Essential characteristics of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan which make it unique and differentiates it from other styles.

Essential characteristics of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan which make it unique and differentiates it from other styles.

It seems appropriate to discuss this topic in the month of November as on November 9th 1945, Hwang Kee founded the Moo Duk Kwan in order to spread, prosper and create understanding of his special martial art now known as Soo Bahk Do.

The fame of Moo Duk Kwan has grown not only in Korea, but all over the world.

What makes Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan so unique? To understand this, it’s important to explore the foundational history which I understand has been well documented in the past – I will discuss here because of its relevance to this study.

The founder, Hwang Kee was only 7 when he witnessed a fight when a Tae Kyun master defend himself against a large group of men. Hwang Kee was so impressed that he followed the man home and eventually asked to learn. Hwang Kee was refused because he was too young. Determined, Hwang Kee would watch from a distance as the master would teach Tae Kyun. Though he never received formal training in Tae Kyun, some considered him a master in his own right by the age of 22.

Later, Hwang Kee went to Manchuria to work on the railroad. There he was able to train with Yang Kuk Jin, a master of the Chinese martial arts. Here Hwang Kee received his only formal training which included Seh Bop (Postures), Bo Bop (steps) and Ryun Bop (Conditioning). He also trained in Dham Toi Sip E Ro (12 Step Tan Tui) and Tae Kuk Kwon (Tai Chi).

When Hwang Kee returned to Korea, he read books on Okinawan Karate.

After World War II, Hwang Kee opened a school teaching a new system that he created called Hwa Soo Do (the way of the Flowering Hand) named in reverence to the Hwrang Knights from the ancient Korean Kingdom of Silla. This style was heavily influenced by his training in Manchuria. However, because of the influence of the recent Japanese Occupation of Korea, his art was not very well received.

Hwang Kee decided he needed to integrate the art of “Tang Soo Do” into the Hwa Soo Do discipline. At the time, Tang Soo Do was the only term for a “Karate-type” discipline that the public would recognize and accept because of their Japanese occupation during the past 50 years. From the knowledge he had acquired from studying Japanese books, he began teaching Tang Soo Do while applying the Hwa Soo Do discipline of techniques. This included a unique use of offensive and defensive hip movements in all hand techniques deep stances also we have a unique way of extending the hips on kicks. This distinguished the Moo Duk Kwan system from others teaching “Tang Soo Do”.

In 1957, Hwang Kee discovered the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji, the oldest Korean martial arts text known today. Inside, he discovered a fighting art called “Soo Bahk Ki” or Soo Bahk Hee” which means hand striking techniques or dance. He recognized the importance of “Soo Bahk” as a Korean traditional martial art and studied the book in depth.

The Moo Duk Kwan began another transformation as Hwang Kee implemented the Soo Bahk system into the Moo Duk Kwan. This implementation has continued until the present day where the Moo Duk Kwan now practices forms taken from, and based upon, the teachings from the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji.

 In the 1990’s, the Moo Duk Kwan formally changed its name from Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan to Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. The change of the name outwardly demonstrates the Moo Duk Kwan’s change of focus from the Tang Soo Do curriculum that had a strong base in the Okinawan Karate forms to the unique Soo Bahk Do forms created by Hwang Kee such as Chil Sung, Yuk Ro, and Hwa Sun.

Now there are many fine styles of martial arts. Two of the many things that separate our art (Soo Bahk Do) from all other arts and make it unique. Soo Bahk Do is not a sport and strives for not just an individual’s mastery of the whole body, as explained in the song of the Ship Sam Seh -  embodied in our physical training - deep emphasis is also placed on the mental aspects of training (Moo Do).

I have referred continually to “Moo Do” – the first character “Moo” although it does mean Martial or Military and when you think of the Military you often think of action, or action to help control combat.  Moo philosophy is actually to “stop conflict”. The techniques that Soo Bahk Do teaches us do have effective combative applications, but they should be used in that instance as a last resort.

The second character Do means Path or Way. It is not a Path or Way in the terms of a physical road to travel, but rather a mental road. The Do or Path that the Moo Duk Kwan teaches is one of human relations.

The Moo Duk Kwan is so very unique as through this Moo Do it strives to teach its members to become truly authentic people – who are deeply concerned with the preservation of life and connected through the art. Within this teaching is an intention that we should serve others and to live without always focusing on our own needs (10 articles of faith in mental training) not comparing to others but to seek out strength in ourselves and others with humility - this encourages inner calm and self-discipline.  

Although we are learning combative techniques, they are not the final answer. The Moo Do philosophy of the Moo Duk Kwan teaches use to solve conflict both within our self and between others through human relations, not violence - so as to be gentle on the outside hard on the inside (Neh Kang Weh Yu).

In fact, the philosophy behind the creation of the hyung reinforces this – take for example the Yuk Ro – the philosophy of the Yuk Ro Hyung is to develop people as a warrior and also a scholar (Moo Sa). As can be seen in the explanations of the first three hyung of the series (I will not discuss the others as my training has not given me the skill or insight to discuss these with any feeling or full awareness)-

1.    Du Moon – the great gate in practice we should open our mind to knowledge and teaching.

2.    Jung Jool – Cuttting through the centre – To critically evaluate lessons and information. We must be able, as a scientist does, evaluate, analyse and assess the information gathered.

3.    Po Wol - Embrace the Moon - To study and begin to apply knowledge in all aspects of our lives – now that the information has been discovered and deemed “worthy” it is now time to fully utilise the knowledge and begin to apply it. In some ways this is as simple as daily acts of warmth and kindness with all the people we must deal with each day (Random acts of Moo Do). Embrace the knowledge and take action.

When practiced with openness and awareness they give us the mental strength and guidance to properly use our techniques for defence with absolute reverence for life and to seek to save your opponent either if you are involved in direct physical intervention or preferably through your words and/or example – this is what (in my opinion) makes Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan truly unique amongst the Martial Arts.

Everyone likes to talk about what he or she knows or what he or she can or wants to do, but not everyone has the discipline to apply and do it (Embrace the Moon). This is what we must strive for while training in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan, not to just learn and be able to recite lessons but to apply and demonstrate them without haughty acclaim – work in silence and speak through your results and action, this is my personal mission my Personal Vision Tour (PVT).

Iain McKinstry

UK Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation

Dan Bon 47542