On Thursday I leave for San Diego, California along with 8 of my more senior students. We all will be participating in this year’s Soo Bahk Do National Festival and Championships. My students will be participating in the Moment of the Masters seminars and then competing in forms and sparring. I am extremely proud of them for taking this opportunity to participate in the largest Soo Bahk Do event of the year and want to recognize the dedication of their parents who have made the sacrifice to allow their children to participate. The success of our school is not just dependent on the dedication of its students, but also the love and support of the students’ families.
While my students are participating in the National Festival, I’ll be beginning the infamous Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa, an 8 day test reserved for those working to attain the rank of 4th dan and up. I will also be testing to become a “Sa Bom” or master level instructor. There is a clear distinction between a 1st through 3rd dan (called Yu Dan Ja) and a 4th dan or above (called Ko Dan Ja). The prior is considered a dan member and wears a midnight blue belt. In Soo Bahk Do, midnight blue is the Korean equivalent of the Japanese black belt and is symbolized by the season autumn—a fruitful result of training. It symbolizes a new beginning and denotes a practitioner who has a firm foundation in the art of Soo Bahk Do. The midnight blue belt also symbolizes um, or passive energy.
After a minimum of 9 years as a Yu Dan Ja, you can apply to take the Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa. Ko Dan Ja members (4th dan and up) wear a midnight blue belt with a solid red stripe down the center. The red stripe is yang and the two colors combined symbolize completeness, harmony, and unity of the two cosmic forces—Um and Yang. This harmony should be seen in a Ko Dan Ja member’s demeanor, words, and actions. Ko Dan Ja members are also referred to as masters of the art.
For the past year, I have been preparing for this week. The process begins by receiving a letter of invitation to apply to test for Ko Dan Ja. If you have a desire to apply, then you will fill out some paperwork and then your instructor may choose to recommend you. Members of the Technical Advisory Committee, the Hu Kyun In (Guardians of the Art), and your Regional Examiners (currently Sa Bom Nims Jennifer Gibbons and Andy Tyzzer) also must recommend you. If you are recommended, then you will receive a formal invitation by mail along with a thick packet of study materials and further instructions. I wrote a total of 11 essays on various topics of history, philosophy, application of technique, and teaching methodologies.
Now begins the remaining portion of the test, which is 8 days of physical and mental training in the hills of California. I’ll be testing with 35 other 3rd dans and during those days we will learn from the top masters in the world, including Grandmaster H.C. Hwang—the son of the deceased founder Hwang Kee. A key purpose of these 8 days is to go over all of the standardized material and make sure that all of the Ko Dan Ja are in harmony with one another. This will maintain the integrity of our art and greatly help the quality of instruction at Wasatch Martial Arts Academy.
I am sincerely grateful for the support of my dear family, Helena and Eli, who have made tremendous sacrifices to allow me to pursue this art. I am also thankful for the support and dedication of my students and their families. I hope to represent all of you well during the Shim Sa and promise to bring back as much as I can and in due time, all of the information will be transmitted to you.