essay: Ee Dan Essay, Soo Bahk Do

This is my 2nd degree black belt essay for Soo Bahk Do, written in March, 2004. The first part discusses the Dan Bon (which is the Soo Bahk Do Dan /Black Belt identification number) and tradition; the second part theorizes about Chi/Qi being more concerned with quantum theory than biolectricity.

One of the things that I enjoy most about Soo Bahk Do and the martial arts is the interesting dichotomy of time. On the one hand, knowledge and tradition have been handed down through the ages, by means such as the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji and such as our method of connection through Dan Bon numbers, representing hundreds if not thousands of years of time. On the other side, the focus on energy and action in a single point in time and space is a goal of our practice and art, representing an assuredly quantum level of time. This implies extremely focused Shim Gung, mental clarity and precision of action.

My Dan Bon signifies the connection through me back to all of the instructors and students who have come before me, and who have trained and in some ways improved this martial art. My personal Soo Bahk Do heritage goes through my direct instructor, Sa Bom Nim Bill Milberger, to his instructor, Sa Bom Nim Brian Wilbourn, to his instructor, Sa Bom Nim Seiberlich and to the late Grand Master. But the linkage does not stop there. Through the Grand Master’s studies of the ancient martial arts texts, my Dan Bon links me through hundreds of years of teachings and trainings.

This linkage is best demonstrated in forms which have not been written down in our instruction books (yet!), and are passed down through instructor demonstrations and teachings. Learning Chil Sung Sa Ro Hyung by watching Sa Bom Nim demonstrate it, and through asking questions, must surely be parallel to the way martial artists learned forms many year ago (at least similar to the method used by Dan members and candidates before 1992, when the Volume 2 instruction book of advanced forms was published).

I meditate at times on why, if forms and the art itself have been passed down verbally or visually through many years, that the art has not had more changes, or more evolution. The concept of Ryu Pa, meaning style, flows down divided naturally is a concept that the Grand Master speaks of in a positive light in our Volume 1 textbook; but natural divisions of style are different than personal evolutions through verbal and visual teaching. My sense is that the style has remained consistent because there truly is a right way to perform the art; that, though when performed with the correct energy flow, and grace it may appear as an art, Soo Bahk Do is more science that art. The stances are done in a certain way because physics dictates that that certain way gives more power, or more speed. Movements are done in a certain way for similar reasons. Further, when the Dan practitioner performs the art in the manner dictated, the art feels correct to the practitioner, because the practitioners body is aligned and behaving based on the physics of the movements and the flow of the energies, that have been studied and included in the art for many centuries.

On my best training days, this concept of the art feeling correct helps me to learn the material in a personal way. I travel for business quite a bit, and find myself practicing and training in hotel rooms. Sometimes I lose the next move in a form, or a ho sin sool. On good days, just by remembering the basics, thinking it through and feeling it out, I can find the next move. My hope is that these good days come closer together as I train more (and quickly, to offset my memory which gets worse as I get older!!).

The Grand Master went to great lengths to document why these movements feel correct through not only study and research and training, but by also documenting in Volume 1 the physics of the movements. He shows, for example, the physics of why a back stance feels better when your weight is distributed mostly on your rear leg, and the center of gravity is a straight line at a 90 degree angle from the ground through your rear leg and upper body. They feel correct because it is the right way for the body to do them.

The other concept tied in with the Dan Bon is the concept of seniority (and with that seniority, respect) through the Moo Duk Kwan system. The seniority is somewhat military-like, in that belt level is somewhat equivalent to military rank. But the Dan Bon system takes it beyond that. A lower Dan Bon means that practitioner has been involved (and hopefully, active) in the Moo Duk Kwan system for longer than you. Although somewhat trite, the concept of been there, done that can be applied….Dan’s with lower Dan Bon have usually been through what you are going through in your study, training and practice, and should be accorded the respect due to someone who has already done what you are trying to do.

The Dan Bon is the linkage to all of these practitioners….to the ancient Korean martial artists through the studies of the Grand Master…to the northern and southern Chinese martial arts styles that he studied and practices…and to all of the future Dan members. It is one of the main traditions that tie our school and style together through time.

Optional Reading:

My apologies in advance to the readers of this essay for its wordiness. The following section does not tie directly to the assigned subject of the Dan Bon. As I stated in the opening paragraph, the dichotomy of the tradition through history of our style (linked through our Dan Bons) and the single point in time focus of our action surely must be related.

Through my studies (mostly reading, but some through training), I am trying to understand the linkage between Shim Gung/Neh Gung, and the concept of Ki/Qi (connected to the breath but surely controlled by the mind and spirit). Control and focus of action and energy at a single point in time and space is one of the goals and benefits of training in shim gung, neh gung and weh gung. Though I do not yet have any experiential data on Ki, it seems logical that the focus of energy and breath through the mind implies Ki.

Though not a physicist by profession, one of my college degrees is in physics. I often try to put difficult concepts in those terms. In some texts, Ki is described as control of bioelectrics, similar to those people who can control their body and bioelectric feedback mechanisms. But how does this relate to the breath? How does it relate to the mind, or the action of moving the location of your mind to the Hu Ri, where energy is stored?

Through my reading, current quantum mechanical theory is a more logical candidate for the physical description of Ki. The current theory, which is somewhat unifying the split between quantum theorists and gravitation/relativistic mechanics, is string theory. This theory states that objects called strings, not quarks or atoms, are the basic building blocks of the universe. And the different measurable sub atomic particles have different measurable characteristics (such as mass and energy) due to the vibration (or speed of vibration) of these strings.

The strings of string theory are not measurable with current equipment, leading some non-theorists to doubt their existence. Thus far, the energy of Ki/Qi has not been measurable either, leading to the same type of doubts. Though neither can be proven, I would like to speculate as to whether the two are related. As the object of Ki training (or Qigong) is control of the Ki, which is energy, couldn’t this be the control of the vibration of the strings? As bioelectric feedback implies a strong level of control by a person of functions of their body, couldn’t Ki be control at the sub atomic string level? It would not only explain why Ki is not measurable, it would also explain the power of Ki (and might also explain why it is so difficult to master).

String theory, and its successor M-Theory (which predicts more different types of strings) is being touted as a unified theory of physics. Though it is speculative on my part, and currently unmeasureable, there are some strong parallels which beg further research.


Larry Ketchersid


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2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    great job! Soo Bahk!

  2. g says:

    tong soo do!

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