Essay by Gregory R. Mitchell

Gregory R. Mitchell Siljun Dobup 1st Dan,Military Officer

Gregory R. Mitchell Siljun Dobup 1st Dan,Military Officer

I am very grateful for the opportunity to train in Siljon Dobup. I am new to traditional martial arts. However I know from my months at Sung Moo Kwan that I am blessed or lucky to have found a very traditional setting for my study of the sword. Grand Master Seong is very generous with his knowledge and I have looked forward to the physical, mental and spiritual demands of every training session.

I am an Army officer and professional soldier familiar with weapons and the rigors of war; however I have always felt that western military training lacks the spiritual quality that I have begun to explore in the Siljon Dobup sword style. There are many lessons to be learned from the sword. The various forms and time spent in the dojan are like meditation that restores and assists me in personal development and discipline. I feel that in recent months my study of the sword has added to other experiences in my personal and professional life. Siljon Dobup is something I will continue for the rest of my life and it has sparked my interest in the larger world of Kumdo. I know that when I return to the United States I will begin Kumdo training.

There are several specific lessons I have learned from Grand Master Seong, Siljun Dobup and the students of Sung Moo Kwan. Firstly, I have gained a new found appreciation for the pursuit of perfection. I can see through Siljun Dobup that sword combat is unforgiving. It demands execution of the right cutting angle, timing and above all confidence and personal composure. Training is a forgiving process but the goal of competency with the sword in a hypothetical real situation is not. Perfect execution of the cut and form is the goal and that pursuit of perfection in the dojan has many positive ramifications for the rest of one’s life. The sword is an ancient weapon with no relevance to real life combat situations but I believe the confidence I gain from visualizing sword combat and working through the hypothetical situations in the various forms will positively influence my actions in the stressful situations I face as an Army officer and diplomat.

I believe that Siljun Dobup has a positive moral influence on a practitioner’s life. Grand Master Seong has begun to teach me the value of chul-che, a Korean term which roughly translates as ‘moderation’ in the English Language. With the sword, the concept of chul-che requires the swordsman to apply an appropriate amount of controlled force with the sword that preserves the swordsman’s balance and posture while delivering a potentially deadly cut. The sword cut must not be too powerful, too weak, too fast or too slow. The concept of chul-che has much broader application in areas of life outside the dojan such as art, love, food, alcohol and work. The sword, like many powerful things in this world can be used for harm or for good. One must approach the sword and life with balance, poise and moderation.

There is a third lesson I have often contemplated; never to regret a righteous action. Early in my training I learned to always step forward upon execution of my Siljun Dobup forms. On several occasions I stepped backward incorrectly and was corrected. Grand Master Seong explained that one must always step forward because the swordsman can never regret the sword-strike he has made and the combat he has emerged from with his life and body intact. This is a very important lesson that I contemplate in my study of the sword.

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