Locals find new martial art Kuk Sool Won-derful
Each Thursday night, the Nottingham Elementary School cafeteria is transformed. The folding tables and milk crates vanish and are replaced by tumbling mats and three flags.
One flag is the stars and stripes, the other Korean, and the last is the official flag of one of Eudora's newest martial arts, Kuk Sool Won.
Linwood resident Daniel Robinette, 8, stood mid-bow at the doorway.
"Kuk Sool," Daniel said.
Having finished the standard greeting, a sign of respect, he entered the converted training area, or "Do Jahng."
Lawrence resident Nick Kurtz, the class instructor, bowed back, acknowledging his student. Kurtz then led him to an area where stretching began, first preceded by an opening bowing ceremony.
In this ceremony the students bow to the flags, their master and themselves.
"We stress on good etiquette," Kurtz said.
Translated from Korean, Kuk Sool Won means Korean National Martial Arts Association, Kurtz said. It combines aspects of different Korean martial arts. This hybrid discipline leads students to work with their own inner energy, as well as perfect various kicks and punches, and gives them limited training with Far Eastern weapons.
Kurtz has been leading the class in Eudora for three months with his father, Mark.
At a class last Thursday, the first of two which began at 5:15 p.m., consisted of Kurtz, and two younger students, Daniel and Eudora resident Jonas Paxson, 8. The second class began at 6:45 p.m.
Training at the beginning levels focuses mainly on stretching, throwing your opponent, and learning how to break falls, Kurtz said.
"In Kuk Sool your main opponent is yourself," the instructor said.
Kuk Sool Won practitioners mark their progress by moving on to different degrees and different colors of belts. This class prepared for their first test, which if passed, allows the chance to earn a yellow stripe for their white belt, Kurtz said.
Both Kurtz and his father will be promoted June 18 to second degree black belts in St. Louis.
"Through doing Kuk Sool you can better yourself," Kurtz said. "It's all very self-paced, and we teach people of all ages."
Near the end of the class, Kurtz reached into a bag and brought out three pairs of one of the most iconic weapons in martial arts. In Korean, they are called "jool bohng," or, literally, two sticks connected by rope.
For class, the students used foam versions. The training on these consisted of a flowing series of motions that went from circles to figure 8s to more complicated forms.
After Kurtz finished instructing the students' lesson for the day, he went on the show them the patterns for future lessons and then what was necessary for the black belt.
The lesson's final minutes were on the students' inner-energy. This was done through an exercise that appeared like the earlier punching lesson but was accompanied by a sharp exhalation of breath.
It's not only the students or instructors who recognize the value of these lessons.
"It's different than any other organized sport because it is focused on just the child," Daniel's mother, Marlene Robinette, said. "The self defense will help him the rest of his life."
David, however, finds a more simple joy in learning Kuk Sool Won.
"I like the kicking," he said.
Kurtz said new students of all ages can join the Wednesday classes at any time.