Tae-Kuk Ki

Tae-Kuk Ki is the national flag of the Republic of Korea. The circle in the center of the flag represents Um (blue color) and Yang (red color). The background color white represents brightness and purity. This is the symbol of Korean national traits, the love of peace and harmony. Tae-Kuk (the Great Absolute) is the expression of the universe (Heaven and Earth) that promotes creation and growth by complying with mutual interaction.  It symbolizes the natural balance of opposition in the world.

The four corners represent the Four Trigrams (that have been used for divination) with 3, 4, 5, and 6 dark stripes. These Sa-Kweh represent the interaction and growth of Um and Yang. Each trigram has 3 lines, either solid or broken. A solid line represents Yang and a broken line represents Um. The top line represents Heaven (Chun), the middle line represents Humanity (In), and the bottom line represents Earth (Ji). The combination of Um and Yang with ChunInJi constitute an element with unique characteristics:

Kweh Name Nature Virtue Meaning Family
Geon (건 / 乾) Heaven (천 / 天) Humanity (인 / 仁) Justice (정의 / 正義) Father (부 / 父)
Ri (리 / 離) Sun (일 / 日) or Fire (화 / 火) Courtesy (예 / 禮) Wisdom (지혜 / 智慧) Son (중남 / 子)
Gam (감 / 坎) Moon (월 / 月) or water (수 / 水) Intelligence (지 / 智) Vitality (생명력 / 生命力) Daughter (중녀 / 女)
Gon (곤 / 坤) Earth (지 / 地) Righteousness (의 / 義) Fertility (풍요 / 豊饒) Mother (모 / 母)

The Sa-Kweh shows the achievement of peace and harmony centered on Um and Yang.  By applying the principles of Sa Kweh and Um/Yang, one can also achieve peace and harmony in life.

From ancient times, our ancestors delightedly valued and utilized these Tae-Kuk principles. They also illustrate the Korean ideology of desirable prosperity and creation of well-being.
Therefore, we must succeed in the spirit of the Tae-Kuk Ki (Um and Yang principles) and provide unity and harmony to world peace and happiness by applying its principles. Memorization alone will not bring the desired result. Until we, as Moo Do In (Practitioners of the Martial Way), understand the philosophy of Tae Kuk and act in accordance with these principles, we will fail to reach our full potential and become a mature, masterful Moo Do In. Without righteous actions founded upon Tae Kuk Ki, there is no value obtained.


D.K. Jang, Sa Bom Nim
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Pyung Ahn Hyung




The Pyung Ahn Hyungs originated in China and exemplify the southern regional style (Nam-Pa). They were created by a Chinese military leader named Jeh Nam (Ztu – Nan) and were once known as the Jeh Nam Hyungs till late 1800.

At some point, these Hyungs were brought to Okinawa from the mainland, and about 1887, master Edos of Okinaa rearranged them into five sets of Hyungs. Shortly thereafter, they became known as the Pyung Ahn Hyungs (He`An in the Okinawan dialet), or Forms of Peaceful Confidence.


The late Kwan Jang Nim, Hwang Kee, made the turtle the symbol of the Pyung-Ahn Hyungs. He also presented the Hyungs to reflect Moo Duk Kwan style in 1945. The turtle bears a special significance in Korea culture comparable to that of the dragon in China. Throughout Korea, in gardens and temples especially, one sees turtle sculptures dating from historical times to the present. Its head represents the earth, its claw, the heavens, and its body, the water. As the intermediary between heaven and earth, water also represents humanity. These elements are also the three powers of the universe: Chun, Ji and Inn. Uniting these powers into the living whole, the turtle embodies longevity.

Wholeness is essential to the Pyung Ahn Hyungs, as it is the peaceful confidence for which they are named. In Soo Bahk Do, we find this wholeness in the interaction between Um and Yang, an essential feature of Ki, or vital life. In Korean, the name for this interaction is O-Heang. The relation between Um and Yang is dynamic: O-Heang flows from the union of Um and Yang. Since Um and Yang also represent the earthy and heavenly aspects of Ki (life), we can summarize the relationships between the turtle symbol, the elements, and three aspects of Ki in the following chart:

Turtle Elements Ki
Head Earth Um
Body Soo (Water, humanity) O-Haeng
Claws Heaven Yang

Our Moo-Do culture, like Pyung Ahn Hyungs embrace the absolute integrity of nature in all its aspects as the basis for human morality. The late Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee always reminded us to connect with the great nature. We can see how he valued the Shim-Kong aspects (Duk) on our art of Soo Bak Do.


The Pyung Ahn Hyungs have as their purpose the cultivation of harmony between Um and Yang, earth and heaven, in those who perform them. This entails more than knowledge of the physical movements involved. Physical techniques must be complemented by spiritual wisdom (Duk or Ma-Um), just as Um is balanced with Yang and earth with heaven, if we are to find peaceful confidence in practicing the forms. The goal of the Pyung Ahn Hyungs is precisely this integration of contrasting force-um and yang, earth and heaven, body and spirit-into a harmonious whole.

By: D.K Chang
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Study Guide for White Belts

This study guide will focus on Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu, the main requirement for your first promotion to 9th Gup (white belt with a blue stripe) in Soo Bahk Do. Please visit in the White Belt Instruction category to view all of the material that we cover at the white belt level. Please note that children requirements are different. For specific requirements to compare with, please see my list of testing requirements.

Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu

Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu (Basic Form #1) is the first form you have to learn and the main requirement for your first promotion to 9th Gup (white with a blue stripe) in Soo Bahk Do.  This form was created by the late Grandmaster Hwang Kee, founder of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan, in 1945 in Seoul, South Korea.  It has a total of 22 movements including the Jhoon Bee Jaseh (ready stance) at the beginning and ending of the form. Some concepts I hope you will learn as a result of continued practice of Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu include:

  • Stepping and turning in a front stance
  • Basic understanding of defensive and offensive hip twist
  • Proper crossing for a low block and proper fist for the center punch.
  • Good chamber hand discipline.
  • Improved awareness through Shi Sun (eye focus)

Memorization Patterns

The form diagram is a capital “I”.  Each corner of the “I” has the combination low block, stepping center punch.  The middle of the I has the combination: low block, stepping center punch, stepping center punch, stepping center punch (ki hap or yell).  Whenever you change directions, step and turn towards the center of the “I” with the FRONT foot.  The exception to this rule is after a ki hap.  After the 3rd punch down the center of the “I”, you will turn in the drection of the center of the “I” but with the REAR foot.  The turns are probably the most difficult part of the form for a beginner.

Below you will find myself performing Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu deliberately to show the various intermediate positions.  On the right, you will find Kwan Jang Nim (Grandmaster) H.C. Hwang, current President of World Moo Duk Kwan demonsrating the same hyung.


Performance Tips

  1. Cross your arms with the blocking hand on top for a preparation for the low block.
  2. Before the stepping center punch, raise the low block up to center level and hold your rear hip back in an offensive hip preparation for the punch (notice my pause in the video before each punch).
  3. Before turning, always do a strong look, demonstrating proper intention.
  4. Don’t forget about your chamber hand (the hand not performing the technique).
  5. The only stance is the front stance.  Your legs should be shoulder width a part, front knee bent, rear knee straight with your rear foot facing in a FORWARD direction.  If the stance is correct, your belt should be facing forward.
  6. A center punch should be targeted at your own solar plexus.
  7. Don’t forget to inhale on the preparations and exhale on the contractions.
  8. Practice this form regularly at home until it is engrained in your muscle memory.

Welcome D.K. Jang Sa Bom Nim!

D.K. Jang

D.K. Jang Sa Bom Nim will be a new author on our blog.  He is a Chil (7th) Dan in Soo Bahk Do and a current TAC member for the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation.  He is also one of my favorite instructors who has taught me a lot about Korean culture and philosophy.  Not only is he a martial scholar, but a phenomenal technician.  He is a pioneer in teaching a more in-depth analysis of Soo Bahk Do philosophy ranging from the root meanings of various terms to a historical perspective to some of the key concepts we teach such as Ship Sam Seh, Chil Sung, Pyong Ahn, and others.

Readers will be in for a real treat as he discusses Soo Bahk Do principles that are historically and culturally accurate, yet rarely taught by instructors related to the Moo Duk Kwan.  Read his biography on the About Us page or visit his Santa Barbara school’s website at

Proper Body Connection

In order to have proper body connection, it is important that each member of the body works together as one harmonious unit.  Kwan Jang Nim Hwang often teaches the concept of “chain of command”.  The chain of command begins with your mind (general).  Your mind, or general, only speaks directly with your huri (waist).  Your waist is your physical center of gravity and should be the pivot point for all movement.  Nothing moves until your waist does.  The rest of your body must react to the movement of your huri.

This concept is imperative to proper technique.  Without it, your body does not move as a harmonious mass, and your technique will become disjointed and lack power, poise, and precision.    It will lack power because your full body mass is not behind your movement, only a fraction of your mass is.  You will also lack poise because your body will be off center.  It’s impossible stay balanced and keep the base of the spine erect if you do not move from your waist.  Failing to move from your waist will also lead to a lack of precision in your movement because you will be incapable of following proper commands from your commander–your mind.

Once your body reacts to the actions of your waist, pay attention to both your elbows and knees, which are the sergeants.  The sergeants talk directly with your waist, as to bring order and discipline to your technique.  For example, while executing a choong dan kong kyuk, your elbow should make direct contact with your huri as it passes from the chamber position to the target.  Failing to do so, will cause your punch to have a glancing blow against the target.

Your soldiers in turn are your weapons (hands and feet).  As long as you follow the proper chain of command of mind -> waist -> elbow/knee -> hand/foot, think of your waist as your wrist, and your limb as a leather whip.  Don’t force the technique with muscular strength.  Think of the way you would crack a whip.  Jus as you would keep your wrist loose, and with sudden quickness, snap your wrist, you should also snap your waist into position as youu execute a technique.  Your limb will then naturally snap into position, reacting to the twist of your waist.  The most important thing you can remember is that your weapon reacts to the movement of your waist.  Your waist initiates the movement.

Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee

For Christmas, I received a VHS to DVD converter. For years, I’ve had a very old video with footage of Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee explaining his Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan system. It’s probably the 10th copy of a copy and the quality is quite poor. Luckily, I was able to convert it in time so there is a permanent record of the past. I’ll be posting more footage that I have in my personal collection as I convert them to digital format.

This clip features the founder of Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) Moo Duk Kwan, Hwang Kee, discussing the philsoophy and purpose of the art he created, which is based on improving human relations by training in Weh Gong, Neh Gong, and Shim Gong. Enjoy!

12 Propers of Effective Technique

There are 12 essential points of emphasis that must be followed in order to have an effective technique.  With a proper understanding and application of all 12 points, your technique will be efficient, effective, and beautiful.  They include:

  1. Proper Foundation
  2. Proper Body Connection
  3. Proper Shi Sun—Mental and Physical Focus and Intent.
  4. Proper Choong Shim—Proper balance throughout the motion centered in the dan jun.
  5. Proper weapon and proper weapon to target application
  6. Proper conditioning of your weapon
  7. Proper Ho Hoop Cho Chung—Dan Jun breathing connected to movement.
  8. Proper Him Cho Chung
  9. Proper Shin Chook—Both internal and external expansion/contraction and tension/relaxation.
  10. Proper Wan Gup—Understanding of proper speed and acceleration in motion.
  11. Proper distance control through adjustments in body positioning
  12. Proper application of F=MA

Proper Foundation

A proper foundation is centered around Ja Seh, roughly translated as Stance.  Literally, Ja Seh translates to “Strength Posture”.   Your stance connects you with Mother Earth, giving you stability, balance, and energy.  A proper stance will allow you to use gravity to your advantage, whereas an improper stance will force you to fight against gravity.

Remember, your foundational stance will change depending on the intent of your technique.  The longer and deeper a stance, the more stable and less mobile it is.  The shorter and shallower the stance, the more mobile but less stable it is.  A Ki Ma Ja Seh is very stable, but not very mobile.  A Pyong Rip Ja Seh (natural standing stance) is highly mobile but not very stable.  It is essential to understand this relationship and be able to adjust your stances based on circumstance.

The Song of Ship Sam Seh says “Hold your head as if suspended by a string” and “when the base of the spine is erect, energy rises to the top of the head.”  Once the proper stance is acquired, it is important to maintain your center.  Your physical and spiritual center resides two to three inches below your navel and is called “dan jun” in Korean.  Your dan jun must always be positioned in the center of your base.  A common mistake with a wide stance is to lean forward or backward depending on whether your intent is on offense or defense.  When you move, your center moves first, forcing the rest of your body to follow.  Keeping your head up and your spine erect, will help ensure that you are moving from your center and that you are properly balanced.  Never learn forward or back with your spine or your head.  Everything should be in alignment with your waist.  If you need to move forward or back, remember to do so from the dan jun rather than from your spine.

Learn what Kwan Jang Nim HC Hwang has to say about the science behind our technique:  click here

Eli's Soo Bahk Do Training

Eli, my son, just barely turned 3.  Before he could even walk, I remember teaching him how to balance on against a chair executing a front and side kick into my palm.  He watches me teach and often practices his hyung when I’m supposedly not looking.  Soo Bahk Do being a passion of mine, it shouldn’t surprise you to see me beaming with joy with his interest in Soo Bahk.

Tonight was the highlight so far.  He grabbed my hand and brought me into my office, shut the door and asked me to turn off the lights.  It’s now dim in the room and not overly dark.  He then says, Daddy Soo Bahk!  He starts kicking and punching.  I get down on my knees and teach him how to do a low block and a punch.  He crosses his hands really well and usually brings his hand across in a low block fashion.  His punches were good too–relatively straight and was even making a proper fist.

Half way through the 10 minute lesson, he asked for a uniform, which of course I already had saved waiting for the moment he would finally want one.  I put it on him and it fit just right.  He then wanted me to put mine on, which I did.  We continued the lesson after a short photoshoot.

He was really interested in not just playing around, but wanted to learn really badly.  I hope to be able to do small 10 minute sessions with him now that he is 3 that way he’ll be prepared to enter the Tiger Tots class when he turns 4.

Eli's Jhoon Bee Ready Stance Eli's Horse Punch Eli's Fighting Stance Eli's Do Mal Seh (Paint Smearing Method #2)

New Testing Requirements

Recently, the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation issued a new Gup/Dan manual for all of our members.  All current and active members of the federation are eligible to receive a free manual.  You will find that the testing requirements for Cho Dan (1st degree black belt equivalent) has changed.  The curriculum has been stream-lined in order to give ample time and attention to practical self-defense.  In the past, many have commented that the majority of class time is devoted towards memorizing standardized curriculum, leaving less time to improving proper execution of technique, awareness of weapon, and awareness and accuracy of target.

The curriculum below is based on the new minimum standard of curriculum you are required to know in order to test.  Wasatch Martial Arts Academy may require additional points of emphasis to fulfill local requirements.  Also note, that while the amount of memorized curriculum has been decreased, the expectation of performance has increased to a new level.

The minimal time requirement is also slightly different.  It is possible to achieve the rank of Cho Dan within 3 years.  The majority of students will still need to wait 4 or more years before testing for Cho Dan, but exceptionally pro-active students may be able to test for Cho Dan in as little as 3 years.

I hope you will share your comments on the changes below and our local curriculum may adjust slightly in order to better serve its local members.  Later, I will update the Children’s and Adult’s Requirements on the website.

Testing Requirements Summary Wasatch Martial Arts Academy

US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Fed.

Rank Min Time Hyung Il Soo Sik Ho Sin Sul

Adult Kids Adult Kids
9th Gup White w/ Stripe 1 Month Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu 1-2 side-step, counter Cross Hand #1 (Release/counter)
8th Gup Orange 2 Months Ki Cho Hyung E Bu #1-2 Cross Hand #1 Cross Hand #1 (Release/Counter)
7th Gup Orange w/ Stripe 3 Months Ki Cho Hyung Sam Bu #3-4 Cross Hand #2 Cross Hand #2 (Release/Counter)
6th Gup Green 3 Months Pyong Ahn Cho Dan #5-6 #1 side-step, counter Cross Hand #3-4 Cross Hand #1
5th Gup Green w/ Stripe 3 Months Chil Sung E Ro #7-8 #3 side-step, counter Straight Hand #1-2 Cross Hand #2
4th Gup Green w/ 2 Stripes 3 Months Chil Sung Il Lo #9-10 #1 Straight Hand #3-4 Straight Hand #1
3rd Gup Red 3 Months Bassai #11-12 #3 2 on 1 Hand #1-3 Straight Hand #2
2nd Gup Red w/ Stripe 3 Months Chil Sung Sam No #13-14 #5 2 on 2 Hand #1-4 2 on 1 Hand #1
1st Gup Red w/ 2 Stripes 6 Months Du Mun #15-16 #7 Side and Back Grabs 2 on 1 Hand #2
Cho Dan Midnight Blue 6 Months Bassai
Chil Sung Sam No Du Mun
#1-18 #1-9 (odds only) All Wrist Grabs #1-2 of Cross, Straight, 2 on 1, and 2 on 2 Hand