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Thought for Social Media Week: Kuk Sool Won is not Karate

Master Seyd Saidi, Kuk Sool Won of Dublin

Master Seyd Saidi, Kuk Sool Won of Dublin

Today marks the start of Social Media Week and seven cities across four continents are participating. I even know the lovely Joyce Sullivan who will be speaking at the New York City conference today. When I considered the buzz of activity around this glamorous and noteworthy event I could recognize most of the brand names in Social Media that were represented but what struck me on the news page sharing options was that only four were selected – Twitter, Facebook , LinkedIn and Google+. Oh to be in that top 4!

This led me to think about my new martial arts passion –  Kuk Sool Won. Why? Because on almost every occassion that I have mentioned to someone that I do martial arts they have asked me which one and when I respond I usually have to repeat it or expand on it.

I have often been asked “So when is your karate class?” Karate is one of those brand names that has become synonmous with a particular product, in this case martial arts. It doesn’t seem to matter to most people whether you are Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Cynthia Rothrock or Michelle Yeoh as I have heard their movies still commonly being referred to as karate films.

There are a number of brands that fall into this category like Kleenex, Popsicle and Zamboni and if you like you can take a look at 41 Brand Names that People use as Generic terms  you might be surprised at what you see.

I am an instinctive marketer. I talk about things and people that have had an impact on me. I share things I care about.

Kuk Sool Won is a traditional Korean martial system that has a remarkable history. I was introduced to it when my husband signed my children up for classes with Master Seyd Saidi. As a martial arts system, Kuk Sool Won seeks to integrate and explore the entire spectrum of established Asian fighting arts and body conditioning techniques and also includes mental development and traditional weapons training.

After watching my kids thriving and becoming increasingly enthusiastic about practicing this martial art I was so intrigued that I had to try it out too.

I am a martial arts fan but I don’t do Karate – I do Kuk Sool Won!


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Kids Kicking it Kung Fu style from Uganda to Kuk Sool Won style in America

Master Saidi martial arts quote

“Everybody in Uganda is Kung Fu fighting” – this article by Elizabeth McSheffrey caught my attention. It’s seldom that we hear the good news stories from Africa on this side of the ocean but this one made it.

The local film industry, also known as “Ugawood,” has been steadily growing thanks to new infrastructure and resources and has spawned a new fascination with martial arts. Seeing the images of these children finding new hope through a martial art is rather inspirational as well as hearing their stories of commitment to improve themselves.

Across the ocean in North America, with children who are far more affluent, martial arts is equally inspiring and motivational.

Martial Arts and Parenting

Modern parenting comes with the expectation that we adequately prepare our offspring for all the challenges that their futures hold. It’s a lofty goal and somewhat unreasonable. We can however provide them with some fundamental approaches to life that will help them to face any eventuality.

Ensuring that their self esteem is well honed while teaching them to set goals, maintain discipline and have a ‘can-do’ attitude can have a significant impact on what that child accomplishes in later life. In Kuk Sool Won, at the end of every training session, the Master asks “What is martial arts?” The response comes loudly “To develop and maintain positive, disciplined attitude Sir!”

I see the positive results in my children who have been learning this traditional Korean martial arts system for a year now. My somewhat shy and very loving son has connected with something he excels at when schoolwork is often a battle for him. Education can happen outside of the classroom too. He has matured enough to now lead warm-up at martial arts so it has done wonders for his self-esteem.

Positive female role models

My spirited daughter has been inspired by the powerful female role models she has encountered. There are two female Kuk Sool Won black belts we respectfully call Ma’m but since they are still confidently and unapologetically feminine she has a different view of ‘pink, pretty and powerless’ being the only options for girls. She has encountered real life girl power and thoroughly enjoys going to sparring class in her pink sparring gear.

Meanwhile another young girl Rachel Nattembo rushes to her Kung Fu class in Uganda. Racheal also leads her peers through a kung fu routine in the school yard of Nateete Mixed Academy in Wakaliga, Kampala. This young martial artist played “Liz” in “This Crazy World,” a 2014 action flick by Ramon Film Productions.

Interestingly Elizabeth writes that according to the Uganda Taekwondo Federation, South Korea was the first country to introduce Asian martial arts in Uganda in the 1960s when an instructor was invited to teach inmates at the Uganda Prisons Headquarters in Luzira. She quotes Isaac Nabwana, founder of Ramon Film Production in Wakaliga, Uganda who says Martial arts are rising and everyone now is trying to do what I’m doing because they see I’m doing something that is unique and is loved.

One Martial Arts Family

Such contrasting settings, so many inequalities but as Bruce Lee said, “under the sky, under the heavens there is but one family..”.

Martial arts is a uniting force and as Master Saidi says “You can’t prepare yourself for martial arts but martial arts can prepare you for many things.”

Jump front kick – believe you can!

Yoda Quote

It seems perverse to my non-athletic brain to put jumping and kicking into the same move. However after trying it for the first time, I think I’ve found my new favourite kick!

It was my third Kuk Sool Won class. It starts at 7pm so at 6pm I can already feel my anxiety starting to build. It’s still unfamiliar territory and completely out of my comfort zone.

We get through family dinner and I can sense that my heart rate has gone up and my palms are getting clammy. Sweaty palms are a real nuisance – I always feel like I’m holding out a wet fish when someone tries to shake my hand.

Tonight my hubby and two kids are escorting me to class. I can see the kids eyes gleaming as they look at me in my black dobok (uniform) -they look pleased as punch with me. This of course does not prevent them from mocking me for being a white belt. Kids – they certainly know how to keep your ego in check.

Rick leads warm-up and since Master Saidi is busy with tournament registrations he keeps us going with kicking practice.

I managed the first few ok but then Rick mentions the dreaded spin kick. I’ve had episodes of vertigo in the UK and ever since then any form of spinning really ramps up my anxiety levels. My martial arts loving doc said I would be fine as long as I took it slowly . Here goes nothing I thought.

My kicking partner was a rather shy girl with a yellow stripe belt and a hair clip that kept falling out. “Pick that up please. ” Sir asked her “someone may step on it and damage my floor.” I couldn’t suppress my laughter – spoken like a true martial arts Master, no mention of any injury to the foot.

My partner was kind and patient and had to hold the kicking target. I got rather confused with the spin kicks not always knowing which leg to kick with after I turned but I soldiered on. I asked another student, Paul, to demonstrate the kick again and he kindly obliged. That kick will certainly take more practice. I was told though that my kick was fine – I just needed to believe I could do it.

Then Master Saidi called for some jump front kicks. Seriously? I took two steps, jumped and kicked and my foot hit the target with a resounding thwack! It felt awesome and hearing the sound of the contact was extremely satisfying. Like hitting the sweet spot on a driver.

“Do or do not, there is no try ” said Yoda. I think the second kick worked better because I didn’t overthink it. I just did it. I believed I could.

Is there anything you’re overthinking? Believe you can and do it!


At the dojang in Dublin, California

At the dojang in Dublin, California



Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Won Association.

Budding and Blooming Bloggers

This week has been quite unusual at ours. My husband, Robin, and I have both participated in the #YourTurnChallenge to blog every day for a week, initiated by Winnie Kao, project lead for Seth Godin.

“Are you reading something Daddy wrote again? asked my son “You two have been doing a lot of writing this week!”

Indeed we have – we have been shipping with a group of like-minded individuals from across the globe – and it’s been awesome, frustrating, challenging and liberating.

Photo 1: Spring buds and blooms in the park this morning


I have had my floral photography blog for four years and have steadily plodded along. I’ve blogged because I love to share what I experience and what I care about. I have a writing blog (needing a post) called Stories in #10Tweets  a Genetic Counselling News SA blog (in stasis) a motherhood blog called MumDay (discontinued) and my floral photography blog that just keeps going and now my martial arts blog Junbi.

When I first started blogging I was hooked on the stats. Was anyone reading it? Did it resonate with someone? Did people like what they saw?

When the stats remained dismal for the first year I was initially demotivated but then I changed my perspective. I realised that I was blogging because I enjoyed it, so I would just keep sharing things I felt passionate about.

I love it when people like my posts and send me comments. It’s a great way to connect and I usually comment on and follow their blogs too. Connecting is what makes social media social.

So my newest blog Junbi is steadily taking off. It has allowed me to connect with those I meet in other settings in a more in depth manner. I asked more questions in my Kuk Sool Won martial arts class so I had enough material to blog about.

I paid better attention to what Master Saidi said during my lessons so I could recall the key points he was conveying.

I asked more questions after Tai Chi class and discovered that Tim was also an author.

I had something different to talk about when I met another expat Mum in the park this morning and we chatted about blogging, martial arts and floral photography.

By being a brand advocate for Seth Godin I was also one for Kuk Sool Won, Tai Chi, Remarkable Runs, Fables and Flora, other challenge bloggers and myself! A very unique combination, generating chatter and making a ruckus.

Blogging this week has also allowed me to watch Robin unveil his writing skills and allowed me to peek into his mind during a run. Our kids got to see us committing to a challenge and shipping and they started writing their own thoughts too.

So we now have budding and blooming bloggers in one household! Congrats to all who joined the challenge this week and happy shipping on your journey forward!

Kuk Sool Won lesson 2 – Skip. Hurt. Destroy.

Image courtesy of Goodfon.Su Wallpapers By: anon001

Image courtesy of Goodfon.Su Wallpapers By: anon001

Intent – having your mind and will focused on a particular purpose. When you move in martial arts you need to know why, you must consider your objective.

Each posture in a form serves a purpose as it has a defined application. Similarly the transitions between postures require attention so that balance and focus can be maintained.

During training our instructor, Master Saidi demonstrated some self defence techniques on his senior black belt student Rick and another black belt instructor  Gyo Sa Nim Sahar to show how the system can be applied in an offensive scenario.

While observing these movements I could not help but be astounded by what the human body can achieve with dedicated training and commitment. Master Saidi is one of only nineteen 6th Dahn Kuk Sool Won Head Masters in the world and when you see him in action you can see why.

I felt a bit like Po in Kung fu Panda when he first watched the Furious Five in action.

The Master immobilised his opponent swiftly, precisely and effortlessly. Pressure point and joint lock techniques are clearly effective.

To see them applied first hand was awesome! Just like Po I too wanted a souvenir and given that my other passion is floral photography I instinctively wanted to run and get my camera.

“I always say that there are three steps to martial arts. I call them skip, hurt and destroy” said Master Saidi. Step 1 is to skip, to avoid or exit the situation, get out of the fight (at this point I just kept thinking Run Forrest! Run!).

If there is no way to avoid the fight then step 2 – hurt follows. The aggressor needs to know in no uncertain terms that there will be a world of pain coming their way if they do not desist.

In the event that the aggressor refuses to accept their impending doom you move to step 3- destroy.

Most females I know at some point in their lives have found themselves in situations where they felt threatened and vulnerable. The recent twitter trend #YesAllWomen was a sad reminder of this.

Much as we would like to, we cannot wish those with hostile intentions away. We can however equip ourselves with the mindset and the techniques to defend ourselves when necessary.

In a recent situation where I felt threatened while out at night I noted with interest how empowering it was to know that in the event of an attack, I could do something to defend myself.

Skip. Hurt. Destroy.

Photo: A quickly taken candid snap of Master Saidi after my second Kuk Sool Won lesson


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Won Association.

Martial Arts 101: We only regret the paths left unexplored

Path Poppies unexplored

It was a chilly evening but I didn’t need anything to keep warm. Nervous energy consumed me as I drove through the evening traffic.

The dojang (training hall) loomed large before me. The previous class was still in session. I tried not to focus on what the students were doing as I knew it would only escalate my anxiety.

My lizard brain wanted to retreat. What was I thinking? A 40-something year old with a very unsuccessful track record in anything sports related, starting a martial arts class where the average student was likely to be at least 30 years younger!

A sense of trepidation gripped me but I knew I was going to have to do this one scared! Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Our instructor, Master Seyd M. A. Saidi, has practiced martial arts for over 35 years and has developed numerous teaching methods and techniques designed to aid students of all ages become accomplished martial artists.

“What size uniform do you think? 3 or 4?” asked Master Saidi. “Is there a size short and round?” I responded. I was handed the size 4 and went off to change.

There was no turning back now.

Standing in the changing area donning my dobok (uniform) felt strangely exciting. I saw my reflection in the large wall mirrors – you’re all kinds of crazy I thought!

The rest of the hour past in a blur of stretches, kicks, breathing exercises, punches and sword play. I felt rather self-conscious – the only white belt in a sea of browns and blacks! I couldn’t keep up with all of it and lost my balance a few times.Other than that though – it was exhilarating and I felt like I was connecting with my inner Cynthia Rothrock.

Respect and etiquette was palpable. Controlled discipline permeated each exchange which thankfully meant I was not taken down by the more advanced students. A fellow student even handed me a training sword so I didn’t have to fetch one myself. It was a kind gesture.

After the class the trainers were very encouraging. It was kind of them not to mock my lack of flexibility or dexterity.

Although I still felt the weight of my inexperience, I knew that I was embarking on another journey of self discovery. Guess I would keep being terrified but I would also keep trying.

We only regret the paths left unexplored.

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Won Association.


It’s a Surprise – Open It!

A diminutive student dressed in black yet exuding a quiet confidence enters the dojang. He greets his martial arts Master with a cheerful “Kuk Sool” and promptly hands over a rather large, carefully and colourfully decorated box. “I made this for you Sir, it’s a surprise.”

He then crosses the mat barefooted to place his shoes neatly in the closet and finds a spot to sit cross-legged on the floor while waiting for his class to begin.

The New Year is a surprise that each of us has been given. Some of us have accepted it graciously and others reluctantly or indifferently. We have a choice to engage with it however we wish to.

It can remain as is, untouched, and still life will happen. Time will pass.

Or we can choose to open it, to interact with it, to accept its contents but also to add our own dreams, our own pieces that will shape what we experience.

The Master places the box on his desk and smiles. He is aware that this surprise has involved careful thought and planning and is touched by the connection it represents.

“Have you opened it Sir?” a tiny, yet insistent and expectant voice pipes up from the back of the class.

The box is opened to reveal a small and intricately detailed paper bird with wings outstretched in flight.

“It’s wonderful!” the Master exclaims and the little student beams with pride. He has shown his appreciation and demonstrated his gratitude.

The bird has left the cage and the box is now open to opportunity.

We all have the capacity to use small moments to acknowledge the impact that someone has had in our lives. We have the opportunity to value and recognize our connectedness and aspire to be a positive influence in all our interactions.

This year is your surprise. Will you open it?


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Won Association.


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