Interview with Forrest Morgan

There are lots of books on martial arts, most being “how to” and not always worth a darn. While I certainly do read some of those books, what I find myself more drawn too are martial arts books on a more esoteric or philosophical level. Good books in that realm are harder to find. One of them is Living the Martial Way: A Manual for the Way a Modern Warrior Should Think by Forrest Morgan.

Ikigai has an interview with Mr. Morgan. Part 1 is up. It contains some background information, and I found a few things striking a chord with me. It sounds so much like my own relationship with Kuk Sool Won.

However, by then I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with taekwondo as a martial art.  The rich, combat-oriented system I had learned in the early 70s was being watered down, converted to a pure sport, and repackaged for mass consumption.

This sounds just like what’s happening to KSW. My recent private lesson with a recently retired high ranking Kuk Sool Won Master reinforced in me the potential of Kuk Sool. I’ve always known it to be a sound art, one that has a high degree of potential for combat. But the way the art is now, especially with all this franchise stuff going on, it’s all watered down… it’s mass consumption. Or the old school is dying out and people just no longer know any better and so less and less gets passed on. It’s a shame, because I still think so highly of the art itself.

Beyond that, I had become skeptical of proponents’ claims that it could be effective in all tactical situations.  I could see that even the fuller system I had been taught was deficient in close-quarters combat (where most personal attacks occur) and ineffective on the ground.

I don’t think Kuk Sool is deficient in CQC, but ground… yeah, that’s frequently an area pointed out that is weak in Kuk Sool. IMHO Kuk Sool teaches some basic ground survival skills, but you’ll likely be p0wn3d by a BJJ blue belt.

As I said above, by the mid eighties I had become dissatisfied with what taekwondo had to offer.  As a military member, I had met a lot of martial artists from other systems and trained with some of them. I had lived in Japan a couple of years, studied the language and culture, watched the local police demonstrate their empty-hand combative measures, and watched the Japanese military train in their unarmed combat system.  I had studied various Asian philosophies in college.  As a result of all of this, when I returned to my home organization, I soon realized I was much more informed about martial arts, Asian history and philosophy, and… well, personal combat in general than any of my peers or superiors in the taekwondo association, people who had grown up in a single style, swallowing the pabulum about the supposed superiority of that style that the organization fed them.  Consequently, as I explained in the introduction of “Living the Martial Way”, I set out to deliberately learn what my organization was failing to teach me, technically, tactically, philosophically, and spiritually.

Emphasis added. See? He spends his time locked into one mode and it’s all he sees and knows. Then he gets out into the world and sees there is so much more to offer. It’s like many currently embroiled in KSW right now… many just don’t know any better about what else is out there. The whole “KSW black belts can’t cross train” stuff plays into this as well.

If there are those willing to teach me more about Kuk Sool as an art, I’m a willing student. Detached from the drama of WKSA, I can focus just on the art. Meantime, I continue my study of Parra Kali/Silat and Jun Fan arts, Thai boxing, western boxing, and enjoy my current martial journey.

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