My Kuk Sool ‘Why’

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Getting Started, Mindset, Training

And how it’s taken me a while to figure it out.

I know I enjoy martial arts but I’ve never been able to say why, so over the last few months I decided to actually get to the bottom of it. It sounded like a pretty quick thing to do but how wrong I was: it took me quite a while!

I eventually got there and it turns out the reason I love doing martial arts (my ‘Why’)  was not what I was expecting. In fact (and to misquote another famous saying),  it’s this:

What happens in class, doesn’t stay in class.

Yep that’s it. What happens in class doesn’t just stay there, like I thought it did. Instead, what happens in class leaks out into every other part of my everyday life; and without me even consciously knowing it (well, until now).

If you have a minute or two, I’ll explain more (but if you’re in a hurry, just skip to the last paragraph for the answer!).

Quick check-in.

Before I start, let me say that my ‘Why’ would apply to any martial art (and I’ve tried quite a few) but in my case it’s especially true with Kuk Sool Won.  I think this is because unlike other martial arts it’s so rounded; there are so many facets to its teachings. It studies kicks like Tae Kwon Do, uses locks like Hapkido, incorporates throws like Judo and grappling like jiu-jitsu, and a lot more! 

Kul Sool has a much broader syllabus and the more facets something has, the more it can test you. Anyway, let’s continue.

The 4 corners of my ‘Why’.

In trying to understand my ‘Why’, I considered as many aspects of my martial arts Kuk Sool life as I could. But the following 4 thoughts kept cropping up and in the end cemented my reasoning. So I’ve called them my 4 corners, which I’ll explain.

Corner 1: Know your limit.

You can’t be good at everything in life; and you can’t be good at everything in Kuk Sool. Even black belts tell me they have strengths and weaknesses.  Some of us are better at the forms, some better at sparring, while others kicking is their thing. Whatever it is, you soon learn in martial arts which bits you have more of an aptitude to; and which bits you suck at. 

But it’s not that per se. Knowing that you have limits and accepting them is a crucial learning in martial arts. In fact it’s a crucial learning in life. 

Understanding and accepting what you can and can’t do today, deciding whether you want to stretch this limit or not,  and then working hard to break through it is a life skill as much as a Kuk Sool one.  It teaches you patience and determination and more importantly proves that you can do something. You stretch your bar.

Just looking at what you can do now, that you couldn’t do before, how you’ve progressed: it’s a measure and it reinforces your belief in yourself.

Corner 2: Mental beats physical. Every time.

Most of the time your mind gives up way before your physical body does.  Whether that’s five more press-ups you think you can’t do, or coming to class when it’s dark and cold outside. Your mind has to say yes before your body follows. And your mind can be a lazy old thing.

There are countless times in class when your mental energy is put to the test. The ‘warm up’ (when it seems like it’s going on a bit too long), doing that last spin kick when your legs are shaking, or accepting the challenge of another sparring round just as you were thinking of getting a water break. It’d be easy to make an excuse and give up. But you don’t. It’s at this point when you learn it’s not your body that makes the decision, it’s your mind. 

You learn as classes go on: you can do that last kick. You make your will stronger by doing this repeatedly. This is the clarity and the strength of your mind that you’re learning. If it says yes, your physical body can keep going.

Then you notice that outside of the class, in day-to-day situations, this strength of will keeps you going when you’re under pressure at work, or the kids need your attention at the end of a long day! You know you’ve got it.

Corner 3: Your mirror.

If you have a weakness, you’ll discover it in martial arts! The weaknesses I mean here are not just physical, they’re mental ones too. Your training will bring weaknesses out; raising them to the top for you to see. And this is good!

Martial arts makes you look at yourself honestly and tell you exactly who you are. You look in its mirror and it reflects back at you everything you need to know.

Of course, that’s not a comfortable thing and it’s hard to admit weaknesses. But that’s the thing: knowing your weaknesses and then accepting them is just the first step. Martial arts gives you the choice: if you’re happy simply to accept them, it lets you. And if you want to address them, martial arts has the ability to help you do that. 

Corner 4: Checked your ego lately?

In a world where everyone has become very self-conscious and where people build their personal brand on social media, the idea of self (and self-centredness) is a big issue now more than ever; especially for the younger age group (I have 2 kids so I know this!)

In Sparring, it’s so easy for the round to start gently, then build as each opponent tries to get the upper hand. You get caught with a punch that’s accidentally harder than it should have been, So you kick back a bit harder. They punch twice as fast. Ego has taken hold!

Ego serves no positive purpose for most of us. It makes you think less, act less skillfully, and look a bit of a prat most of the time. 

The stuff we do in class gives us practice to check our ego and to keep it under control; it’s an important part of martial arts. By keeping ego in check, you get to the result you want faster and more effectively. 

Learning to be aware of your ego and controlling it in class then leaks out into your day-to-day life outside of class. At work, with the kids, with interactions in the supermarket, in a traffic jam. You can check your ego and act the way you want to act.

And if nothing else, to be off your phone for an hour, in a class that’s run with respect gives a sense of positive self and is amazing for you (and even more so for your kids!).  

My ‘Why’ – summing it up

So everything I learn in class pours out into the rest of my day. The 4 Corners of my practice leak into everything else I do in life.

When my work deadlines seem endless, when the kids are pushing my patience, when a work colleague has a go at me, when a guy cuts me up while overtaking – I know I’m better placed to handle it because of Kuk Sool.

That’s my ‘Why’ and that’s why I head off to class at night when I might prefer to stay home and watch TV.

You’re ready, start now!

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About the author

About the author

Andrew is a BRIT nominated musician and winner of the BBC 2018 Gladiators. Ok, in his dreams anyway. In reality he has the important role as Dad to two and husband to one. He continually investigates life and loves peanut butter. At time of writing Andrew is a red belt.