Kuk Sool Won's Modern History
Kuk Sool Won's history begins in 1910 with the dissolution of the Korean Royal Court and the Japanese occupation. Many leading martial arts instructors were forced into hiding. Among them was Myung Duk Suh, In Hyuk Suh's grandfather. Before Japan took over, the elder Suh taught three types of Korean martial arts; kwan sool, a kicking and hard punching style, yu sool, a soft style with emphasis on locking and throwing techniques and yu-kwan, a combination which could be either hard or soft, but never used force against force.
During this period of Japanese rule (lasting from 1910 until the eventual defeat of the Japanese forces at the end of World war II), the Japanese occupying forces attempted to suppress virtually every aspect of the Korean cultural heritage and replace it with their own. They even suppressed the Korean language (Hangul) in favor of their own Japanese language. Needless to say, the traditional martial arts of Korea were banned as well.
The practice of any sort of Korean martial arts had been strictly forbidden. Any Korean caught practicing them (or even worse, teaching them) would be severely punished under a legal system particularly harsh on the native Korean population. Because of the severity of this repression, the clandestine manner under which the native Korean martial arts were practiced (which had always been in evidence because so many of the techniques were jealously guarded secrets) was greatly intensified. Only a very small number actually participated in the training for fear of reprisal.
Suh Myung Duk, who returned to his family home in the Taegu area, then set about the task of preserving his vast martial art knowledge. He continued secretly practicing martial arts, teaching his techniques in the strictest privacy to immediate family members.
The Suh family had practiced martial arts for-the past 16 generations and it was time to pass on the previous generation's knowledge. From his children and grandchildren, Suh carefully selected one child to whom he would give the entire scope of his knowledge. That child was In Hyuk Suh, his grandson, whose serious martial arts education began when he was only five years old.
Suh's training continued uninterrupted until the middle of the Korean conflict, when his grandfather was fatally wounded. It then continued through arrangements made by his grandfather's foresight.
Letters of introduction, plus his grandfather's reputation as a master instructor, opened many doors for In Hyuk Suh. Now young Suh began to visit, and to learn from many teachers.
By the time he was 20 years old he had traveled to hundreds of Buddhist temples and private martial arts teachers, studying many aspects of Korean martial arts. The Buddhist temples themselves were not martial training grounds, Suh, instead, searched for and found many ancient training books, hidden away from the Japanese in the neutral holy temples. Sometimes he went to a teacher to learn only one technique. For instance, Suh learned an important joint locking angle from an old man who was the last descendant of a famous martial arts family. This old man was reputed to break steel smoking pipes with just his thumb but he refused to teach this technique, preferring to take it with him to the grave. Suh had talked to him for over an hour before realizing the old man had been holding a long Korean pipe in one position, with his elbow at a certain angle for the entire time. Suddenly Suh became aware that the secret technique was the elbow angle itself.
During this intensive training-period Suh met an old Buddhist monk named Hai Dong Seu Nim (Great Monk of the Eastern Sunrise). He became Suh's second most influential teacher, passing on special breathing skills, mediation techniques and internal power (ki) knowledge.
In the late 1950's In Hyuk Suh began to organize and systemize the many scattered martial art techniques of Korea into a single martial art, Kuk Sool Won, now Korea's largest organized martial art. (Tae Kwon Do, while larger, is considered by the Korean Government and the World Tae Kwon Do Federation to be a martial sport).
Suh officially founded Kuk Sool Won in 1961. When he opened his first do-jangs (schools) it was a difficult time. Those were the rough days following the Korean conflict, when martial art schools had to prove themselves physically to stay in business.
Kuk Sool grew to monumental proportions, even though it took the public some time to adjust to its radically different spinning techniques and low stances. Then, in 1974, when Kuk Sool Won in Korea was reaching a popularity peak with the public, In Hyuk Suh brought his martial art to the United States.