On the theoretical principles

Grandmaster Jun Kang


I wouldn't like to make the following suggestion to those of you wondering what kind of martial arts Gongkwon Yusul is: "You first need to try Gongkwon Yusul to find out exactly what that is!"

Just as we know that there are no rabbits on the moon, even though we have never been there, one does not have to start training Gongkwon Yusul in order understand the principles on which it is based.

I think it is important to give accurate information on the principles and the techniques of Gongkwon Yusul. I consider this especially important since there are people who consider Gongkwon Yusul merely a strange method of fighting, or who got the wrong impression that Gongkwon Yusul is a kind of imitation of other martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kyokushin Karate and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) after watching a few videos.

One keeps hearing that high-ranking black belts from Korea and other countries commend Gongkwon Yusul for containing the best program. The reason for this may be that they have seen an unprecedented and unseen 'variety of techniques' as well as the 'autonomous realisation of the principles by the students themselves' in Gongkwon Yusul. Therefore, no other martial artist who already experienced Gongkwon Yusul doubts that Gongkwon Yusul will become a representative martial art of Korea.

When a beginner starts to train Gongkwon Yusul, he might not even perceive the structure of the programme. It would be for him as if he was walking in utter darkness. But if he continued training for about 6 months, he would amazingly acquire the techniques and philosophy of Gongkwon Yusul on his own. It would be as if he ignited a match in the darkness and could suddenly recognise and distinguish things. The feeling of this moment of recognition makes your skin tingle. It is beyond words.

I developed Gongkwon Yusul having the hope that future students can experience the same joy and enthusiasm that I experienced by training Gongkwon Yusul. I am proud that such a martial art, based on a solid and fundamental theoretical background, emerged in Korea.

In Gongkwon Yusul, there are four unique principles that cannot be found in other martial arts.

Some say that these principles are a milestone in the world of martial arts, others call them 'brilliant' and 'ingenious'. This can, however, also be seen as a reflection of the fact that the martial arts are meeting the changing needs of society and our age, and are constantly evolving.

1. The Principle of Matdaegi (back of the hand contact practice)

Matdaegi consists of four different techniques:

  1. Matdaegi Sugi – Eumsu, Yangsu (12 Moves, 8 Bon) [Back of the hand contact exercise for hand and arm techniques – defender techniques, attacker techniques (12 moves, 8 sets)]
  2. Matdaegi Joksul (10 Bon) [Back of the hand contact exercise for kicking techniques (10 sets)]
  3. Matdaegi Mechigi (10 Bon) [Back of the hand contact exercise for throwing techniques (10 sets)]
  4. Matdaegi Gwanjeolgi (7 Bon) [Back of the hand contact exercise for joint lock techniques (7 sets)]

Matdaegi is a purely Korean word. It originates from the expression that two people touch each other's back of the hand. By taking the Matdaegi position, the distance between two people is set in a certain way. The exercises of the offensive and defensive actions from such a distance and stance are very helpful to discern the principles and mechanics of dynamically adjusting one's stance. For example, kicking techniques need the biggest distance. If the distance is too close, the use of a kicking technique will be very difficult. On the other hand, hand (striking) and throwing techniques are good at close range. If someone wants to grab the enemy from afar, he will not succeed. But if one has exercised kicking, throwing and striking techniques from the Matdaegi distance, he can use a kick successfully in such a narrow space, and soon he acquires the principle of the right use of space. On the other hand, the Matdaegi distance is not close enough for grappling, throwing and striking techniques. But if you train the Matdaegi exercise long enough, you learn methods to cover the long distance. This knowledge won't be taught explicitly during the training lessons, the students figure it out on their own.
The traditional and common throwing techniques and joint lock techniques were only usable when the opponent grabbed either me or a piece of my clothing. The throwing and joint locks in Matdaegi are applicable especially from the distance of two arms' length, so that the techniques work totally different from the known ones.

2. The Principle of Creativity

During the training of Matdaegi you simultaneously learn Samwonbon. Samwonbon is a fundamental training to gradually improve the skill of combining different techniques. If a student has mastered the Matdaegi program fairly well, he can creatively put together a number of combinations of techniques and use it in sparring. I give you an example:

By combining (1) Matdaegi Sugi No. 2, (2) Matdaegi Joksul No. 4, (3) Matdaegi Mechigi No. 9 and (4) Matdaegi Gwanjeolgi No. 6 in a row, you will get (1) a striking technique, (2) a kicking technique, (3) a technique to cover the distance and (4) a throw ending in a ground grappling technique, put together like a chain, so that a unique set of a technical compilation (= Bon) arises.

'Every Bon is unique.'

It's like the PIN of a four-digit combination lock, which is only known to the owner. You can creatively produce a Bon that would fit just you, depending on how tall or small, big or skinny you are.

This creativity-based and also creativity-supporting training method is already being used at the beginner's stage. By such experience, the candidate of the black belt rank will later be able to put together his own creative Bon, give it a name and make it known. Every Gongkwon Yusul student showing interest in this new Bon can learn and use it. In such cases, we will announce the source of the Bon and honour its inventor.

3. The Principle of Harmony Between Eum and Yang

Matdaegi Sugi consists of various hand techniques in attack and defense actions: i.e. 8 Eumsu (8 defensive hand techniques) and 8 Yangsu (8 offensive hand techniques). In other words, they represent a number of basic techniques. The beginners, who learn these techniques for the first time and as isolated techniques, do not know how to apply these techniques in practice yet. One trains Yangsu (offensive techniques) and the other trains Eumsu (defensive techniques). If both practise together, it will be clear that these techniques are linked harmoniously. By practising alone, one does not understand the meaning of the individual movements. By practising together, one will definitely understand. 'Like the gear wheels of a clock interlock and turn, the offensive and defensive actions run harmoniously interlocked with each other.'

This principle can also be recognised in Gongkwon Yusul's Hyeongs (forms). After two people, Yongjin-Hyeong and Mujin-Hyeong, have trained separately, they will bring together what they have learned on their own. Then it becomes clear how the principles of attack and defense have to be understood. By following this system one comes to realise the main principle of Gongkwon Yusul: the self-learning principle. To meet this goal, the Hyeongs are designed to get back to the starting point without allowing minor mistakes right from the beginning, inlcuding the consideration aspects like viewing direction, balance, stride length, direction of movement, speed, strength, power, breath, fine-tuning of movements and chain actions of striking techniques.

4. The Principle of Samwonbon

There are the following Samwonbon:

  1. Simmubon 1st Bon – 10th Bon (the quest for Mudo, the martial arts)
  2. Gyeonbeopbon 1st Bon – 9th Bon (finding Beop, the principles)
  3. Ipgibon 1st Bon – 6th Bon (finding Gi, the techniques)
  4. Jwasulbun 1st Bon – 5th Bon (becoming comfortable with Sul, the methods)
  5. Waryakbon 1st Bon – 5th Bon (determining the strategy)
  6. Seongdobon 1st Bon – 5th Bon (Realising Do, the way of martial arts)
  7. Jonyongbon 1st Bon – 5th Bon (finding respect for the applications)
  8. Bansubon 1st Bon – 7th Bon (returning to Su, the methods)
  9. Bangbeopbon 1st Bon – 7th Bon (letting go of Beop, the principles)
  10. Mangdobon 1st Bon – 10th Bon (forgetting Do, the way, as the highest level of martial arts)

If non-experts were to see this Samwonbon, they would immediately get the impression that this is the core of Gongkwon Yusul. This is a collection of the essentials of Gongkwon Yusul techniques, consisting of 77 Bon, i.e. 77 different ways of throwing and controlling an opponent. Samwonbon is a simulated fighting situation involving two or three people. The entire collection of Samwonbon combines techniques ranging from (1) punching/kicking through (2) ways to cover the distance between oneself and the opponent and (3) throws to (4) grappling techniques; they form an integrated curriculum whose practise enables a student to force an opponent into submission by a rapid combination of 5 to 12 techniques.

On a theoretical level, Samwonbon in Gongkwon Yusul stems from the three great original sources: Beop (principles), Sul (methods), Gi (techniques). I.e., Samwon means the three original sources. You do not just learn Samwonbon by heart, but you acquire these three original sources through creative training, paying attention to the physical ability, character and skill of yourself. These aspects, like creativity, liberty and contextualisation of techniques, form the characteristic traits of Gongkwon Yusul.

As has been described earlier, Gongkwon Yusul incorporates the four main principles from which stems the diversity of all other techniques: Sugi Bon (the Bon of techniques involving the hands), Daeryeon Bon (the Bon of fighting practice), Sugi Joksul Bon (the Bon of punching and kicking techniques), Daeryeon (free sparring) and Wasulgi (grappling techniques).

The training programme of Gongkwon Yusul has been designed for people making their first contact with a martial art. Gongkwon Yusul is akin to mixed martial arts, but it is based on a new theory of martial arts. Gongkwon Yusul contributes to social life and society as it is open to a wide variety of practicioners, whilst maintaining the original idea of martial arts as a way to handle a real fight. That is why so many people, including adults, are interested in and enjoy training Gongkwon Yusul, and are so enthusiastic about this martial art.

If you, dear reader, are willing to consider our martial art with some genuine interest, you will find that Gongkwon Yusul – in contrast to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Hapkido, kickboxing, karate, boxing or MMA – provides a full-fledged system with a clearly structured training programme reaching from 1st to 7th dan (black belt ranks).

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