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History of Kwan Um Do Kwang

The 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.

Kwan Um Do Kwang was given its name by Zen Master Seung Sahn. 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. The second Do Kwang refers to Mariji Choen - an emanation of Kwanseum Bosal and represents rays of light. She is noted for granting the power of invisibility.

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).

Kwan Um Do refers to both a belief in the path of compassion, and KUDK's heritage in the Kwan Um Zen School, the worldwide Zen Buddhist organization founded by Seung Sahn.

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.

Therefore Kwan Um Do Kwang, Master Fortin's synthesis of the Kwan Um Zen and Shim Gum Do martial arts schools, is named for a branch of the bodhisattvah path that uses martial arts to teach Zen practice and compassion. Kwan Um Do Kwang is centered around sword practice, but includes traditional long stick, ho shin sul, shin boep and the internal practices of mind sword and radiant energy body.

The path to energy cultivation lies in the core of KUDK instruction: the rigors of basic sword forms, fighting drills, and precise and effective forms (kata) training.

Today the Kwan Um Do Kwang school faces the challenge of forming its own unique identity and establishing its own culture and traditions in America in a way that is nonsectarian while still retaining some of the flavor of its magical Korean Buddhist temple heritage.

Kwan Um Do Kwang today includes university clubs, dojangs (dojos), and sponsors.

Rich Julius, Sabom Nim
August, 2003