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For your movements and techniques to be effective and efficient in Kuk Sool, you must apply the theory of YOU-WON-HWA. Before you apply it however, you must have an understanding of what it is. YOU-WON-HWA translates into English as “Flowing-Circle-Harmony” which in my opinion summarises much of what Kuk Sool is about. These theories and concepts need to be developed on more before you can fully understand and apply them though.


Water literally ‘goes with the flow’. It always flows downhill, with gravity, and it never struggles with any objects it encounters; it simply goes around them. If an object is too large for the water to go around, the water remains patient, collecting until its rising level causes it to flow over or around the obstruction. This can be related to many of the techniques we carry out in Kuk Sool where we act very similarly to water in that we also ‘go with the flow’ – when we are pushed, we pull. When we are pulled, we push. We flow – like water.

Water is also very adaptive. It has no shape. It can come in various form factors – solid, liquid or even gas. Although adapting to its environment, it in many senses remains unchanged. Just as we should. Water symbolises many things: adaptability, softness and, at the same time, great force.


Everyone has a personal circle which they seek to protect but it is important that we defend only against attacks which invade this circle surrounding us. It is not necessary to defend an attack which falls short of this circle. In doing so we are simply wasting energy and potentially creating trouble. On the other hand however, when an attack succeeds in penetrating this circle it should be met not straight on – by a linear attack – but rather with a circular defence motion. By doing this, we are not meeting the opponent’s force head on but deflecting it, minimising its effect. We are redirecting their force against themselves. This circle should be thought of as a form of least resistance – always rolling and difficult to grasp or stop.


Martial arts training is all about your mind and body working in harmony. In Kuk Sool, when we learn a new technique we not only feel that our mind has learned something new but, after practicing it, we also feel our body has learned something new. We practice these techniques countless times in order to achieve this. However when we have succeeded in teaching our body something new, it becomes part of us. It becomes almost a ‘second nature’ and if we ever need to perform it, we can do it almost without thinking. Our mind and body have worked harmoniously in order to make this possible. This is beneficial in a real life situation because the time you would have to spend thinking of a technique is valuable time which your opponent can take advantage of. Harmony is essential not just in martial arts training but in life.

A practitioner of martial arts is at their best when they find harmony in themselves, in their family and in society. This can be done through a state which allows them to recognise Um (negative) and Yang (positive) as a single entity. Each is there to compliment the other and allow them to exist. If one were to be taken away, the other would be meaningless. They work together in harmony, just like the mind and body should in martial arts.


The underlying ideology of the theory of YOU-WON-HWA is that we, like flowing water, should seek a harmonious state with our surroundings, constantly adapting to changes around us. We should also seek to maintain harmony within our inner circle in order to direct all trespassers of this space away with equal force to that which they introduce.

Information sourced from: Kuk Sool Won Textbook.

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