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The History of Kuk Sool Won

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Kuk Sool Won is a fairly modern martial art in itself, but its teachings are based on traditional Korean martial arts which have histories that date back hundreds of years. Kuk Sool Won teaches a variety of techniques and systems that help the student become a complete martial artist. The art teaches striking techniques with the hands and feet, throws and grappling techniques that include chokes and joint locks, animal style techniques and traditional Korean weapon techniques. As well as teaching the combative techniques of the traditional Korean martial arts, Kuk Sool Won also teaches the martial arts student the importance of training and conditioning the body as well as meditation and healing arts.

The people of Korea have often had to defend themselves against outside invasion, so they have perfected their own techniques and strategies for defending their land and these would go on to form the basis of their martial arts. The traditional Korean martial arts belonged to one of three main groups: tribal, Buddhist and Royal Court martial arts.

Tribal martial arts (SahDoh MuSool)

These were the earliest forms of martial arts on the Korean peninsula. They were localised fighting arts, devised by clans, small villages or even an individual family and passed down from generation to generation. SahDoh MuSool was later adopted by the localised militias that were formed to protect villages from outside invaders. More modern arts such as Tae Kwon Do have their roots in SahDoh MuSool.

Buddhist martial arts (BoolKyo MuSool)

When Buddhism was first introduced into the region, the monks that travelled and settled there trained in a martial art known as BoolKyo MuSool. The art was used by the monks for meditation and health benefits, but was also an effective form of self defence. The Buddhist monks were renowned martial artists and were sometimes called upon to defend the region against outside invasion.

Royal court martial arts (KoongJoong MuSool)

As well as the monks and ordinary people of the region learning and practising martial arts to protect themselves, Korea’s Royal court and government raised their own private armies to protect the region. They not only trained in unarmed combat but also weapons systems as well. It was later in Korea’s history that the Korean Kings banned the practising of martial arts, fearing they were vulnerable to being overthrown, but as with many other countries, martial arts were still practised and taught in secret.

Modern History

Between 1910 and the end of the second world war, Korea was occupied by the Japanese, who tried to suppress Korean culture, including its martial arts. Myung-duk Suh was a martial arts master who trained and taught all three of the Korean fighting arts. He was determined to carry on the family tradition that had lasted for generations and he chose his Grandson, In-hyuk Suh, to pass down the arts to.

It was In-hyuk Suh who brought the three Korean arts under the umbrella Kuk Sool Won in 1958, combining what his grandfather taught him and what he learnt from the masters that he sought out. It had now become Korea’s most widely practised martial art and in 1974 Suh took his teachings to the United States and formed the World Kuk Sool Association, which is now based in Houston. This Korean martial art is now practised worldwide.

For more martial arts history take a look at our recent post on the origins of karate and also our blog on ninja history.