National Festival and Ko Dan Ja


On Thursday I leave for San Diego, California along with 8 of my more senior students. We all will be participating in this year’s Soo Bahk Do National Festival and Championships. My students will be participating in the Moment of the Masters seminars and then competing in forms and sparring. I am extremely proud of them for taking this opportunity to participate in the largest Soo Bahk Do event of the year and want to recognize the dedication of their parents who have made the sacrifice to allow their children to participate. The success of our school is not just dependent on the dedication of its students, but also the love and support of the students’ families.

While my students are participating in the National Festival, I’ll be beginning the infamous Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa, an 8 day test reserved for those working to attain the rank of 4th dan and up. I will also be testing to become a “Sa Bom” or master level instructor. There is a clear distinction between a 1st through 3rd dan (called Yu Dan Ja) and a 4th dan or above (called Ko Dan Ja). The prior is considered a dan member and wears a midnight blue belt. In Soo Bahk Do, midnight blue is the Korean equivalent of the Japanese black belt and is symbolized by the season autumn—a fruitful result of training. It symbolizes a new beginning and denotes a practitioner who has a firm foundation in the art of Soo Bahk Do. The midnight blue belt also symbolizes um, or passive energy.


After a minimum of 9 years as a Yu Dan Ja, you can apply to take the Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa. Ko Dan Ja members (4th dan and up) wear a midnight blue belt with a solid red stripe down the center. The red stripe is yang and the two colors combined symbolize completeness, harmony, and unity of the two cosmic forces—Um and Yang. This harmony should be seen in a Ko Dan Ja member’s demeanor, words, and actions. Ko Dan Ja members are also referred to as masters of the art.


For the past year, I have been preparing for this week. The process begins by receiving a letter of invitation to apply to test for Ko Dan Ja. If you have a desire to apply, then you will fill out some paperwork and then your instructor may choose to recommend you. Members of the Technical Advisory Committee, the Hu Kyun In (Guardians of the Art), and your Regional Examiners (currently Sa Bom Nims Jennifer Gibbons and Andy Tyzzer) also must recommend you. If you are recommended, then you will receive a formal invitation by mail along with a thick packet of study materials and further instructions. I wrote a total of 11 essays on various topics of history, philosophy, application of technique, and teaching methodologies.


Now begins the remaining portion of the test, which is 8 days of physical and mental training in the hills of California. I’ll be testing with 35 other 3rd dans and during those days we will learn from the top masters in the world, including Grandmaster H.C. Hwang—the son of the deceased founder Hwang Kee. A key purpose of these 8 days is to go over all of the standardized material and make sure that all of the Ko Dan Ja are in harmony with one another. This will maintain the integrity of our art and greatly help the quality of instruction at Wasatch Martial Arts Academy.


I am sincerely grateful for the support of my dear family, Helena and Eli, who have made tremendous sacrifices to allow me to pursue this art. I am also thankful for the support and dedication of my students and their families. I hope to represent all of you well during the Shim Sa and promise to bring back as much as I can and in due time, all of the information will be transmitted to you.


Soo Bahk!

Warrior Arts Camp in Idaho

A few weeks ago I went to Hailey, Idaho to train with my instructor, Oliver Whitcomb Sa Bom Nim, to prepare me for Ko Dan Ja. Ko Dan Ja is an 8 day test reserved for “senior dan members” in Soo Bahk Do. Completing and passing your first Ko Dan Ja examination qualifies you to receive your 4th dan. If you choose, you can also pursue your Sa Bom or master-level instructor certification. In a few weeks, I’ll be testing for both.

While I was in Hailey, I assisted in Sawtooth Martial Arts‘ second Warrior Arts Camp. 27 kids gathered for four hours every day for a full week. They learned warrior skills in Soo Bahk Do, archery, art, and the Korean staff called “Kan Bong”. The kids really enjoyed the camp. On the last day, they chose to either work on their archery or Kan Bong skills rather than have free time. This told us that the camp was a huge success.

I was in charge of teaching the kids the “Kan Bong”. They did very well and all of them learned at least a good majority of Bong Hyung Il Bu which is the first Bong form that I teach students. I am considering doing something similar in Utah next summer. If anyone has suggestions, I’d really enjoy a comment. I’m posting a few images of the camp.

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Regional Examiner and TAC Visit

Last Wednesday, January 23rd, we received a very special visit from Jennifer Gibbons, Sa Bom Nim (4th Dan) and Jeff Griggs, Sa Bom Nim (6th Dan). Master Gibbons is Region 8’s Regional Examiner and is in charge of all Dan level promotions and studio certifications. She was here representing the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation as she certified Wasatch Martial Arts Academy. Soon, we should be receiving our own certificate finalizing our school’s position within the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation, which is headed by none other than Grandmaster Hwang Kee’s son and successor, Grand Master H.C. Hwang.

This event was extremely important to our school and all of us. It is through this certification that we can stay connected with the roots of Soo Bahk Do and show respect to its founder, Hwang Kee.

During the event, Gibbons, Sa Bom Nim taught a wonderful class about Weh Gong, Neh Gong, and Shim Gong.

Weh Gong, translated as external training (power) is our physical technique, our bodily movement. We activate and control our weh gong through our Hu Ri (waist). Our Hu Ri ensures proper harmony and connection from our center to our weapon (hand or foot).

Neh Gong is translated to internal training (power) and is a softer, more internal method of training. It is the development of our internal organs and Ki, rather than our bones, skin, and muscles. Just as our Hu Ri activates and controls our weh gong, our breath controls our neh gong training.

Shim Gong, possibly the most overlooked aspect of our training, is translated as mental or spiritual training. We demonstrate shim gong through our concentration and intent. Our mindset determines whether or not we have good shim gong training. Our Shi Sun (eye focus) is the catalyst to good shim gong training by allowing our mind to connect to our action.

When combined, we achieve the desired result.

While my students were learning from Gibbons, Sa Bom Nim, I had the honor of training two hours with Griggs, Sa Bom Nim who is a member of the Weh Gong Bu branch of the Technical Advisory Committee. He is responsible for the standardization of technique and curriculum within the organization. It was a great benefit to me to go over some of my material with him, which included hyung, bong dae ryun, and advanced Ki Cho.

Below are a few photos of the event:

Bowing to Gibbons Sa Bom NimGriggs Sa Bom Nim teaches Chil Sung O LoGibbons Sa Bom Nim teaching the 4:00 class.