Thursday, August 6, 2009

From Kumdo to Sunmudo

Photos top to bottom:
1] Anne, Instructor Alex and I with our Sunmudo Master.
2] Handing Winston Churchill Fellowship Letter to Grand Master Oh & Grand Master Jung, Heads of Korea Headong Kumdo Association.
3] Instructor Alex learns to cut.
4] Instuctor Cliff, Anne Marie & Instructor Alex at Gulgol Temple.
5] Kumdo training with Grand Master Oh.
6] Relaxing with Grand Master Oh and family.
7] Mrs Oh prepares dinner.
8] Instructor Cliff learns The Way of The Sword.

The following was written at 5:30am on Sunday 1st Aug.

We have had an excellent first few days. In the context of the Martial Arts, we have managed to train with a living legend within Tae Kwon Do, Grand Master Lee -which in Alex's 30 years my 24 years of practicing TKD- is the first complete, all round Tae Kwon Doist that either of us have ever encountered. Didn't dare ask him his age, but he must be well into his 60's, possibly early 70's but his knowledge (which I expected to be great) was awesome but even his ability was unbelievable!

Also gained the opportunity to stay with Grand Master Oh and his family for one night - which gave us an insight into how Korean families live. Grand Master Oh is a master of Kumdo (Way of the Sword) and we had the rare chance to practice sword forms with him -a very humbling experience - and to actually do some cutting. After which Mrs Oh prepared us some home cooked Korean dishes all washed down with some nice rice wine (in my case two or three glasses!).

Other things we have managed to do in the last few days are: visit a Korean monastery, high up in the mountains near Seoul -the capital of Korea and we ate in a restaurant that specialised in Tofu. This evening , or should I say Saturday night, Alex, Anne Marie and I managed to navigate the underground system and find our way to the heart of Seoul's shopping district. Lets put it into perspective for you; name brand shoes/trainers from around 15, 000 - 20, 000 Wun. Does that sound expensive? Well bear in mind 10 pounds = 17, 000 Wun -so everything is so CHEEEAP!!

Anyway, to answer your question, why am I up so early? Well, we're getting ready to go and catch a train, as we have a four hour journey to Golgul Temple, in Geyeongju province, where we will be spending the day and staying the night. Oh, by the way the temple is run by the fighting monks of Korea who practice Sunmudo which translates as Zen Martial Way and as such, puts a great emphasis on meditation before, during and after Martial training.

Part to the programme is waking up 4am tomorrow morning to chanting, running and training with the monks.


  1. ok since they are visiting a temple in the context of martial arts, I thought I might as well paste Alex/Avadesh's whole article here - Bhup, well done on the mag, it's absolutely fantastic!

    Part 1

    The martial arts are all about self-discipline. Each martial art has strict rules, regulations and etiquette that must be adhered to by anyone serious in progressing in that art. The martial arts teach the practitioner to push him or herself to their limit, and then that little bit more, to overcome psychological and physical challenges. A serious student is often found outside his/her comfort zone and is always striving to improve and “dig deep”. However progress in any martial arts cannot be sustained by the student alone. There must be a teacher.
    The foundation for achieving a life within the martial arts is based on the teacher-student relationship. This relationship is built on respect, commitment, effort and trust. Yes, trust has to be there, on both sides, before any exchange can take place. A student must trust the instructor fully and so choosing a teacher should be taken very seriously. Similarly the instructor is investing his knowledge and experience in the student so he too discriminates to whom he imparts knowledge and at what level. The instructor must be expert at judging what the student can endure and how to keep him or her motivated to progress further.
    The instructor is the master and knows how to train each student and how much he can push. The student sometimes does not even know his own potential but the instructor very expertly draws it out of his student and helps the student overcome the mental and physical barriers.
    A true instructor wants his students to be the best that they can and to excel in all that they do – not just in their physical training. All ancient martial arts teach how to fight and defend, but just as importantly they teach the student to be of good character. A good martial artiste is confident, respectful, controlled, disciplined and humble.
    There is saying in the martial arts that if you want to see how good the instructor is, don’t judge the instructor - see how good his students are. If the students are confident yet respectful, then this is testimony to the teachings of the instructor. To teach and instil good character is an art. Indeed there are many martial arts instructors, but not all are good teachers. I was very fortunate that I had an excellent instructor and a wonderful teacher in Master Phillip Somerset. He taught me that the lessons we learn in the martial arts are not just for the dojo (training area), they are for life. This became strikingly apparent when I came to Krishna Consciousness…

  2. Part 2
    As soon as I made up my mind that I wanted to progress in my spiritual life I knew I needed a first class instructor and teacher. I knew that I had to surrender to someone who was practising this art of Bhakti Yoga (devotional service) and whom I could trust with my life, literally. Coming from my martial arts background this was the most natural thing to do. Everything that I saw in martial arts I saw in Krishna Consciousness.
    I knew that to make any progress in this new discipline I would have to make sacrifices and to commit to the training. For me the training included reading up on the subject (studying Bhagavad-Gita), regulating my sleeping (waking up for 4am service), changing my diet so it was conducive to the training (no meat, fish, eggs and fasting every two weeks), and associating with students who were senior to me and practising the discipline already. I would need to attend class regularly, listen to my ‘instructor’, ask questions with humility, and practice what I am being taught. Indeed, that ‘practice’ was, and is still the key to making any progress. Just like in martial arts one must practice and repeat what has been taught over and over and over again. Moreover, no matter how much one progresses, the basics of the art must never be neglected and the fundamentals must be solid. The secret is in the basics – everything is built upon a solid base.
    In spiritual life I have come to understand that the basic principle is love. Love is the basis; love is the means; love is the end. Everything revolves around love – love for each and every living entity. If a student does not have love in his or her heart, unconditional love, for all living beings, then how can one develop real love for the Lord?
    Spiritual life has also taken me out of my comfort zone and exposed my weaknesses and shortcomings. Those who have seen me know that I am not of Bhartiya (Indian) background and I can’t speak the language. People will know that I do struggle with Sanskrit pronunciation and was ‘reserved’ when it came to singing kirtans in public. However, due to the blessings of my instructor, my ‘guru’ and his senior associates,
    I overcame the many barriers and kept trying. Sometimes it felt like I fell flat on my face trying to execute a 360 degree spinning axe kick, but like a faithful student, I picked myself up and tried again, and again until I improved a little.
    Like martial arts, spiritual life is a journey. There is no end in one sense because one can always strive to improve and do better each and every day. Krishna Consciousness is about
    expressing love, and so for me I wake up each day and think how I can show love towards everyone I come into contact with – friends, colleagues, strangers alike. My guru has taught me that I am only a worthy student or disciple if I not only listen to his instructions but put them into practice. My guru has taught, “Take Krishna - Give Krishna”. This is what I am trying
    to do. This is my aim in life. Simply that I can carry out my guru’s instructions and my guru feel pleased to have me as one of his students…
    Hare Krsna.