The ancients understood that the body was primarily liquids: water and blood. Water becomes active when heated, such as boiling water inside of a pot by placing the pot over a fire. The ancients considered your breath hot, akin to fire. On a cold winter’s day, it’s normal to breath on your hands to warm them up. A deep exhale produces steam against the cold air.
During Neh Gong Bup, activating the breath (heat) stimulates the blood, generating Ki, which can be translated as life energy. As the blood is “warmed” through the breath, it moves more easily through the body, providing life to our cells. This process can be described by the character for “Ki” (Chi or Qi in Chinese) on the right.
Breath is an essential element in Moo Duk Kwan training. Our sincere effort in training can be categorized in three distinct areas: Shim Gong or mental effort, Neh Gong or internal effort, and Weh Gong external effort.
The three work together as follows:
Shim Gong is our sincere mental effort in training. The process must start with the right intention to arrive at the right result. This intention is called Uido. If the intent is always focused on the dan jun, we can maintain proper choong shim, or a centered mind.
Neh Gong is our sincere internal effort in training and focuses on breath. The breath comes from the dan jun. As you inhale, the dan jun expands like a bellows, in all directions, not only the front of the body. Direct your mind to the dan jun and imagine your lower spine expanding when you inhale and your dan jun contracting while you exhale. Referring to the character above, breathing heats the dan jun, which cooks the rice, which provides energy to the body. Some techniques require “reverse breathing” where the dan jun contracts on inhale and expands on exhale.
Weh Gong is our sincere physical effort in training and focuses around the huri. The huri, or the waist, houses the dan jun and is the focus of our mind intention. Connecting to the earth with a strong jaseh and then shifting and twisting the huri, creates the proper line, speed, and beauty (sun sok mi) of our technique.
Beginning with the right mind intention and focusing on the dan jun creates the proper breathing. The proper breathing provides the energy (ki) to move the body via the huri. Connecting all three results in the right action.
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.
Throughout 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.
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.
Ward off by disrupting center of gravity.
circular, yielding motion
Press or squeeze offensively.
Push with the palms.
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.
Grabbing energy, usually followed by a pull.
Splits from striking energy
Striking with the full body
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.
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:
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.
Listen Hands—Listen with your whole body.
Connect with your opponent. Literally means “Chariots in a row”. Control your opponent.
Adhere, stick to your opponents (sticky hands).
Follow and lead as you adhere. Take control.
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.
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
*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.
The 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 Gan 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 Gan, or Middle Way. 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 Gan 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. 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.
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 Gan 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:
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
Ryu Pa is a Korean term that means “a river flowing down divided”. This is the term used for the word “style”. Ryu Pa denotes the natural progression and change of a craft or art throughout history. It is akin to the natural evolution of life as the world in which we live changes. The martial arts (moo yei) is no different. The Moo Duk Kwan style was created by the late Hwang Kee in 1945. Anyone associated with martial arts styles such as Tae Kwan Do, Tang Soo Do, Hwa Soo Do, Soo Bahk Do and other Korean Karate styles likely share Hwang Kee’s Moo Duk Kwan as the foundational Ryu Pa (Style).
For any Korean martial art practitioner that can trace his/her roots to the Moo Duk Kwan, it is important to understand the history, traditions, and philosophy of Hwang Kee Chang Shi Ja (Founder) and how it applied to his martial arts training and style. Only then will your eyes begin to open to who you are as a practitioner. This is similar to mankind’s curiosity towards his personal ancestors. We seek after those who have gone before us as they are a part of our unique identity.
The scope of this article is to highlight Hwang Kee Chang Shi Ja’s personal training history as well as the training history of his direct line. To begin, Hwang Kee’s training can be divided into 4 specific areas: Tae Kyun, Master Yang Kuk Jin, Okinawan Karate, and Soo Bahk.
When Hwang Kee was only 7, he witnessed a fight with a Tae Kyun master defend himself against a large group of men. Hwang Kee was so impressed that he followed the man home and eventually asked to learn. Hwang Kee was refused because he was too young. Determined, Hwang Kee woud watch from a distance as the master would teach Tae Kyun. Though he never received formal training in Tae Kyun, some considered him a master in his own right by the age of 22.
Master Yang Kuk Jin
Later, Hwang Kee went to Manchuria to work on the railroad. There he was able to train with Yang Kuk Jin, a master of the Chinese martial arts. Here Hwang Kee received his only formal training which included Seh Bop (Postures), Bo Bop (steps) and Ryun Bop (Conditioning). He also trained in Dham Toi Sip E Ro (12 Step Tan Tui) and Tae Kuk Kwon (Tai Chi). This is all that is written in the history books, however, after further study of the Chinese Arts, it’s safe to assume that the Seh Bop and Bo Bop was Ship Sam Seh training that comprises 8 postures and 5 Steps. See my article on the Ship Sam Seh. Ryun Bop was most likely conditioning of the hands and feet as well as Ki Gong (Internal Energy Exercises) such as Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm (Ba Duan Jin or 8 Section Brocade) and Yuk Keun Kyung (Yi Jin Jing or Changing Tendon Exercises). You will find that the Chil Sung and Yuk Ro Hyung were greatly influenced by Dham Toi Sip E Ro and Tae Kuk Kwon. Future articles will be written on this topic.
When Hwang Kee returned to Korea, he read books on Okinawan Karate. The exact titles are unknown.
After World War II, Hwang Kee opened a school teaching a new system that he created called Hwa Soo Do. This style was heavily influenced by his training in Manchuria. However, because of the Japanese Occupation of Korea, his art was not very well received. One day, he spoke with the founders of Ji Do Kwan and Chung Do Kwan. Chung Do Kwan was teaching Tang Soo Do, which had roots in Shotokan. Ji Do Kwan was teaching Kong Soo Do, which had roots in Judo. Both of these styles had many more students than the Moo Duk Kwan. After meeting these two founders, Hwang Kee decided he needed to integrate the art of “Tang Soo Do” into the Hwa Soo Do discipline. At the time, Tang Soo Do was the only term for a “Karate-type” discipline that the public would recognize and accept because of their Japanese doctrinization during the past 50 years. From the knowledge he had acquired from studying Japanese books, he began teaching Tang Soo Do while applying the Hwa Soo Do discipline of techniques. This included a unique use of offensive and defensive hip movements in all hand techniques. Kicks also had a unique way of extending the hips on all thrust kicks. These along with other characteristics distinguished the Moo Duk Kwan system from others teaching “Tang Soo Do”.
In 1957, Hwang Kee discovered the Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji, the oldest Korean martial arts text known today. Kwon Bup means “fist method”. The Kwon Bup section describes the Kwon Bup fighting style and talks of an older style called “Soo Bahk Ki” or Soo Bahk Hee” which means hand striking techniques or dance. He recognized the importance of “Soo Bahk” as a Korean traditional martial art and studied the book in depth. The Moo Duk Kwan began another transformation as Hwang Kee implemented the Soo Bahk system into the Moo Duk Kwan. This implementation has continued until the present day where the Moo Duk Kwan now practices forms taken from and based upon the teachings from the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji. In the 1990’s, the Moo Duk Kwan in the United States formally changed its name from the United States Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation to the United States Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation. The change of the name outwardly demonstrates the Moo Duk Kwan’s change of focus from the Tang Soo Do curriculum that had a strong base in the Okinawan Karate forms to the unique Soo Bahk Do forms created by Hwang Kee such as Chil Sung, Yuk Ro, and Hwa Sun.
Ryu Pa Today
The Moo Duk Kwan today teaches the combined knowledge that Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja left to his son and successor, Hwang Hyun Chul Kwan Jang Nim. The system is largely influenced by his teacher in China and his findings in the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji along with his unique contribution on the execution of basic techniques (unique use of hip). The “Tang Soo Do” forms are also taught, but less emphasis is placed on them today.
Below is a description of our school’s Rya Pa, which is also the lineage of all of the Moo Duk Kwan practitioners within the United States Region 8 (geographic area of the Moo Duk Kwan comprising Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico). Jeff Moonitz, Hu Kyun In is currently the head of our Region and all of the certified studio owners and instructors come under his leadership. Let us take a moment to understand some of the unique contributions of each of these Moo Do Pioneers that have helped mold our Ryu Pa into what it is today.
Oh, Sae Jung
Not much is known about Oh, Sae Jung. He trained in Seoul at the Y.M.C.A. and trained beside C.I Kim. He would be 87 if he were alive today. More research needs to be done to learn more.
Shin, Jae Chul
Shin, Jae Chul was a direct student of both Oh, Sae Jung and Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja. After achieving Cho Dan, he began teaching at Osan Air Base in South Korea. There he taught Koreans and Americans a like. It was there that he began teaching Chuck Norris, likely the most well-known Moo Duk Kwan practitioner of all time. Later, Chuck Norris would sponsor Master Shin, Jae Chul to the United States, becoming one of the first Korean Moo Duk Kwan instructors to come to the United States. Master Shin, Jae Chul would be instrumental in helping to establish the US Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation in Springfield, New Jersey. In 1982, he left the Federation and the Moo Duk Kwan for personal reasons and created the World Tang Soo Do Association.
Carlos “Chuck” Norris
Master Carlos Norris trained at Osan Air Base in Korea. In his early days, Master Norris was a very successful tournament fighter and held on to the Professional Middleweight Karate champion title for six years. Later on he would rise to fame as a martial arts actor for a variety of action films.
For many of his direct descendants, we remember Master Norris for creating a variation of the Ki Cho forms called Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu Sang Gup and Ki Cho Hyung E Bu Sang Gup. These two forms add variety to our training and we hold it as a unique tradition within Region 8. Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu Sang Gup is performed by executing a front thrust kick prior to each punch in Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu, working on proper posture and balance. Ki Cho Hyung E Bu Sang Gup is the same as Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu Sang Gup except for the run down the center performs the following combination: low block, reverse center punch; high block, reverse center punch; inside/outside block, reverse center punch; outside/inside block, reverse punch.
Victor Martinov, Sa Bom
Martinov, Sa Bom Nim is one of a handful Gu Dans (9th degree black belt) in the world. He was promoted by Hwang, Hyun Chul Kwan Jang Nim–the son of Founder Hwang Kee. Martinov, Sa Bom Nim is a charter member who helped bring Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja to the United States and helped created the United States Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation, later named the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation. Martinov, Sa Bom Nim spent decades as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee and is now a member of the Senior Advisory Committee and acts as a personal advisor to Hwang, Hyun Chul Kwan Jang Nim. His contributions and reach spans the entire United States and is considered the Grandfather of Region 8. Many of the lessons learned include: Unbendable Arm Technique, Aikido-style footwork such as step and a half pivot, Effective Knife Defenses, and a sense of natural heaviness in your technique. The list will go on and on.
Martinov, Sa Bom Nim was a direct student of Master Norris until Master Norris decided to leave the Moo Duk Kwan. He took Moonitz Sa Bom Nim as a student and came in direct contact with Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja.
Jeff Moonitz, Sa Bom
Moonitz, Sa Bom Nim is currently a Pal Dan (8th degree black belt) and was promoted this honorary rank by Hwang, Hyun Chul Kwan Jang Nim. Like Martinov, Sa Bom Nim, he was an original charter member, who helped found the US Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation. He currently sits as a Hu Kyun In, or Guardian of the Art and is an advisor to the current Technical Advisory Committee. Moonitz, Sa Bom Nim was on the sparring team under Master Norris and was a very successful competitor. After Master Norris left the Moo Duk Kwan, Moonitz, Sa Bom Nim began training under the direction of Martinov, Sa Bom Nim while running his own successful school as a red belt.
Moonitz, Sa Bom Nim is well known for creating within our Region the Tae Kuk breathing exercises. Being a successful tournament fighter, Moonitz, Sa Bom Nim has also taught his students his signature, high speed round kick and reverse punch.
Oliver Whitcomb, Sa Bom
Oliver Whitcomb, Sa Bom Nim is my personal instructor from Hailey, Idaho. Where I am today is because of him and his mentorship over the years. He is currently a Yuk Dan (6th Dan) and is the Regional Examiner for Region 8. Whitcomb, Sa Bom Nim is known for his strong moo do and unique conditioning techniques. He received a BA from the University of Washington in East Asian Studies and speaks Korean.
The Future of Ryu Pa
Luckily, the art continues to evolve in a natural direction. A special thanks to all of the individuals listed for their sacrifices and contributions to the art of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. Many of them have dedicated their life to this art and have greatly influenced the natural progression of Ryu Pa through their leadership. As the rising Gups, Dans and Ko Dan Ja continue on their moo do path, may we remember to train hard, maintain perspective of our unique history, and dedicate ourselves to the preservation and natural development of Ryu Pa into the future.
If you have a personal memory, story, or lesson learned related to anyone listed in this article, please post a comment.
This fall, during the 126th Dan Classing Championships, we created history as the Youth Ambassador Program was unveiled to each of the 10 Regions that represent the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation. This program was a result of Kwan Jang Nim Hwang’s wishes that regional and national seminars would begin to have a new track for kids, teenagers, and young adults that would suit their unique needs, interests, and abilities. The Regional Examiners from each of the 10 Regions appointed one Youth Ambassador representative and one of those representatives would become the US Youth Ambassador and represent the USA at an international level. That person is currently Katie Worley, Jo Kyo.
The Youth Ambassador’s mission is to create fun, dynamic training opportunities for kids, teenagers, and young adults while still aligning the trainings with the same theme and purpose as the TAC seminars for that year. This year’s topic being Moo Do Jaseh and a fusion of Chun Jin and Hu Jin motions in the form of Sam Soo Sik Dae Ryun, the Youth Ambassadors decided to give a seminar with a similar focus.
The following are some major takeaways from the seminar that will be useful for instructors and students alike to add additional repetitions to the exercises taught.
Bodhidharma was an Indian Buddhist Monk born into either the Brahman or Warrior class. This high status gave him a good education and a privileged life. After seeing the suffering of those under him, he gave up his status and birthright and became a hermit, hiking over the Himalayan Mountains into China. He eventually encountered a monastery of feeble monks who could neither provide for their physical needs nor protect themselves from bandits. He tried to teach the monks to protect themselves and improve their physical strength and health. Unfortunately, his guidance was not wanted and he was sent away.
Bodhidharma spent the next 9 years in a mountain cave meditating. Showing perfect stillness and discipline, he meditated on how to best help the monks. Legend says that once he lost his discipline and fell asleep during his wall gazing. He was so upset by his lack of discipline and awareness, he ripped his eyelids off so he could never fall asleep again. As he continued to meditate, his eyelashes became seeds of the tea plant, which today helps monks stay awake during very difficult meditation practices.
Bodhidharma eventually left the mountain and returned to the monastery. It is said that what he taught the monks was the beginnings of the Shaolin style (So Rim). He is considered not only the founder of Shaolin Kung Fu (So Rim Jang Kwon), but also of Chan (Zen) Buddhism.
There are many oral and written legends about Bodhidharma. There is substantial evidence that Bodhidharma did exist, however, various conflicting stories make it hard to decipher truth from legend. What we can extract from this is that what we consider to be traditional East Asian martial arts began with a strong foundation of moo do jaseh. This story is the very embodiment of moo do: discipline, stillness, and awareness that will lead to self-mastery.
The following two exercises will challenge the practitioner in discipline, stillness, and awareness. This was the heart of the routines taught in the Youth Ambassador Seminar.
Two participants are tied to each other, one moving forward with Choong Dan Kong Kyuk and the other retreating with a Hu Gul Jaseh and a natural block (Pahkesu Ahnuro Mahkee). Neither side should pull on the rope or allow the rope to drag. Keep the rope tight at all times.
This next exercise comes from Chil Sung Sam Lo (pronounced Sam No) and Chil Sung Yuk Ro (pronounced Yoong No). The following videos will do a good job explaining how it works. In the first video, please pay attention how I break down the sweep. It is important to get the hand positions correct on each step of the sweeps. Use the strength of your legs as you transition from one sweep to the next. As you perform each sweep, don’t emphasize moving your leg, rather the twisting of your body using your waist (Hu Ri). Don’t forget your foundational Soo Bahk training! Remember, this is not an easy combination and is very physically demanding. Only extreme effort will result in success.
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 (Heavenand 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 Chun–In–Ji constitute an element with unique characteristics:
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.
I’ve copied a very old tape that explains the philosophy of hyung (forms) for Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) Moo Duk Kwan. Kwan Jang Nim H.C. Hwang demonstrates some advanced, traditional forms such as Wang Shu along with what appears to be self-designed sparring combinations. I hope you enjoy learning more about the history and philosophy of our art. Soo Bahk!
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!
Thanks to Master Daniel Segarra, former member of the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation and the current founder of his own art–Moo Sa Do Kwan–for posting these priceless videos of Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan. The first one is Kwan Jang Nim H.C. Hwang himself sparring. The second is an instructional video. Both were filmed in the 1960s, the Golden Age of the Moo Duk Kwan.