Kuk Sool Won

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Kuk Sool Won
Country of origin South Korea
CreatorSuh In-Hyuk
Official websitehttp://www.kuksoolwon.com
Kuk Sool Won
Revised RomanizationGuksurwon

Kuk Sool Won (Korean국술원; Hanja國術院) means Korean martial arts. It was founded in 1958 by Suh In-Hyuk (서인혁), who also carries the formal titles of Kuk Sa Nim (i.e. "national martial arts teacher") and Grandmaster.[1]

This Korean martial art is known for its comprehensive collection of combat techniques, in particular, it teaches an extensive set of offensive and defensive moves designed to take advantage of the human body's many pressure points.[2]

Kuk Sool Won is practiced in various countries, with its biggest bases other than the South Korea and the United States being Western Europe (Germany, France, Italy and Spain) and Iran. However there is a strong following in South America as well.


Suh In-Hyuk and foundations of Kuk Sool Won[edit]

As a youth, Suh In-Hyuk was trained by his grandfather, Suh Myung-Deuk, a supposed master-instructor to the Korean Royal Court, as well as following a family tradition of martial arts that stretched back sixteen generations. After the death of his grandfather during the Korean War, Suh In-Hyuk travelled throughout the Far East visiting various Buddhist monasteries and other esteemed martial arts masters, as research for developing his own system. He even had his younger brother, Seo In-Sun, take lessons from the founder of Hapkido, Choi Yong-sool, since there was a significant discount offered to younger students and Seo In-Sun would later show what he was taught to his 2 older brothers, Seo In-Suk & Suh In-Hyuk.[3] A barebones curriculum for the system was developed in 1958 and later, the Kuk Sool Won was founded in 1961 (the initial syllabus continuing to be fleshed out and modified as the years went by). Suh fled South Korea in 1974 due to political troubles and decided to introduce his system to the United States in 1975.[4]


In 1991, Kuk Sool Won was selected as an extra curricular activity for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and in 1992, Suh In-Hyuk was presented with the Commander's Sword at West Point.[5][6][7]

In the Netherlands, Kuk Sool Won is practiced in six schools. The highest rank instructor in the Netherlands is Robbin Baly (6th dan), who teaches a group of approximately 200 students in Amsterdam and elsewhere.[8]

Kuk Sool Won was imported to Iran in 1980 by engineer Dariush Ghaffari, who lived in the United States prior. He first started teaching the art at the "Tehran Fire Club".[9]


It is important to note that Kuk Sool Won is but one branch of a fervent Kuk Sool movement which was popular in South Korea during the post-war era. Initially the term ‟Kuk Sool” had its origins with a group known by the moniker, Kuk Sool Hwe (Han-geul: 국술회, Hanja: 國術會) which is short for Hanguk Musul Hyeophoe (Han-geul: 한국 무술 협회), or ‟Korean Martial Art Association” and was loosely based on a group formed in China several decades prior with a nearly identical name (i.e. the Central Guoshu Institute). Other branches of the Kuk Sool Hwe worth mention include: Kuk Sool Kwan (founded by Woo-Tak Kim), Hwa Rang Do (founded by Dr. Joo-Bang Lee), and Bul Mu Do (founded by Han-Chul Lee). All of these notable players helped to define the underlying practices of this martial art and fleshed out a basic outline for its curriculum, as part of a wider group of individuals pursuing non-Taekwondo focused martial arts (and specifically relying heavily on the teachings of Yong-Sul Choi —what later became referred to as Hapkido— as the major ingredient). Unfortunately this collaborative effort was short-lived and as a result, this epic organization subsequently disbanded, with all of the masters listed eventually going their separate ways to form their own organizations, albeit retaining the essential skills cobbled together by the group, Kuk Sool Hwe. A common practice at that time was unabashedly to create a ‟romantic” backstory to help market new ventures to the public, therefore caution must be advised regarding any so-called histories surrounding any of these founding martial arts masters. For example, Myung-Deuk Suh actually is the grandfather of In-Hyuk Suh, but he would've been far too young to be an instructor to the Korean Royal Guardsmen prior to them being dissolved by the occupying forces of the Japanese in the early 1900's (not to mention there not being any record of it and meticulous records of such things were habitually kept by the Empire of Korea). In order to fit the timeline, a more believable story would have it be his great-grandfather rather than his grandfather as serving in the Royal Guard, even though no one from his family ever served in this capacity.


Kuk Sool Won relies on a historical perspective of traditional Korean martial arts when outlining its contents, which breaks things down into three main branches:

  1. Tribal martial arts (사도무술; Sah Doh Mu Sool)
  2. Buddhist Temple martial arts (불교무술; Bul Kyo Mu Sool)
  3. Royal Court martial arts (궁중무술; Koong Joong Mu Sool).[10]

Techniques from these three segments were carefully selected and organized into a cohesive curriculum in order to form the basis of Kuk Sool Won.[11] This martial arts knowledge was said to be passed down to Suh In-Hyuk by his grandfather, Suh Myung-deuk, who began teaching him at the age of five.[12] A more simplistic way to describe the contents of Kuk Sool Won would be to acknowledge that it is a successful combination or conglomeration of Hapkido (a derivative of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu), Kung Fu (particularly Mantis style, although whether from the Southern or Northern variety isn't clear), and certain indigenous Korean martial arts (such as Taekkyeon). Note that combining disparate martial skills often yields inconsistencies that are difficult to overcome, yet this is not the case for the resulting foundation of elements found in the art of Kuk Sool.

Kuk Sool Won is a systematic study of all of the conventional fighting arts, which together comprise the martial arts history of Korea. As a martial arts system, Kuk Sool Won is extremely well-organized and seeks to integrate and explore the entire spectrum of established Asian fighting arts, along with body conditioning, mental development, and traditional weapons training. The following list represents a short summary regarding the most common elements found in the system:

The incorporated skills are often practiced in class and tournament by utilizing 6 kata-like “Hyung” and 221 “techniques” learned at the coloured belt, and black belt candidate level. The fighting style is brutal and quick to damage joints beyond repair; practitioners are taught early to only use the arts in controlled settings or in true self defense. There are also types of forms consisting of weapons. Examples include short sword, knife, sword, short staff, middle staff, cane, fan, axe, bow and arrow, jointed staff, rope and spear.

In Kuk Sool Won there are four basic sword forms that are taught (each with its own underlying set of principles, or gum bup 검법):[14]

  • jung gum hyung - straight [grip] sword form - 정검형
  • yuk gum hyung - inverted [grip] sword form - 역검형
  • ssang jang gum hyung - twin long sword form - 쌍장검형
  • ssang dan gum hyung - twin short sword form - 쌍단검형

Both long and short twin sword forms include techniques where the weapons are held in either the straight or inverted fashion, or in some cases one hand in straight fashion while the other is inverted.


Sung Jin Suh, wearing a 8th Dahn Black Belt dobok.

Kuk Sool Won practitioners don typical martial art uniforms or dobok (도복) for training. All the uniforms in Kuk Sool Won are black in colour, which according to Korean culture is used to represent wisdom.[15] For special occasions, there is a dress uniform for Black Belt ranks only, which was patterned after the armor worn by ancient Korean generals (which is not too dissimilar from Japanese armour). In the following section, the table mentions a Wang Sa dobok, which is only worn by the grandmaster of Kuk Sool Won (wang sa translates as "king's teacher" which explains why the royal colours of gold and purple are utilised). Also in the table where colours are mentioned for the General's Uniform, the first colour refers to the trim on the collar, lapel, cuffs, and tails, of the uniform, while the second colour refers to that of the ascot (also mentioned is the type of emblem displayed on the ascot – ascots for all Master ranks sport the KSW logo).

Ranking system[edit]

For coloured belts: A new belt with a stripe running down its center —or— a transverse taped stripe added at the end of the belt, can be awarded for slight accomplishment before receiving the next belt (there are a total of 12 grades below DAN rank, i.e. Black Belt, thus placing 2 grades within each belt colour).

The tail end of each listed title is ‟nim” but isn't really part of the title per se, as it serves mainly as an honorific to be appended to the title only when addressing the individual in person (this is why it is set off with a forward slash where each term is written in Han-geul). Note that coloured belt ranks do not carry formal titles, except for Black Belt Candidates.

Title   Meaning / Rank / Colour Scheme  
Kuk Sa Nym   국사 \ 님 Grandmaster - wangsa dobok
Su Suhk Kwang Jang Nim

  수석관장 \ 님

Senior Executive Master (9th degree Black Belt) - gold / gold
Suhn Im Kwang Jahng Nim

  선임관장 \ 님

Executive Master (8th degree Black Belt) - red & gold / gold
Ji Do Kwang Jahng Nim

 지도관장 \ 님

Senior Master (7th degree Black Belt) - red & gold / red
Joo Im Kwang Jahng Nim

  주임관장 \ 님

Head Master (6th degree Black Belt) - red / red
Pyung Kwan Jahng Nim

  평관장 \ 님

Master (5th degree Black Belt) - red / white
Sa Bum Nim   사범 \ 님 Instructor (4th degree Black Belt) - red & silver / white (KSW–logo)
Pu Sa Bum Nim

  부사범 \ 님

Deputy Instructor (3rd degree Black Belt) - silver / white (KSW–logo)
Kyo Sa Nim   교사 \ 님 Assistant Instructor (2nd degree Black Belt) - silver / white (ROK flag)
Jo Kyo Nim   조교 \ 님 Instructor-in-Training (1st degree Black Belt) - silver / white (ROK flag)
Dahn Boh Nim   단보 \ 님 Black-Brown Belt

-or-   { Black Belt Candidate }

Ja Ddi   자띠 Brown Belt
Hohng Ddi   홍띠 Red Belt
Chuhng Ddi   청띠 Blue Belt
Noh Rahng Ddi   노랑띠 Yellow Belt
Huin Ddi   흰띠 White Belt


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hill, Robert (2010). World of Martial Arts !. Lulu Enterprises Incorporated. pp. 65–69. ISBN 978-0-557-01663-1. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Pressure Points Video From the April/May 2015 Black Belt Cover Story on Kuk Sool Won". blackbeltmag.com. Active Interest Media, Inc. 15 April 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  3. ^ Kuk Sool Won Official Website, kuksoolwon.com
  4. ^ Black Belt Magazine - 2015
  5. ^ "Founder of Kuk Sool Won". Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  6. ^ Hallander, Jane (March 1993). "Martial Arts Training at West Point: Kuk Sool Gives Army Cadets Realistic Combat Techniques". Black Belt. Valencia: Active Interest Media, Inc. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  7. ^ Kuk Sool Won at West Point, NY. 24 September 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  8. ^ "Kuk Sool Won - Instructeurs". www.kuksool.nl. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  9. ^ Tavakol Shaar, Hamidreza, Martial Arts and Its Great Founders, Tehran: Mehr Publications, 2015, p. 110.
  10. ^ Suh, In Hyuk (1993). Kuk Sool Won Traditional Korean Martial Art Textbook Volume 1. Magnolia, Texas: World Kuk Sool Association. p. 14.
  11. ^ Viljoen, Andries (12 April 2018). "국술원 Kuk Sool Won: A Comprehensive Martial Arts System". Medium. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Founder Of Kuk Sool Won". Martial Arts Bexhill. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  13. ^ "A Comprehensive Martial Arts System". Kuk Sool Won. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  14. ^ Hallander, Jane (November 1983). Black Belt Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 21–26. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  15. ^ "General - Hanyang University". www.hanyang.ac.kr. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Korean Terminology". Kuk Sool Won NY. 5 September 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Suh, In Hyuk (1991). Kuk Sool Won Staff Techniques. Pusa: World Kuk Sool Association.
  • Suh, In Hyuk (1991). Kuk Sool Won Sword Techniques. Pusa: World Kuk Sool Association.
  • Harmon, R. Barry (2007). 5,000 Years of Korean Martial Arts: The Heritage of the Hermit Kingdom Warriors. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing. ISBN 9781598585636.
  • Harmon, R. Barry (2016). The Power of Pressure Points. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing. ISBN 9781457543418.
  • Harmon, R. Barry (2017). Kuk Sool Goong: Korean Martial Art Archery. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing. ISBN 9781457557552.