What is Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan?

First it is important to understand that Soo Bahk Do is the Art and Moo Duk Kwan is the style. Soo Bahk Do is the technical side, and the Moo Duk Kwan is the philosophical side of “Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan.”  The name “Bahk” originated in the age of Chun Chu (2700 years ago)according to the Moo Yei Dobo Tong Ji, which is one of the oldest records of Korea’s martial arts.  Soo Bahk Do (combat with bare hands and feet) is the only Korean martial art handed down from the Ko Ku Ryo Dynasty, thereby making it the oldest Korean martial art; approximately 2,000 years old.

Translated literally, Moo Duk Kwan means “Institute of Martial Virtue.”  Our founder, Kwan Jang Nim (Grandmaster) Hwang Kee established the Moo Duk Kwan on November 9, 1945 to reinforce and preserve this traditional approach and to bind all practitioners in a culturally rich organization offering respect, fellowship and the search for an end to conflict.  It is the scientific use of the body in methods of self defense, combined with a strict philosophy guiding the practitioner towards discovering their full potential.  Soo Bahk Do, translated means “Hand Striking Way”, and is the means to forge a body towards gaining ultimate use of its faculties through intensive physical and mental training.  It is an art of self defense and philosophy that’s secrets cannot be bought at any price other than serious and rigorous training.  Its history is a long and honorable one.

What makes Soo Bahk Do different form other martial arts?

There are many fine styles of martial arts.  Two of the many things that separate our art (Soo Bahk Do) from all other arts and make it unique are its versatility and philosophy.  Due to the fact that ancient Korea was constantly attacked by both Japan and China, Soo Bahk Do became versatile out of necessity, the result being an art which demands mastery of the whole body, techniques ranging from quick and spontaneous movements to slow graceful flowing movements gives not only variety but also challenges everyone.  Second, many styles teach effective self-defense and fighting principles, but Soo Bahk Do offers much more than just that.  Learning fighting techniques without a strong philosophy is to burden society with more dangerous people.  We use Soo Bahk Do to realize our full potential and emphasize “virtue in action” demonstrating courage, discipline, confidence and humility through our sincere efforts in training and our behavior towards others.  You won’t just hear our philosophy you’ll see it in action.  This is what makes Soo Bahk Do so unique.

History of Soo Bahk Do

Soo Bahk Do is the name of the art we study and its direct translation is Soo (hand), Bahk (strike) and Do (art or way).

According to the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji, the name “Bahk” originated in the age of Chun Chu (2700 years ago) and the name “Soo Bahk” originated during the early Jon Han Dynasty in China (2200 years ago).  This is the oldest reference to any martial art name in Korea, based on the historical documentation available.

Numerous descriptions of the name “Soo Bahk” were recorded in the historical documentation and wall painting of tombs since the Han Dynasty (2000 years ago) and through the Ko Ku Ryo, Silla, and Ko Ryo Dynasties and down to the Yi Dynasty (600 years ago).

As discussed earlier, the name “Soo Bahk” was first used about 2200-2700 years ago in the age of Chun Chu in China.  However, “Soo Bahk Ki” (Soo Bahk Technique) or “Soo Bahk Hee” (Soo Bahk Dance) seems to have been more actively known and practiced in the Ko Ku Ryo dynasty (2000 years ago), Ko Ryo dynasty (1000 years ago), and Yi Dynasty (600 years ago) of Korea.  This shows that Soo Bahk Ki (or Hee) was practiced by Korean people traditionally since the Ko Ku Ryo Dynasty (2000 years ago).

No one knew about the existence of Soo Bahk for nearly a half century during the Japanese occupation.  Korea became an independent country as World War II ended on August 15, 1945.

Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee discovered Soo Bahk in the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji in 1957.  This was the rebirth of Soo Bahk as a Korean traditional martial art.  He spent long and arduous hours of study in order to make possible the rebirth of Soo Bahk for the martial art practitioners of the world.

He developed the Soo Bahk Do system for us to study through the Moo Duk Kwan as a living art, and he has helped us to become connected with our long and proud heritage.

The Kwan Jang Nim realized the importance and value of “Soo Bahk” as an art form and he named it “Soo Bahk Do” and started its promotion in 1957.

The Korean Soo Bahk Do Association was formally registered as a corporation with the Korean government on June 30, 1960 and has continuously fulfilled its mission. 

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Erik Schultz

Erik Schultz lives in St Cloud, MN and is owner of Sartell Soo Bahk Do Karate. He is a member of the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation and you can connect with him through the links below.

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