Moo Do Jaseh


Calligraphy for Moo Do Jaseh.  Figure 4.
Calligraphy for Moo Do Jaseh. Figure 4.

“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.


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:

  1. Maum sends “instruction” to the physical body via the Breath and the Shi Sun (eyes). This is the Maum exhaling.
  2. The Mome or the physical body receives these instructions. This is the physical body inhaling.
  3. The Physical Body executes an action based on the instructions of the Maum. This is the physical body exhaling.
  4. 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.


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:

  1. Complementary opposites
  2. Fullness and Emptiness
  3. “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
Verse 36

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
(Verse 51)

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.
(Verse 8)

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 Purpose of Soo Bahk Do

Below is an article that was presented during this year’s Nationals at the beginning of the event.  This year’s theme is Moo Do Jaseh and this article gives a description of what that is and what the true purpose of our art is.  This article was researched by D.K. Jang Sa Bom Nim.  Earlier this year, I went to Santa Barbara and Sa Bom Nim Jang dictated his research to me and I compiled it into essay form.  This final copy was reviewed by Sa Bom Nim Jang and approved.  All of the beautiful calligraphy was written by Sa Bom Nim Jang.

The Purpose of Soo Bahk Do

Soo Bahk Do is our moo do, or martial art. The “art”, or “Do”, is a language of the spirit and body, therefore, “moo do” is our language of spirit and body through martial training. It’s not what moo do is that’s important, but how we express it that matters.

Many practitioners believe Soo Bahk Do translates to “hand strike way”. This is an inaccurate translation and does little to describe our art by labeling it as merely a form of attack. Soo Bahk Do is not defined as a method to strike with the hands, rather Soo Bahk Do is a tool to strengthen our spiritual and physical language and improve overall personal well-being.


Seal Script for the term Soo Bahk Do. Figure 1.

The term “Soo” does mean “hand” but the hand is a representation of the human body. Look at Figure 1 to see the seal script for the term “Soo” (Seal script is an older style of Chinese writing and the first writing style that used the term Soo Bahk). It is a representation of the human body with a head, spinal cord, and tail (tailbone). The two horizontal lines symbolize the arms and legs. Placing a real hand upside down, each finger represents one of the 5 main branches of the nervous system:



  1. The middle finger represents the spine.
  2. The index and ring fingers represent the legs.
  3. The thumb and little finger represents the arms.

The term “Bahk” has many meanings including to tangle, twist, turn over, pound, or change. An example would be a farmer turning over the soil which is a form of cultivating the earth. Another example would be a smith who works with metal by pounding and folding it to produce something of value. Every translation has one thing in common: Bahk is a term to improve or cultivate. The symbol on the left is the same symbol for “Soo” showing a human change. Just as a farmer and smith put forth tremendous effort and hard work to achieve the desired result, we as Moo Do In (Martial Art Practitioners) must give sincere effort as well. Physical cultivation will only come after intense physical conditioning as you pound, twist, and change your body. The same process is required for a spiritual change. Only after you are exposed to life’s challenges and successfully overcome them by choosing the path of virtue can you achieve spiritual refinement.

“Do” is an abstract term that is roughly translated as a spiritual way or path. The left side of the character signifies a road or path and the right side stands for head. Do can be expressed and observed through our actions.

Therefore, Soo Bahk Do really means the way of the art of human well-being. Our destination is to improve every aspect of the self. We need to keep every part of our self healthy. There are three distinct areas that we should concentrate to improve:

  1. Our skin, muscles, and bones relate to our external, physical health. In order to strengthen our body, we need to apply a scientific method. This is accomplished in the do-jang as we improve our strength, endurance, flexibility, and technique. We strengthen and improve our physical body through Weh-Kong.
  2. Our internal health relates to how we eat, sleep, and breathe. Training in both Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm and Moon Pahl Dan Kuhm (Standing and Sitting 8 Pieces Brocade) will improve the health of the internal organs through Ki-Kong breathing and an understanding of O-Haeng. Our internal health is closely coupled with O-Haeng, O-Ki, and the related 5 internal organs: Kidney, Liver, Heart, Lung, and Spleen. Regretably, few Moo Do In understand the relationships of O-Haeng, but is a vital component to the training of Nae-Kong 內功 (sincere internal effort).
  3. Our spirit, or ma’ulm, relates to our heart or soul. It is not intellectual, but spiritual. Enhanced intellect is only beneficial as long as it is applied to cultivate one of these three distinct areas: Weh-Kong, Neh-Kong, or Shim-Kong. The value of the 8 Key Concepts, for example, is much more than a standard for improved martial technique. Courage, concentration, endurance, honesty, humility, and others are principles that need to be engraven in your ma’ulm, and revealed in your every action—both in and out of the do-jang. This is Shim-Kong 心 功 (sincere spiritual effort) training.

All three work together to find well-being. The composite gives us good health and longevity. Soo Bahk Do is the vehicle to improve each of these three aspects of our selves and that is the purpose of Soo Bahk Do.

Kohn Kyung means sincere effort. In order to improve yourself in these three areas, it’s important that you have sincere effort. Kong 功is another term that translates to effort and is the basis for the terms Shim-Kong, Nae-Kong, and Weh-Kong. Only by exercising sincere effort in cultivating the soul, breath and internal organs, and the physical body, will a Soo Bahk Do practitioner succeed in the purpose of Soo Bahk Do.

Soo Bahk Do gives us various tools to accomplish its purpose of “rejuvenation and prolonging of life beyond the normal span”:

  • Um Yang is balance, which stands for harmony.
  • Ship Sam Seh which comprises Pal Gwe and Oh Haeng (not to be confused with the Song of Ship Sam Seh).
  • Chil Sung
  • Yuk Ro (pronounced Yoong-no)

Each of these is an important tool, or asset needed to be connected to the history, culture, and philosophy of Soo Bahk Do. They are much more than mere lists or terms to memorize, but have great significance and application in your moo do training in and out of the dojang. If you cannot apply these principles in both your training and personal life, you cannot connect to the art. As the Song of Ship Sam Seh states: “Failing to follow [these principles] attentively, you will sigh away your time.”

Do Jang & Do Bok

Do Jang
Calligraphy for Do Jang. Figure 2.

The Do-jang is the place where we train Soo Bahk Do. Not so long ago, nature was the dojang since there were no formal dojangs with beautiful, painted walls; soft mats or polished wood floors; modern kicking bags and plush targets; or air conditioning and heating. The dojang was outside with whatever conditions Nature was willing to give you.

Even then, there was still a sense of do-jang, called do ryang, which is a Buddhist term. In Buddhism, outside of the main temple structure, there was a do ryang, or place of awakening. Traditionally, the monks would clean the dirt around the do ryang before they became monks. This was a way for them to clean their ma’ulm and connect with the Buddha.

The term do-jang comes after World War II where formal structures were erected called do-jang. “Jang” janghas two parts. The first is “place” place and the second is “change” change. Do-jang is the place to change your “do” or your “ma’ulm”. See figure 2 for the calligraphy. It is the place to cultivate your soul and improve self well-being through sincere effort in Weh-Kong, Nae-Kong, and Shim-Kong training. It is not just a place to memorize your forms or learn new martial techniques. Both of these are additional tools used to improve the self.

Calligraphy for Do Bok. Figure 3.

In the do-jang, we need to wear do-bok. Do-bok means wearing your soul (ma’ulm). When we wear our do-bok in the do-jang, we are reminded that we are here to try and change and improve our ma’ulm and that my ma’ulm is visible to others through my actions. The way you put on your do-bok or the way you care for your do-bok will say much about your ma’ulm.


Moo Do Jaseh

The physical expression of Soo Bahk Do is moo do jaseh. We know that moo do is a language (spiritual or physical language). Jaseh is a posture. We need a good posture of both physical and spiritual. Ja means manner and beauty. Seh means aspect or strength.
mannerManner (Ja) means:

  1. A way of doing something or the way in which something is done or happens.
  2. A way of acting, bearing, or behavior.
  3. Socially correct way of acting.

aspectAspect (Seh) means:

  1. A way that something can be viewed by the mind.
  2. Appearance to the eye.


Moo Do Jaseh
Calligraphy for Moo Do Jaseh. Figure 4.

Moo Do Jaseh is a physical manifestation of your ma’ulm. Therefore, the way you perform the moo do jaseh will determine how close you are to the art of Soo Bahk Do. The way you present a Chun Gul Jaseh, for example, is a manifestation of your ma’ulm. Likewise, the way you wear your do bok will say a lot about who you are as a person. A dirty, wrinkled do bok will tell a different story than a clean, crisp one. Moo Do Jaseh is everything in our training including the way you tie your belt and the way you communicate with your juniors, seniors, and the general public. Moo Do Jaseh is manifested through your walk, your tone of voice, your words, and your actions.

From a spiritual perspective, all ethical behavior is proper moo do jaseh and can be summarized by the term Duk Haeng—Virtuous Action. Moo Do Jaseh should be made manifest in our every action. If this is the case, then every action will reflect our philosophy. As we practice and become accustomed to acting with proper Moo Do Jaseh, everything we do becomes ceremonious, not as a result of vain repetition, but as a result of sincere, consistent, and natural effort. Actions become ceremony as we tie our belt, ironing our do bok, clean the dojang, and help each other. When all of these things become ceremonial, you become more than a martial artist. You become an artisan of Soo Bahk Do. The art defines you and you contribute to the definition of the art. When you become an artisan, everything you do becomes a serenading stage, full of beauty. This is true mastery.

Soo Bahk Do and Moo Duk Kwan

Soo Bahk Do is more than just an activity to learn to get in shape and practice self defense techniques. It is a set of Korean principles that are available to help better ourselves and those around us. True moo do comes from seeking to learn and to apply these principles and then sharing these ideologies amongst each other as those before us have done in order to preserve this legacy of learning. The Moo Duk Kwan is an organization founded by the late founder, Grandmaster Hwang Kee to do just that. It facilitates the movement of ideas and principles and allows us to connect with people of similar passion. Our Moo Duk Kwan pride should come from our proper application of Moo Do Jaseh in our members, which will make a positive change in the societies in which they live.

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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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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