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Kuk Sool Won (WIP)

Kuk Sool Won (Hangul: 국술원) is a Korean martial arts system founded by Suh In-Hyuk (Hangul: 서인혁), the Kuk Sa Nim or Grandmaster in 1961.
The name Kuk Sool Won translates to “National Martial Art Association” and despite often being shortened to ‘Kuk Sool,’ the name Kuk Sool (국술; 國術) is a non-trade marked name used to denote similar Korean martial arts developed prior to or about the same time as the formation of Kuk Sool Won.
Kuk Sool Won is currently taught world-wide and since it was founded as a martial arts system and not merely as a martial arts style, Kuk Sool Won does not consider itself limited to any single discipline.
It attempts to be a comprehensive study of all traditional Korean martial arts.
Suh In Hyuk’s philosophy regarding his system is to “Integrate and explore the entire spectrum of established traditional Korean martial arts, body conditioning techniques, mental development, and weapons training.”


The study of Kuk Sool Won includes many modern day techniques such as gun defense and weapon improvisation. Kuk Sool Won has many facets and is performed for self-defense, healing, conditioning, competition, fun and aesthetic purposes.


diagrams displaying MaekChaKi and MaekChiKi, two pressure point maps used in Kuk Sool Won
Kuk Sool Won encompasses many different traditional Korean “arts”. However, it still has some discernible characteristics that set it apart from other traditional martial arts. It is typically characterized by having low stances and fluid, graceful motions. There is also an emphasis on joint locks and pressure points. Kuk Sool Won is also described as being a hard-soft style, which includes hard and forceful strikes in addition to circular and fluid movements.

Student creed[edit]
Kuk Sool Won students are all expected to abide by the Kuk Sool Won Pledge[8]

I pledge to obey the rules of the association and to conduct myself in accordance with the true spirit of martial arts.
I pledge to be loyal to my country and to promote the development of a better society.
I pledge to work together with all classes of people without regard to politics, race or religion.
I pledge to promote international goodwill and to strive for world peace through the practice of martial arts.
Yu Won Hwa[edit]
One of the key aspects of Kuk Sool Won revolves around the theory of “You Won Hwa”. Translated literally, this would mean roughly “Water Circle Harmony”. The first part, ‘you’ (flowing, as in water), symbolizes adaptability and softness as well as power. The second part, ‘won’ (circle), suggest that there is a personal circle around you, and that one should always be active and ready to redirect aggression. The redirecting of attacks in Kuk Sool Won is typically characterized by circular movements. The third and final part, ‘hwa’ (harmony/unity), represents the desire to achieve harmony between mind and body. In practice this is obtained through repetition. The idea is to combine these three aspects and use them to govern all of the practitioner’s movements.[9]

Technical aspects[edit]
Kuk Sool Won includes (but is not limited to) the following sets of techniques:

Joint locking/breaking: Various joint locks are employed in Kuk Sool Won, including wrist locks, arm-bars, and small joint manipulation.
Soo Ki (Hand Striking): Palm, fist, wrist, finger, closed hand, open hand, arm, shoulder and pressure-point striking techniques.
Johk Sool (Kicking Techniques): Spinning, jumping, combination, double-leg, and pressure-point kicks.
Throwing and Grappling (Tu Ki & Jap Ki): Body throws, projection throws, leg throws, pressure-point grappling, grappling defense, wrestling, and ground-fighting techniques.
Nak Bup (Falling Principles): Falling techniques are taught in Kuk Sool Won. These techniques allow a practitioner to fall into a variety of positions whilst minimizing injury.
Animal-Style Techniques: Tiger, Mantis, Crane, Dragon, Snake, Bear, Eagle etc.
Traditional Korean Weapons: Sword (short, long, single and double, straight and inverted), staff (short, middle and long, single and double), jeol bong (double and triple sectioned; also known as nunchaku and sansetsukon), knife, spear, wol do (lit. Moon knife – a Korean halberd), sam-ji chang (triple tipped spear, trident, or dangpa), cane, rope, fan, and the bow and arrow (taught in the traditional style, using a thumb draw).
Martial Art Healing Methods: Acupressure, acupuncture, internal energy, herbal medicine.
Meditation and Breathing Techniques: Meditation and breathing postures and concentration techniques.
These principles and styles guide the following facets of Kuk Sool Won.


Master Sung Jin Suh demonstrating an advanced hyung
At each rank level, Kuk Sool Won martial artists are required to know one or more empty-hand and weapons forms or “hyung”. Each form has an overall guiding significance, which may range from balance and linear motion to preparation and practice for a knife form. Once a student has attained a black-belt level, their introduction to solo weapons forms begins. These are similar to empty-hand forms, except they incorporate a weapon. Also at black-belt rank or above, a student may learn partner weapon forms, or sparring forms. These involve two people performing a scripted series of events. Practitioners take caution initially to learn the form and not to injure their partner, however in order to demonstrate mastery practitioners must execute hyung at full speed and with full contact. In addition, all forms have five guiding principles with each one governing a specific part of the body and containing a major and minor rule or guideline.

Mind: Calm yet alert
Eyes: Bright and focused
Body (torso): Low and soft (soft meaning supple, not weak or fragile)
Hands: Fast and precise
Feet: Slow and controlled (slow meaning deliberate, not slow-moving or lethargic)
Kuk Sool Won systematically divides applied principles of martial arts into techniques which are organized into technique sets. Each belt level has one or more sets a practitioner is required to know before advancing. The number of techniques in each set can range from as little as five to more than twenty, and are ordered and grouped by principle. For instance, there is a throwing technique set, as well as a counter-to-throwing technique set.

Technique sets also range in level of mastery, with some higher-ranking technique sets similar to lower-ranking technique sets, but with a more difficult and/or precise method of application. Individual techniques are performed with one or more partners from a predetermined stance. Most techniques end with a proper application of a joint lock, choke, strike, throw or a combination of any of these. In order to be effective, Kuk Sool Won techniques must be performed with speed, accuracy and control.

Kuk Sool Won uniforms or “dobok” are standardized, and consists of black medium weight martial arts pants and martial arts training top. The uniform material is stronger than a standard Tae Kwon Do uniform, but lighter than a Judo uniform, as it must allow the user to perform the complete spectrum of martial arts techniques.

Kuk Sool Won uniforms are black as opposed to white, mainly to differentiate them from other martial arts, such as Taekwondo, which focus more on sport aspects and have adopted white as the primary color of their uniforms. However, an alternate reason could be that according to Korean tradition, the color black is associated with wisdom[citation needed] whereas white is the color typically worn at funerals[citation needed] a Buddhist tradition is to wear plain, undyed cloth, which isn’t as stark as bleached white but instead has a hint of yellow.[citation needed]

Subtypes of Kuk Sool Won uniforms[edit]
Practice uniform This is the most used and plain uniform of Kuk Sool Won practitioners. It contains just the basic dobok, but also has several patches which may vary slightly from practitioner to practitioner. In general, a vertical Kuk Sool Won patch written in Korean is worn over the right breast, while a South Korean national flag patch is worn over the left breast. The back of the uniform often has the words, “Kuk Sool Won” written in either English or Korean, with a Kuk Sool Won logo patch in the middle of the back. This central patch is said to represent several ancient traditions which are contained in the art of Kuk Sool Won; tribal martial arts (or sado mu sool) represented by the fist, Buddhist martial arts (or bulkyo mu sool) epitomized by the stick, and royal court martial arts (or koong joong mu sool) depicted by the twin swords. The latest trend for this logo patch also incorporates the letters, “WKSA” at the bottom (where WKSA stands for World Kuk Sool Association, Inc.).These patches are also present on every type of Kuk Sool Won uniform. A national flag patch may also be worn on the shoulder. However, no patches may be worn to identify a particular school. This is to help promote Kuk Sool Won as a unified association and to encourage a friendly, family-like atmosphere between schools.
Black Belt uniform This uniform is a practice uniform with a yellow frill attached to a longer top skirt. It may only be worn by 1st degree holders and above. However, the uniform typically won’t have yellow frill if worn by an instructor or assistant instructor, instead the edges being hemmed differently to make them thicker (i.e more layers of fabric).
Generals uniform This uniform is for formal occasions which include but are not limited to testings, promotions, demonstrations and competitions. The uniform itself is modeled after the armor and uniforms worn by ancient Korean generals. Like the Black Belt uniform, it contains a longer skirted top which is cut into sections. The sleeves are held tight against the wearer’s wrists and a scarf is worn underneath with an emblem on the throat.
There is no belt with the generals uniform, and rank is denominated by the decorative outline or trim on the uniform in addition to the color scarf and emblem displayed.

General uniform outline denominations[edit]
1st degree – Silver Trim with White Scarf, Korean Flag Emblem
2nd degree – Silver Trim with White Scarf, Korean Flag Emblem
3rd degree – Silver Trim with White Scarf, WKSA Emblem
4th degree – Silver/Red Trim with White Scarf, WKSA Emblem
5th degree – Red Trim with White Scarf, WKSA Emblem
6th degree – Red Trim with Red Scarf, WKSA Emblem
7th degree – Red/Gold Trim with Red Scarf, WKSA Emblem
8th degree – Red/Gold Trim with Gold Scarf, WKSA Emblem
9th degree – Gold Trim with Gold Scarf, WKSA Emblem
10th degree – Gold Trim with Gold Scarf, WKSA Emblem
Grandmaster – All Gold dobok(wang-sa) with twin dragon emblems, puce trim [note 1]
Belt Grades[edit]
Color belts and Rank
Hwin Tti Judo white belt.svg
Noh-Rahng Tti Judo yellow belt.svg
Chuhng Tti Judo blue belt.svg
Hohng Tti Judo red belt.svg
Jah Tti Judo brown belt.svg
Dahn Boh Nim Judo brown belt.svg
Yoo Dahn Jah Judo black belt.svg
Kuk Sool Won uniforms include a belt which indicates rank and length of study. Gradations are designated by divisions termed Geup 급 (or Kup) at the student level and by degrees termed Dahn 단 at the expert (or instructor) level. Various colors are used for the belts to illustrate the Geup grades while black is used for the Dahn degrees. Additionally, the Geup grades count down (12th & 11th kup = white belt, 10th & 9th kop = yellow belt, etc.) while the Dan degrees count up (cho dahn = 1st degree, ee dahn – 2nd degree, sahm dahn = 3rd degree, etc.). As there are two Geup grades for each colored belt, individual schools may opt to affix stripes of the next colored belt level on a student’s belt to further indicate this rank achievement. This practice is most notably seen at the black/brown belt level to indicate the number of tests taken for their Dahn ranking, as several tests are mandatory before advancement is granted. Black/Brown Belt (or black belt candidacy) is an intermediary stage where the student is required to gain a minimum of 6-10 black stripes, over the minimum required 2 years of training and 2 years of testing, before advancing to Cho Dahn or 1st Degree. Advancement from Huin Ddi to Cho Dahn, i.e. white belt to black belt, depends largely on the student’s dedication and practice and thus achieving the rank of 1st Degree Black Belt could take anywhere from 4 to 6 years.

At black belt there are 10 levels:[10]

Choh Dahn – 1st degree – Joh Kyoh Nim {Instructor in Training}
Ee Dahn – 2nd degree – Kyoh Sah Nim {Assistant Instructor}
Sahm Dahn – 3rd degree – Poo Sah Buhm Nim {Deputy Instructor}. Pu Sabum Nim and higher typically wear a wider than normal black belt.
Sah Dahn – 4th degree – Sah Buhm Nim {Instructor}
Oh Dahn – 5th degree – Pyuhng Kwahn Jahng Nim {Master}. Masters are presented with a wider than normal white belt which is similar to the extra wide black belt worn by other high ranks, albeit white instead of black to symbolize a new beginning. It is forbidden to wear this extra wide white belt unless all those in the particular training session are of black belt rank, otherwise the extra wide black belt is to be worn instead.
Yook Dahn – 6th degree – Joo Im Kwahn Jahng Nim {Head Master}
Chil Dahn – 7th degree – Jee Doh Kwahn Jahng Nim {Senior Master}
Pahl Dahn – 8th degree – Suhn Im Kwahn Jahng Nim {Executive Master}
Goo Dahn – 9th degree – Soo Suhk Kwahn Jahng Nim {Senior Executive Master}
Ship Dahn – 10th degree – Chohng Kwahn Jahng Nim {Chiefmaster}
Ship Dahn – 10th degree – Kuk Sah Nim {Grandmaster – literally, National Teacher}
Non black belt students are often referred to as “colored belts” collectively, or by their belt color when segregated for special events such as tournaments (e.g. due to reasons of fairness, a yellow belt would not be required to compete against a red belt). Although Kuk Sool Won uses a Kup/Dahn ranking system and each color belt could be used as a title, colored belt students are never addressed by a special title or by their Kup rank, e.g. “8th kup”. This is true with the exception of ‘Dahn Boh Nim’ or ‘Black Belt Candidate’ which is the only student grade that utilizes a special title. This rank used to be signified by a brown belt with 2 or more, transverse black stripes placed at the end of the belt (as a KSW Dahn Bo must test a minimum of six times to be granted a black belt), but the current method has replaced the brown belt adorned with dual black stripes at the tips with a brown belt having a single black stripe running the entire length of the belt, down its center. The custom of adding transverse black stripes at the ends, when completion of a test/grading procedure is accomplished, is still carried out with the new style of black/brown belt.

The World Kuk Sool Association officially hosts many tournaments every year in the United States, Korea, and the UK. These tournaments test various aspects of Kuk Sool Won and may include a demonstration or belt promotion ceremony as well. In the United States, Kuk Sool Won practitioners may compete in empty hand forms, weapon forms, techniques, sparring, and board breaking.

Forms, techniques, and board breaking[edit]
Competitors in these categories are judged on a 10 point scale, by three judges whose scores are added together to determine a winner. For forms, a competitor must perform the form of their previous belt level. For instance, a brown belt would perform the form they learned at red belt. The same is true for techniques, where the competitor must perform three techniques from any set of their previous belt’s curriculum.

Board breaking is judged on technique and power. Each competitor breaks the same amount of boards, in the same position relative to their height, with the same techniques. The board breaks are designed to be difficult to further spread out competitor’s scores, and competitors often do not complete all the breaks.


Kuk Sool Won black belts sparring at a tournament
Kuk Sool Won sparring rules can differ from tournament to tournament, and can also vary based on age group.

In general, Kuk Sool Won sparring is point-based and no-contact. Matches are three minutes long, and whoever has the most points at the end wins. The match is also over if a competitor’s score is 5 or more than his or her opponent. Legal striking targets include the chest, sides above the waist, neck, and head. There are no strikes allowed to the back or to the back of the head. Excessive contact is forbidden and can result in warnings, point deductions and disqualifications. The points are as follows:

One point – Kick to the body, punch to the body, punch to the head
Two points – Kick to the head
In addition to scoring a point, a fighter must clearly show technique and that the strike could have been successfully executed at full force. If the attacking limb is almost straight and does not clearly reach the target, no point is awarded. Points are determined by a center judge and four corner judges. Three of the five judges must agree on the point for it to count. At any time, any judge may stop the fight and ask for a judge’s decision about a point. Fighters start approximately 3 feet apart from each other in the center of the ring, and are reset to the center if a judge asks for a decision, if a penalty or injury occurs, or if a competitor steps out. If injury occurs, the offending competitor kneels at their starting position and remains so until the decision on the injury is decided.

The Korean principle of dae ryuhn bub guides Kuk Sool Won sparring.

Dae – Posture and right mind
Ryuhn – Combinations
Bub – Circling one’s opponent
Although sparring is considered an important aspect of Kuk Sool Won, it is not emphasized as much as many other sport martial arts.

Ancient history[edit]

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Kuk Sool Won has a strong foundation and history based on the traditional and ancient martial arts from the Korean peninsula.[citation needed] The three branches of traditional Korean martial arts which comprise the basis of Kuk Sool Won and are:

Sado Mu Sool (Tribal or Family martial Arts) is the earliest form of martial arts developed in Korea[citation needed] ; meaning tribal, clan, or family martial arts, as this type of martial art was mainly passed down from one generation to the next[citation needed]. Sah Doh Mu Sool was popular among the ancient tribes, city-states and smaller kingdoms that formed in the Korean Peninsula and parts of what is now China[citation needed] . This was evident well before the first unified Korean kingdom of Ko-Cho Sun which was founded in 2333 BC by the king, Dahn Goon Wahng Guhm[citation needed] . Later, Sah Doh Mu Sool was further developed and made widespread by voluntary militias of the common people, who often fought in battles to defend their villages[citation needed] . Traditional athletic activities such as Taekkyon, and Ssireum are considered to have originated from Sah Doh Mu Sool[citation needed].
Boolkyo Mu Sool (Buddhist Temple Martial Arts) has been practiced by Buddhist monks throughout Asia[citation needed]. In China, the famous Shaolin monks developed techniques and forms based on their observations of animals[citation needed] . Buddhist monks originally developed and then practiced Bool Kyo Mu Sool to improve their health while meditating and to defend themselves while traveling[citation needed] . As a result, Buddhist martial arts include both internal training, with emphasis on special breathing and meditation methods, as well as external training, with emphasis on extremely 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.[3][citation needed] Today, the tenets of Bool Kyo Mu Sool are prevalent in Kuk Sool Won as they help teach practitioners meditation skills and the philosophies of non-violence and compassion for all living things.
Koong Joong Mu Sool (Royal Court Martial Arts) is unique to Kuk Sool Won. Some of the weapons used in Kuk Sool Won were a part of the traditional daily court life[citation needed] . The rope or sash, cane, fan, and short sword were all used among members of the Korean royal court[citation needed] . There were also many unique open handed and joint-locking principles of Koong Joong Mu Sool that are used extensively in Kuk Sool Won. Weapons training in Kuk Sool Won is very extensive involving 24 different weapons in its curriculum (see Weapons of Kuk Sool Won)
Modern history[edit]
1910-1945 Japanese Occupation[edit]
Kuk Sool Won’s modern history can be indirectly traced to the dissolution of the Korean royal court and the Japanese occupation in 1910. During this period almost all aspects of Korean culture were suppressed by the Japanese government, including the teaching of Korean martial arts. Those caught practicing Korean martial arts were severely punished and sometimes killed, and therefore many leading Korean martial arts instructors were forced into hiding.

Among them was Myung Deuk Suh, In Hyuk Suh’s grandfather and head martial arts instructor to the Korean royal court before it was dissolved by the Japanese.[3] Prior to 1910, the elder Suh taught three types of Korean martial arts: kwon sool [권술/拳術], a kicking and hard punching style; yu sool [유술/柔術], a soft style with emphasis on joint-locking and throwing techniques; and yu kwon sool [유권술/柔拳術], a combination which could be either hard or soft, but never used force against force.

Despite the Japanese occupation, the Suh family continued its 16 generation tradition of practicing and teaching martial arts, albeit in extreme secrecy. In Hyuk Suh was chosen by his grandfather to carry on this family legacy.[3]

1945-1961 In Hyuk Suh’s training[edit]
By the time he was 20 years old, In Hyuk Suh had traveled to hundreds of Buddhist temples and private martial arts teachers, studying many aspects of Korean martial arts. During this intensive training-period, Suh learned special breathing skills, meditation techniques, and internal power (ki) knowledge, which is taught as a fundamental to all Kuk Sool Won students.[11]

In the late 1950s, In Hyuk Suh began to integrate the many scattered martial art techniques of Korea into a single martial art system. According to Suh, he accomplished this task all by himself, yet other accounts speak to several prominent martial art leaders working on it together, in the spirit of brotherhood. Since this system of martial arts was propagated as comprising only traditional Korean martial methods, hence the name ‘Kuk Sool’. In the Korean Language the word ‘kuk’ 국 [國] means ‘national’ and ‘sool’ 술 [術] means ‘martial art’ (the Korean word ‘won’ 원 [院] is best translated as ‘institute’ or ‘training center’). Kuk Sool Won is a trademarked name, by In Hyuk Suh, everywhere in the world but Canada. On the other hand, Kuk Sool is an unlicensed name and is used generically (and legally) by many who practice and teach conglomerate Korean martial art systems. Similar to the style formulated by In Hyuk Suh, i.e. Kuk Sool Won, and introduced in Korea at about the same time, were Kuk Sool Hwe and Kuk Sool Kwan, but only the latter still exists today. Another modern system that had its origin stemming from the Kuk Sool Won curriculum is Han Mu Do. In Hyuk Suh opened his first martial art school in 1958, and officially founded Kuk Sool Won in 1961.[3]

1961-Present organization and instruction[edit]
In 1974, when Kuk Sool Won in Korea was becoming well known by the public, In Hyuk Suh brought his martial art to the United States. Currently the World Kuk Sool Association headquarters is located in Tomball, Texas, which is roughly forty miles northwest of Houston. Kuk Sool Won is practiced all over the world, and has schools located in South Korea, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, the United States as well as many others. Official Kuk Sool Won tournaments are held every year all over the world, including the U.S. and European tournaments, and attract many competitors to each event. They are also famous in the Kuk Sool Won community for their outstanding Masters’ Exhibitions.

Other perspectives on the source of Kuk Sool[edit]
Over the years differing versions of the sources of Kuk Sool have emerged. Early sources presenting conflicting information on the source of this material include the writings of then Kuk Sool representative Kimm He-Young, the early statements of Seo In-Sun, who is Suh In Hyuk’s brother (Seo is a different romanization of Suh)[12]

The first red Kuk Sool Won book published by In Hyuk Suh never mentions his grandfather, who died when Suh was 12 years old, as a source for Royal Court Martial Arts which he studied. This fact was not mentioned until published in “Fighting Weapons of Korean Martial Arts” in 1988.[13]

In Kimm He-Young’s “Kuk Sool” it is written: “While compiling Kuk Sool techniques, he (Myung-Duk Suh) taught these arts to his grandson, In-hyuk Suh. Before the old master died in 1952, he handed down five compiled books of Kuk Sool to the young Suh. They are: (1) Yu Sool; (2) Kwon Sool; (3) Yu Kwon Sool; (4) Whal Bub; (5) Hyul Bub.

“After his grandfather died, Suh searched other aspects of Korean Traditional Martial Arts for the next eight years from many other masters. These are some of the masters he studied under:

“1. Choi Yong-Sool: Suh visited many private martial arts schools and villages to study Tribal Martial Arts or private martial arts. One of the influential [sic] in this area is Choi Yong-Sool. From Choi, he received further education in Yu Sool.

“2. Hai Dong Seu Nim (The Great Monk of the East Sea): In order to learn Buddhist Martial Arts, Suh visited many temples throughout the country. One of his great teachers was Hai Dong Seu Nim. From this great monk, he learned Kwon Sool, Ki Bub (Ki Exercise) and breathing techniques.

“3. Tai-eui Wang: Suh also visited old masters of Royal Court Martial Arts. One of his teachers of this art was Tai-eui Wang. From Wang, he learned Yu Kwon Sool”

Also according to Suh in the Kuk Sool Won Textbook: Volume 1 (Suh 1993:33) “Another of Suh’s influential teachers was Choi Yong-Sool, the founder of Korean Hapkido and a master of Korean tribal martial arts, as well.” Oddly, Choi Yong-Sool never claimed to have studied native Korean “tribal arts” himself but rather claimed to have studied the Japanese system of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu having lived in Japan from age 8 to 42 during the Japanese colonial period (1911–1945). Interestingly Choi Yong-Sool and his students often referred to his art in its early years as yu sool (jujutsu) or yu kwon sool before settling on the name hapkido for the art.[14][15]

Suh is also known to have had associations with members of Kim Moo Hong’s Shin Moo Kwan hapkido school in Seoul,[14] especially with people like Kim Woo Tak and other senior members who founded the Kuk Sool Kwan school of hapkido, predating Suh’s own efforts.

Source: Wikipedia