History & Characteristics of Po Wol

            Yuk Ro Sam Dan, most commonly referred to as Po Wol, is the third hyung in the Yuk Ro (pronounced Yoong-no) series created by Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee.  These forms were inspired by Kwan Jang Nim’s study of the ancient Korean martial arts text Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (武藝圖譜通志), written by Park Je Ga and Lee Duk Mu during the reign of King Jong Jo 300 years ago. 

            To understand the characteristics of Po Wol, and the Yuk Ro Hyungs in general, it is important to understand the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (MYDBTJ) and the personal martial arts history of the form’s creator, Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee.  We begin with an examination of the writings in the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji:

There is what is known as Yun Soo in the training methods, consisting of thirty five training methods and eighteen types of footwork. They were classified into six paths (Yuk Ro) and Ten level exercises (Ship Dan Khum). The six paths include: Woo Shin Tong Bu Choi Wee Go, Doo Mun Shim Shwe Jun Yung Ho, Seo nin Ip Ki Jo chunse, San chul Pyowol Bulsangyo, Yang pyun Joawoo Innankup, and Sal chu chingro Yang shiyo”

            The Yuk Ro (six paths) are what inspired the Yuk Ro Hyung series.  The fourth path, San Chul Pyowol Bulsangyo (撒出抱月相饒), can be translated as “remove, exit and embrace the moon, we mutually keep each other at bay.”  This is the path that influenced the creation of Po Wol Hyung.  Po Wol (抱月) signifies embrace the moon.

            Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee was an extremely creative and brilliant man, who had a firm understanding of the martial arts and of Ship Sam Seh philosophy that helped in the formation of the Yuk Ro Hyung.  After translating the MYDBTJ, he used his knowledge of the martial arts to create a set of forms that could preserve what was left of the Yuk Ro.  He used what information was available about the Yuk Ro and incorporated it in the forms.  To piece it all together, he used the knowledge he had gained from other sources, including Dham Doi Ship E Ro, whose influence can be seen in the Yuk Ro series, including Po Wol.  An example would be the Jang Kap Kwon and Jang Kwon Do techniques. 

            The signature technique of Po Wol is po wol seh, or embrace the moon method.  This technique was most likely derived from the MYDBTJ and is the central piece of the hyung.  Within this one movement, the energy and spirit of Po Wol Hyung is defined.

The energy, spirit, and intent of this form should be a sense of receiving and embracing energy with a relaxed, fixed center.  Just as the moon is representative of um, so too Po Wol Hyung should represent a softer side of training. 

Within Po Wol Hyung, the Ship Sam Seh philosophy is very apparent.  Earlier, there was mention of how wol, or moon, is symbolic of um energy.  The earth also symbolizes an um energy, which is a component of the O Heng (5 elements).  The O Heng is broken down into two sections:  External Steps and Internal Strategies.  The step for earth is jung ()  which means to stay centered.  We can apply this principle by applying a solid stance and working on being still.  The internal strategy for earth is  Boo Joo Hang (不丟頂), which translates to non-opposing force.  By not opposing the force of an opponent, control can be obtained.  Boo Joo Hang and Jung make up the central characteristic of po wol seh.  In performing the technique, we receive an attack by maintaining a centered stance and embracing the energy without opposition. 

            By concentrating on po wol seh, the feeling of jung and boo joo hang is carried throughout the form with relaxed, embracing energy.  This is the way to reach a greater understanding of some of the Ship Sam Seh principles Kwan Jang Nim embraced. 

Kong Sang Koon

            Kong Sang Koon Hyung is one of the most well-known and favorite hyungs in the martial arts community.  It is practiced among Korean, Japanese, and Okinawan martial arts.  Here we will examine the history of the hyung from its creation to its inception into the Moo Duk Kwan curriculum.  We will also consider the hyung’s meaning and characteristics.


            Kong Sang Koon was named after a Chinese military man, who was also an expert in So Rim Kwon Bup (Shaolin Chuan Fa).  Kong Sang Koon, also known as Kushanku or Kwang Shang Fu, was sent on an envoy to Okinawa in 1756 during the Ming Dynasty.  He settled there for about six years near the current city of Naha.

            During his stay in Okinawa, Kong Sang Koon chose a disciple named “Tode” Sakugawa (佐久川寛賀 – 1733-1815).  Sakugawa was also a martial art student of Takahara Peichin.  After studying with Kong Sang Koon for six years, Sakugawa compiled what he had been taught into a hyung, naming it after his master, Kong Sang Koon.  Though the major influence of the hyung is based on the teachings of Kong Sang Koon, it is likely that there are also elements of the teachings of Takahara Peichin as well. 

            Sakugawa’s martial posterity runs through Mr. Idos (Master Yasutsune “Ankoh” Itosu), who is credited with creating the Pyong Ahn forms.  The Pyong Ahn forms, especially Pyong Ahn Sa Dan, was influenced by Kong Sang Koon Hyung.  Many sequences are found in both Kong Sang Koon Hyung and Pyong Ahn Sa Dan. 

            Kong Sang Koon Hyung was adopted into the Moo Duk Kwan curriculum in its early years when Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee decided to integrate Tang Soo Do (Okinawan Karate) into his Hwa Soo Do system (History of Moo Duk Kwan 26).  Kwan Jang Nim came into contact with Okinawan Karate through books he found at the library and later by meeting other kwan founders such as the founder of the Chung Do Kwan, Lee Won Kuk. 

Meaning and Characteristics

            As a part of the Moo Duk Kwan curriculum, Kong Sang Koon Hyung evolved according to the laws of Ryu Pa into a hyung that is unique to Soo Bahk Do practitioners.  It is important for Soo Bahk Do practitioners to understand the history behind Kong Sang Koon in order to have a better understanding of its characteristics.

For example, the meaning of the term “Kong Sang Koon” could be “to view the sky.”  This would explain the beginning movements of the hyung and why Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee decided to correlate Kong Sang Koon Hyung with the eagle.  The eagle is not only in the sky, but has excellent vision.  By “viewing the sky” and examining the eagle, one can get a better understanding of the characteristics and energy of Kong Sang Koon Hyung. 

It has been said that Kong Sang Koon Hyung was designed to be done at night, in a large field, and with multiple attackers.  It uses many spontaneous and deceptive techniques to gain a dominant position against a mob.  It consists of 67 movements varying from techniques on the ground, in the air, and everywhere in between.  Much like the eagle, the form requires agility to be able to move and attack from earth to sky. 

Since its creator was well trained in Kwan Bup, Kong Sang Koon Hyung is influenced by the Ha Nam area of China and is a Weh Ga Ryu hyung.  The form should be performed with quick, alert, and spontaneous movements.  There should also be a presence of power and majesty when performing the hyung, while maintaining grace and beauty. 

Perhaps the best way to characterize Kong Sang Koon Hyung is with its opening move.  Both hands lift up towards the sky in an upward arc, eyes gazing up to the night sky.  The hands form a symbolic “moon-shape” between the sky and earth.  Then swiftly, the hands separate in a quick, spontaneous movement.  The hands then slowly trace a perfect circle down to your dan jun.  Now the true spirit of Kong Sang Koon Hyung can be demonstrated.  

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.