What are Korean Martial Arts? Kuk Sool Won

Asia, as a continent, is known for having a rich culture which often incudes some form of martial arts, and South Korea is no exception.

The South Korean discipline of Kuk Sool Won is a systematic study of all of the traditional fighting styles of South Korea’s martial arts history.

kuk-sool-wonKuk Sool Won’s history is said to be traced back to prehistoric times – since the earliest humans forged weapons from wood and stones. The manifestation of the fighting styles of Kuk Sool Won date back thousands of years to when the Korean people needed to defend themselves and their country against foreign threats throughout history.

South Korea’s rich martial arts history has been compiled into one systematic study of martial arts, which breaks down into three branches of combat. The ‘family’ style is focused mostly on empty hand techniques – this means no weapons. There are 3500 techniques in this fighting style and it developed so intensely because those who initially practised it had no money to buy weapons and had to rely on their own bodies for defence and offense. The ‘royal court’ style focuses on bladed weapons such as swords, spears and double short swords. These were the main weapons of force and were used by military personnel to defend the country. The final style is ‘Buddhist monk’. This is a style which doesn’t believe in killing people and instead its weapons – such as the staff – focus on subduing assailants instead. This branch also focuses on breathing techniques and meditation.

All three of these branches combine to give Kuk Sool Won a complete syllabus of Korean martial arts. Where martial arts, such as Tae Kwon Do, only tend to focus on one aspect of martial arts (in this instance kicking), Kuk Sool Won incorporates the entire body for attack and defence. Because of this vast curriculum it takes a lifetime to complete unlike other marital arts, such as Judo, which are complete at black belt level.

Kuk Sool Won’s grading works in degrees and, much like a regular degree, each one takes four years to complete. There are four degrees to train for and each one takes four years. After a minimum of six years after that the degree of master is awarded, which means that in order to become a master of Kuk Sool Won you must train for an absolute minimum of 22 years.

The lengthy process of Kuk Sool Won is mostly due to its vast prospectus which teaches a broad array of disciplines including: body conditioning, ‘martial animal’ fighting styles (such as tiger, crane and mantis), cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility training, breathing and mediation exercises and tradition Korean weapons training. Healing techniques such as acupressure, acupuncture and herbal medicines are also taught at higher levels.

Despite the lengthy process of becoming a master of Kuk Sool Won training can begin at any age and any fitness level. Sa Bum Nim (SBN) John of Livingston is a European, British and Scottish Kuk Sool Won Grand Champion and has said that nowadays, in the Western world, the majority of new starts are middle aged people who want to begin to look after their bodies and lives again.

The beauty of Kuk Sool Won is that you improve with age (if you continue to train). Sports such as running only focus on one body area, and over time these parts of the body and their muscles get worn out. Kuk Sool Won’s training methods rotate the body focus so that the training isn’t repetitive for the body and therefore strengthens joints rather than wears them down. The idea is to continuingly develop and strengthen the body over time, and profess through age. That is why even very old men in martial arts movies can hold their own against much younger attackers.

Kuk Sool Won is a terrific way to lose weight, increase your body’s endurance and strength and understand a little more about Korean culture.

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