By Daniel R. Segarra ©2002
During the Yi Dynasty (1392-1907) Korea's martial arts were compiled into a martial arts text called the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (Moo Yeh Doe Bo Tong Jee).
In 1790, Master Lee Duk Moo appeared before King Jung Jo and was ordered to compile Korea's martial arts techniques that were popular at that time into a book called the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji and is the oldest and most valuable historical documentation of the Korean martial arts. Master Lee Duk Moo referenced many sources all of which are listed in the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji's contents. Most of the sources were either Korean, Chinese or Japanese. It was written in four parts or books. Book one was written about the spear (Chang), their various types and techniques. Book two dealt with the sword (Kum). Book three covered long blades and sword strategies and Book four is about empty hand combat (Kwon Bup).
The Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji catalogs the most effective techniques that were popular during the Yi Dynasty (1392-1907 A.D.). The Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji was a culmination of several earlier texts and scrolls from various styles of martial arts. In 1957, Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Grandmaster Hwang Kee began his intense study of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji. Quote "It was was a truly remarkable moment for me since my entire life, from childhood, has been dedicated to the martial arts. I went to the library every day and studied this book. I was eager to translate the book and share this valuable information about Korean martial arts with everyone who studies martial arts. But this wonderful discovery also brought with it some difficulties. To understand and translate the book, one must require a deep knowledge of the Sip Sam Seh (philosophy of martial arts tactics and postures) as well as a knowledge of the correct martial arts terms for the Chinese characters."
As he began his translation of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji, the responsibility of keeping the translation as pure as possible weighed foremost in his mind. After much time and work, Grandmaster Hwang Kee has translated the Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji. He is the first person to do so. Grandmaster Hwang Kee has translated the Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji into a series of 17 patterns (called Hyung in Korean). The first six are called Yuk Ro (six paths) pronounced Yoong Ro. The next pattern is Hwa Sun, followed by the ten Sip Dan Khum patterns. It is important to understand that there is more involved here than mere translation.
The Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji was written in Chinese, since at the time in which it was written, most of the important texts and all of the religious texts were written in Chinese due to the popularity of Confucianism throughout the Orient. What makes translating ancient Chinese difficult, is that each character has several meanings. In addition to the linguistic difficulties, there is the challenge of putting the translated material into a practical and organized format. That's why it was natural for Grandmaster Hwang to organize the information into patterns (Hyungs).
As was stated before, the various martial arts developed and adapted to the practitioner's environment, lifestyle and various needs and conditions. Most styles fall into two categories. One type is Neh Ga Ryu - (inside house style) characterized by close defensive fighting. The other type is Weh Ga Ryu - (outside house style) characterized by spontaneous, quick, offensive oriented fighting. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan is Korea's traditional martial art and is Joong Gan Ryu (middle way style) using both Neh Ga Ryu and Weh Ga Ryu. This is because the geographical conditions of Korea demands an understanding of both Neh Ga Ryu and Weh Ga Ryu.
Joong Gan Ryu (middle way style) utilizes hard/soft, light/heavy, active/passive type movements. The softer/heavier movements are similar to the Northern Chinese styles, whereas the lighter/active movements are similar to the Southern Chinese styles. All of these factors make Soo Bahk Do a very versatile, challenging martial art.
This versatility and challenge is apparent in the body of forms (Won Hyung) required in the Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation. The Yuk Ro forms are indigenous to Korea and the speed, timing and sudden distance changes make these forms very unique.
One must remember that the techniques and forms recorded in the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji were used to train the Kings Army, the techniques themselves build discipline, strength etc. but the morality and philosophical development comes from the Moo Duk Kwan. Moo Duk Kwan means "Martial Virtue School". The philosophy of the Moo Duk Kwan combined with the technical challenges of Soo Bahk Do creates a wholistic way of training the mind and the body, enveloping every aspect of oneself, in order to create a more mature person who integrates all the potential of the mind, body, and spirit in order to free themselves from inner and outer conflict. This integration enables the practitioner to deal with the outside world in a mature, intelligent, forthright and virtuous manner. There are three area's in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan which are vital to the development of these qualities. Everything in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan uses one or more of these areas.
These areas are Neh Gong, Weh Gong and Shim Gong.
Neh Gong (Internal achievement) deals with one's internal health and energy.
Weh Gong (External achievement) deals with one's external health, muscles, tendons. etc.
Shim Gong (Spiritual achievement) deals with one's mental, spiritual health and well being.
The integration of these three area's through the mental and physical challenges of the Yuk Ro forms, Soo Bahk Do training, and the Moo Duk Kwan's philosophy guide the practitioner towards a oneness with their environment whether it's physical, spiritual or social thereby creating a more peaceful practitioner, environment and hopefully an more peaceful world.
When Master Lee Duk Moo compiled the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji he probably did not ponder the world wide effect it would have let alone its use toward human betterment in our present time, but Korea's ancient martial arts text has stood the test of time and has survived antiquity to remind us of our heritage to the ancient warriors of Korea and their efforts and sacrifices to pass onto us the value of Soo Bahk Do the traditional martial art of Korea.