a Korean martial arts system founded by In Hyuk Suh (the Kuk Sa Nim or Grandmaster) in 1958.[1] The name Kuk Sool Won translates to “National Martial Art Association” (often shortened to ‘Kuk Sool’) and it is currently taught worldwide.[1] Founded as a martial arts system and not merely a martial arts style, Kuk Sool is not limited to any single discipline. It attempts to be a comprehensive study of all Korean martial arts. In Hyuk Suh’s philosophy regarding his system is to “Integrate and explore the entire spectrum of established Asian martial arts, body conditioning techniques, mental developement, and weapons training.”[2]

The study of Kuk Sool also includes many modern day techniques such as gun defense and weapon improvisation. Kuk Sool has many facets and is performed for self-defense, healing, conditioning, competition, fun and aesthetic purposes.

Kuk Sool encompasses many different “styles.” However, it still has some discernible characteristics that set it apart from other traditional martial arts. It is typically characterized by having low stances and fluid, graceful motions. There is also an emphasis on joint locks and pressure points. Kuk Sool is also described as being a hard-soft style, which includes hard and forceful strikes in addition to circular and fluid movements.

Kuk Sool students are all expected to abide by the Kuk Sool Won Pledge[3]

One of the key aspects of Kuk Sool revolves around the theory of “You Won Hwa”. Translated literally, this would mean “Water Circle Harmony”. The first part, ‘you’ or ‘body’ (water), symbolizes adaptability and softness as well as power. The second part, ‘won’ (circle), suggest that there is a personal circle around you, and that one should always be active and ready to redirect aggression. The redirecting of attacks in Kuk Sool is typically characterized by circular movements. The third and final part, ‘hwa’ (harmony or togetherness), represents the desire to achieve harmony between mind and body. In practice this is obtained through repetition. The idea is to combine these three aspects and use them to govern all of the practitioner’s movements.[4]

Kuk Sool includes (but is not limited to) the following sets of techniques:

These principles and styles guide the following facets of Kuk Sool Won.

At each rank level, Kuk Sool martial artists are required to know one or more empty-hand forms or “hyung”. These forms are performed solo. Each form has an overall guiding significance to it, which may range from balance and linear motion to preparation and practice for a knife form. Once a student has attained a black-belt level, they are introduced to solo weapons forms. These are similar to empty-hand forms, except they incorporate a weapon.

Also at black-belt rank or above, a student may learn partner weapon forms, or sparring forms. These are performed with two people in a scripted series of events. Caution is taken at first to learn the form and not to injure your partner, but true mastery is demonstrated (amongst other things) by full speed and full contact.

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