Simple, But Never Easy

Six year old KSN Ken

Six year old KSN KenI’ve been working on some very time-consuming projects lately and have ignored my blog. I have missed three posts in a row, and that’s just not acceptable. I need to continue to make time for this, as well as my other business-related writing and creative writing.

And that kind of comes down to the topic of this post, which I chose weeks ago. Life, like Kuk Sool Won, is simple, but not easy. I can remember sitting on my swing set that my dad built for us when I was five or six years old. This was around 1972 and the news was full of stories of Viet Nam, racial tension, drugs, and violence. Not much different from now, I suppose, but I remember being deeply affected by it all.
Most of all, I remember sitting there and trying to comprehend why people chose to live lives of violence and crime. I couldn’t understand why people wanted to do “bad things” to each other. It seemed easy to my young mind, just to choose to do the right thing. And, I suppose, it is easy. But it’s not simple.

When people have been mistreated for a long time, sometimes violence seems like the only option. For whatever reason, our culture is steeped in violence and laced with unhealthy sexuality. The combination seems designed to induce the death spiral of our society.

Well, what my six-year-old-self didn’t realize is that humans seem to need that magnetic draw of the shadow, the darker part of our nature, to contrast our higher nature. Without darkness, we can’t appreciate the light. If we weren’t drawn to that aspect of ourselves, we wouldn’t value the work required to rise above it. I’ve seen this over and over in my life and as an instructor.

We’ve all been there. We start a diet, and someone brings donuts to work. We decide to start running on Monday, get up early, and it’s raining. We think that maybe we should start drinking less, and get invited to a party. The call of the shadow is both unavoidable and, as it turns out, helpful.

The shadow, the magnetic draw towards entropy and decay, is actually a tool to help point us in the right direction. When we begin something that we know is “good for us”, fate seems to throw obstacles in our path that make it easy for us to quit. We need to learn to take a step back from those events or situations and look at the bigger picture. When the easy thing to do is quit, that’s when we need to work harder. KSN Ken, age five or so, riding a Big WheelWhen you want to skip class, that’s when you need to be there the most. When people are being idiots and traffic is making you late, you need to keep going.

When you hear that internal voice telling you to cheat, to quit, to take a day off, to give in to the inevitable, you need to know that what it is really saying is that if you want to be better than you are, you should do exactly the opposite. That internal voice, so much easier to hear than the one telling us the right thing to do, can give us the same information if we just learn how to use it. We have to become aware of ourselves as observers; take a step back from the emotion and drama of our lives and pay attention to how we’re living and what’s going on around us.

You may have heard that when you make a choice to begin something, the Universe conspires to help you in any way that it can. The voice of your shadow is one way that the Universe points you toward the right path. The obstacles that appear in your path are another. Don’t assume that because something is the right thing to do, that it will be easy. Sometimes the best thing that you can do for yourself, is also the hardest.

Martial art training is hard all by itself. The concepts are easy to learn, but the practice is hard. Making it to class two or three times a week seems hard, until you make it a priority. When it becomes a habit, and you see the changes that happen to your body and your life, in general, you become greedy for that time spent practicing, and making the choice to be in class is much easier.

Please don’t fall into the trap of following the lead of your shadow. The shadow is like a clown. It’s there to show us what not to do. Our society has chosen to follow the clowns rather than use their example as one to avoid. (I remember writing a longer post about that, but I can’t find it. I’ll get back to you on that.)

Kuk Sool Won is simple. If you find it difficult, usually you’re doing something wrong. Training is simple, getting to class is hard. Doing the right thing is simple, figuring out the right thing can be hard. We get caught up in our lives and forget that we’re simply players on a stage. When we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, things come into sharper focus and we can see our choices and their consequences more clearly.

By Ken Ring

Born and raised in and around Muncie, Indiana, Kyo Sa Nim Ken got married after college, then moved away to learn how to fly airplanes. He came back to Muncie several years later as a Black Belt in Kuk Sool Won, opened his school and proceeded to teach the traditional martial art of Korea to the good people of Muncie.


  1. You are right, making the best choice, doing the right thing seems like the most difficult at the time but plays out to be the perfect solution, what you needed all along. Thank you!

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