Visit from Oliver Whitcomb, Sa Bom Nim

In November, I received a visit from my personal instructor, Oliver Whitcomb Sa Bom Nim.  He is a Yuk Dan (6th dan) and lives in Hailey, Idaho.  It was a special occasion for me in many ways.  This was the first opportunity for the majority of my students to meet my instructor, who I consider to be one of the art’s finest technicians.  He was also in the area to present me with my newest promotion, Sa Dan (or 4th dan).

Group PhotoAll of my students, for the first time, were together in one class.  We were over 30 strong (though we have give or take 40 students to date) and completely filled the gym.  It was quite a sight to watch, especially since our school has been open for only a year.  All age groups and ranks were present, from my most senior green belts, to a few Tiger Tots who just started training.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to connect as a school and as an art.

At the conclusion of the event, I was presented with my 4th dan, which I tested for back in August in San Diego, California.  The test lasted 8 days and was definitely one of the highlights in my martial arts career.  It was an honor to receive my master’s belt from my instructor, who years ago awarded me with his very own dan belt he wore when he was a teenager.

It was quite an honor to have all of my fellow Moo Duk Kwan associates with me, both my instructor and my students.  It’s quite awe-inspiring when you have various generations of Soo Bahk Do practitioners in the room.  I’m sure my instructor was also honored to see his legacy continue through my students.  I can’t wait for the dan shim sa in May where we will have my instructor’s instructor–Jeff Moonitz–who is a Charter Member, Hu Kyun In, and 7th dan in Salt Lake.  At that moment, we will have 4 generations of Soo Bahk Do practitioners training side by side.

Training Session with Whitcomb Sa Bom Nim  Master Belt Presentation 1 Master Belt Presentation 2  masters.jpg

Congratulations Students of Wasatch Martial Arts Academy!

On August 16, 2008, the following students participated in the Soo Bahk Do National Championships: Grace Greis, Mia Brickey, Elle Sweetland, Stephanie Nolan, Daphne Mitchie, Olyvia Mugweh, Davis Kahler, and Alex Kahler. I ended up placing first in hyung and 3rd in sparring. Their dedication to Soo Bahk Do does not go unnoticed and they have represented our school and the art with dignity and respect. From the competition, Mia Brickey placed 3rd in sparring, Stephanie Nolan placed 2nd in hyung, and Olyvia Mugweh placed 2nd in hyung. Grace, Elle, Daphne, Davis, and Alex received participation medals for their superb performance in hyung.

In fact, their conduct was so excellent, that a member of the Technical Advisory Committee, Jang Sa Bom Nim, awarded their group with a first place trophy for being the most well-mannered, good kids at the competition.

I believe they had a wonderful time competing and taking seminars during the Moment with the Masters and will come back to training with a better understanding of the art and refined confidence in their own abilities.

A special thanks goes out to the parents who made the sacrifice to allow their children to go to San Diego and take part in this historic event. Without their support, Soo Bahk Do would not be able to exist in Utah.

Gibbons Sa Bom Nim with our students Olyvia placed 2nd in forms Stephanie placed 2nd in formsMia placed 3rd in sparring. kyosaform.jpg kyosasparring.jpg

Note: Previously, I recorded that the Region 8 Hyung Team did not place. On the contrary, the Region 8 Hyung Team did a superb job! They placed 2nd. The Region 8 Sparring Team (of which I was a part), did not place. I apologize for the misinformation.

Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa Reflection — Standardization & Connection

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This weekend I returned home from my 8 day “Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa” in Ramona, California. It was an experience I will never forget. I’m sure many posts will be dedicated towards the event. Here I’d like to give a general overview of my impression of the event.

The shim sa had the theme “Standardization, Connection, and Strengthening the Philosophy through Action.” This was the goal of the entire week. I do not know of any other martial arts organization that maintains the same standardization that we do. We are truly connected worldwide with professional, standardized material. The same philosophy, terminology, and phyiscal technique is used in every dojang (studio). Much of the week was devoted towards standardizing our ki sool (techniques), hyung ( forms), il soo sik (one step sparring), and ho sin sul (self defense techniques).

The Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa began in San Diego, California as a part of the Moment with the Masters Seminars. There we took part in seminars of our own choice, along with a few seminars directed towards the Sa Dan and Sa Bom Candidate Groups. Next, we participated in the National Championships where I participated in Hyung, Sparring, and Team Sparring (I was a Region 8 representative). I was happy to share this experience with many of my students who participated. Later, I will relate a detailed post on the occasion.

Following the Championships, we went to Ramona and stayed at a quiet mountain lodge for the remaining of the Ko Dan Ja experience. On Sunday, I taught a class with Greg Booker, Kyo Sa Nim, fulfilling a requirement for my sa bom examination. The theme was “ki-seh” with an emphasis on practical application of kyo cha rip jaseh. The class was well received and many encouraging comments were made after class and during the evaluation that evening.

Immediately following my class, Griggs Sa Bom Nim, my TAC proctor, elaborated on my concept. I was teaching a defense against a front kick by stepping back into a cross-legged stance and performing a low block. From there, you counter with a roundhouse kick with the front leg. The proper preparation and execution of the roundhouse from this position is particularly difficult. Apparently, my kick was too linear. From this position your partner’s solar plexus is positioned to the side. Therefore, the roundhouse should come around, in a circular fashion, parallel to the ground. Instead of preparing your knee into your chest, you should focus your heel towards your buttocks.

The following days were pure training from early morning moo pahl dan kuhm till late at night trainings and evaluations. I enjoyed every session, being taught by some of the world’s best! The highlights of course was receiving instruction and counsel from Kwan Jang Nim Hwang himself. Each day we received new insights in all of our standardized material, history, and philosophy.

Many friendships were created among the candidates. We had plenty of time to get to know each other through training. The last part of Ko Dan Ja was principally dedicated towards unity and harmony within the group. Griggs Sa Bom Nim taught a class at midnight on unity. He said the 7 steps towards group harmony was

  1. Huri
  2. Ho Hoop
  3. Shi Sun
  4. Shin Chook
  5. Completion
  6. Effort
  7. Success

We worked on one hyung, Yang Pyun, until close to 1:30 attempting to complete the hyung without any mistakes and with group harmony. By midnight, we were all extremely fatigued and our brains were mush. The exercise required every ounce of shim gong we had. It is an experience I will never forget. Thank you Griggs Sa Bom Nim!

We trained hard and before you knew it, the last day approached and we were demonstrating our hyung in front of Kwan Jang Nim and the senior Soo Bahk Do officials. I enjoyed the presentation and felt good about the experience. I’ve learned many things about myself and I have a deeper appreciation for the art. My hope is to be able to pass on my appreciation for the art to my students so they too may receive the rich benefits I have received.


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!