“Moo Do” has often been translated as “martial art”. This translation does not convey the rich philosophical roots of our art. The word “Moo” in Korean is based on the Chinese Character 武 and is generally translated as “martial” or “military” but the character also has the meaning of “action”. The character itself is made up of two separate characters “sword” or “spear and “to stop”, “to prohibit”, or “to till”.
The word “Do” is based on Do the Chinese character 道 representing the Tao. “Do” has a board range of meanings: a path or The Path, The Way, a road, direction, principle, truth, morality, reason and skill.
The definition of “Moo Do” is much richer than the usual translation of “martial art.” It is the Way to the skillful action necessary to prevent conflict or war. It is the Path to balance and harmony both within ourselves and the society in which we live. Moo Do also includes the concept of our art being a means to experiencing the Do.
MOO DO JASEH
Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan is a living art. We often refer to our art as “Philosophy in Action.” We experience, express, and live this philosophy through our Moo Do Jaseh.
Moo Do Jaseh is the attitude with which we approach our art. It is present in all aspects of our practice. It is apparent in simple things like how we care for our Do Bok and how we treat our Dojang. Our Moo Do Jaseh is both expressed and strengthened through gestures of respect like bowing and saluting the flat; gestures that bring a ceremonial nature to our daily practice.
Moo Do Jaseh originates in our Maum. In Soo Bahk Do, Maum is the fountain of all actions. By itself, the body does not know what to do. The Body is the “What” in the process. It relies on the Maum for direction.
The Maum needs to “breathe”. The Maum breathes through our Moo Do Jaseh in the process of Spiritual Breathing. In this process:
- Maum sends “instruction” to the physical body via the Breath and the Shi Sun (eyes). This is the Maum exhaling.
- The Mome or the physical body receives these instructions. This is the physical body inhaling.
- The Physical Body executes an action based on the instructions of the Maum. This is the physical body exhaling.
- The Maum receives the fruits of the action and enjoys the “Positive Ending”. This is the Spirit inhaling.
When the body responds to the Maum, it sets up a feedback loop that nourishes and enriches Maum. The Maum now has an opportunity to empty or fill as needed by the situation. By doing so, the Maum Jaseh will find balance. By participating in this continuous process of Shil and Huh, Filling and Emptying, the Maum becomes alert, enlivened and nourished. It is relaxed, yet responsive to what is required in any given moment.
Whether or not there is a “Positive Ending” depends on our Moo Do Jaseh. At the outset, Shim Kong, Nae Kong, and Weh Kong are separate. With proper Moo Do Jaesh, they unite and become one through Spiritual Breathing. When Spirit, Breath, and Body unite and are in perfect harmony, one experiences the Do.
CULTIVATING MOO DO JASEH
Maum is the original true “mind” or “spirit” that finds expression when the noise of the normal busy mind is quieted. Giving expression to the Maum through our Moo Do Jaseh relies on three important Moo Do concepts which we will discuss below:
- Complementary opposites
- Fullness and Emptiness
- “Duk” or the Path of Virtue
The Dance of Opposites
In Moo Do philosophy, the guiding principle is to act in accordance with Nature. This starts with an understanding of the concept of complementary opposites. The basic duality is expressed as Um and Yang. These forces are in an unceasing, ever changing interaction with each other, the one being the reason for the other. Why do we inhale? Because we exhale. Why is there Um? Because there is Yang. This is natural. This is the truth of the Do.
In our practice, these forces show up in many ways: Strength-Flexibility; Inhale-Exhale; Emptiness-Fullness; Tension-Relaxation. If they are not in harmony, our Maum Jaseh is disturbed. Out of balance, we experience pain and discomfort. In balance, we are comfortable and at peace.
Opposites necessarily engender a third principle that synthesizes or acts as an intermediary between them. Moo Do philosophy has many such important relationships. Heaven, Earth, with Man as the intermediary in the middle. Within the human being, the relationship is between Spirit/Soul (Shim Kong), Breath (Nae Kong/Ki Kong), and the Physical Body (Weh Kong), where Breath is the intermediary between Spirit and Body. In Korean thought, Spirit and Breath are often considered together under the term Maum.
Through our Moo Do Jaseh, we cultivate balance and harmony between Spirit and Body (between Maum and Mome).
Maum Jaseh is an attitude that cultivates true Yang Ki, strength that is balanced with humility, power that is balanced with wisdom. These can be illustrated with the trigrams for water and fire:
☵ Water is flexible on the outside; firm/strong on the inside
☲ Fire is strong on the outside, flexible and receptive on the inside
Maum and Moo Do Jaseh express themselves through an Indomitable Spirit. This Indomitable Spirit is another name for Shim Kong, representing consistent efforts to align with the Do. The Indomitable Spirit requires both strength and flexibility:
When people practice the Do…if they are always hard they will be impetuous and aggressive, excessively impatient, so their actions lack perseverance and their keenness will become blunted. On the other hand, if people are always soft, they will vacillate, fearful and ineffective, being too weak to succeed in their tasks. That softness is useless.
If people can be firm in decision and flexible in gradual application, neither hurrying nor lagging, neither aggressive nor weak, then hardness and softness balance each other; achieving balance and harmony, they will benefit wherever they go. If they study the Do in this way, eventually they will surely understand the Do; if they practice the Do in this way, eventually they will surely realize the Do. [Adapted from “The Taoist I Ching”, Cleary translation, p. 18]
Fullness and Emptiness
In order to cultivate one’s Moo Do Jaseh, it is important to let go of certain things. This is apparent in the concepts of Full and Empty in the Moo Do tradition. Western cultures often view the concept of Emptiness as a bad thing, as a negative. The idea is that we must keep on filling up, string for more, attaining more. But in the Moo Do philosophy, being Full or at the top means that there is only one way to go. Being Full carries a signal of danger, of caution, of the need to let go and regroup lest one fall abruptly.
Thousands of years ago, Lao Tzu wrote about excessive “Fullness” in the Tao Te Ching:
Contraction pulls at that which extends too much
Weakness pulls at that which strengthens too much
Ruin pulls at that which rises too high
Loss pulls at life when you fill it with too much stuff
Full and Empty are another aspect of Um and Yang. One must breath in so that one breathes out. You cannot have one without the other. When you are Empty, you breath in, take in, have space to learn and grow. When you are Full, you breathe out, let go, release. This is natural.
In order to give our Maum room to express itself, we must empty our cup. This is often expressed as “emptying the mind and filling the belly”.
Thus the sage rules by stilling minds and opening hearts by filling bellies and strengthening bones (Verse 3)
This refers to the process of emptying the normal busy mind and nourishing the “Mind of Do”.
“Emptying the mind and filling the belly” also refers to the process of Spiritual Breathing. We nourish Maum by emptying our mundane busy mind and “opening our hearts” to allow the breath of Maum to express itself. When the mind is quiet and the heart is open, the Spiritual Breath awakens to “Fill the belly and strengthen the bones” (nourish and support us).
Spiritual Breathing is a constant filling and emptying. Shil-Huh. Filling-Emptying. Shil, or filling, is a function of Um. Through Shil, we fill our bellies with the Spiritual Breath. We empty through Huh. Um sets up the process. How much we fill up (Um) determines the amount of Yang Ki we will have available.
Refining this process over time–emptying that which no longer serves us, filling our bellies with the Mind of Do, leads us to Duk or the Path of Virtue.
Duk: The Path of Virtue
The process of aligning oneself with the Do is called “Duk” (“Te” in Chinese). Doduk (or Tao Te” as in the Tao Te Ching), means the Way of Virtue or morality. This is the Path that leads to the ultimate unity of Do. The Tao Te Ching describes the relationship between Do and Duk:
Do gives all things life Duk gives them fulfillment….
Every creature honors Do and worships Duk not by force but through its own living and breathing.
Though Do gives life to all things Duk is what cultivates them
Duk is that magic power that raises and rears them completes and prepares them comforts and protects them
Everything unifies (Shim Kong, Nae Kong, and Weh Kong) through Duk. Duk is the “How” of our practice. How we set up our Moo Do Jaseh.
Live in accordance with the nature of things:
Build your house on solid ground
Keep your mind still
When giving, be kind
When speaking, be truthful
When ruling, be just
When working be one-pointed
When activing, remember–timing is everything
One who lives in accordance with nature
Does not go against the way of things
He moves in harmony with the present moment
Always knowing the truth of just what to do.
When our Moo Do Jaseh is guided by Duk, all aspects of our being become harmonious and unified. Through this unification we have an actual experience of the Do. It is through this unification that we develop the discrimination to determine exactly what is required at any given moment.
Moo Do Jaseh is an expression of how we approach our art, of our individual Moo Do values. When Moo Do Jaseh is set up properly at the beginning, in alignment with Maum, we prepare ourselves to experience and align with the Do. We do this through Duk, the Way of Virtue and the Spiritual Breath. Once we have emptied our cup and are receptive to the instructions of the Maum, Duk guides us toward the unification of Maum and Mome. That is the Do.
Written by Jang, Dae Kyu, Sa Bom Nim — TAC Shim Kong Bu
Posted at the request of the author.
The Ship Sam Seh was an integral part of the evolution of the art of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. The Ship Sam Seh is a systematic approach to the art of Tae Kuk Kwon, teaching self defense theory through the practice of Hyung. Within the Tae Kuk Kwon hyung, you can find all of the points of Ship Sam Seh. It’s important to note that Ship Sam Seh philosophy goes beyond physical training and includes Weh Gong, Neh Gong, and Shim Gong aspects. The scope of this article will look primarily at the Weh Gong application of Ship Sam Seh and how it affected the evolution of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan in Hyung and Dae Ryun practice. First, we examine the history of Ship Sam Seh.
Throughout all of history, man has tried to understand the workings of the universe and his relationship with both Heaven and Earth. One of the earliest texts dedicated to the study of nature and the relationship between the elements is the I Ching 易經 (Ju Yuk in Korean). The I Ching represents the world via 64 sets of of six lines each called hexagrams (卦 gwe). The Solid line —– represents Yang and a broken line — — represents Um. The interactions between the solid lines (yang) and the broken lines (um) were represented by the Um and Yang symbol, called Tae Kuk (太極), meaning Grand Ultimate. I equate the teachings of I Ching to simply mean Um/Yang Philosophy.
In ancient Korea, the traditional Um/Yang symbol had three distinct sections instead of two: heaven, earth and human. These people deduced that whenever two forces opposed one another one of two things would happen: one force would
dominate the other, thus one would be superior and the other inferior; or the two forces would be equal, becoming neutral. They examined how the forces of Um and Yang impacted Humanity. This is the essence of I Ching. Everything around us has an opposite: hot and cold, high and low, summer and winter, fire and water. Um energy is soft, yielding and passive. Yang is hard, aggressive and active. Striking a balance between Um and Yang energies would result in Tae Guk or Grand Ultimate. Tae Guk is a state of neutrality where perfect harmony exists. Energies naturally flow from yang to um and back to yang effortlessly. Neither force dominates the other.
Western minds think in a linear fashion with a beginning and multiple steps leading to an end. Conversely, Eastern thought can be illustrated better by a circle. There is neither a beginning nor an end but a circle filled with a number of phases, each leading in both directions to another. An example that can be found in both Western and Eastern culture is the concept of the “circle of life”. Initially, you may think of life as a straight line beginning with birth (yang) and ending in death (um). However, after we die, our bodies return to the earth and give nutrients to the soil to produce more life (yang), which will eventually produce more death (um). This endless circle is an example of how nature is constantly flowing from Yang to Um energy.
Daoism and the martial arts
This Um/Yang philosophy can be found in many aspect of Korean culture from the way that they eat, build a home, divinate, or even fight (kwon bup). The variation of Um/Yang philosophy that correlates with kwon bup is known as Ship Sam Seh (13 Principles/Influences/Postures), though the application is much more holistic than mere “fist techniques” (8).
Most scholars agree that the martial arts from Japan, Okinawa, and Korea all stem from China. Where there may be documentation of Chinese martial arts beginning before the Shaolin Temple, we can agree that Shaolin is the most famous. There is also some evidence that shows that the indigineous Korean martial art Soo Bahk was created in isolation of Chinese influence. While that may or may not be true, Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja received most of his formal training in China and was heavily influenced by Chinese styles such as So Rim Jang Kwon and Tae Kuk Kwon. As a result, to better understand the impact of Ship Sam Seh on our Art, it’s important for us to take a look into Chinese martial arts.
As early as the first centuries BC, physicians would recommend calisthenic exercises called “daoyin” (導引), which translates to “guiding and pulling.” These were used to both cure and prevent disease and focused on both body movement and breathing techniques. These would strengthen your body and provide rejuvenation by stimulating meridians and improving Ki (氣), or vital energy. An old Zhuangzi quote demonstrates the effectiveness of daoyin:
At the Shaolin Temple and elsewhere, martial arts training was coupled with daoyin exercises for longevity. Some of these exercises are still practiced by Soo Bahk Do practitioners today and can be found in Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja’s Volume I textbook. The first is Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm (八段錦) more commonly known in the martial arts community as Ba Duan Jin, which means 8 level brocade or silk2. The second is Yuk Keun Kyung (易筋經), more commonly known as Yi Jin Jing, translated to Changing Tendons Classic3 . The prior is used to stretch the body while the former is used to strengthen the body. Both circulate Ki, open the meridians, and utilize Um/Yang philosophy. Over time, these Neh Gong exercises became commonplace and the martial arts broadened from a strictly military or self defense focus, to a total wellness system for self defense, internal health, and mental well-being. It’s important to note that Ship Sam Seh has much more than mere martial application, but was primarily used for increased longevity. The Song of Ship Sam Seh asks the question: “What is the main purpose of the martial arts?” The following verse gives the answer: “Rejuvenation and prolonging of life beyond the normal span.”
Tae Kuk Kwon and Ship Sam Seh
The Ship Sam Seh is broken down into two components, each a representation of Um/Yang Philosophy: Pal Gwe or 8 Forces/Directions and Oh Haeng, or 5 Energies/Elements. They were used as fundamental principle of Tae Kuk Kwon. Though the creator of Tae Kuk Kwon is unknown, many attribute Chang San Feng (張三豐), or Jang Sam Bong in Korean, as thefounder4. In his treatise, the Tae Kuk Kwon Kyung (太極拳經), he introduces Ship Sam Seh5: Peng, Lu, Chi, An,Ts’ai, Lieh, Chou, and K’are equated to the Eight Trigrams.
The first four are the cardinal directions; Ch’ien [South; Heaven],
K’un [North; Earth],
K’an [West; Water], and
Li [East; Fire].
The second four are the four corners:
Sun [Southwest; Wind],
Chen [Northeast; Thunder],
Tui [Southeast; Lake], and
Ken [Northwest; Mountain].
Advance (Chin), Withdraw (T’ui),
Look Left (Tso Ku), Look Right (Yu Pan), and Central Equilibrium (Chung Ting)
are equated to the five elements:
Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth
All together these are termed the Thirteen Postures
Having an understanding of Ship Sam Seh philosophy will teach you how to react to neutralize an attack. If someone attacks high (yang), then counter low (um). If your opponent has a strong straight line (yang), then side-step off of his line (um). There are, however, more strategies than merely Um and Yang. You have only scratched the surface of the possibilities. The Pal Gwe and the Oh Haeng are derivatives of Um/Yang, each having an Um or Yang characteristic, but each is also distinct with its own set of unique attributes.
The Pal Gwe, or 8 forces, are connected to the 8 directions on a compass. This shows your positioning in space and the ability to move in the 8 directions by stepping, hopping, lunging, etc. Without stepping, you can also use Pal Gwe on the way you move your mass. This is done by moving your waist: Left, Right, Forward, Backward, Up, Down, Clockwise, Counter clockwise.
Besides physical direction (yang), each Gwe has a specific strategy or technique (um) associated with it that applies directly to dae ryun. Many of the indiviual techniques and strategies can also be found in the Yuk Ro and Chil Sung Hyung. The Sa Jung, or four principle directions, are considered “Yang” and are more aggressive and should be used when there is a greater distance between you and your opponent. The intent of these strategies may include exposing vulnerabilities for counter attacking, redirecting the energy of an attack, creating distance from your opponent, or disrupting your opponent’s center and rendering him off-balance. The table below lists the Sa Jung.
|Ward off||Pong||掤||☰||Ward off by disrupting center of gravity.||Heaven|
|Roll Back||Ri||捋||☷||circular, yielding motion||Earth|
|Press||Jeh||擠||☵||Press or squeeze offensively.||Fire|
|Push||Ahn||按||☲||Push with the palms.||Water|
The Sa Wu, or intermediary directions, are “Um” in nature and are designed for in-close fighting. In-close fighting has a new set of challenges and opportunities. You can trap, grab, or pull a limb as a counter measure or even as an attack. You can also strike, create distance, or disrupt your opponent’s center. Table 2 lists the Sa Wu.
|Pull Down||Chae||採||☴||Grabbing energy, usually followed by a pull.||Wind|
|Split||Yul||挒||☳||Splits from striking energy||Thunder|
|Shoulder||Ko||靠||☶||Striking with the full body||Mountain|
Just as the Um and Yang philosophy was an ancient way of explaining nature, the Oh Haeng was a further attempt to explain more complex forces of nature. The Oh Haeng, or 5 Elements/Energies include: Fire, Water, Wood, Metal and Earth. Each element produces a unique energy (Ki) that can be cultivated for Kwon Bup and for health.
|Earth||Ji Ki||Yellow||Golden Rule||Worry||Spleen|
The 5 Elements demonstrate two important cycles in nature: the creative cycle and the destructive cycle. Creation occurs in the following order: Water is needed to grow wood, wood ignites to create fire, fire burns the wood which creates ash (earth), metal is extracted from the earth, and water condenses and forms on metal. You can use the creation cycle in many ways:
Respect > Kindness > Trust > Openness > Honesty > Respect Fear > Anger > Envy > Worry > Sadness > Fear
The destructive cycle is equally as intuitive: Water smothers a fire. Fire melts metal. Metal chops wood. Wood breaks up the earth. Earth muddies water. The destructive cycle also holds true:
Respect > Trust > Honesty > Kindness > Openness > Respect
Fear > Envy > Sadness > Anger > Worry > Fear
Within the context of Kwon Bup (fist fighting), each element has unique attributes and can be sub-divided by Um (internal) and Yang (external). The Oh Bo are the 5 Steps—Advance, Retreat, Right, Left, Center—and refers only to direction of movement. In traditional Ship Sam Seh, the 8 Postures are combined with the 5 Steps so Pong (ward off) could be performed by stepping forward, back, twisting right, twisting left, and maintaining your center.
The internal strategies, called Oh Mal, are much more telling: Listen, Connect, Adhere, Redirect and Yield. Table 4 summarizes the Oh Mal.
|Fire||Jin—Advance||Chum||Listen Hands—Listen with your whole body.|
|Water||Toe—Retreat||Yeon||Connect with your opponent. Literally means “Chariots in a row”. Control your opponent.|
|Wood||Koe–Move Left||Jum||Adhere, stick to your opponents (sticky hands).|
|Metal||Ban–Move Right||Soo||Follow and lead as you adhere. Take control.|
The O Mal, or 5 Strategies, seem to be a set of ordered instructions on how to face an opponent effectively. Many of these strategies can be found intertwined in the Song of Ship Sam Seh–though the Song of Ship Sam Seh does not discuss Ship Sam Seh directly. The first step is to have good shi sun and “pay attention to the slightest change from full to empty.” Listening hands has to do with reading your opponent based on his eyes, body movement, stance and breath. Once you begin to read your opponent, then you try and connect with him. “Surprising things will happen when you meet your opponent.” Move in harmony with your opponent so that you move as one entity. “Pay attention to the slightest change from full to empty”. This is the beginning of controlling your opponent.
Once you have gained a connection with your opponent, you must maintain it by adhering to him. This can be done physically through an exercise called “sticky hands” or it could be a mu sang exercise where you maintain a harmonious connection with your partner. Learn to follow or lead your opponent without aggression. You will begin to control your opponent without any effort (following) as a result of this connection. Each strategy seamlessly prepares you for the next strategy. Unlike the rest of the Oh Haeng and Pal Gwe groupings, these strategies are to be used simultaneously.
The O Mal can be better explained by Yang Ch’eng-fu’s writing of 1930 called Yang Family Forty Chapters:
“Sticking means lifting and raising high; adhering means clinging and attachment; connecting means giving up yourself and not separating from the opponent; and following means that I respond to my opponent’s movements.”
The principles of Ship Sam Seh that we have discussed thus far have been neatly packaged into a single form called Tae Kuk Kwon. Tae Kuk is the name for the Um/Yang symbol and Kwon translates to “fist”, or the fist fighting style of Um and Yang. Within the hyung, Pal Gwe and Oh Haeng are expressed. By practicing Tae Kuk Kwon Hyung, one can begin to understand the sparring principles of Tae Kuk Kwon. This same pattern can be found today in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan through hyung practice.
Soo Bahk Do & Ship Sam Seh
Soo Bahk Do also has a set of Hyung that we use as guiding principles into our art. These are the hyung created by Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja called Chil Sung Hyung, Yuk Ro Hyung, and Hwa Sun Hyung. It’s also interesting to note that there is another set called Ship Dan Kuhm that are not widely practiced.
After practicing the hyung, we extrapolate sparring concepts and apply them to Ja Yu Dae Ryun. Modern-day examples include Hwa Kuk Jang Kap Kwon and Peet Cha Gi. Even today, we are in the process of evolution as the USA TAC define a new way of sparring at the US National Festival that better demonstrates our philosophy of Um/Yang, connection, and unique Soo Bahk Do technique. This new sparring format better aligns with the principles we learn in our unique hyung.
Though we do not practice all of the 8 postures of Tae Kuk Kwon, many of the principles are the same.
Chain of Command
Soo Bahk Do is known for it’s unique Use of Hip and clear understanding of chain of command from your mind, to your waist, elbows/knees, to each weapon on your hand and foot. Today, we reference Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion (F=ma) to explain the concept scientifically, but the application is the same. This principle is integral in Tae Kuk Kwon and is taught side by side with Ship Sam Seh. Jang Sam Bong, the legendary founder of Tae Kuk Kwon wrote a treatise on Tae Kuk Kwon, called the Tae Kuk Kwon Kyung. Within the text, he prefaced his explanation of Ship Sam Seh by explaining chain of command7:
“Let the postures be without breaks or holes, hollows or projections, or discontinuities and continuities of form. The motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist, and manifested through the fingers. The feet, legs, and waist must act together simultaneously, so that while stepping forward or back the timing and position are correct. If the timing and position are not correct, the body becomes disordered, and the defect must be sought in the legs and waist.”
Centuries later, The Song of Ship Sam Seh was written that alluded to these same principles with the following quotes:
“The source of the will is in the waist.”
“When the base of the spine is erect, energy rises to the top of the head”
8 Ways of Moving the Huri
Pal Gwe, or the 8 directions, can be likened to the 8 different ways of moving your center: front, back, up, down, right, left, twisting clockwise, twisting counter clockwise. I’ve found that every technique incorporates one or more of these directions. Ahp Cha Gi is primarily front. Dullryo Cha Gi utilizes front and twisting with the direction depending on which foot is kicking. Hu Gul Choong Dan Soo Do Mahkee includes twisting, back, and down.
Applying Oh Bo (5 Steps) to Soo Bahk Do “postures”
As the mass moves in the 8 various directions using Soo Bahk Do techniques or “postures”, we can also apply the 5 steps. We attack generally by moving forward and defend by moving back. Oftentimes, a better defense is to step left or right into what we call a “sidestep.” The term “bujuhang” is of particular interest because it can mean non-aggression. This is done traditionally by standing your ground and yielding to an attack without necessarily using footwork.
Bujuhang (following without aggression)
Bujuhang is a great way to summarize our philosophy towards sparring. Our blocks are very yielding and receptive in nature. We prefer to receive or redirect energy rather than attempt to stop or destroy it. Our focus on side stepping and creating distance from the attack are ways that we prefer to not oppose a force. A good example of this is the application of Do Mal Shik E Bon against a high attack.
Harmony of Um and Yang (Tae Kuk)
Our sparring is very unique with the purpose of creating harmony with a partner rather than creating conflict. This is a result of moving and responding according to the laws of nature. When one is offensive, the other is defensive. Clashing is discouraged as this creates disharmony by both parties moving offensively simultaneously. As discussed above, our blocks are truly “Um” in nature, receptive rather than aggressive. Most self defense systems portray a defense as an opportunity for offense and the block is done in an aggressive fashion. This is contrary to the laws of Um and Yang. Though our techniques are primarily from Weh Ga Ryu, our philosophy and approach is very Neh Ga Ryu, similar to Tae Kuk Kwon because we follow the same Ship Sam Seh philosophy.
The history of our martial art is richly based in Ship Sam Seh philosophy which centers around the interaction between Um and Yang. The way we move and the way we approach combat is in alignment with Um and Yang. It is clear that Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja greatly valued the Ship Sam Seh and its elements can be found scattered throughout the forms he created. As we continue to better understand Ship Sam Seh and how it relates to our training, the art of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan continues to evolve based on the principles of Ryu Pa.
Much of this article was a result of my personal readings from the publications below as well as conversations with Jang, Dae Kyu, Sa Bom Nim who gave me many insights into the meaning of Ship Sam Seh, Um Yang, and Chil Sung.
1 Meir, Shahar The Shaolin Monastery 2008 p. 137-140
2 Hwang, Kee, Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) 1992 p. 40
3 Hwang, Kee Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) 1992 p. 34-37
4 Wile, Douglas Lost Tai-chi Classics from the Late Ch’ing Dynasty 1996 p. 108
6 Wilde, Douglas Lost Tai-chi Classics from the Late Ch’ing Dynasty 1996 p. 67
7 Lo/Inn/Amacker/Foe The Essence of Tai Chi Chuan The Literary Tradition 1979 p.20-21
8Segarra, Dan Secrets of Ship Sam Seh p. 6
*The following article was submitted as a part of my O Dan Shim Sa for the Euro Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Technical Advisory Committee. All of information provided here is based on my own personal research and may not align with the official teachings of the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Federation.
The Chil Sung (七 星) Hyung are the prime picture of the art of Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™. Created in 1952 by Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja (CSJ), Chil Sung Hyung are the hallmark of the art of Soo Bahk Do™. They embody the knowledge Hwang Kee, CSJ acquired from decades of training and study. This essay will discuss the history, meaning, and character of the Chil Sung Hyung.
To fully understand a hyung, it’s important to understand the history of its founder. This provides context and perspective on the form. We begin to understand its unique “Ryu Pa” as you understand the influences that played a part in its creation.
Hwang Kee, CSJ’s training comprised of many martial arts throughout the years. He studied in numerous “Neh Ga (內家)” and “Weh Ga (外家)” systems including So Rim Jang Kwon (少林 拳), Tae Kuk Kwan (太極拳), Dham Doi Sip E Ro (潭腿), Tang Soo Do (唐手道)–Kara Te Do–, and Tae Kyun.
Weh Ga Ryu
Weh Ga Ryu (Outside House Style) in China is mainly recognized as So Rim Jang Kwon, more commonly known in English as Shaolin Long Fist. It originated in the Buddhist temple at Shaolin. It’s known for it’s intense “ryun bup”, or conditioning of the body and a focus on strong, powerful hand and foot techniques. The long fist techniques are akin to our Hwa Kuk techniques that are found in many of the Chil Sung Hyung. Many of the same techniques– namely Jang Kap Kwon and Jang Kwon Do–can also be found in Dham Doi Sip E Ro, a foundational set of exercises practiced in many Jang Kwan systems.
Weh Ga Ryu techniques are characterized as light, quick, and powerful. Other Weh Ga martial arts that influenced Chil Sung include Tang Soo Do (Kara Te Do), where you will find basic techniques such as Ha Dan Mahkee, Choong Dan Kong Kyuk, and Soo Do Kong Kyuk. One example of Tang Soo Do influence is the sequences in Chil Sung Sam Ro where you turn back up the front of the form line and perform Sang Dan Mahkee/Teul Oh Soo Do, Ahp Cha Gi, lunging Kap Kwon in Kyo Cha Rip Jaseh. This sequence can also be found in Pyong Ahn Sa Dan, which was influenced by Kong Sang Koon. These are both Tang Soo Do hyung.
Neh Ga Ryu
Conversely, Hwang Kee, CSJ studied a Neh Ga (Inside House) system called Tae Kuk Kwon (Tai Chi Chuan) that was created by Chinese nationals and centered around the tenants of Daoism, a religion founded in China by No Ja (Lao Tzu). Not only was it a practical martial art, but also focused on Daoyin(導引), or Daoist calisthenics. These were used for self cultivation and included exercises such as Ba Duan Jin (八段錦), or Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm in Korean, and Yi Jin Jing (易筋经), or Yuk Keun Kyung in Korean. Specific daoyin techniques can be found in some of the Chil Sung Hyung. Chil Sung Sa Ro for example, has the same posture as Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm #4.
Within the Chil Sung Hyung, you will find many techniques influenced by Tae Kuk Kwon as well. The preparation of the first technique of Chil Sung Il Ro is also the initial movement of Tae Kuk Kwon Hyung, called Pong (掤) or Ward Off. Other obvious Tae Kuk Kwon postures found in Chil Sung Hyung include Press (擠) and Push (按). I imagine after further study, other postures will be more apparent in the Chil Sung Hyung.
Birth of Choong Ga Ryu
When Hwang Kee, CSJ was translating portions of the Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji, he quoted a section comparing Neh Ga Ryu to Weh Ga Ryu. Within the following quote, it’s important to note that Chang Sam Bong (张三丰) is the founder of Tae Kuk Kwon. I have inserted some clarifying text in square brackets to better understand the passage:
“After Chang Sam Bong mastered So Rim Bup [Shaolin Long Fist Style], he founded the Nai Ka [Neh Ga] system. If one can master a few Nai Ka [Neh Ga] techniques he will be victorious over the So Rim practitioner.
It is stated earlier in this text that Nai Ka is more effective than Oi Ka (Weh Ga). The author [Hwang Kee, CSJ] translated these statements from the original text without any alterations. However, he does not necessarily agree with the assertion that Nai Ka can be the conqueror of So Rim after obtaining a few techniques. For practical purposes, we should not neglect the So Rim techniques.”
Here it is apparent that Hwang Kee, CSJ saw value in both Neh Ga Ryu and Weh Ga Ryu, and thus created a new system called Choong Ga (中 家), or Middle House. The Chil Sung Hyung have characteristics of both Neh Ga and Weh Ga. Some techniques are light, fast, and powerful, where others focus more on breath, energy, heaviness, and Sun Sok Mi (line, speed, beauty) and we transition from one to the other with ease.
Having both elements of Neh Ga and Weh Ga, the Chil Sung forms are truly representative of Hwang Kee, CSJ’s Choong Ga Ryu, leveraging the advantages of both philosophies of thought. Within the Chil Sung Hyung, however, you will find some techniques that neither fit the traditional mold of Neh Ga or Weh Ga. These are uniquely Soo Bahk and come directly from the Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (武藝圖譜通志). The Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji was a war book on enemy war tactics, written by Park Je Ga and Lee Duk Mu during the reign of King Jong Jo, that included the sword, spear, staff, and even open hand called Kwon Bup (拳法), or Fist Method. Inside it explained an ancient martial art system called Soo Bahk (手搏). The book had a diagram of a two-person form and had pages of text explaining various training methods and postures such as Yuk Ro and Ship Dan Kuhm.
Some of these training methods and postures can be found in Chil Sung Hyung such as Ta Ko Shik (beating drum method), Po Wol Seh (Embrace the Moon Posture), etc. These are most closely aligned with the ancient art of Soo Bahk, retransformed after having been lost in time.
A Guide for the Art
From the complexity of the Chil Sung Hyung, it is apparent that the Chil Sung Hyung series is a compilation of Hwang Kee, CSJ’s knowledge throughout his life and a guide to understand his intentions for the art, combining the best practices of both Neh Ga Ryu and Weh Ga Ryu into his unique Choong Ga style. This line of thinking is further substantiated by understanding the name itself. Chil Sung means 7 Stars and it is often stated that these 7 Stars reference Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper. The 7th Star is Polaris, the North Star, which was used as a guide for travelers to find their way. This is used as a metaphor that we can use the Chil Sung forms to guide our training in Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™. It is through these forms that we can feel the essence of the Art.
As I practice 6 of the 7 Chil Sung Hyung, a set of themes are apparent that teach fundamental concepts of the Art:
- Chil Sung Il Ro – This hyung introduces Neh Gong techniques and allows us to focus on connection between your breath and chain of command throughout the technique. Earth Energy (Ji Ki) is a significant factor in the hyung.
- Chil Sung E Ro – This hyung is the most basic and closest in style to the traditional hyung of Tang Soo Do. The focus is on balance and Ki Seh, or poise.
- Chil Sung Sam Ro – The hyung is very active in nature, similar in energy to Bassai. It is through this hyung that many of the Soo Bahk Ki Cho are practiced such as Do Mal Shik, Ta Ko Shik, and Yo Shik.
- Chil Sung Sa Ro – This is a physically demanding hyung with a clear emphasis on Shin Chook which translates to Relaxation and Tension but is also closely aligned with expansion and contraction.
- Chil Sung O Ro – No other hyung allows you to more easily carry the energy from one movement to the next. It is through this hyung that you can learn to keep your arm full of energy (Ki).
- Chil Sung Yuk Ro – Chil Sung Yuk Ro is by far the most complex of the six. Like Chil Sung O Ro, energy carries from one technique to the next. What I find unique in this hyung is the diversity of movements and a better understanding of space. You will find techniques on the ground, standing, in the air, spinning, and jump spinning.
Chil Sung Chul Hak
If we look deeper into the true meaning of Chil Sung, one must understand Korean culture and philosophy. Chil Sung is a well known term and Chil Sung monuments can be seen throughout Korea. Jang, Dae Kyu, Sa Bom Nim taught me on multiple occassions that Chil Sung is used in Korean daily life to understand the balance of nature and to provide physical health and total well-being.
Chil Sung is a composite of Tae Guk (太極), or Um/Yang, plus O Haeng (五行), or 5 Elements or Energies . The Um Yang is the red and blue symbol found on the South Korean Korean flag. Oh Haeng represents the 5 elements: Wood, Metal, Fire, Water, and Earth. Everything in our world are manifestations of Chil Sung and through careful study, we can find elements of Chil Sung throughout our training and also in our daily life.
Applying the Weh Gong approach to Chil Sung philosophy will add richness to practicing Chil Sung Hyung. Throughout each hyung, the transitions from Um and Yang techniques are apparent and fulfilling. Chil Sung Il Ro is a prime example of going through slow, internal techniques, to quick and powerful techniques. One example of including O Haeng in your training is to incorporate the Yuk Ja Gyol (六字訣), or 6 Natural Sounds. These sounds will help each technique harness a distinct type of energy and feeling. There are also health benefits correlated to various internal organs as shown below:
As we delve deeper into Chil Sung Philosophy, we’ll find additional benefits of training Chil Sung Hyung and acquire a more profound understanding of the art of Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™.
In my opinion, Hwang Kee, CSJ’s culminating creation within the art of Soo Bahk Do™ is the Chil Sung Hyung. No other set of forms better exemplify all aspects of the art of Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™. They truly are a guide with deep historical and practical significance.
*The following article was submitted as a part of my O Dan Shim Sa for the Euro Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Technical Advisory Committee. All of information provided here is based on my own personal research and may not align with the official teachings of the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Federation.
ReferencesHwang, Kee, History of the Moo Duk Kwan, 1995, p. 14 Tang Soo Do (唐手道) is a generic term that means “Way of the China Hand”. Pronounced “Kara Te” in Japanese, this was a term that the Korean people recognized in the early and mid 20th Century. Tang Soo Do today is known across the world as a generic term for those who have a historical connection to Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja. In this paper, I use the term Tang Soo Do in its original context, of Japanese Karate that came from the Ryukyu Island of Okinawa, which in turn came from China during the “Tang” Dynasty. Shahar, Meir, The Shaolin Monastery, 2008, p. 137-138 Hwang, Kee, Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do), 1992, p. 85 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Zi_Jue
12 Road Tan Tui, or Dham Doi Ship E Ro in Korean, is a set of basic Chang Quan (long fist/boxing) combinations with a unique emphasis on kicks. Hwang Kee, founder of Hwa Soo Do, Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, and Soo Bahk Do, learned these exercises while he was in China training under his instructor Yang, Yuk Jin (Yang Chu Chin in Chinese). The History of Moo Duk Kwan, an autobiography of Hwang Kee, notes his training in China included Seh Bop (Postures), Bo Bup (Steps), Ryun Bup (Conditioning) and two sets of forms: Dham Doi Ship E Ro and Tae Kuk Kwon (Tai Chi Chuan). A future article will be written on these other disciplines.
Since the 12 Set Tan Tui (彈腿)–as they are more commonly known in the martial arts community–were foundational to Hwang Kee’s martial arts career, it’s safe to assume that Tan Tui greatly influenced the Moo Duk Kwan system in a large way, particularly in his study of Soo Bahk found in the Kwon Bup (拳法) section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (武藝圖譜通志). You can quickly identify pieces and even entire sets of Tan Tui exercises in standard Moo Duk Kwan combinations, such as the Sam Kwan Kong Kyuk (Triple Fist Attack).
Any student of Hwang Kee’s famous Yuk Ro forms, will find many correlations with Tan Tui. Yuk Ro, meaning 6 roads, came from the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji and is one line of text each. Some techniques are further explained in the notes section but overall, little guidance is given to the true nature of Yuk Ro. It seems clear, however, that each “road” is a single technique rather than an entire form. Hwang Kee then extrapolated the information and created a signature technique in each Yuk Ro form that shaped the character of the form. It’s safe to say that Hwang Kee then gleaned other techniques to compose the form from his previous training, including 12 Road Tan Tui. Individual movements and combinations can be found in both 12 Road Tan Tui and Yuk Ro forms.
Tan Tui Explained
Tan Tui (彈腿) is commonly translated to “spring legs” or “springing legs” because of the double meaning of spring. The correct meaning for “spring” in this case refers to water. A better translation is likely “pond”. Tan Tui is a foundational exercise in almost all Chang Quan (long fist/boxing) systems in Northern China and came from the Hui Muslim community. Though many variations exist, two main branches are practiced today: 10 Road Tan Tui and 12 Road Tan Tui. 12 Road Tan Tui is what Hwang Kee practiced.
The signature technique of Tan Tui is the “yoke punch”, which Soo Bahk Do practitioners call “Hwa Kuk Jang Kap Kwon”–translated Seize and Smash Long Back Fist. A yoke was a wooden bar that would “yoke” a team of oxen to pull a wagon. The yoked oxen moved as a single unit because of the yoke. In like manner, both arms work and move together in a yoke punch.
The yoke punch differs from a Hwa Kuk Jang Kap Kwon in that the front hand strikes with the front of the fist, rather than the back of the fist. A yoke punch is a straight punch with the chest turned sideways for maximum expansion and reach. The back hand acts as a back fist to the rear, though the back hand is only practiced in the forms as you learn Chang Quan (long fist/boxing) theory. In application, it’s a single handed strike with your body turned. It is quite effective and has defensive characteristics while moving offensively.
A Moo Duk Kwan practitioner will benefit greatly from the study of Tan Tui as it will give him/her a greater understanding of the Moo Duk Kwan system by learning the foundation on which it was built. Some of the more classical movements in Soo Bahk Do begin to be demystified as you study both the motions and applications of Tan Tui. Below is an example of some of the Tan Tui roads, modified to better complement the Moo Duk Kwan’s interpretation of Yuk Ro while still staying true to the spirit of Tan Tui.
Last summer when I started Soo Bahk Do. I was a wimpy slouched over kid. I was just coming off a school year were I had to switch schools twice do too kids picking on me. I was really shy and did not have a lot of confidence in my self. My Mom wanted me to do a Martial Art. After hearing about Wasatch Martial Arts I decided to start. Now I am testing for green belt and I cant help but look back and see how amazing it has been and what I have taken away from the class.
I have noticed when walking down the hallways how my posture has changed. I used to hunch over and stroll down the hallways and I looked like and easy target. When starting Soo Bahk Do I was pushed to have a better posture. Now I notice when I walk down the halls of West High I no longer slouch. I feel like this proud young man.
I have also learned how to defend my self. In 8th and 9th grade I was constantly picked on. Kids would make fun of my voice, push me over, and punch me and many other things. I am glad to say that at West that has not happened but if it were I would know how to defend my self. If someone where to punch me out of the blue it makes me happy that I would know what to do.
Soo Bahk Do has also made me think more about philosophy. How there are the heavens, the earth, the fire and water. And how those are all incorporated. How strength does not come from ones arm but from the waste. I just think that is fascinating.
While reading over my paper it hit my what Soo Bahk do is to me. It is not a sport, activities or a hobby. To me Su Bahk Do is a way of life. The impacts that it has on all aspects of my life. Training in Su Bahk Do has so many more implications than maybe just playing basketball. That what makes Soo Bahk Do so special and how it makes me proud to be a person who trains in Soo Bahk Do.
— Written by Jack Schweibert, 6th Gup Soo Bahk Do
What Soo Bahk Do Means To Me
Soo Bahk Do means a lot to me. Soo Bahk Do has helped me become a stronger person both mentally and physically. Soo Bahk Do has helped me mentally because, I have to do things in Soo Bahk Do that I wouldn’t normally think I can do but when I try I am able to do it. If I didn’t have my mind telling me that I can’t do something I wouldn’t be troubled by the voice in my head saying “stop that’s wood” for me I just need to get over the voice that says that. Although I need to work on that still Soo Bahk has helped me a lot with that. Soo Bahk Do has helped me physically because I have gotten so much stronger and more flexible. My whole body has definitely gotten stronger, I am able to do pushups and situps more easily. When I am stronger I feel better about myself and I feel as if the better I feel about myself the more confident I am about myself the better I do while training Soo Bahk Do. My flexibility has also increased and although I am not the most flexible person I will continue to work on it. Soo Bahk Do has become part of my life, in fact it has become a lifestyle. I used to just go to class and only think about it right before and right after class but now I often think about how what I’m doing will help me during Soo Bahk Do. I think I have kept on training Soo Bahk Do for all these years because I really love it! I started Soo Bahk Do when I was five in Sun Valley, Idaho with Master Whitcomb when I moved back from Sun Valley to Salt Lake City I was disappointed that I could not do Soo Bahk Do any more. When I was in third grade Master Corrales decided to open his own school in Salt Lake City when I heard that I was very excited. Even though sometimes I feel as if it is too hard I know that it is making me stronger and that stronger is better. Soo Bahk Do has also helped me in life out of Soo Bahk Do because I have missed a lot of soccer for Soo Bahk Do and even though I am missing soccer I have gotten in shape for soccer while I am training Soo Bahk Do. When I go to soccer we have to do sit-ups if we mess up and I find that they are a lot easier to do after training Soo Bahk Do because we do sit-ups in Soo Bahk Do. Soo Bahk Do has also helped me a lot in my school life. It has helped me be more disciplined with my homework and school work. I have learned how to be able to work really hard at something even though it is hard or I do not want to do it. This is a great lesson for me because it would be only too easy to give up a lot of things just because I am struggling with them, instead if I stick with things I will get good at them and then they become more fun. Through my Soo Bahk experience I have met Master Corrales, Mr. Snarr and Mr. Rios. They all have helped me to progress and become the martial artist that I am. Master Corrales is definitely one of the reasons I have continued to train Soo Bahk Do. He has helped me a lot. He has told me that he will only let me test for my Dan if I am ready. He said I am ready to test and I believe him. He has helped me especially to understand that I am going to need a balance in my schedule because I have so much going on. He told me, “You can’t run too fast for too long eventually you have to slow down.” Master Corrales has also helped me to understand that there is so much more to Soo Bahk Do than just going to class and training because you have to have a balanced diet also. Having to have a balanced diet for Soo Bahk Do is an excuse to have a balanced diet in life and that is really good for me. Sa Bom Nim Corrales told our class that our plate of food should always be colorful and that if it is naturally colorful it is most likely a very healthy meal. Mr. Snarr is a very exciting person that is very fun to train with because he makes sure that I know that he is there to help me achieve my Dan. Mr. Snarr has helped me because he has helped me to understand that breaking is just breaking a big piece of paper. He. Mr. Rios has helped set an example of what I need to look like because he truly is a Dan. I have found that when I train Soo Bahk Do if I was tired or not feeling well before I often feel better after I train. Soo Bahk Do is a sort of healing method for me. I think Soo Bahk Do is a very good thing for me to do when I don’t feel so good because it is a natural way to feel better. For me I am always very proud when people say they do karate or something and I can say that I do Soo Bahk Do because Soo Bahk Do is special and it is not just about fighting there is an art to it and it is as if it is almost a dance. I feel like sometimes you are peaceful while training Soo Bahk Do and sometimes you are not. Training can help me deal with my problems. I like the balance of the two because training one way can help me deal with one problem I might have and training the other way can help me deal with another problem. Overall, Soo Bahk Do has become one of the things that I hope to continue because I hope that if I continue training I will continue to become a better and stronger person. Soo Bahk!