Kuk Sool Won Seminar 2009

The annual Kuk Sool Won seminar rolled through my school tonight.

Topic: dan bong.

Dan bong is one of my favorite weapons, so I was looking forward to this seminar. I can’t cover everything, because there’s just no way to type it all up. But I did want to give an overview of the event and what I took from it.

First, the guest list: SUH, In Hyuk KSN; LEE, Byung In KJN;  Barry Harmon KJN; SUH, Sung Jin KJN; SUH Sung Woo (Alex) KJN; Larry Subia SBN; David Aue SBN. A lot of folks from my school showed up… which showed just how small our space is. 🙂 But we made the best of it, going outside at times, which was very nice (weather was good).

Seminar Content

Seminar started with KJN Harmon discussing the basics of dan bong and going over the “meditations.” The meditations are movements done from a stationary position to allow you to focus on movements of the weapon itself. I should back up to say that WKSA’s current effort is on quality. One of the great things about Kuk Sool is the standardized curriculum; any Kuk Sool school in the world teaches the same thing the same way… supposedly (more in a moment). The advantage here is if you relocate or perhaps are travelling on business, you can attend another Kuk Sool school and move right along. Many other martial arts are not like this; your school is your school and if you attend another school you may have to start all over. But I said supposedly because while yes things are mostly the same, there’s no question that things have drifted (we’ve all played “the telephone game”). It’s not necessarily anything major, but it’s enough that WKSA feels it warrants a worldwide effort to get things back on track. I appreciate this, and am only seeing good things coming from it. So back to the seminar, there were some corrections in the meditations from how we had once learned them, which was welcome. After working on the meditations, we performed some partner practice drills that help with striking accuracy, and ensuring good and proper grip as well as use of the wrist.

After meditations, we broke the class into black belts and under belts. Black belts went outside to work on the “Dan Bong 18 Motions Form” (I believe “dan bong ship pahl kong geup hyung”). Again, this wasn’t about teaching the form so much as correcting it. The corrections I felt were fantastic. Extraneous movements were eliminated. Everything is now efficient and purposeful. If forms are to teach your body how to move in a martial way, then this “corrected” version of the form certainly does that. IMHO, it’s still beautiful, but more appropriate in teaching combative movements and for your body to move in a way to use the dan bong in a dynamic and combative way. Very good, and well worth the cost of attending the seminar.

The black belts then went inside and worked on a dan bong sparring sequence, which was quite fun. Then black belts were back outside to work on Gum Moo Hyung, again for corrections. Again, it makes more sense. More martial. Less extraneous movements. That was about it for content. What the colored belts did I don’t know, but when we came in at the end they were working on ki breathing postures. 

General Comments

A good seminar. I’m glad I attended. While the sparring sequence was fun, I would have rather spent time on practical applications of dan bong. That’s the one thing I wish there was more of in the seminar, but beggars can’t be choosers. 

This was the first opportunity I had to be schooled by Master SUH Sung Jin. It was a wonderful experience and I cannot wait for another opportunity to train with him. It’s difficult to put my finger on what it is about him. First, he’s 45 years old but does not appear as such… physically he’s in amazing shape and certainly was the most physical capable person at the seminar (he’s just that far and beyond everyone else). Anything he asks us to do, he’s right there doing it and of course doing it better. His attitude and demeanor are so warm and positive. He works you hard, but he’s not a taskmaster or ogre. His skills and knowledge are vast. There’s no bullshit, no pretention. He’s just a great guy and a fantastic martial artist.

One side thing that was great. I used to teach the “Tiny Tiger” 5-year olds class and help with the other kid classes. Schedule and life haven’t allowed me to do that the past some whiles, and I admit that I miss the kids I taught. It was great to see a lot of them tonight, especially a couple of them that have been doing this since Tiny Tigers and now I got to see they were brown belts or brown-black belts! I am so proud of them for sticking with this, especially one little girl, who in her early days spent many times crying and not wanting to participate, but I’d have her just sit on the side and watch and eventually she’d rejoin the class. She’s kept at it on her own volition now after all these years, and I’m so proud of her. When she’s to receive her black belt, I’ll be there for it.

What I Took Home

Best I can do here is list things.

Of course, I took home all the changes and improvements to the forms. I’m very happy about the dan bong 18 motions form changes as they are less flashy and more practical.

There are some dan bong strikes that are lateral side-strikes with the butt-end (think movements 12-15 of the form). An advantage to this strike? They don’t get hung up on whatever you’re hitting, especially tied up in clothing. Yes they aren’t as powerful as a tip strike, but tip strikes can get hung up on things whereas the butt-end side strikes cannot. An obvious thing, once it’s pointed out to you.

When we learn and focus on our development, there’s an order we should undergo: memorization, precision, smoothness. I’ve heard this before but forgot it. This is enough of a topic to warrant it’s own blog entry.

Updated: Another thing I took home was improved mentality. When we were doing the dan bong sparring sequence, normally things like that get me a little worked up. Nervousness if I’ll perform well. People are watching me. I know my stature around the dojang, so will I live up to it? Basically, pressure. But every time I was my turn to go, I ensured I was breathing deeply, was physically relaxed (e.g. no shoulder hunching), and just let it all go. Let there be nothing on my mind. I know I can do this, I know I can do this well. Don’t think about it, just do it. And as a result, I performed quite well.

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