Role of Ship Sam Seh in the Art

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.

Historical Context

Ship_Sam_SehThroughout 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:

To pant, to puff, to hail, to sip, to spit out the old breath and draw in the new, practicing bear-hangings and bird-stretchings, longevity his only concern–such is the life favored by the scholar who practices daoyin, the man who nourishes his body, who hopes to live to be as old as Pengzu, for more than eight hundred years.1” 

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.

Pal Gwe

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.

Translation Korean Hanja Gwe Meaning Energy
Ward off Pong Ward off by disrupting center of gravity. Heaven
Roll Back Ri circular, yielding motion Earth
Press Jeh Press or squeeze offensively. Fire
Push Ahn 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.

Korean Hanja Gwe Meaning Energy
Pull Down Chae Grabbing energy, usually followed by a pull. Wind
Split Yul Splits from striking energy Thunder
Elbow Ju Elbow Striking Lake
Shoulder Ko Striking with the full body Mountain

Oh Haeng 

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.

Element Energy Season Color Virtue Emotion Organ
Water Soo Ki Winter Black Respect Fear Kidneys
Wood Mok Ki Sprint Green Kindness Anger Liver
Fire Hwa ki Summer Red Trust Envy Heart
Metal Kum Ki Fall White Honesty Sadness Lungs
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:

FiveElementsCycleBalanceImbalance_02_plain.svgRespect > Kindness > Trust > Openness > Honesty > Respect Fear > Anger > Envy > Worry > Sadness > Fear 

The destructive cycle is equally as intuitive:  Water smothers a fireFire melts metalMetal chops wood. Wood breaks up the earthEarth 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.

Element External Internal Meaning
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.
Earth Jung– Centered Bujuhang Following

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.

Works Cited
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.

Background of Chil Sung Hyung

peet-cha-gi-brian.pngThe 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:

Sound Element/Energy Organ
Shuuuu Wood Liver
Haaaa Fire Heart
Whooo Earth Spleen
Tsssss Metal Lungs
Fuuu Water Kidney
Heeeee Neutral Triple Warmer

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.


Hwang, 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

Dham Doi Ship E Ro (Tan Tui)

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.

Video Training

Below are what I consider the best YouTube versions of Tan Tui out there. The first video is the solo practice whereas the second is the two-person version. The last video is me performing my personal version of the first 5 roads based on my Moo Duk Kwan background.


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

Changing Tendons Exercise (Yuk Keun Kyung)

The Yuk Keun Kyung (Yi Jin Jing yijinjing-kanji1.gif  in Chinese) are a set of ancient Chinese exercises, supposedly created by Pan Wei during the Qing Dynasty.  They are similar in purpose and style to the Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm (Ba Duan Jin) exercises familiar to Soo Bahk Do and Tai Chi practitioners worldwide.  Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee trained in the Chinese arts while he worked on the railroad.  It is safe to assume that it was during this period that he came across the Yuk Keun Kyung.  He found these techniques to be extremely important and copied the manuscripts in his Volume I textbook on Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do).  Anyone who is affiliated with the Moo Duk Kwan or has been influenced by the Moo Duk Kwan should, in my opinion, have an interest in these forgotten exercises.  Interestingly, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Korean practitioner who has an understanding of them.

From what I understand, the Yuk Keun Kyung are a set of 12 exercises that resemble many of our modern stretching techniques and are based on Chinese accupuncture points and the 12 meridian system.  I’ll be updating this blog post as I continue my research and hope that others will add to it as well.  Below is a diagram of some of the techniques.  There is also a youtube clip that is helpful.

Yi Jin Jing