You have the freedom of choice. You can choose to take action or be overwhelmed by your imagined shortcomings and do nothing.
Photo 1: A high five at Kuk Sool Won Testing Day after a successful board break
Recently my ten year old son asked me whether he could audition for his elementary school’s variety show. I was somewhat surprised as he tends to shy away from the limelight.
He needed three other students to participate and thankfully there were ten others including my seven year old daughter, who were more than willing to share their love for Kuk Sool Won martial arts with their peers. They called themselves the Kuk Sool Crew.
It was heartwarming to see them band together and practice. They were filled with enthusiastic energy and their excited smiles when they got together were a joy to behold.
Their eagerness to try something different was inspiring. Although they were nervous it didn’t stop them from taking a chance.
We all have choices to make and chances to take every day. I had always wanted to do martial arts but I thought my age would be too much of a limitation. It took someone to invite me to try before I began my martial arts journey at Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California.
An invitation from the school was a catalyst for my kids and their peers to try something different. An invitation from their martial arts Master triggered the start of my Kuk Sool Won adventure.
There are numerous martial arts styles including Karate, Jui Jitsu, Taekwondo, Hapkido, Kung Fun, Wushu and Jeet Kune Do to name but a few. I started out trying Tai Chi too. If you check out the newly launched Martial Nation website you can see the multitude of options.
Photo 2: My training buddy Eveline and I at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin dojang in California
You can choose to stay on the sidelines and dream or you can launch yourself into the fray. The choice and the decision is yours.
There aren’t always obvious invitations to create the spark that ignites us into action but if you need one then here it is!
If you’ve ever dreamed of trying martial arts – this is your invitation! The universe is inviting you – will you accept?
The only permission you need to follow your dreams is your own.
Murphy’s law haunts me, whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first. It’s the same thinking that used to move me to action when I was in Church going through the liturgy and got to the part about what we have left undone…
It’s the reason I make lists. I always have one running. Usually it’s on auto shuffle. Parenthood means that new items get added constantly. Life happens.
Finding the spaces to fill that are not already crammed with the necessities and mundanities of living is not a simple process. It requires a firm decision. A decision to choose differently. To prioritize according to the goals you wish to achieve.
Sometimes when I become too focused on one particular goal, others can take a bit of a back seat. I was reminded of that in martial arts class this week.
Our instructor, Master Saidi, asked us to review our techniques. My anxiety levels immediately peaked because I knew that I haven’t been giving them much attention. In fact in general my focus on training had waned.
I’d had a bout of the seasonal cold and missed a couple of classes. My focus had been more on intellectually pursuing the art and unpacking its stories rather than on the actual practice. Its easy to get distracted as a writer and story gatherer. The outcome of this loss of focus was rather telling.
I had learned about the history and personal journeys of those who practiced the art but I had been neglecting my training. “That’s an interesting technique” Master Saidi declared as I ineffectively tried to recall Sohn Mohk Soo no 3, “perhaps we can add it to our curriculum” he joked.
Chagrin ensued, not a comfortable space but one from where meaningful lessons can be learned if I choose to put my ego aside.
I needed to remember why I was here in this dojang. I had lost sight of my green destiny and my intention and mission was resurfacing in full dramatic style.
You must practice these techniques every day we were told. The Kuk Sool curriculum is vast, if you are struggling at this point the only way to improve is through more practice.
Master Saidi had reminded us earlier that “when you give 100% in martial arts training, it will deliver 100% when you need it. If you slack off during training, your martial arts will desert you in your time of need.”
A vivid reminder. There is no room for excuses. I want my techniques to be good. I want them to be effective. To get there I needed focused attention and more training.
You get what you train for. Mediocrity is not an option.
I cannot give 100% of my attention to all my goals all the time. It’s simply not humanly possible. What I can do though is prioritize and give each step 100% in the time allotted to them. Make the time and make it count.
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.
Testing Day is about two weeks away and while my children are taking things in their stride I am rather anxious. I need to break a board at this Testing and I need to do it with a spin kick. Unlike jump front kick which gives me a real thrill I have struggled with getting the balance, power and accuracy required with spin kicking.
My training buddies are also working hard on their kicks but as Vineela managed to break a board earlier in the week she is feeling more confident than I am. Ramya popped in yesterday so that we could do some practicing together and her kick is pretty great and consistent so she doesn’t have anything to worry about either.
About the only thing setting my mind at ease is that I don’t only get one chance to break my board.Despite my anxiety though I love facing these challenges. There is always something to push me. Something else out of my comfort zone that needs to be faced and conquered.
I have bruises on my arms from last week’s sparring, I have aching stomach muscles from body conditioning exercises in my last class too. I am trying to increase my flexibility to also assist my kicking and doing the various stretches is challenging to say the least! With hindsight I should have trained my body better about thirty years ago so that it wouldn’t have been so hard now.
I’ve never been an athletic type. Making my body work hard and building up a sweat was something my sporty husband did – not me! My mindset has shifted so much now that I have started Kuk Sool Won. Thanks to Instagram I can easily see that I have been practicing this traditional Korean martial arts system for 23 weeks now. What a journey it is!
There are also so many techniques to learn. Pressure points and joint locks are clearly very effective when executed well but I am having a great deal of difficulty memorizing each technique and I haven’t even learned that many yet! It feels like I forget them the moment they are taught to me. “You are very creative with your techniques” our instructor, Master Saidi chuckles. On numerous occasions he has to remind me to use my “other left”. Thankfully he is very patient and my training buddies, including my husband and kids, are great at helping me too.
Kuk Sool Won is not something I envisioned doing in my forties. I’ve always liked martial arts and started Tai Chi several years ago but when my Sifu immigrated I stopped. It has been a dream of mine to complete a sword form.
When we are warming up in class my son and my seven year old daughter try to encourage me to get my head to the ground during stretches. I can only smile and say I’m doing my best. It hurts but it also gets better with each passing week. Pain is certainly where the growth happens.I watch my kids confidently lead warm-up and inwardly cringe at the thought of having to do it myself soon. Speaking in front of people I’m quite accustomed too but doing physical exercises is a completely different kettle of fish.
There are so many lessons to be learned both through learning the martial art and in the situations and discussions it leads to with my family.
“You’re treating Testing the same way you treated your University exams!” my husband said to me last week. I had discovered so many mistakes in my forms and I was practicing hard to fix them. “I don’t like to see you struggle” he added.
“That’s really sweet” I responded “but struggling and then practicing is the only way I’m going to get better!”.
Starting something new is a challenge at any age but more so when you’re older and have so many demands on your time. My forty something year old neighbor recently went back to study and successfully changed career paths and is thrilled with her accomplishment despite how tough it was to achieve.
For this martial arts Mum, practice won’t make perfect but just like fear leads to anger then anger leads to hate which leads to the Dark Side, perseverance leads to improvement and improvement leads to encouragement which in turn fuels my aspirations for a healthier body and mind.
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.
Anyone who has had weight to lose knows that it’s a battle to choose to face every day. The easier option is to turn tail before the fight even begins – to announce defeat to a relentless opponent that is far easier to submit to than to hold your ground against.
When I had my first thoughts of writing about my excessive weight, about three years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Factiously Fat-o-wacking to the day of Fit: The beginning of a better end.” The end of course being a more literal reference to the size of my generous posterior. It begins with the end in mind..(and yes I have also read Stephen Covey) this particular end was much larger than it needed to be and in need of some serious toning.
So yes I am a fan of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie (and of course Lewis Carroll’s book) and enjoyed the fabulously vigorous Futterwacken by the Mad Hatter on the Frabjous day. While I have no ambitions to have my head spinning at the top of my neck, giving my body a thorough workout to get it into better shape was definitely on the cards.
My fat is my Jabberwock, a relentless scary creature hanging around and although I have on a few occasions managed to slay it with the Vorpal sword of dieting and exercise, it keeps getting reincarnated. So my journeys down this Fat-o-wacking path had been largely unsuccessful but knowing that the creature could be slain kept my hopes alive.
I had been decently sized up until my late twenties when a series of unfortunate events drove me to emotional eating. Everyone has their poison and mine became food. Drink me! Eat me! Oh yes I will thank you very much for asking. I knew though that with each tasty morsel I was feeding my adipose tissue.
My adipocytes were sucking in fat at a furious rate due to the lovely snacks I was imbibing. They were in a state of hypertrophy and getting bigger by the day. What I did not know was that they were heading for hyperplasia. If only I had known I should stop before reaching that tipping point.
Just like those pesky Gremlins when they get wet – fat cells in the right conditions begin to multiply and once they have they never die! It’s like the scariest horror movie ever. You can’t kill them and they are always hungry. They are just waiting for the next dose of fat to feed themselves. The only way to control them is to not give them what they want. Weight loss makes them shrink but they hide in the dark always alert and waiting to grow again. It’s a war where the enemy is always watchful.
Knowing that being overweight means that I have in the region of 75 billion fat cells is a very sobering thought – I picture them like regiments of fat globby creatures with lots of little mouths waiting to be fed. Feed me! Feed me!
The way to a better perkier end is therefore the path to emaciated fat cells on the Frabjous day that I intended to call ‘The day of Fit’. My Kuk Sool Won martial arts journey however has taught me that there is no specific day just like there is no spoon. There is only more practice, more training, the next martial arts goal. My mindset needed a radical makeover and I needed to think profoundly differently about exercise and how I approached it.My focus changed from the Jabberwock slaying to finding an activity that connected with both my physical and spiritual nature and I found that in the dojang (even though I still think owning a Vorpal sword would be pretty cool)! The numbers on the scale are no longer a fixation and instead challenging myself to achieve new fitness targets is. Going to Kuk Sool Won class thrice a week does not feel like a chore, it feels like an opportunity, mainly to prove to myself that with the correct focus so much more is possible.
I am doing things now that I didn’t think this middle-aged body of mine could handle and because it’s thoroughly enjoyable and there is great camaraderie with my fellow students at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school, the Jabberwock has gone into hiding with it’s tail between it’s legs. My super friendly and highly skilled instructors have also been very encouraging and keep me motivated. When I get bruises from my training buddy Vineela during sparring she grins at me like the Cheshire Cat and tells me she is making me stronger. The morning after a tough class with Ma’am Shagasi last week, Ramya my other training buddy, sent me a message to say that she was impressed with my stamina. She in turn has motivated me to do more push-ups.
Training together is a circle of growth for us all.
I am steadily winning the weight loss war and just like Alice discovered Wonderland, with Kuk Sool Won a whole new world of physical and mental accomplishment beckons.
It was the strangest feeling being back in class after an unexpected absence. It reminded me of how I felt as a child returning to my family home after being away on an extended excursion.
There was the feeling of familiarity with the surroundings and the procedures along with a sense of affection for objects I had used which was comforting and reassuring but there was also a sense of guilt at shirking my responsibility and neglecting my duty.
Standing in the dojang with my feet on the tape, waiting for class to begin there was the awareness that this was a place to grow and be nurtured but also a place to challenge oneself and strive to continuously improve.
There was also a hint of anxiety about whether I would remember my forms and techniques when illness had prevented me from revising between classes as I usually would.
I have learned so much and experienced so many new things and challenges that I sometimes forget that my martial arts journey is still in its embryonic fourth month stage.
“Cha Ryuht” Master Saidi calls us to attention and the class responds in unison with a resounding “Yes Sir!”
Training begins and I cautiously go through the manoeuvres testing my still recovering body to see how well it can withstand the required demands.
My training partner and I start working through our techniques and realise that we are going to need some guidance and revision on the last one we learned.Master Saidi happily helps us through the technique and simultaneously reminds us about the importance of persistent practice.
Then to keep us on our toes he teaches us a new technique. Growing and learning – that’s the journey.. He then also explains to us why the technique is designed to help us handle an opponent who is physically stronger and of course has a quote to help us drill it into our minds.
“The bigger they are the harder they fall. The smaller they are the further they fly,” he quipped.
The first sentence is very familiar to most – even to me as a non sports oriented type it was something I’d heard my Grandfather often say but the latter part was new and so apt for our setting.
It connected with me both literally and figuratively. Being short of stature myself I actually do feel like Kuk Sool Won has taught this small person to fly. It has released me from my self created cage of sporting inadequacy and allowed me to step into a new realm of self discovery and started me on a journey to reach new heights.
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.
Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin, Martial Arts Academy of USA
4558 Dublin Boulevard CA 94568
Phone: (925) 551 – 8200
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
My fifth Kuk Sool Won lesson and my anxiety levels still peak before class. Punctuality is something our instructors and I take seriously so I am always at the dojang at least 10min before the lesson begins.
My eyes are drawn to the brown belts in training. Eyes focused, mind clear, hands fast and stance low – that’s what Master Saidi calls their attention to. Such control and flexibility is wonderful to observe.
White belts unite
Time for my class to begin and I find my spot on the mat. Beside me a tiny and completely adorable toddler takes his place to begin his second class. We are separated in age by about forty years but in the dojang we are the same. White belts – the lowest rank.
I meet another mature white belt student who has just returned from an extended overseas trip. She is delightful and just as anxious as I am because her long absence requires her to refresh some of the skills she has already been taught.
We plough through techniques and forms together. It’s great fun and we have a sense of accomplishment completing the introductory stances and moves in unison.
A lesson about beginning
One of my favourite stories as a child was Alice in Wonderland and her conversation with the Mock Turtle about lessons came to mind:
‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’
‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice.
‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.’
I am glad that these kind of lessons don’t apply in Kuk Sool Won class. I need all the teaching and practice I can get!
I am mindful of my self-talk. Don’t think because you’re brave enough to start that it’s going to be easy. Don’t think that overcoming your lizard brain means that there will not be further obstacles or naysayers or moments of self doubt.
This might not work but I’m doing it anyway. “We don’t have to be great to start but we have to start to be great.” to quote Zig Ziglar. We all have something awesome inside of us to share but if we don’t start then nobody will ever know. You need to begin to unleash the awesome!
The next goal
We stop our practice to observe the brown belts. Even with their advanced skills the Master still corrects certain postures and hand positions. They are still learning too. In martial arts there is no finish line – only the route to the next goal.
I find this comforting. As much as we learn there is always more to know. Master Saidi tells us there will be tournament practice and that he expects the white belts to go to tournament too. This is a bit of a surprise as it’s less than 2 months away! A new learning goal is set.
We get to bow out at the end of class and we stand on the tape in rank order – white belts last of course. My spirits have buoyed. Even the longest journeys begin with a single step.
Have you taken your step?
“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.”