First KSW black belts in Ireland

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team KSWCork 2015 with SSKJN Sung Jin Suh

When we opened Kuk Sool Won Cork 5 years ago, we started with just a few students. Among them were Jasmine Norman, Kai Norman and Nathan Hurley. They were aged 11 and under and a KSW black belt probably seemed like a lifetime away! Two years on, Pat Galvin joined us, along with his two children, Sean and Fiona. Pat’s KSW journey began 14 years ago in the UK. He experienced a gap in his training when he moved to Ireland as there was no-one teaching Kuk Sool Won at the time. When Pat found out that SBN Matt Boniwell had opened a school, he came to try out the class and joined us at Kuk Sool Won Cork. Pat and his young family live 2+ hours drive away in neighbouring County Kerry. They have been making the journey to train with us at least once a month since joining and have practiced hard themselves between classes.

All four of the promoting students exhibited  great determination and commitment to themselves and Kuk Sool Won to get this far. We are incredibly proud of them and their sustained, continuous dedication.

So what did they do to get that black belt in Kuk Sool Won?

First and foremost, you must become a member of the World Kuk Sool Association. A black belt in Kuk Sool Won takes a minimum 3-4 years study and training with tests taken at regular intervals. With each test, you receive a different colour belt which indicates what you know and what you’re ready to learn.

To attain a black belt, you must know 6 forms, between 137 (kids) and 201 techniques (Adults), break falls, correct hand strikes and kicking technique. All this should be carried out in the style characteristic of Kuk Sool Won.

Why did they have to go to Liverpool to get their black belt?

Your first and last test for black belt must be done in the presence of the WKSA grandmaster and founder, Kuk Sa Nim, Suh In Hyuk. Likewise, he is the only person who can award you your black belt. Kuk Sa Nim is present at 3 annual tournament events held in the UK.

Currently, we are the only Kuk Sool Won school in Ireland, so we must travel to one of these events to take the required tests, participate in tournaments and demos, and train with our peers. Hopefully we will grow to a point where we can host such events here in Cork. Until that time, we’re happy to take you to the UK events as it’s a great opportunity to see what we’re all part of, be inspired and to meet and make friends in Kuk Sool Won.

What  happens during testing and competition weekends?

The weekend begins with a 4 hour testing on the Friday morning. Everyone who is testing for a black belt takes part in these events, in the relevant group for their level and age. These are large and busy events, often with as many as 300 people testing.

Once the testing is complete, the preparation for the Masters’ demonstration commences with  a rehearsal. All black belts, including anyone due to promote is eligible to take part in the demonstration. The WKSA tournament then starts in the late afternoon with black belts competing. The tournament continues through Saturday with coloured belts. There totalled 600 competitors in the Uk tournament this year!

Saturday culminates in the promotion ceremony and Masters Demonstration. This is when you will receive your official WKSA certificate of Dahn direct from Kuk Sa Nim. There is no other martial art in the world in which you are presented with your black belt in person, by the founder and grandmaster. This is one of the unique things about Kuk Sool Won and the value of it is not to be under estimated.

With formalities over, the demonstration begins. These are great spectacles where you have the opportunity to see what you’re part of if you practice Kuk Sool Won. It’s an opportunity to see some of the best martial artists in the world close up. When you attain your black belt and if you’ve practiced hard enough, you could be in that demo.