Saturday, February 11, 2017

Il Kyuk Pil Sal - What is it, why do we care?

There is actually a lot of really good thinking behind martial arts, and this post demonstrate it by explaining three interrelated philosophies of Tang Soo Do.

The Korean phrase Il Kyuk Pil Sal translates into, "One technique to finish." In Tang Soo Do it means that a single strike is all that should be necessary to vanquish an opponent. This is one of three key Korean philosophies we teach our students. An understanding of the three, and their relationship to each other is valuable for the advanced practitioner.

  • Chun Shin Tong Il - Concentration, Mind and body as one.
  • Il Kyuk Pil Sal - One technique to finish (or kill).
  • Tang Soo Do Chun Shin - Mind and body as one in Tang Soo Do spirit.

As you read this post, try to imagine that you are attempting to break several one-inch thick boards with your hand. A single board is fairly easy, but a second, third, or fourth is considerably more difficult. That is where these philosophies come into play.

Chun Shin Tong Il - Concentration, mind and body as one. This simply means that whatever the mind decides to do, the body will accomplish. Literally, the mind and the body align for a single purpose. Furthermore, it can be said that the body is so trained that one does not need to think through each and every movement - any more than a piano player 'reads' each and every note; rather their mind sees a page of notes and the body (hands) automatically glide to the correct locations.

The key word here is Concentration. To break boards, or vanquish an opponent, one cannot be distracted. The mind and body are fully engaged, aligned, and focused on a single task.

Il Kyuk Pil Sal - One Technique to finish. When martial artists break boards, they do not hit the target three or four times. The entire purpose of the exercise is to break all of the boards with a single strike. One technique to finish. Bruce Lee once retorted that "Boards don't hit back." True, but if you hit an opponent the same way you hit the stack of three boards, the attacker won't hit back either. That's the point. The key word here is One.

Tang Soo Do Chun Shin - Mind and body as one in Tang Soo Do spirit. The key word here is spirit. At the precise moment the hand strikes the wood, the artist produces a kiyup, or spirited yell. Not a scream. Not a yelp; but a spirited yell. This expression is both physical (thoracic exhalation) and emotional (spirited) - it is the cognitive affirmation of conviction. The. Boards. Will. Break. You know it; not think it; not hope it; not suspect it - It. Will. Happen.

These three philosophies permeate all of Tang Soo Do, and when adopted, embraced, and repetitively demonstrated through practice of forms, techniques, and sparring, the student can achieve the inner peace that comes from knowing (not hoping) that he or she can defend themselves at any time.

Here, Sa Bam Nim Meredith breaks 1 board, 3 boards, and then 2 boards, each with a single strike, during a masters test.

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