History of Kuk Sool Won

Kuk Sool Won’s Arrival in the United States – Establishment of World Kuk Sool Association

Just as 1961 was an historic year for the Korean martial arts with the establishment of Kuk Sool Won, so 1973 was an historic year for the birth of the traditional Korean martial arts (Kuk Sool) in the United States. It was in this year that Kuk Sa Nim’s first American student, Mr. Kenneth Duncan, persuaded him to bring Kuk Sool Won to this country. After a great deal of paperwork and tons of bureaucratic red tape had been settled with the United States Immigration Department, Kuk Sa Nim (accompanied by two assistants) arrived n Los Angeles, California on September 11, 1974.

Kuk Sa Nim was met upon his arrival by his sponsor and student, Kenneth Duncan, and after a brief stay in Los Angeles, they proceeded to New Orleans, where the first official Kuk Sool Won school had been opened prior to the Grandmaster’s arrival. After a short period of observation and study, during which time Kuk Sa Nim familiarized himself with the American people and their culture, the Grandmaster moved to San Francisco, California. Here he established the World Kuk Sool Association Headquarters School in February of 1975.

After fifteen years of teaching only instructors and masters, Kuk Sa Nim began teaching under belt (i.e. below black belt) students in the Headquarters school. Because there were only a few Kuk Sool Won instructors in the United States at that time, Kuk Sa Nim once more set about the task of training students to instructor and master level. Since first opening the World Kuk Sool Association Headquarters in San Francisco, Kuk Sa Nim has traveled extensively throughout the United States. He has conducted lectures, seminars, workshops, and demonstrations, as well as personally testing each black belt candidate (who must be tested before the Grandmaster in order to receive their black belt ranking).

Unlike so many martial artists, Kuk Sa Nim is not one to degrade other martial arts or martial artists. It is his belief that the practice of any type of traditional martial art is beneficial. He has worked closely with martial artists of many different styles, inviting them to participate in the Kuk Sool Won Tournament and Master’s Demonstration that have been held annually in the United States for many years. Kuk Sa Nim’s goal is to promote all martial arts as personal and cultural forms of development and expression.

In addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of the martial arts (having been referred to by at least one source, as a “living history of the Korean martial arts”), Grandmaster Suh is also widely sought after for his extensive knowledge and understanding of Asian healing techniques, such as acupuncture and acupressure. One of the world’s leading authorities on the use of acupressure and ki for healing, Kuk Sa Nim has been responsible in many cases for bringing about remarkable cures in patients who had been deemed incurable by both Western and oriental medical doctors alike. As Kuk Sa Nim says, real martial arts is much more than fighting, “a martial artist must know how to heal as well as hurt an opponent in order to be a complete martial artist.”

Kuk Sa Nim has been frequently honored by major martial art periodicals. In 1984 he was named Black Belt Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’. In 1988, Inside Kung Fu awarded him the title ‘Instructor of the Year’ and in 1993, Tae Kwon Do Times designated him ‘Master of the Year’.

Kuk Sa Nim continues to travel actively in the United States and abroad in order to promote the traditional Korean martial arts and Kuk Sool Won. He has been honored by officials in a number of countries besides the United States (e.g. Great Britain, Canada, etc.) and holds the ‘Keys’ of many cities throughout the United States (including Houston, New Orleans, Phoenix, etc.). An honorary Kuk Sool Won black belt was presented to Prince Charles of Great Britain, the first time he was ever accepted an award of this type.

In October of 1991, the World Kuk Sool Won Headquarters School was relocated from San Francisco to Houston, Texas. This move was undertaken because of the rapid proliferation of Kuk Sool Won schools and clubs throughout the United States. Kuk Sa Nim felt that a more central location would make it more convenient for Kuk Sool Won Instructors and students from all over the United States and Canada to have access to training at the Headquarters school.

According to the Inside Kung Fu article, which accompanied Kuk Sa Nim’s Instructor of the Year Award (in the 1988 Inside Kung Fu Yearbook), Kuk Sool Won is “one of the fastest growing martial arts in the world”, with over 70 schools and 10,000 students in the United States alone. By 1992, four years later, Kuk Sool Won had grown to over 100 schools in the United States.

It is our hope that Kuk Sool Won will continue to grow and prosper, so that one day, everyone will have the opportunity to experience and practice this vital and exciting martial arts.