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Celebrating successes, big or small

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Life is a journey and we choose our paths – sometimes the predictable, frequently travelled trails  call to us and offer a semblance of safety and security. Other times we are challenged to be trailblazers – to go to unexplored terrain -it’s risky and sometimes crazy but can lead us to places we never imagined possible.

When I ducked under the tape at a recent martial arts tournament nobody was more surprised than me. There I stood opposite a little martial artist who was cuteness personified. We were the oldest and youngest competitors representing our school, Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California in the white belt category.

The words of our Kuk Sool Won Master Saidi were running through my mind “As long as you do your best, you are already a winner, whether you are awarded medals or not”.

We were both starting our martial arts journeys at very different stages of our lives. We were separated in age by forty years but we were united in a common purpose – to challenge ourselves and explore something new.

Watching her shyly introduce herself to the Judges, bow and then competently perform her techniques was rather inspiring. Such courage and confidence  in someone so young was admirable and made me feel slightly less anxious about my impending performance.

Techniques at tournament. Different ages united by rank.

Techniques at tournament. Different ages united by rank.

Although she was not awarded any podium places her achievement on that day was worth recognition. She had the courage to ship. She received a tournament participation medal which she proudly carried around her neck.

When it was my turn to compete in the 40+ age category I was surprised to see how many other white belts were present. I expected very few thinking that there couldn’t possibly be as many women doing these things at my age. For once I was happy to be wrong! I told a fellow competitor that it may not seem like a good thing that we have so much competition but I think it’s awesome for women and Kuk Sool Won!

This being my first sporting achievement I was very proud of the 3 medals I won for forms, techniques and sparring. They may not seem like a big deal to others but as this was the first sporting achievement of my life I felt it was worth acknowledging.

I may only be a white belt but my ultimate aim is to learn a black belt sword form so I have a long journey ahead of me.

Sometimes the outward recognition of accomplishment can ignite a fire within us to pursue our goals with passion. So to me it means we must celebrate our successes, no matter how small they may seem, as each success is a stepping stone to a better self.

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.

Kiai finding your voice 

KSW Quote Mastery of self

Noise, communication – it’s a biological instinct to use our voices to express ourselves. The louder the sound the more dominant and expressive the underlying emotional state is.

In a martial arts setting the kiai is meant to focus your energy and breathing and throw your spirit with sound.

It is also meant to communicate intention and assert power in an altercation.

Why did I find it so difficult?

When I used to practice Tai Chi class there was no such noise. Balance, calm and quiet were the order of the day. The focus was more internal.

In my Kuk Sool Won class it was different and I found it interesting to observe the other students during training. Each decided on their own style of kiai. Tiz, huz, hiya – there were all sorts.

Interestingly the stronger and louder the kiai the more assertive and powerful the student appeared.

A Masterful kiai

During one of my kids classes I was reading the dojang rules attached to the wall and my back was turned away from the proceedings. My reading was brought to an abrupt halt as I was startled by the Master’s kiai!

I would not want to be on the receiving end of that! Power, dominance, control -there was no question about who was the more intimidating presence. As Master Saidi told us “Mastery of self leads to mastery in martial arts”.

There were clear advantages to having an energetic kiai but how would I move beyond my reticence and convince myself to actually utter the sound?

Acting as if seemed to be a sensible approach so if I behaved like I was confident maybe my kiai would follow. I started practicing and steadliy my kiai got more noticeable. It went along with adding a game face to convey how serious I was about getting this to work.

While practicing techniques with my training partner, Vineela, I got so into practicing my kiai that I uttered a loud one when we were bowing to each other instead of saying “Kuk Sool” which I was supposed to do. It was a rather funny moment.

A Kiai for Confidence

I can’t say for certain that it was improved confidence that led to a better kiai or a louder kiai that improved my confidence. Nevertheless there was definite progress.

As Julie Andrews playing Maria sings in the Sound of Music  “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain,… I have confidence in confidence alone!”  Confidence and convincing kiais seem to go hand in hand.

This proved to be rather useful at my first tournament where the weight of my inexperience was bearing down hard as I sat amongst a group of adult white belts waiting my turn to be called by the judges.

Game  face: Vanessa Thomas doing her form at the Pacific Coast Tournament Photo courtesy of Robin Thomas

Game face: Vanessa Thomas doing her form at the Pacific Coast Tournament Photo courtesy of Robin Thomas

As the fear of performance anxiety gripped me I made a decision. It was too late to hope for a lower stance or the ability to kick any higher but I could put on my game face and kiai like I was a warrior in the midst of a battle.

So I did and although my score for my form left lots of room for improvement it secured me a fourth place and it got me an enthusiastic response from my fellow competitors.

I found my voice and it wasn’t perfect but I delivered any way. Have you found yours?

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.


Kuk Sool Won Pacific Coast Tournament success for Dublin Martial Arts School

Master Seyd Saidi with Grand Champion Bu Sa Beom Nim William Hunt (3rd Dahn Black Belt) at the Kuk Sool Won Pacific Coast Tournament 2015

Master Seyd Saidi with Grand Champion Bu Sa Bum Nim William Hunt (3rd Dahn Black Belt) at the Kuk Sool Won Pacific Coast Tournament 2015

The Pacific Coast Kuk Sool Won tournament in Folsom, Sacramento brought together over a thousand martial artists in a competition aimed at challenging its practitioners and sharing in the global identity of this unique Korean system. It also provided an opportunity to display skills acquired over hours of dedicated practice and this year over a hundred students from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school, Martial Arts Academy of USA, participated in the event.

The tournament is held under the auspices of the World Kuk Sool Association (WKSA).

“I am proud of every student who participated in the competition” said Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school owner Master Seyd Saidi “they have challenged themselves to step outside of their comfort zones and that is an achievement in itself.”

The school had representatives of all ranks from white belts to black belts. They ranged in age from as young as 3 years old to the 40+ age group. The school successfully secured medals across the spectrum of categories and the students were visibly pleased with their outward symbols of accomplishment.

The Kuk Sool Won  of Dublin adult ladies team at their tournament debut (left to right) Ramya Magham, Vanessa Thomas and Vineela Kunshi

The Kuk Sool Won of Dublin adult ladies team at their tournament debut (left to right) Ramya Magham, Vanessa Thomas and Vineela Kunchey

A noteworthy achievement was that of Bu Sa Bum Nim (his Korean martial arts title) William Hunt who was awarded the prestigious title of third degree black belt Grand Champion.

William has demonstrated his drive through the successes he achieved at the tournament but also in his commitment to the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin martial arts school where he trains under the guidance of 6th Dahn Master Saidi.

“Whether you win medals or not” said Master Saidi “you are already a winner by doing your best”.

For some of the students this was their first appearance at a tournament and by participating they have the opportunity to engage with students from other schools and test their skills. The lessons learned including self-confidence and self-discipline have immeasurable value in a martial arts journey.

Two students from the school, who are siblings, Aysha Ibrahim and Imad Hadid, were also promoted to black belt by Master Saidi.

Black Belt Promotions

Black Belt Promotions

“The average student does not become a black belt” said Master Saidi “it takes years of focused discipline and training and only those who commit themselves wholeheartedly can achieve it. Mastery of self leads to mastery in martial arts.”

The successes of the students were also a reflection of the dedication of the instructors at Kuk Sool Won of Dublin who are motivated by seeing every student reach their full potential. “No matter what your age or level of experience, Kuk Sool Won will change your life” says Kyo Sa Nim Sahar Hamidi, a well respected and popular instructor at the school.

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Demonstrations were performed at the conclusion of the tournament and included an energetic, acrobatic and dramatic display of the fan technique by Master Saidi and his two students Bu Sa Bum Nim William Hunt and Jo Kyo Nim Omar Hamidi that was thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd and the advanced fighting choreography looked like a scene from a martial arts movie.

“That was amazing Sir!” said 6 year old student Jessica Thomas to Master Saidi after the demonstration. She was also one of several students who earned medals at the event and who were inspired to keep practicing this traditional martial arts system to hone their skills and return to the tournament arena next year.

Dublin Martial Arts School to compete in Kuk Sool Won tournament in Sacramento

Master Saidi, Staff and Students after a training session at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school

Master Saidi, Staff and Students after a training session at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school

Dublin, California, March 26– The stage is set for a traditional Korean martial arts competition as scores of Kuk Sool WonTM students from the Pacific coast region gather in Folsom, Sacramento for the annual tournament. This year the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School, Martial Arts Academy of USA will be represented with over a hundred students, under the leadership of Master Seyd Saidi.

In August this year the school will mark its 25th anniversary. Master Saidi is one of only sixteen 6th Dahn Kuk Sool Masters and has trained thousands of students over his 35 years of teaching.

He reminds his students as they prepare for tournament that “growth happens outside of your comfort zone”.

The Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin team includes students ranging in age from under 5 years old to adults. The youngest representative from the Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin school is Kashvi at 3 years old and along with her training partner who is 4, will be making their tournament debut.

A respected guest at the event will be the Founder and Grandmaster of Kuk Sool WonTM, In Hyuk Suh. Other senior Kuk Sool WonTM Masters will also be present in addition to a range of black belt practitioners who will serve as judges for the event.

All Kuk Sool WonTM schools in the Pacific coast area of California will be represented and close to a thousand participants are expected.

There has been a growth in popularity for this martial arts system due to its comprehensive nature and the range of styles, techniques and weapons it includes.

This tournament is governed by World Kuk Sool Association Tournament rules and guidelines, and the event is only open to current and active members of the World Kuk Sool Association, Inc.

The event allows students to meet and interact with practitioners of all ages and abilities, and from all walks of life, and to experience the shared identity of a global martial arts system.

Students will compete in various categories including open hand forms, techniques, sparring and weapons forms. There is an array of weapons in this martial art system including bo staffs, swords, knives, fans and spears which draws a crowd at the Masters and Instructors demonstrations held at the tournament.

Each participant is awarded points for their achievements and the schools compete to obtain the highest overall score.

About: Besides the fact that learning Kuk Sool has an impact on every student that enrolls at his school, Master Saidi strives to provide a nurturing, disciplined and goal-oriented environment for his students. The Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin School is an established Martial Arts Academy located in Dublin in the Bay Area of California and is proud of its track record of excellence in the teaching of martial arts. For information about his school and the Kuk Sool WonTM martial arts system please see contact information below.

Contact Information:

Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin, Martial Arts Academy of USA

4558 Dublin Boulevard CA 94568

Phone: (925) 551 – 8200


Practice, patience and patches

The Grand Master and founder of Kuk Sool Won, In Hyuk Suh,  has a saying that has become ingrained in mind “With patience and perseverance all things are possible.” His other well known saying is “We need more practice!” and I know for sure that it applies to me.

Grand Master In Hyuk Suh and Master Saidi

Grand Master In Hyuk Suh and Master Saidi

February 16 was President’s Day so there was no class. My training buddy sent me a text to confirm that the school was closed. I expect she was feeling the withdrawal symptoms too.

We had such a great training session last week and we were both starting to feel a bit more confident about our forms. Master Saidi had given us some extra pointers and demonstrated how the form movements pertain to a conflict situation so that we visualise the applications.

We repeated our forms side by side and it felt really awesome to see the flow of movements conducted in unison.

We had also had some falling practice with one of the higher ranked belts, a blue stripe, which made the techniques look a lot more impressive. It’s amazing how being observed adds a layer of pressure and thankfully we got through ok. Patience is certainly a necessary virtue when learning martial arts.

I couldn’t recall when last I had to try and roll. In my experience it’s not a movement that the average adult gets to do very often. Master Saidi made it look so easy “Just roll on your shoulder not your head!” Fear gripped me again. My inner ear issues made me susceptible to vertigo and I wanted to be sure that I could get back up again after rolling. “Perhaps you should practice at home” I was jokingly told. Well it was now or never I figured – one of those situations again where you feel the fear but do it anyway – so I did!

Now that we would be going to tournament we also needed to get patches for our doboks. The patches certainly add a touch of flare to the already intimidating  black uniform. I am rather excited about getting mine – it will feel like an outward sign connecting me to the ancient traditions of this martial arts system.

Kuk Sool Won Uniform (dobok)

Kuk Sool Won Uniform (dobok)

Wikipedia had the following interesting points about the uniform:

“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 Tae Kwon Do 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.”

Tournament is approaching and we have special training sessions to help us iron out all the errors and increase our confidence. I am planning to attend every single one of them! I need more practice!


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.

Tournament training: small moments matter

Quote small moments

Raindrops were falling on my black dobok as I walked to the dojang for my first tournament training class. As it fell harder I thought that perhaps I should hurry it up a bit so as not to be soaked by the time I got to class.

While waiting to cross a busy intersection though I noticed drivers looking at me standing in the rain in my black uniform and white belt and felt compelled to stand tall and pretend that the rain was not bothering me at all. You can’t let the art down by not showing good character in an awesome uniform!

I reached the training hall a bit soggy but with my pride intact. Class began and Master Saidi lectured us on the importance of tournament as a developmental opportunity.

Needing a training partner

“Tournament is a chance for you to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself” he said then continued “if I give 100% then I expect you to do the same. I want to see your lowest stances and hear your loudest kiai, now is not the time to be shy. Growth happens when you are out of your comfort zone.”

The Pacific Coast Kuk Sool Won Tournament is several weeks away in Folsom.

My training partner had been to an earlier training session with her daughter so I needed someone different to practice with today.

Forms and techniques

We were given the names and numbers of the forms and techniques we would be doing. We were also taught how to introduce ourselves to the judges. Etiquette is a very central element in Kuk Sool Won.

We had some time to practice our forms and then moved on to techniques where we had to face our partners. Only thing was I had no partner so I stood quietly while everyone else paired up waiting for my next instruction.

Another student who did not have a partner, a red belt, caught my eye and asked me to join him. Usually we are partnered with students of our own rank.

We were told which techniques to practice and one of them I had just learned and the other was new. I would be doing Ki Cho Hyung 1,2 ,3 and Ki Bohn Soo 1, 2 and 5.  We started practicing and then it was clear for me to see how effectively the joint locking techniques work. How cool is this I thought!

A different perspective

The various groups were asked to perform their techniques and watching the energy displayed by the more advanced students was awesome! It was like being in a live martial arts movie!

Oh to be able to fall like that! I would need lots more practice!

Small moments

I collected my shoes and was about to leave when another black belt Rick said hello while taking his sword out of its scabbard. I had to smile. It was the perfect reminder as to why I was putting myself through this extended learning process. My unfulfilled goal of learning a complete sword form and finding my green destiny.

Small moments matter – especially when they remind you of big dreams!


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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