Kuk Sool’s self-defense techniques are rich and varied. In fact, students must learn and memorize more than 200 techniques just to advance to Black Belt. All of these techniques are unique and powerful, allowing the defender to control an attacker by using different levels of force in a variety of situations.
The foundation of Kuk Sool Won technique training is based on the theory of You Won Hwa.
- You (flowing, as in water), we learn to “go with the flow.” Water symbolizes many things, not the least of which are adaptability, softness and at the same time, great force.
- Won (circle) acknowledges that every person has his or her own circle of “private space.” Attacks which invade this space should be redirected with flowing and circular defensive motions. This circle should be thought of as least resistance; always rolling (active), and therefore, difficult to hold or grasp.
- Hwa (harmony) represents the unity of mind and body. In practice, this is accomplished through repetition. Harmony is achieved within oneself, through a state of “emptiness” that recognizes positive and negative are part of one; each is there to allow the other to exist, and cannot exist if the other part is not there.
The ramification of the theory of You Won Hwa is that as flowing water seeks a harmonious state with its environment, constantly adapting to external changes, we should also seek to maintain harmony within our inner circle so that all trespassers in this space are redirected in direct proportion to the force they introduce. Students will quickly realize that all of their techniques and forms follow this principle.
Advancement from Huin Di (white belt) to Jo Kyo Nim (1st Degree Black Belt) depends largely on the student’s dedication and practice. Achieving the rank of 1st Degree Black Belt could take anywhere from 4 to 6 years.
All Levels (Progressive)
Yea Eue: Martial arts etiquette. The very first and most important “technique” on the Kuk Sool Won chart is etiquette. Etiquette is much more than simply saying “Yes sir” or “No sir,” it is the way that we act and comport ourselves as martial artists both in and out of class. Etiquette is important in the way we deal with other people, and in the way we accept other points of view or ways of life.Â Etiquette and respect represent the way we project ourselves in all of our dealings with others. This is why etiquette is such an important aspect of our training in Kuk Sool Won.
Ki Cho Jah Ki: Fundamental breathing techniques. These are the first set of 6 basic breathing techniques students are taught in Kuk Sool Won and help to develop proper breathing technique, loud and explosive “kihap” (power yell) and wrist strength. The two most important parts of Ki Cho Jah Ki are loud kihap and spreading the fingers as far apart as possible.
Nak Bub: Falling principles. Due to the nature of Kuk Sool Won and the emphasis on throwing techniques throughout the student’s training, it is vitally important that the student learn to fall properly – both to avoid injury and to escape from various types of throwing techniques. The two basic types of falling techniques in Kuk Sool can be described as body protection (ways of falling to lessen the possibility of injury) and martial arts gymnastics (types of falling used in escape) — most of the more spectacular falling techniques (also referred to as “koong joong nak bub” are of this latter type. Falling in a typical Kuk Sool Won program is generally begun sitting or kneeling on the mat and reviewing the proper falling position; later, as the student becomes more comfortable and confident, the falls are performed progressively higher and performed with various types of throwing techniques. The most important consideration in teaching the falls is the student’s ability and level of confidence and proficiency.
Johk Sool: Kicking (literal translation means “leg technique”). A Korean system, Kuk Sool Won employs an extensive variety of kicking techniques. The student will begin with basic kicking (such as front kick, side kick, roundhouse kick) and will progress through more advanced and complicated types of kicking, including various combination kicks, jumping kicks, spinning kicks and jump spinning kicks (some of which have the body spinning 570° in the air before impact, building terrific centrifugal force).
Soo Ki: Striking, or hand technique. Kuk Sool Won teaches a wide variety of striking techniques from basic punching and open-hand striking familiar to most martial arts, to more specialized types of striking methods such as animal-style techniques (primarily based on the tiger, crane and snake) and techniques utilizing different parts of the hand, arm and wrist. One of the prominent characteristics of Kuk Sool striking is the emphasis on more open-hand striking methods and the use of strikes targeted to one of the 364 martial arts pressure points located on the attacker’s body.
Forms & Techniques by Belt Rank
White Belt Level
Sohn Ppae Ki (8): These eight techniques are the basic “wrist escape” techniques that students are generally exposed to on their first or second day of Kuk Sool training. Sohn Ppae Ki may seem simplistic, but there is real power behind these techniques and they form the basis for Sohn Mohk Soo learned during Yellow Belt.
throwing techniques taught in Kuk Sool Wonâ„¢ and are introduced at the White Belt Level. Fairly advanced by the standards of some martial arts, Ki Bohn Soo is designed to teach the beginning student certain fundamental techniques and concepts: basic stepping, body position, pressure point, joint angle, etc. The principles used in Ki Bohn Soo will be reflected in every other technique taught in Kuk Sool Won.
Ki Bohn Soo (15): These are the first basic throwing techniques taught in Kuk Sool Won and are introduced at the White Belt Level. Fairly advanced by the standards of some martial arts, Ki Bohn Soo is designed to teach the beginning student certain fundamental techniques and concepts: basic stepping, body position, pressure point, joint angle, etc.Â The principles used in Ki Bohn Soo will be reflected in every other technique taught in Kuk Sool Won.
Ki Cho Hyung (6): The first empty hand form in Kuk Sool Won is Ki Cho Hyung ( “Fundamental Form”) is a pre-arranged pattern of stances and techniques designed to begin teaching the student various patterns of movement and sequences of techniques used in Kuk Sool. A single form, Ki Cho Hyung is divided into 6 parts with each of the parts beginning and ending in the basic “ready” position. Every martial art has a particular “flavor” that distinguishes it from other similar arts, and that “flavor” is made up of the way the practitioner moves and applies techniques based on the fundamental principles of the particular style — Ki Cho Hyung is the first step for the student in beginning to develop the “flavor” of Kuk Sool Won in their training.
Yellow Belt Breaking: One board, palm strike. This break involves the use of the open palm to break a supported 1″ pine board. As with all breaking (kyuhk pah) techniques in Kuk Sool Won, the primary emphasis is on the technique involved rather than the break itself.
At this point the student will have 1 Form & 15 Techniques
Yellow Belt Level
Sohn Mohk Soo (11): Techniques against a single hand wrist grab (partner grabbing your right wrist with their left hand), Sohn Mohk Soo involves the use of pressure point and joint-locking techniques along with proper movement and body position to set the opponent up for a counter-grabbing technique or throw.
Eue Bohk Soo (13): This set of techniques begins the training of the student to respond and counter to various types of clothing grabs. Using principles and techniques similar to Sohn Mohk Soo, in some cases the student will disengage or escape from the grabbing attack prior to the counter while in others the clothing is used to help trap the grabbing hand as the counter technique is applied.
Cho Geup Hyung: The second Kuk Sool Won hyung (or form), Cho Geup Hyung can be translated as “Elementary Level Form” and builds on the techniques already learned in Ki Cho Hyung. New stepping patterns (such as a “twisted stance”) and techniques are added to the student’s repertoire with the learning of this form, as well as new combinations of techniques (such as a “circle block and punch”). While Ki Cho Hyung is a form that moves forward and back within each section, Cho Geup Hyung is a linear form which moves in a straight line from beginning to end.
Blue Belt Breaking: Two boards, palm strike. Similar to the breaking technique for Yellow Belt, but requiring slightly more speed/power, this break involves the use of the open palm to break two supported 1″ pine boards.
At this point the student will have 2 Forms & 39 Techniques
Blue Belt Level
Ahn Sohn Mohk Soo (6): These are techniques against a single handed cross grab on the wrist (partner grabbing your right wrist with their right hand).Â Using pressure point techniques and joint manipulation, Ahn Sohn Mohk Soo prepares the student to respond to this type of attack with counter-grabbing and throwing.
Maek Chi Ki (15): Maek Chi Ki is the first set of techniques on the Kuk Sool Wonâ„¢ chart specifically designed to respond against a striking attack. The techniques of Maek Chi Ki gives the student the tools to respond to a punching attack with a striking counter — directed against one of the sensitive and painful pressure points on the attacker’s body.
Joong Geup Hyung: The third Kuk Sool Won hyung, Joong Geup Hyung means “Middle ( or Intermediate) Level Form.” In this form the student is introduced to several new striking and kicking techniques (including the spinning heel kick and the jumping front kick). This form teaches balance and proper breath control.
Red Belt Breaking: One board, spin kick. The first breaking technique on the Kuk Sool Won chart to involve a kicking technique, this break involves the use of a spinning heel kick (reflecting the appearance of this kick for the first time in a form – Joong Geup Hyung) to break a single supported 1″ pine board. Proper technique, balance and speed are essential to make this break successfully.
At this point the student will have 3 Forms & 60 Techniques
Red Belt Level
Maek Cha Ki (15): Similar to Maek Chi Ki, this set of techniques teaches the student countering techniques against a punching attack which involve kicking to specific pressure points. As in Maek Chi Ki, another very important part of this set of techniques involves the use of stepping and body positioning to distance properly from an aggressive attack, placing the student in the most advantageous position to respond with a proper counter.
Joo Muhk Maga Ki Bohn Soo (15): Based essentially on Ki Bohn Soo, this set of techniques begins the fundamental teaching of using locking and throwing techniques to counter a punching or striking attack. Joo Muhk Maga Ki Bohn Soo teaches critical techniques of blocking and trapping a punching attack prior to setting up the throw or lock – techniques which will form the basis for a number of techniques learned later on.
Goh Geup Hyung: Goh Geup Hyung (High Level Form) is the fourth form taught in Kuk Sool Won and is learned at the Red Belt Level. Goh Geup teaches proper balance and introduces more advanced techniques and combinations (such as a double palm strike/back kick).
Brown Belt Breaking: High & low spin kick. This is the first breaking technique in Kuk Sool Wonâ„¢ requiring combination kicking, and is considered by some students to be the most difficult of the underbelt breaking requirements because of the speed, power and balance required to perform the break properly. This break consists of a high spinning heel kick, immediately followed by a low spinning heel kick with each kick breaking a single 1″ pine board supported at a different level.
At this point the student will have 4 Forms & 90 Techniques
Brown Belt Level
Joong Geup Sohn Mohk Soo (7): This set of techniques, Intermediate Level Wrist Grabs, involves a more advanced response to the same type of attack first encountered by the student at the Yellow Belt level. Response to the grab at this level include pressure point throwing, finger press and a “fireman’s carry” type throwing technique.
Ahp Eue Bohk Soo (20): These 20 techniques involve counter techniques and throwing in response to various types of grabbing attacks against the student’s clothing. This set of techniques introduces a number of techniques that will become more common later on, such as an “under the arm arm bar” technique (aka. “chicken wing”). The techniques and principles of this set increase the student’s potential responses to attack significantly.
Dae Geup Hyung: A relatively short form, Dae Geup Hyup (“Advanced High Level Form”) is also fairly difficult with turning and crouching techniques that require a great deal of balance and flexibility.
Black-Brown Belt Breaking: Three boards, advanced kicks. Breaking at this level demonstrates combination kicking and requires the student to break three single supported 1″ pine boards with three advanced kicks (ie. jumping kicks or jump spinning kicks). To perform this break, the student first positions his “holders” and then performs the three breaks one after the other with no pause.
At this point the student will have 5 Forms & 117 Techniques
Black-Brown Belt Level
Dee Eue Bohk Soo (23): This set of techniques against grabbing attacks from the rear (against both wrists and various types of rear clothing grabs) begins to give the students tools for defending against “surprise” attacks from an attacker that positions himself behind them.Â Dee Eue Bohk Soo uses redirection, joint-locking, pressure point attack and throwing to defend against grabbing attack from the rear.
Kwahn Juhl Ki (13): Techniques designed to attack an opponent’s joints (directed primarily against the wrist, elbow and shoulder), this set introduces the student to the more subtle aspects of joint attack and manipulation which can be used to increase the effectiveness of techniques already learned and to prepare them for more advanced techniques later on.
Too Ki (13): These are techniques utilizing various types of “body throws” (similar to throws that might be seen in styles such as Judo) directed against punching attacks. Demonstrating the principles of Yu-Won-Hwa (yielding, circular motion and harmonizing with the opponent’s attack), this set of techniques teaches the student proper motion and stepping patterns to uses these principles effectively.
Mohk Joul Li Ki (5): Beginning from a kneeling position facing the opponent, Mohk Joul Li Ki teaches various techniques of choking the opponent to submission.Â Although taught from a kneeling/bowing position, many of the techniques can be applied standing, as well.
Bahng Too Ki (10): An important set of techniques in an art that utilizes so many different types of throwing techniques, Bahng Too Ki teaches the student a number of different counter-throwing techniques that may be applied against various types of throwing attacks. Using pressure points, redirection and specialized stepping, Bahng Too Ki gives the student an important tool in defending against throwing or grappling-type attacks.
Yahng Sohn Mohk Soo (15): This set of techniques is directed against attacks in which both of the student’s hands are grabbed from the front. Some new techniques are added, but many of the techniques help the student to understand applications of techniques already learned in response to a different type of attack.
Ssahng Soo (15): Ssahng Soo is the defense against techniques of a double hand grab (in which one wrist is seized by both of the attacker’s hands). Divided into 3 sections of 5 techniques, this set teaches a response against grabs against the hand held raised, lowered and behind. The most prominent feature of these techniques are the specialized counter-grabbing techniques designed to escape from the opponent’s grab while simultaneously seizing or trapping the grabbing hand.
Dahn Doh Mahk Ki (15): The first set of defensive techniques in Kuk Sool Won against a weapon attack, Dahn Doh Mahk Ki is a set of defensive counters against different types of knife attacks (stabbing, poking and slashing attacks) resulting in a throwing or locking technique against the attacking hand and ending the control/submission of the attacker.
Guhm Moo Hyung: This form (translated as “Sword Dance Form”) is an empty hand form based on the movements of the double short sword techniques and was originally designed as a means of practicing these weapons with empty hands. The most advanced form in the underbelt chart of Kuk Sool Won, Guhm Moo Hyung is very advanced and quite beautiful with graceful, flowing techniques and long low stances. In this form, the extensive use of animal-style techniques in Kuk Sool become readily apparent for the first time.
Black Belt Breaking: Four boards, advanced kicks. Breaking at this level again demonstrates combination kicking and requires the student to break four single supported 1″ pine boards with four advanced kicks (most commonly jump front kick, jump side kick, jump turning back side kick and jump spinning heel kick – although the actual kicks required at testing are at the discretion of the grading judge). To perform this break, the student first positions his “holders” and then performs the three breaks one after the other with no pause.
At this point the student will have 6 Forms & 234 Techniques