History of Kwan Um Do Kwang
Korean Buddhist Martial Arts Revived
Many traditional Buddhist martial arts, primarily in the form of shin boep and ho shin sul techniques, are still taught today in Korean martial arts schools.
Korean Buddhist sword arts are however something of a rarity. The credit for resurrecting and further developing the Korean Buddhist sword tradition rests in one man, the martial arts Zen master Chang Sik Kim. Zen Master Kim founded the Shim Gum Do (Mind Sword Path) school in 1971 and is credited with having personally developed the Shim Gum Do Zen Sword system. This system was the result of "sword enlightenment," a flash of Zen inspiration that led to a fundamental understanding of the sword arts and how the energy of the sword works in harmony with other martial arts.
Master Kim is the student of Zen Master Seung Sahn Lee, the 78th patriarch of the Chogye Order of Soen Buddhism. Master Kim first met Seung Sahn as a young boy in Seoul. The Zen Master gave him the following kong-an:
"A Sword-Master was watching the moon's reflection in a pool of water. Withdrawing his sword he sliced the reflection and the moon fell into two halves. How is this possible?"8
The boy was filled with wonder, and when the Zen Master told him that he could one day become a great sword master if he moved into the temple and trained hard, Chang Sik Kim immediately became a resident of Hwa Gye Sa.
Years later, in 1969, during a 100-day meditation retreat in a small hut on Sam Gak mountain near Seoul, Master Kim attained an understanding of the patterns or forms of Zen Sword. Following that inspiration, Master Kim forged a cohesive system of traditional Buddhist temple martial arts, including hundreds of intricate forms for training shin boep, ho shin sul, long stick, one-handed sword, and two-sword.
In 1971 Master Kim toured Japan with Seung Sahn, visiting temples and martial arts centers. In Osaka, Master Kim, who had never free-fought before, was challenged by the president of a prominent Kendo club. Seung Sahn permitted Master Kim to accept the challenge, and he was paired against a 5th dan Kendo instructor.
As the story goes, Master Kim bowed in respect before taking up his stance. In doing so he dropped his sword tip to the ground, in an unwittingly insulting gesture. "...his move taunted the Japanese Master who let loose with a lightning downward slash of his sword. The duelers passed by each other and turned to face off again. All at once the entire school of black belts bowed down in unison and someone had to motion for the bewildered Kendo master to sit down. He was informed that he had been cut six times across his back by the Korean Master."9
The Japanese subsequently honored Master Kim, no small matter given Korean-Japanese social tensions. But the Japanese also respect sword masters to a greater degree than any other culture. Master Kim's speed and skill have since been displayed at countless public demonstrations. Today, Shim Gum Do is primarily taught in its traditional form by Master Kim and his followers at the Shim Gwang Sa (Mind Light temple) in Boston.