A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Terms

What is Soo Bahk Do?

Soo Bahk Do is a Korean martial art founded by Hwang Kee. Soo Bahk Do practitioners jump, kick, and punch with power and accuracy, but they also focus on breath work and using the body’s own natural movements to produce power. This multi-dimensional martial art incorporates all aspects of the mind and body, including the mental and spiritual as well as the physical.  Soo Bahk Do predates Taekwondo, and Soo Bahk Do students can compete in regional and national tournaments while focusing on their individual growth in the martial arts.

What is the Moo Duk Kwan?

Moo Duk Kwan translates to “Institute of Martial Virtue” and is the name of the school that was founded by Hwang Kee in 1945. Moo Duk Kwan schools exist worldwide, and only Moo Duk Kwan schools can teach Soo Bahk Do. The Moo Duk Kwan has a rich history and has long stood for excellence in the martial arts.

What is Kwan Jang Nim?

Not “what”, who. The term “Kwan Jang Nim” is often thought of as “Grandmaster” though strictly speaking, that is not its actual translation. In Soo Bahk Do, Kwan Jang Nim is a term of respect used only for the head of the Federation. Pictured to the left is Hwang Kee, the founder of Soo Bahk Do, and his son, H.C. Hwang, the current Kwan Jang Nim. Kwan Jang Nim is often present at the Federation’s national events, including the summer festival and the Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa in the fall.

What is that really long named “Federation”?

The United States Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation is the national body that oversees Soo Bahk Do in the United States, and it is part of the World Moo Duk Federation. In joining the Federation, students become members of a group that spans the globe. 

What is Region 8?

The US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan is divided into ten geographic regions. The schools within each region collaborate to host regional testings for significant promotions. Region 8 (that’s us!) includes the states of Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

What’s with the fist?

The fist is the logo of the Moo Duk Kwan. Each element in the fist has meaning. The fist itself represents “justice”. The six red berries denote the six populated continents of the world. The fourteen pairs of leaves represents the fourteen provinces of Korea. The characters at the bottom represent the art and school. Taken as a whole, the logo’s meaning is to stop conflict in the world through the martial arts.

Who Is Dan? And What Is His Number?

Not “who”, what. A Dan (rhymes with “on”) member in Soo Bahk Do is the equivalent of a “black belt” in other martial arts. Students below Dan level are “Gup” members. A “Cho Dan” is a 1st degree Dan, an “E Dan” is a 2nd degree, and so forth. When a student becomes a Dan member, he or she receives a Dan number that is recorded by the Federation. This number is unique to the student and will never belong to anyone else. Dan members are connected through their Dan numbers to all other Soo Bahk Do practitioners in the world.

Where are the Black Belts?

Soo Bahk Do students who promote to the Dan level receive belts that are midnight blue in color. While black can be thought of as an end, midnight blue represents continued growth that never ends. The midnight blue belts with a red stripe are worn by master instructors.

What is a Shim Sa, anyways?

The term “Shim Sa” just means testing. Gup (lower belt) testings are held in the studios, but students attend regional Shim Sa’s for more significant promotions, such as the one to become a Dan member. Students testing for master level (4th degree and higher) go to the national Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa for their promotion.

What is a Moo Do Value?

The 5 Moo Do values of the Moo Duk Kwan form the backbone of students’ Moo Do identity: history, tradition, philosophy, discipline/respect, and technique. When the 5 Moo Do values are applied to daily training, students strengthen themselves not only as Moo Do practitioners but also as individuals who provide a positive influence within society. The Moo Duk Kwan is a school rich in values that develops growth in both character and the martial arts.

What are the “Nims”?

“Nim” is simply an honorific that is used when addressing senior members. Instructors hold various titles depending on their level of certification and achievement. Certified instructors must go through a rigorous process to earn their title. A “Sa Bom” is a fourth degree or higher Dan member who has gone through the full pathway of instructor training, and they are properly addressed as “Sa Bom Nim”. In Korean, titles and honorifics are placed after the name instead of in front, as in English.