Pu Sa Bum Nim’s Corner
by Jason G. Lee
In 1979 Western New York and all of us, myself included, received a gift. Master Gary returned from school in North Carolina that year and with him he brought Kuk Sool. Since then Kuk Sool Won has grown not only in the area, but all around the world. But it didn’t grow here from a business plan. There was no marketing strategy. It grew from the heart.
Each school in Kuk Sool Won is run by a dedicated instructor who has been trained and vetted by the World Kuk Sool Association and Kuk Sa Nim, our Grandmaster, In Hyuk Suh. These instructors were all once white belts, who through practice and hard work earned their Black Belts. They continued to train and learn under the masters, until they began their own schools. Our school was no different. To be a school owner requires intensive training on how to properly instruct Traditional Korean Martial Arts, and that intensive training never stops. The Master is always a student, and being an instructor and certainly a school owner means constantly giving of one’s self.
Kuk Sool came to me in December of 2000. My wife gave me a trial membership for Christmas that year. I had spent several weeks touring area schools looking for the martial art that was right for me. I was looking for something special because I felt like I had been searching for this for most of my life.
When I was seven years old it became clear to me that I should become a Jedi. They were guardians of peace and justice, had cool laser swords; it just made sense. As I grew older my Jedi training turned to an interest in martial arts. As a 13 year old I became obsessed with Bruce Lee after watching a copy of Enter the Dragon I had rented from the town library. I sought out his book, magazine articles, everything I could. I grew up in a small Adirondack town and martial art training wasn’t something that was available to me. I practiced on my own (badly) for years. My grandfather enrolled me in a self-defense camp when I visited one summer but that had mostly been a scary ordeal that made me feel confident because of skills I should not have been taught. I continued to train on my own but always to fight, not to be a martial artist. When I went off to college I looked into a Tai Kwon Do club but it was expensive and after two free classes I could tell that it wasn’t for me. Finally, at the age of 30, I was really going to start the journey I had been trying to take since 1977.
I visited several different martial arts schools in the months of November and December of 2000. My wife and I were living in an apartment in the City of Rochester at the time. I toured a Kung Fu school (as that was the martial art my childhood hero had been trained in), several Karate schools as well as a school that offered Military Martial Arts (the closest thing I had any experience with). I found them all lacking. I felt a strong ‘sales pitch’ from each owner, but nothing to back it up. I wasn’t ‘shopping’ for a martial arts school. I was looking for a home.
Kuk Sool Won wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t recognize the name when I saw it online, (yes kids, we had the internet then) but they had a school in Webster where my wife worked so I went and took a look. That was all it took. Master Gary (then a Sa Ba Nim, 4th Dahn) brought me right out on the floor with red belts and brown belts and First and Second degrees and my path towards becoming a martial arts instructor began. When I got back to our apartment after class I told my wife, “I found a real martial arts school.” She stopped out at the school, got a trial membership certificate to put under the tree and the rest is, as they say, history. I got my first yellow tip in January of 2001 and my promotion to 1st Dahn was in July of 2004.
I started teaching morning class shortly after getting my Black Belt and took over as lead instructor of the Webster Dojang under Master Gary in January of 2007. Since then I have had dozens of students become black belts themselves. I’ve trained students to find success at tournaments and I’ve racked up three WKSA Grand Championships myself, one of those a World Grand Champion in 2014. It took me thirty years, but I found the thing that no job had ever been able to fulfill.
Helping others find the ‘something’ I had lacked in my own life is probably the best part about teaching Kuk Sool. It’s not always easy. I’ve had to make personal sacrifices to teach and I’ve been lucky that my wife (who is also a black belt) has been supportive of my dream. Being a martial arts instructor does mean giving of one’s self, but it has given me more than any other career ever could. I don’t teach Kuk Sool as a job. I teach it because I care about it, I love what it can do for us as students and because I’m thankful for all that it has given me.
Cha Ryuht! Kyung Heh. Bah Roh.