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Martial Art Healing Technique

by Lee Jae Myuhng

Since the early 1970's, there has occurred a phenomenal awareness and a tremendous interest in the importance of Traditional Oriental Medicine. In Korean Martial Arts, healing techniques are varied and require years to master. According to In Hyuk Suh, the founder of Kuk Sool Won, the use of ki training, hyuhl bup, hwahl bup, and special training postures and exercises can tone and revitalize the entire body or can concentrate development, healing, or vitality on a single system such as tendon, bone, cartilage, circulation, digestion, etc... Used in conjunction with other forms of treatment like herbal, mineral, and animal preparations, a foundation for good health is established.

In modern times, Korea has been a leader in research and development in acupuncture therapy, however, studies in acupuncture were recorded as early as 561AD in the Koguryo Kingdom. Our special interest in Kuk Sool, is in the area of traditional medicine. It is well known, for example, that the Royal Family used acupuncture and herbal treatments to protect their health, and to prevent outside doctors from trying to poison them with herbs or kill them with incorrectly placed needles. Martial artists had to discover methods of treatment for injuries suffered during training. Many of the doctors in the past centuries were martial artists. Acupuncture originated with the attempts of tribal groups and confederations to provide treatment to their members. At various times in Korean history, books were compiled detailing the use of medical preparations. In 1433, during hte Lee dynasty, a book was published detailing the preparation of different Korean products for medical purposes. The king during this period was very interested in the development of scholarly works and financed Korean medical knowledge. King Sonjo, in 1596, ordered a book to be written that could be more easily understood, and the 동의보감 Tongui Pogam was finished ten years later by Ho Chun. These works were well respected in China and Japan where they were widely reproduced.

The martial arts methods of healing with acupuncture (침술 Chim Sool), or acupressure (지압술 Ji Ahp Sool and 수기 Soo Ki), herbal preparations (약 Yahk), and physical therapy (활법 Hwahl Bup) embrace many complexities that must be mastered before one can practice. Western doctors, trying to learn acupuncture, first need a thorough understanding of the theories used in diagnosis and treatment. Reference to a book just to locate points for haphazard needle insertion would not be sufficient, and could in fact be lethal. Rather, a complete learning or relearning of the entire field, just as with any other specialization, is required. Part of the failure of American doctors to be successful in acupuncture experimentation is their reluctance to learn and apply acupuncture correctly.

By first learning the pressure points and training in Kuk Sool, the student may begin to understand the human body better, and take the first steps to understanding how to "heal as well as hurt an opponent." A true martial artist prepares not for the day when he will need to injure others, but trains to better himself and his society. In the sense that martial arts are for self protection, then a martial artist must protect himself from injury on a daily basis.

Pressure Points

According to martial art tradition, there are 365 pressure points in the body. There are disagreements regarding the number of points in textbooks within other parts of the Orient. Each countries' martial artists used pressure points in their own way and their own style. Because of this discrepancy, many complicated problems have arisen in the study of Oriental medicine. In Hyuk Suh has set the standard in Kuk Sool Won, and this simplifies our learning. If the rest of the world would standardize, future research in this field would greatly benefit.

The number of the pressure points in the twelve main meridians is 309 per side for a total of 618 in all. The total number of points, which are located along the centerline, is 52. These include the points that are located on the 임맥 Im Maek and 독맥 Dohng Maek (the Conception and Governing Meridians, respectively). The 618 bilateral points and the 52 central points total 670 points.

The points are distributed all over the body, and represent strategic locations along the meridians. According to martial art tradition, the points are located by means of precise coordinates. In order to locate the points exactly, it is necessary to use a unit of bone size measurement, termed a 천 chuhn.

The value of the chuhn varies according to the individual and to the anatomical location concerned. In Korean medicine these points are intimately connected with the organs and the viscera by the meridians.


There is a fixed relationship, in traditional medicine, between the various organs of the body: the lungs are connected with the large intestine and the skin; the stomach is connected with the spleen and the muscles; the heart is connected with the small intestine; the bladder is connected with the kidney and filtration; the pericardium is connected with the triple warmer and the function of the whole body; the gall bladder is connected with the liver.

The twelve main meridians come in pairs and are arranged symmetrically on the left and right side of the body. Six meridians belong to the 음 Um force and six belong to the 양 Yahng force. Three meridians under 양 Yahng are located on the arms and three are located on the legs. Likewise, three meridians under 음 Um are located on the arms and three on the legs. These meridians are further classified into one of three subdivisions of the Um/Yahng scheme. These are: 대 Tae - "Greater" or "Big" (used for both), 소 Soh - "Lesser" or "Small" (used for both)), and 궐 Gwuhl - "Absolute" (used for 음 Um) or 명 Myuhng - "Bright" or "Supreme" (used for 양 Yahng). The names of the meridians indicate their respective affinity to the elemental forces and to particular organs of the body, e.g. the Lung Meridian (폐경 Pyeh Gyuhng) can simply be referred to as 수대양영 Soo Tae Yahng Gyuhng or Arm Greater Yang Meridian.

The meridians are deeply imbedded in the body; however, at 365 points they emerge to the surface and thus present the locations for either healing or attack. The number 365 is significant, not only for the days of the year, but also as the traditional number of muscular junctions in the body.

Nature of Disease

The two forces, 음양 Um/Yahng, are in a constant state of ebb and flow, as expressed in nature by the change from day to night. Within the body, the distribution of the two elemental forces is uneven. The complicated relationship of the dual forces can only function if the flow and ebb is uninterrupted.

When the relationship between the two forces is disturbed, the result is disease or death. Oriental healing attempts to adjust an imbalance through various means. It has survived for literally thousands of years as the frontline defense for most people in the world, because it works.

Five Elements and Um/Yahng

The theory of the five elements is ancient as evidenced by many old documents. The essence of this ancient tradition is that 음 Um and 양 Yahng, in addition to exerting their dual power, subdivide into water, fire, metal, wood, and earth. Man, who is the product of heaven and earth by interaction of cosmic force, also contains the five elements. This relationship between the five elements and the human body was also extended to human actions.

The sequence of the five elements is important as the relationship between the elements can enhance or subjugate. The old book says, "Wood brought into contact with metal is felled; fire brought into contact with water is extinguished; earth brought into contact with wood is penetrated; metal brought into contact with fire is dissolved; water brought into contact with earth is halted." The sequence of creation is as follows:

  • Metal creates water
  • Water creates wood
  • Wood creates fire
  • Fire creates earth
  • Earth creates metal

These are regarded as abstract forces in Korean medicine and not as the embodiment of these substances. Extensive correlations are made using the elemental and the dual force theories with regard to history, disease, personalities, emotions, colors, compass points, seasons, tastes, notes of the scale, etc...

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