The history of Kuk Sool Won is as old as the history of Korea and can be traced as far back as to the prehistoric Korea,where primitive weapons made of wood and stone were used for hunting and fighting. As early as 2707 BC, the Korean warlord Chi-Woo also known as Jaoji, reigned as the “god of war” in what is now mainland China. Since the majority of Koreans migrated and settled in the Korean Peninsula, there have been more than a thousand recorded instances of foreign invasions.
Consequently, the Koreans have developed unique martial arts and military strategies in order to defend themselves. Most of these Korean martial arts fall into three branches; namely, tribal, Buddhist, and royal court martial arts. The development of each of the three branches of martial arts is briefly described below. Tribal martial arts ( SahDoh MuSool ) The earliest martial arts developed in Korea are called SahDoh
SahDoh MuSool was popular among the ancient Korean tribes, city-states and kingdoms formed in the Korean Peninsula and parts of what is now China. This was well before the first unified Korean kingdom of Ko-Cho Sun was founded in 2333 BC by the legendary king, DahnGoon WahngGuhm. SahDoh MuSool was mainly passed down from one generation to the next by family lines. Later, SahDoh MuSool has been further developed and made widespread by militias voluntarily formed by the common people who often fought in battles to defend their villages.
Popular traditional sports activities such as Taekkyon, and Ssireum are considered to have originated from SahDoh MuSool. Many techniques found in the popular Olympic sport of TaeKwonDo can also be traced back to SahDoh MuSool. Buddhist martial arts ( BoolKyo MuSool ) Since Buddhism was first introduced to the kingdom of Koguryo in the year 347, unique martial arts have been developed by both Buddhist monks and martial artists, known as BoolKyo MuSool.
Buddhist monks developed and practiced BoolKyo MuSool to improve their health while meditating and defend themselves while traveling. As a result, Buddhist martial arts include internal training with emphasis on special breathing and meditation methods, as well as external training with emphasis on effective self-defense techniques. Many Buddhist monks were so accomplished as martial artists that they were occasionally called upon during national emergencies to fight in battles by forming unprecedented armies of warrior monks.
To this day, BoolKyo MuSool plays a significantl role for Korean martial artists by providing them with philosophies of non-violence and compassion as well as spiritual codes of conduct such as the famous Five Commandments of the HwaRang warriors.
Royal court martial arts ( KoongJoong MuSool ) Kings, royal families and government offcials had private armies and bodyguards who practiced martial arts known as KoongJoong MuSool. These royal court martial arts gave rise to esoteric techniques of portable weapons such as fans and shortswords. Also developed were unique empty-handed techniques of joint-locking and pressure point striking.
Existing records in Japan suggest that many KoongJoong MuSool techniques found their way to Japan and gave birth to the Japanese art of Jujitsu. King JinHung of the Kingdom of Shilla encouraged the HwaRang warriors to practice KoongJoong MuSool and other martial arts. During the Koryo Dynasty and Chosun Dynasty,Korean kings enforced policies to discourage practice of martial arts and forbid possession of weapons, in order to protect themselves from any rebellion against them. However, Korean martial arts have continued to develop both within and without royal courts thanks to the efforts to practice, record and compile martial arts techniques by many dedicated Korean martial artists.
Traditional Korean martial arts ( Kuk Sool Won ) The three branches of traditional Korean martial arts of SahDoh MuSool, BoolKyo MuSool, and KoongJoong. MuSool are systemized as Kuk Sool Won in 1958 by Grandmaster In Hyuk Suh, the founder of Kuk Sool Won.
Kuk Sool Won consists of 270 categories and more than 3600 techniques from the three branches of traditional Korean martial arts. Kuk Sool Won has been actively promoted worldwide by the World Kuk Sool Won Association,and recognized in the martial arts community as one of the most effective and comprehensive systems of traditional Korean martial arts. For more information, please refer to the official Kuk Sool Won Textbook Volume 1.
Kuk Sool Won’s Modern History begins in 1910 with the dissolution of the Korean Royal Court and the Japanese occupation. Many leading martial arts instructors were forced into hiding. Among them was Myung Duk Suh,In Hyuk Su’s grandfather. Before Japan took over, the elder Su taught three types of Korean martial arts; kwan sool, a kicking and hard punching style, yu sool, a soft style with emphasis on locking and throwing techniques and yu-kwan, a combination which could be either hard or soft, but never used force against force.
During this period of Japanese rule (lasting from 1910 until the eventual defeat of the Japanese forces at the end of World war II), the Japanese occupying forces attempted to suppress virtually every aspect of the Korean cultural heritage and replace it with their own. They even suppressed the Korean language (Hangul) in favor of their own Japanese language. Needless to say, the traditional martial arts of Korea were banned as well.
The practice of any sort of Korean martial arts had been strictly forbidden. Any Korean caught practicing them (or even worse, teaching them) would be severely punished under a legal system particularly harsh on the native Korean population.
Because of the severity of this repression, the clandestine manner under which the native Korean martial arts were practiced (which had always been in evidence because so many of the techniques were jealously guarded secrets) was greatly intensified.
Only a very small number actually participated in the training for fear of reprisal. Master Instructor Su Myung Duk, who returned to his family home in the Taegu area, and then set about the task of preserving his vast martial art knowledge. He continued secretly practicing martial arts, teaching his techniques in the strictest privacy to immediate family members.
The Su family had practiced martial arts for-the past 16 generations and it was time to pass on the previous generation’s knowledge. From his children and grandchildren, Su carefully selected one child to whom he would give the entire scope of his knowledge. That child was In Hyuk Su, his grandson, whose serious martial arts education began when he was only five years old. Su’s training continued uninterrupted until the middle of the Korean conflict, when his grandfather was fatally wounded. It then continued through arrangements made by his grandfather’s foresight. Letters of introduction, plus his grandfather’s reputation as a master instructor, opened many doors to In Hyuk Su.
Now young Suh began to visit, and to learn from many teachers. By the time he was 20 years old he had traveled to hundreds of Buddhist temples and private martial arts teachers, studying many aspects of Korean martial arts.
The Buddhist temples themselves were not martial training grounds, Su, instead, searched for and found many ancient training books, hidden away from the Japanese in the neutral holy temples. Sometimes he went to a teacher to learn only one technique. For instance, Su learned an important joint locking angle from an old man who was the last descendant of a famous martial arts family.
This old man was reputed to break steel smoking pipes with just his thumb but he refused to teach this technique, preferring to take it with him to the grave. Suh had talked to him for over an hour before realizing the old man had been holding a long Korean pipe in one position, with his elbow at a certain angle for the entire time. Suddenly Su became aware that the secret technique was the elbow angle itself During this intensive training-period Su met an old Buddhist monk named Hai Dong Seu Nim (Great Monk of the Eastern Sunrise).
He became Su’s second most influential teacher, passing on special breathing skills, mediation techniques and internal power (ki) knowledge. In the late 1950’s In Hyuk Su began to organize and systemize the many scattered martial art techniques of Korea into a single martial art, Kuk Sool Won, now Korea’s largest organized martial art.(Taekwondo, while larger, is considered by the Korean Government and the World Tae Kwon Do Federation to be a martial sport).
Su officially founded Kuk Sool Won in 1961. When he opened his first do-jangs (schools) it was a difficult time. Those were the rough days following the Korean conflict, when martial art schools had to prove themselves physically to stay in business. Kuk Sool Won grew to monumental proportions, even though it took the public some time to adjust to its radically different spinning techniques and low stances.
Then, in 1974, when Kuk Sool Won in Korea was reaching a popularity peak with the public, In Hyuk Su brought his martial art to the United States. Su moved to New Orleans to open the first official Kuk Sool Won school in the United States. In 1975 he moved west, to San Francisco, where he opened the World Kuk Sool Won Association headquarters school.
In 1991, Grandmaster Su moved the headquarters to Houston, Texas. Since then he has traveled extensively throughout the United States,Canada and Europe conducting lectures, seminars, demonstrations and testing black belt candidates.
Worldwide, over one million students have passed through the doors of Kuk Sool Won schools. In 1983 Kuk Sa Nim was elected head of all Korean martial arts, 31 separate styles, making him the only 10th degree in all of Korean martial arts. Also, ‘in 1984 he was ‘in the Black Bell Hall of Fame awards, elected Man of the Year.
In 1988, he was elected Instructor of the Year. One aspect making Su unique is his promise to visit every branch school, helping even the white belt in a faraway school feel a connection with the International Headquarters.
References and sources of this Kuk Sool Won article
This original source for this article was at www.kswnaustin.com/hist1.htm but it no longer exists so watch this youtube video instead here