Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Does one have to embrace Buddhism to join Kwan Um Do Kwang?
A. No; KUDK is open to all faiths, backgrounds, and beliefs. We welcome diversity in all areas, including age, gender, religion, and physical and spiritual goals. We seek to teach martial arts, not to judge people.
Q. Is KUDK focused entirely on sword?
A. KUDK begins with the study of the sword. Depending on the instructor, students may also choose to study shin boep (striking arts, typically known in the US as "karate"), ho shin sul (self-defense techniques), long stick, and for advanced students, two-sword forms.
Q. May I study KUDK if I am studying another martial art?
A. Many schools disapprove of studying multiple arts, especially similar styles, because it is difficult to master what are often completely different stances, techniques, and energy flow. KUDK sword practice, however, is an excellent adjunct to most "empty handed" schools and styles. Some schools actively encourage students to add sword practice to their martial arts studies. For example, KUDK instructors are regularly invited to participate as "guest instructors" at Tang Soo Do workshops. Out of respect for your current school, you should first gain the permission of your current instructor, who may wish to request more information about KUDK.
Q. May I watch a class?
A. Yes, we encourage you to visit and perhaps sign up for an introductory session.
Q. At what age may I begin to train KUDK?
A. Since children are taught much differently than adults, children over 5 through 12 may attend special after-school or weekend children's classes, which are fun, aerobic, and non-aggressive. Junior classes may be offered at some clubs for ages 12 through 14; the focus of these classes is primarily on forms and control. Ages 15 and up always train in adult classes.
Q. How long does it take to become a black belt?
A. Students on the "black belt fast track" (those who train 4-5 times a week, attend every test, and take a monthly private lesson) can achieve black belt rank in as little as 18 to 24 months. Most students, however, achieve their first degree black belt in two to three years.
Q. What type of swords do you train with?
A. The skill, strength, and control required to wield a steel sword is considerable, so we train with wooden swords. Accidentally striking onesself with a sword is not uncommon in the beginning, as you learn the art; it is often a necessary side effect of discovering precision and awareness. For this reason, only a black belt may train with a steel sword, and only for forms (kata).
Wooden swords are used for training forms or fighting forms (interactive forms between two people). Wooden swords are true weapons, and not to be taken lightly.
Q. Must I take any vows to join KUDK?
A. No. We do expect you to be respectful to all KUDK practitioners. We have one rule about fighting: do not do it. Self-defense and coming to the aid of someone in need are gray areas. In general, you should learn to develop the confidence to walk away from a fight. These are common rules in virtually all legitimate martial arts. Your instructor will discuss these issues in class.
Q. What is the attitude and "culture" of the school?
A. Every school and instructor is a bit different; some are more focused on spiritual path (do), while others are more focused on technique (sul). Some are more modern, others more traditional. But we share some common philosophies as well: Respect your teachers, but don't worship them (they are just human beings, like you). Respect your fellow students, of both higher and lower rank. Respect the dojang (school), and be polite when training. Be compassionate and patient, especially when teaching someone of lower rank. Pay attention, ask questions at the right times (try not to interrupt the instructor), and do not disrupt the class by idle conversation, jokes, or heckling. But don't be too serious either; laugh at least once during every class.
Q. Must I study the esoteric component of KUDK?
A. KUDK is good solid martial arts training for some, and positive "energy sorcery" for others. You get out of it what you choose to get out of it. Most practitioners will experience some level of the "magic" but we don't expect you to believe in, or trust in, anything you do not experience yourselves. Those that want to delve into the manipulation of the energy body will have the opportunity to study with specialists in that area, but it is not a required part of the curriculum. For more on the estoteric components, refer to the essays in The Path of the Mystic Warrior.
Q. What does Kwan Um Do Kwang actually mean?
A. Literally translated as "Perceive Sound Path Light" Kwan Um Do Kwang is named for attributes of Zen compassion and wisdom. Refer to the page The Founding of Kwan Um Do Kwang for details. In the words of Master Fortin, "Perceive Sound and Light is the method of entering into awareness of the Unknown, where everything is experienced directly without attachments to checking anything, wanting anything, holding on to anything, or making anything. KUDK prepares the physical body and the energy body to shift its assemblage point into the Unseen Worlds that lead to Enlightenment and the ultimate freedom of the individual, to project compassion wisely throughout the universe."