The idea of “secret techniques” in the martial arts has always fascinated people. Verbal tradition, urban legend, movies, and television have all perpetuated the idea that there are secrets that allow martial artists to achieve near super-human powers with the right training and practice. Like all legends, there must be some kernel of truth to these stories. I know that I’ve seen some amazing things in my martial art career.
Unfortunately, martial art instructors have been known to invoke the “secret technique” to excuse their inability to make certain techniques work. (”I could do it for real, but I’m not allowed to show that to students.”) This behavior is an indicator that you are in the wrong school and that you should extricate yourself as quickly as possible.
As a Kuk Sool Won™ school owner, I tend to stay away from mystical descriptions of my art and how it works. That said, I do concede that there are some keys or “secrets” to succeeding in Kuk Sool Won™. This article lists the secrets that continue to be instrumental in my understanding of Kuk Sool.
The list is comprised of physical attributes, techniques, and other qualities that made it uniquely hard to prioritize. Here, as I understand them, are several “secrets” to Kuk Sool Won™.
Dahn Juhn Ki Bub: Breath Exercises
Kuk Sa Nim thought that these exercises were important enough to share them in the textbook. That alone should be a major clue that we need to practice them. Practically, dahn juhn ki bub introduces us to self-discipline. When we control our breathing, we learn to “hack” into our parasympathetic nervous system. As far as I can see, blinking and breathing are the only two activities that can be controlled by either the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system. By controlling the breath, we can calm ourselves, excite ourselves, and trigger altered states of consciousness. When we learn dahn juhn ki bub, we open the door to these possibilities. As we apply it to our practice, it helps us make that switch to the non-verbal, creative side of the mind that is lightning fast and intuitive, critical qualities in a self-defense situation.
Meditation: Mind Exercise
I’m becoming convinced that meditation powers the body in some way. My understanding of this is incomplete, but I notice that when my meditation practice is solid, my techniques work better, my understanding of them comes quicker, and my forms flow better.
You, Won, Hwa (Circle, Flow, Harmony)
Circles – If you can’t figure a technique out, look for the circles. The circle (or a part of a circle) is the core movement of every joint in the body.
Flow – “Like water running downhill,” your techniques should flow from you to your partner, and your partner to the floor.
Harmony – Push when pulled, pull when pushed. Strength against strength means that brute force always wins. Use intelligence, practice, and awareness to overcome inertia and work for the best possible outcome for all involved.
Focus on one aspect of Hyung at a time, one piece at a time. I used to try to practice all of the hyung bub while doing my entire form. Now I break my forms down and practice small bits at a time, over and over, focusing on one of the five rules at a time.
Eyes: bright and clear
Mind: calm and focused
Body: soft (low, stable, supple and relaxed)
Feet: slow and precise
Hands: fast and controlled
The stronger your stance, the better everything else will look and feel. Only as I’ve gotten older have I realized how I could feel a difference when doing something simple like walking across the floor when my stances are strong. If I lay off training for a while, I can feel the difference. Practice your stances a lot.
More than any other single physical attribute, strength will determine your likelihood of prevailing in a self-defense situation. Of course, strong and smart is better than strong and dumb. Strong and mobile is better than strong and immobile. In Kuk Sool, we practice lots of physical qualities. If we have a basis of strength to work from, it makes everything else easier.
Etiquette boils down to consideration of other people. Humility is essential, as well as respect and understanding the rules. Etiquette in Kuk Sool combines these qualities and weaves them into a culture of mutual respect and decorum. Respect of individuals, groups, organizations and places conditions the student to think synergistically.
Not sexy; cliché even. But there is no faster, better way to excel in your martial art training than practicing what your instructor teaches you. When you practice, it’s like putting money in a savings account. It not only stays there, but it also grows. Your skill can only grow with cultivation, and personal practice, outside of regular class, is the only way to cultivate your martial art.
These are what I think of when I think of Kuk Sool Won™. What about you? What secrets do you know that I forgot to mention? Email me or let me know in the comments below.