*Why should one study the Sword (Siljin Dobup) in the modern age of Firearms?
Written by Jin K. Seong
The question gets commonly asked: Why should we study sword training in the modern age of guns? What is the purpose of sword training? Exercise? If so, one could do other other sports , such as running, or weightlifting. Perhaps the reasons lies in the spiritual aspects of sword training.
The purpose of the sword arouses concerns since the sword is capable of threatening one’s life and thus arouses mixed feelings of nervousness, fear, bravery and desperation as he or she encounters in a life or death situation. In sword training (Siljin Doup) one trains by imagining oneself in such a situation and experiences the emotions that one would encounter under these extreme circumstances.
Life or death is a simple and basic concept. One becomes desperate to survive when he faces death. Wealth, honor, social class or occupation does not matter when someone is about to die. Life and death mark the beginning and the end and when in a situation of facing death one empties and lets go of concerns. Through the art of the sword one hypothetically situates oneself to be in an extreme situation where his life is threatened and tries to release all concerns.
Interestingly, our brains do not distinguish between what we see and what we think. The practioneer imagines himself in a life or death situation perhaps in a different historical time period, depending on the quality of his practice, his imagination could produce the same effect as facing this type of situation.
Running and weightlifting are solely physical activities that do not deal with the spiritual aspects of dealing with life and death. In the practice of Swords the spiritual aspect is achieved by training with the concept of life and death.
Through the practice of Sword ( Siljin Dobup), one trains himself to control his own emotions and seek mental freedom.
* Master of mind and body
Written by Jin K. Seong
Most everyone who takes up kumdo for the first time will talk about his or her body not listening to his or her head. This is probably because the body is unfamiliar with the new stances and movements which require the use of muscles not often used. So when teaching, I say, “That happens because you are not the master of your body.” To this, the students reply, “Obviously I am the master of my body, but if I am truly the master, how come my body is not listening to me?” To this, I answer, “That is why we train: so that our bodies will listen to our minds and move the way we want them to.”
The mind wishes the body to move a certain way, but the body doesn’t listen. But through continuous training, the body starts to obey the mind, and the gap between the mind and body begins to narrow. Thus as time passes, we begin to think that we are truly the master of our bodies. But strange enough, once we think that we are truly the master of our bodies, we realize that the mind is what we really want to control but cannot. We realize we lose our sense of balance, we are easily surprised or afraid, we hesitate, we question and so on.
So we feel the need to control the mind, that is, how we think. And not surprisingly, all the training and practice that took place to bring the body under control comes in very handy as the same logic can be applied when trying to control the mind. People sometimes deceive us, but our bodies never lie: when we are hit, we hurt; when we do not eat, we are hungry; when we sweat, we feel refreshed afterwards. Thus, training our bodies is a straight forward process. But training of the mind could be slightly trickier. This is why training of the body precedes training of the mind. The former serves as a practice run for the latter. And we have to believe that the training of the mind is possible, because it will never happen if we don’t first believe.
So what does it mean to be able to train our bodies to listen to our minds and eventually train our minds to go where we want it to? This means one becomes the true master of one’s mind and body. Being the master of one’s mind will mean not losing one’s balance (or being able to quickly find it again after it has been lost), overcoming one’s fears, being more bold and decisive and so forth. If one is able to control one’s thoughts, one will be able purge the negative and unnecessary and replace them with the positive and productive.
Only when we can truly control our thoughts like we control our bodies, can we truly become the masters of our destiny. We will be happy not because there is something to be happy about but rather because we have made a conscious decision to be happy. We will be happy simply because we chose to be.
The ultimate goal of Siljin Dobup
Written by Jin K. Seong.
The ultimate goal of Siljin Dobup is ‘controlling the mind”. The human being consists of mind and body. We think our body and mind are ours or are they? We often make mistakes, regret, collapse and abandon when we fail to control our body and mind. Can we control our mind then? Can we really become the master of our mind? Through training in Siljin Dobup we seek the answer. Siljin Dobup is designed to achieve the ultimate state were the body and mind become One.
There are five ascending stages of training in Siljin Dobup Jee (earth), Soo (water), Pung (wind), Hwa (fire), Cheon (sky). There are also some basic cutting moves to study before Jee, however major training begins at the level of Jee.
The details of each stage’s goal and mind study will be explained below.
1.Set Jee-Earth Putting down “the self”
Jee is Earth. Earth is the origin of life and death. Since the Earth is the fundamental in all lives, it is the first stage of learning. Learning is accepting. We need to empty what we have already to accept new things. It means to be humble enough to accept the teacher from whom you’re eager to learn.
SOO-PA-RHEE- this terminology stands for the three stages of martial arts training originated from Buddhist terminology
SOO- Keeping what we’re taught. It is a stage that we keep the principles and basics learned from the teacher.
PA- Is the stage that one breaks the mold by one’s individuality and ability to create a unique style based on keeping the principles and basics. This stage is planned intentional and conscious.
RHEE- Is the stage of natural and unconscious training which is the extension of stage PA. This is the ultimate stage that the trainee performs PA freely without losing reason, rules and basics.
It is impossible to access learning without studying the stage of SOO. A trainee can fall into conceit easily and too much pride will lead to the failure of communication with others. That is why the trainee needs a guide in the beginning stage. A strong relationship has to be built between the teacher and disciple at the stage of SOO. The disciple must have faith in the teacher’s way even though he or she disagrees with his ideology. It is a matter of sincerity not of right or wrong. Again, without emptying what you already have and being humble, the journey of learning could go wrong.
1. Chapter (Set) Jee is designed as the training stage of Soo. A trainee will learn to keep the basics and principles of the sword technically and mentally in the frame of the teacher’s philosophy. It is a very straight forward chapter that every student must follow.
2. Set Soo– Flowing like water
SOO means water. Our mind should flow like water. Water can harmonize in any place and transform into any shape without losing its character. Our mind should be flexible like water. We should open our minds to the unlimited possibility for greater achievement. The movement of SOO should be big and smooth with flexibility as water.
3.Set Poong— Stopping like Wind
The wind blows or stops without being seen. We practice severing and stopping in Poong. Our minds are limitless and free of charge. Sometimes our minds are stuck on a memory of the past or fear of the unknown in the future. This is not an efficient way of controlling our minds. If this happens during sparring or competition, one can not maintain the freedom of moving and find the weakness of the opponent.
In set Poong by abruptly cutting out unnecessary things, we make room for positive energy of Set Hwa.
4.Set Hwa—burning like fire
Fire is energy. When a person builds up Chi energy he can have more power, passion, confidence and dream bigger dreams.
You will learn how to put down “the self” and accept in Set Jee and Soo. You will learn how to make room in your mind by severing unnecessary things in Set Poong. And finally you will learn how to fill up your positive Chi energy in Set Hwa. The movements of Hwa are live and continuous. You should train to generate spirited Chi energy as if there is a blazing fire inside of you!
5.Set Choen– Sky
Cheon is the final chapter to start controlling your mind after competing Set Jee, Soo, Poong and Hwa. Cheon is Sky and it covers everything. It is tolerant of good, bad, beautiful, ugly, hot and cold. The existence of all things is under Sky.
You should be able to recognize and accept that you are the master of you mind. Cheon is different for you and me. There is my Cheon and your Cheon. Everything is free and in harmony.
What is Siljun Dobup?
Siljun Dobup is the practice of using the sword correctly. As opposed to the showy modern forms that are nothing more than entertainment, Sil Jun Do Bup aims to strike a balance between theory and practice.
Every martial art has an original form. Form is very important and it must be real. To be realistic, real combat experience is necessary. Through practice, that experience is proven and preserved. I have been practicing Kendo for over 30 years, always with the mentality that I am fighting real opponents. Sil Jun Do Bup is based on real combat, and many unnecessary movements have been removed. With the right mentality, anyone can enjoy practicing this martial art.
Siljun Dobup teaches etiquette, tradition, breathing, drawing, sheathing, basic cutting and, in order of progression, Jee, Soo, Poong, Hwa, Chun forms aim to create healthy minds and bodies.
Why Practice Sword?
Some ask, “Why practice using a sword in an age of guns.” This is no different from asking someone why he or she jogs when we have cars. Also, some consider a martial art that requires a weapon to be impractical. Then, on the other hand, how should one react when the opponent wields a weapon? Is it possible to fight multiple enemies like our action heroes do? These questions only consider martial arts as a form of combat. It is true that the sword was used to wound and kill in the past. However, people practice martial arts today to further develop their mind and body. Only the sword is capable of such duality, and it is our ultimate goal to wield its power through a well trained mind.
What are the benefits to practice sword?
The purpose of Kendo, as mentioned above, is to train the mind and body, but what other purpose does it serve in modern society? How can we benefit from practicing with a real sword?
In the beginning stages, stress relief and focus is most notable. Since a sword is a dangerous weapon, it requires much alertness. The thought that one could get hurt by being careless compels the wielder to focus. As a result, one focuses only on the sword and empties his or her mind
Balance is developed and posture is corrected. Especially in real sword practice, every stance requires one to straighten one’s back, broadening the chest and centering the waist. Purposely lowering one’s center of gravity, the stance naturally corrects posture.
After advancing to mid level, Sat Ji is taught, where we study the proper way to breathe and accumulate our Ki energy(prana); resulting in a healthier body.
Set Soo emphasizes flexibility, rhythm, and the removal of excess force.
The high level Set Poong teaches how to focus one’s strength in a short period of time and the proper way to impact the target. This technique draws out maximum destructibility from a state of accumulated ki.
Set Hwa combines the use of ki, breathing, flexibility, control of strength, and focus mentioned before to bring out one’s maximum potential.
How the attitude and mentality gained from real sword practice will be further explained in Chapter 4.
Who can practice Siljun Dobup?
Real sword practice can be enjoyed by people who are stressed, lacking focus, unfit, have bad posture, are not competitive, have low self esteem without difficulty.
I have been practicing Kendo for around 40 years and have taught countless students. Real sword practice can certainly be a joyful experience in your life. This book is my small gift that I hope will help readers grow.