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ORIGINS

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Roots

In Korean Buddhism

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"Buddhism was transmitted to each of the Three Kingdoms during their transition from tribal federations to ancient states. During its dissemination Buddhism absorbed the myths, legends, and shamanistic beliefs of the tribes and forged a more systematized religion and philosophy."

In the long history of Korea, martial arts and Buddhism have intertwined for centuries. Temples maintained their own special martial arts practices, combining breath control and energy movement (chi gung) with self-defense (ho shin sul), unarmed striking arts (shin boep) and weapons practice (mu sul).

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Founding

Of Kwan Um Do Kwang

Founded in 1999 by Master Marc Fortin, Kwan Um Do Kwang is a young offshoot of both the Shim Gum Do martial arts and Kwan Um Zen Schools.

 

Master Fortin was a student of Shim Gum Do Master Kim for 20 years, living with the sword grandmaster for much of that time at the temple, where he attained the rank of a Shim Gum Do master. Master Fortin has also been a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn since 1978 and teaches Kwan Um Do Kwang under the certification and official sanction of Zen Master Seung Sahn.

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The name is comprised of two parts; the main part is Kwan Um. This literally translates as "The Way of Perceiving Sound" but it actually refers to those who walk the bodhisattvah path.

 

In Buddhism, there are two types of enlightened beings. Those who break the cycle of life and death are known as buddhas, while those who teach the path of enlightenment in order to save beings from suffering are known as bodhisattvas. In the Buddhist pantheon, Avalokitesvara is the most important bodhisattvah: the Bodhisattvah of Compassion or "The One Who Perceives Suffering through the Sounds of the World." In Korean, Avalokitesvara is called Kwansaeum Bosal or simply Kwan Um (Chinese: Kwan Yin; Japanese: Kannon).

To "Kwan Um Do" Master Seung Sahn added the word Kwang or Light, to designate a unique branch of Kwan Um Do, one generated by a true transmission of light patterns through Mariji Choen, Goddess of Light and Invisibility. There are many nuances to this choice of symbolism, but it is worth noting that Kwang is also a respectful reference to Master Fortin's training under Sword Master Chang Sik Kim. Won Kwang, or Universal Light, is Master Kim's Buddhist name, and the Shim Kwang Sa, or Mind Light Temple, is named for Master Kim, its founder.

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A branch of the bodhisattvah path...

...that uses martial arts to teach Zen practice and compassion.

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Temple Arts

Revived

The credit for resurrecting and further developing the Korean Buddhist sword tradition rests in one man, the martial arts Zen master Chang Sik Kim. Zen Master Kim founded the Shim Gum Do (Mind Sword Path) school in 1971 and is credited with having personally developed the Shim Gum Do Zen Sword system. This system was the result of "sword enlightenment," a flash of Zen inspiration that led to a fundamental understanding of the sword arts and how the energy of the sword works in harmony with other martial arts.

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Master Kim is the student of Zen Master Seung Sahn Lee, the 78th patriarch of the Chogye Order of Soen Buddhism. Master Kim first met Seung Sahn as a young boy in Seoul. The Zen Master gave him the following kong-an:

 

"A Sword-Master was watching the moon's reflection in a pool of water. Withdrawing his sword he sliced the reflection and the moon fell into two halves. How is this possible?"

The boy was filled with wonder, and when the Zen Master told him that he could one day become a great sword master if he moved into the temple and trained hard, Chang Sik Kim immediately became a resident of Hwa Gye Sa.

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