Friday, October 26, 2012

A Legendary Ancient Kingdom

By Rosie Sokolove, 2nd dan

Koguyro, also known as Koguryo, was one of the Three Ancient Kingdoms of Korea.  It was located where presently China and the northern half of the Korean peninsula are.  Koguryo was the largest of the three ancient kingdoms of Korea.  A 12th century CE Goryeo script call The Samguk Sagi says that Koguryo was founded in 37 BCE by a Buyeo prince.  However, archaeological and textual evidence suggests that the culture of Koguryo was in existence around the fall of an earlier kingdom.  The kingdom fell in 668 AD. Koguryo’s name was inherited by the Koryeo dynasty (918 – 1392), which was where the name Korea was stemmed from.  There are many surviving artifacts and other evidence that gives people a good picture of the life, culture and history of the Koguryo people.

Koguryo was originally said to be founded in 37 BCE by Jumong, a prince from the kingdom of Buyeo, after fleeing a power struggle with the other princes.  He founded Koguryo in a region called Jalbon Buyeo, usually thought to be located between the Tung-chia river basin and the middle Yalu, which is presently the China – North Korea border. Some educators think that Koguryo may have been actually formed in the 2nd century.  In the Han Shu’s geographic monographs, Koguryo was mentioned in 113 BCE. in the Old Book of Tang, it is said the Emperor of Tang talked about Koguryo’s history being around 900 years old.

It is believed that the people of Koguryo are a mix of Buyeo and Yemaek people. Although they might not have originally identified themselves as Koguryo, the various Yemaek tribes people some of the first to live in the area.  Archaeological evidence would support the idea of centralized groups of Yemaek tribes in the 2nd century BCE.

Jumong was said to be the first king and ancestor of Koguryo.  There have been many other rulers that reigned after him.  Koguryo rapidly expanded its power from the various Yemaek tribes’ land and its own original basin and the water drainage that came with it. During the reign of King T’aejo (53 – 146 CE), a royal hereditary system had been established.  Five of the local tribes had been reorganized into five centrally ruled districts.  After centralizing, Koguryo’s land may not have had enough recourses to provide for its people which led to the Koguryo people raiding and or exploiting their neighboring communities for recourses and land.  Aggressive military actions could have also helped in expanding Koguryo’s control of land.  King T’aejo usually allowed the conquered tribes to keep their chiefs as long as they supported and reported to powerful Koguryo people who were directly related to King T’aejo, having to pay expensive taxes. As Koguryo’s boundaries expanded those taxes increased greatly.  Soon, to the west, Koguryo’s kingdom had entered direct military contact with the Liaodong commandery, pressuring Koguryo to move their capital from the Hun River valley to the Yalu River valley.

Koguryo continued to try and conquer the different areas on the northern Korean peninsula that were under Chinese control. Koguryo and the Chinese Wei created an alliance in 238 to destroy the Liaodong commandery.  Eventually Liaodong fell under defeat by the Chinese Wei.  The cooperation between Wei and Koguryo fell apart and Koguryo’s attacks against the western sides of Liaodong led up to Wei’s counterattack that destroyed Koguryo’s capital in 244 devastated Koguryo.  It was said that King Dongcheon fled to the Okjeo tribes after his army was destroyed.

The Wei army left after they thought they had destroyed Koguryo.  But, within 70 years Koguryo was able to rebuild their Hwando Mountain Fortress capital and began to raid the different cammanderies around them.  As Koguryo’s gained more power and expanded into the Liaodong peninsula, Micheon of Koguryo had conquered the last Chinese commandery at Lelang in 313.  From that point on, until the 7th CE, the control of the peninsula would be fought primarily between the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

There was a temporary expansion setback during the winter of 342 when Xiambei, ruled by the Murong clan, attacked Koguryo’s capital and forced King Gogukwon to flee for a while.  The Xiambei used the Koguryo people for slave labor and the Korean peninsula became subject to Xiambei migration.  King Geunchogo of Baekji have destroyed one of the largest cities in Koguryo, Pyongyang, and killed King Gogukwon of Koguryo in the Battle of Chiyang in 371 . In 372, Koguryo embraced Buddhism as the national religion and proclaimed new laws after turning to domestic stability and the unifying of the various conquered tribes.  The government recognized and encouraged the teachings of Buddhism, having many monasteries and shrine created during Koguryo’s rule.  A national education institute called Taehak was established.

Remembered for his rapid military expansion, Gwanggaeto the Great is said to have conquered 64 walled cities and 1400 villages from Khitan and Baeji and took the entire Liaodong Peninsula in 404.   He also added Buyeo to Koguryo’s land and expended the recourses of the Mohe and the Wa (Japan).  They subjugated Baekji, contributed in the dissolution of the Gaya confederacy, and coaxed Silla into becoming a protector of Koguryo during the Yamato War.

Koguryo’s territory kept reaching further out, now including three fourths of the Korean Peninsula, including what is now known as Seoul.  Gwanggaeto created the reign name “Yeongnak” to signify his belief that he was on an equal footing with the major Chinese dynasties.  In 413 King Jangsu climbed his way up to the throne, moving the capital to Pyongyang in 427.  In the south, Silla and Baekji rivalry to Koguryo strengthened as Koguryo land control continued expanding.

After the Zenith, Koguryo began to decline.  Anjong was assassinated so his brother Anwon took his place.  There was a power struggle that worsened and worsened until Yang-won, an 8 year old, was finally crowned, but it still did not completely dissolve the problem.

In the 550’s, the Tuchuehs, a nomadic group, took advantage of Koguryo’s internal problems and attacked Koguryo’s northern castles and conquered some of the northern lands.  As civil wars continued among feudal lords, Baekji and Silla allied together to attack the weak Koguryo from the south in 551.

Koguryo was often in conflict with the Tang and Sui during the late 6th and early 7th century.  There was fluxuation between Koguryo and Silla and Baekji, alternating between being in and out of alliances.

Baekji and Silla had entered an alliance together to try to attack and capture the Han River valley.  In 553 Sills’s army came to assist the tired Baekji armies and took complete control of the Han River valley.  Angered by the betrayel, Baekji sent a retaliating strike force to attack Silla’s western border but ended up  being captured and killed.  Baekji had become the weakest kingdom on the Korean peninsula . Silla had gained an important recouse area with a lot of people there and easy base to start more expanding.  Koguryo had become slightly weak from not baing able to use the land.  Silla had direct access to the Yellow Sea which allowed them to be less dependent on Koguryo.  When the Sui region had been provoked from Koguryo  from all the military positions and exapantion plans, it resulted in the start to the Koguryo/ Sui Wars.

In 612, Sui led many different armies towards Koguryo.  Koguryo was able to beat the Sui navy, so when Sui’s multiple divisions of armies were finally able to reach Pyongyang, they didn’t have enough supplies for the attack.  They were still able to find different ways to hurt their opponents.  General Eujili Munkeok had helped lead some of Koguryo’s people to help with ambushes.  At the Battle of Salsu River, Koguryo had released the water from a dam that had split and cut out Silla’s recourses and escape route and out of the 305,000 soldiers, only 2,700 had survived.

The 613 and 614 campaigns were stopped after they were sent.  The first one in 613 was aborted after the Sui genereal Yang Xuangan had rebelled against the Sui emperor, Emperor Yang.  The 614 campaign was stopped after Koguryo had surrendered and returned a fleeing general Husi Zheng who sought refugee in Koguryo.  Emperor Yang later executed Husi.  Although Emperor Yang had tried to organize another attack against Koguryo in 615, the deteriorating state of Sui, he was never able to launch it.  The Sui Dynasty disintegrated in 618 after the war had depleted Sui’s national treasury while Koguryo’s strength and power had also weakend.

In the winter of 642, there was a plot to kill Yeon Gaesomun created by King Yeongnyu who was suspicious about the general.  After hearing this Yeon started a rebelious and violent attack killing the king and the other high level officers.  He then declared the new king to be Yeon Gaesomun’s nephew Go Jang while giving himself power and decaring himself as the Dae Mangniji. Increasing the tension between Tang and Koguryo,  Yeon had an increasingly threatening position against Tang.

There were rumors that spread to Emperor Taizong of Tang about an attack that was going to be launched against Koguryo, the emperor had originally declined the offer to join, but during the summer of 645 the Tang Chinese army attacked Koguryo.  Yodung had been captured from the Tang forces that headed towards the southeast part of Koguryo where Koguryo’s capital Pyongyang lay.  Emperor Taizong eventually withdrew his army in the early winter because of the shortage of supplies.

In 660, the Silla-Tang alliance conquered Koguryo’s ally, Baekji, and contitued attacks on Koguryo for eight years.  Koguryo’s king Yeon Gaesomon died in the summer of 666 AD, having Yeon Namsaeng succeed him as Dae Mangniji.  When Yeon Namsaeng led a caravan to Pyongyang, rumors quickly spread about him actually going there to kill his younger brothers.  Taking advantage of the situation, Emperor Gaozong of Tang saw an opportunity to destroy Koguryo. In 667, the Chinese army that gaozong sent had crossed the Liao River and camptured Sinseong.  After that they just fought off different counterattacks from Yeon Namgeon and had joined forces with Yeon Namsaeng, but they still could not cross the Yalu River.   Li Ji turned his attention more towards the northern cities of Koguryo, and in the fall of 668 the army crossed the Yalu River and attacked Pyongyang with the help of Silla’s army.  Yeon Namsan and Kin Bojang had surrendered while Yeon Namyeon continued to resist the Tang forces, Shin Seong, a Buddhist monk, turned against him and surrendered the inner city to Tang.  That became the end of Koguryo and Tang claimed the land as its own.

There were different things that had shaped the culture of Koguryo, but unfortunately not much is known since many of the records have been lost.  There are murals and other artifacts that depicted the different people of Koguryo.  Koguryo people’s language had parts of it in the Old Korean language.  Some common activites to pass the time were drinking, singing and dancing.  Hunting is another activity that men do and it is sometimes thought to be a good way to train young men to fight in the military.  Archery contests often occur as well seeing that the Koguryo men hunted deer with bows and arrows while riding on horses.

Koguryo people worshipped many ancestors and other beings that they found to be supernatural.  Every October, there was a festival called the Dongmaeng Festival that was held.  This festival was kept to worship the gods and other supernatural beings.  The ceremony always followed after with huge celebratory feasts, games and other activities. Koguryo people worshipped and respected Jumong, the founder of Koguryo.  During the Dongmaeng Festival a religious ritual was performed for Jumong and the other ancestors and gods.  The people found mythical beasts and other animals to be sacred in Koguryo. They worshipped the dragon and phoenix as well as a three legged crow representing the sun called Samjogo that was considered the most powerful out of the three.  There were also paintings and other murals of theses mythical beast in the Koguryo king tombs today.  Koguryo people believed in the ‘Sasin’, who were four mythical animals that guarded different areas.  There was a blue dragon called chungryong that guarded the east, white tiger, also known as baek-ho, guarded the west, hyunma ia a black turtle, sometimes depicted having snakes for a tail, that guarded the north and the one who guarded the south was a red phoenix called jujak.  There were many Koguryo arts that were preserved in the large tombs.

Koguryo was a great civilization. It influenced so much, affecting how the future ended up.  There are still many artifacts from Koguryo that can help people uncover the history of Koguryo . It was the largest of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and it had survived for about 805 years.  Some cultural legacies of Koguryo can be found within modern Korean culture.  The remains of walled towns, fortresses, palaces, tombs, and other artifact have been found in North Korea and Manchria.  Koguryo was a great ancient kingdom that went through many hardships and golden ages, having an interesting culture and lifestyle.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sweet Time at the Symposium

The 17th Moo Sul Kwan Black Belt Symposium was a fine success!  A record number of black, red and brown belts converged on the Inn at SilverCreek in Colorado, for an upper belt training weekend that included classes:  poomse, sparring, judging, self-defense, advanced hand techniques, one-step sparring, CTI Power Taekwondo, the American National Anthem and advanced kicking.

The Symposium Teaching Staff included MSK/AMASEA instructors; Jim Sautel, 7th, Mindy Sautel, 6th, John Sautel, 6th, Erik Albrechtson, 5th, Karen McHugh, 4th, Freddy Sautel, 4th, Clayton Garner, 4th, Alice Meyung, 4th, and Dustin Wheeler, 4th, Abdu Kikhia, 3rd and Michael Sandusky, 2nd.

The weekend began on Friday evening with classes that went until 9:00 PM.  Saturday began at 6:00 AM with black belt exercise.  Red and brown belts started their day at 7:00 AM.  Symposium classes took place until lunchtime and the Symposium Adventures IV followed.  Fourteen teams competed on a race that took them all over.  From the Inn at SilverCreek to the town of Granby and in between, the teams battled each other on some challenging stations.

This year, each five member team chose an American National Monument or Memorial for its team name.  Frisbee golf, group poomse, air hockey, breaking, one-step sparring, counting points on antlers, team poomse, self-defense, push-ups, football toss and sit-ups were just some of the tasks they had to perform.

Dinner began at 6:00 PM and this year's Symposium entertainment came next.  To everyone's delight, several of our black belts played games of "CTI Family Feud."  Hosted by Abdu Harvey (Kikhia), everyone had a wonderful time watching and laughing with the action and cheering for their favorite family.

Sunday began at 6:00 AM for the black belts with sparring training.  Classes for everyone began at 7:00 AM and went until the final class, which was sparring for the entire group.  The Symposium ended with the group picture and the Amazing Race IV awards!

Other Black Belt participants who attended:  Andy McDaniel, Bridget Sautel, Brian Steward, Knisely Sautel, Patrick Vargo, Thomas Sautel, Annie Sautel, Erik Ondrejko, Eric Evans, Alicia Leone, Eilidh Spery, Delaney Zandin, Abbey Watkins, Sierra Field, Pam Sautel, Caleb Feagans, Michael Madayag, Kathleen Sautel, Maggie Wingate, Emily Brophy, Don Johnson, Jordan Garner, Sean Lawlor, Coghan Spery and McKenna Louth.

Under black belt participants who trained:  Holly Madayag, Eileen Lindner, Zach Greaves, Eric Bear, Kai Wong, Damian Rupp, Jack Eddy, Jocelyn Wallen, Nate Watkins, Alyssa Copper, Tanner Copper, Andrew Madayag, Casey Feagans, Tyler Murphy, Emma Hartmann, Justin Lautrup, Peyton Brauch, Lexi Johannes, Kyle Feagans, Allyse Nothstine, Jennifer McKernan, Karen Carreon, Marcy Feagans, Ethan Price, Anna Sparlin, Nathaniel McKernan, Thomas Ma, Trevor Koch, Theo Lincke, Julianne Todd, Natasha McKernan, Owen Hartmann, Kenneth Brancio, Carl Gibbons, Calvin Bishop and Effie Gibbons.

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's Just a Mechanism

By Lee Karl Tomjack, Teacher and yellow belt

When I was a kid, I listened to Master Yoda in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back tell me and the rest of the audience that anger can control you, that once you go down the path towards the Dark Side you can never come back.  I didn't understand what those words meant till years later, when I got older.  While anger won’t make you turn into an evil cyborg-like Darth Vader, or allow you to shoot evil blue lightning bolts from your fingertips like the Emperor in those movies, but it can cloud your judgment and make you do things you normally wouldn't.

An old friend of mine once told me that anger begins with a feeling of unfairness, like a defense mechanism, when your ego is feeling as if it was being treated unfairly.  As a former soldier in Vietnam, who now spent most of his time in a wheelchair due to the wear and tear of his many decades in the service, he probably felt life had treated himself unfairly as well.  However, he decided to take control of his frustration, and not let it rule him.  Instead, he entered the priesthood and now administers to other veterans who are less fortunate than himself.

Anger, when it takes control of you, can regress you to the mentality of a small child.  It can make you lash out, verbally or physically, when you think you have been hurt by others.  It can make you feel less guilty about striking back at others, who may or may not be the actual source of your problem.  It can retard your intelligence.  Even worse, anger can mislead you to think that it’s okay to behave that way towards someone else, in some sort of reverse version of twisted justice.

The hardest thing can sometimes be to remember that the feeling of anger is just a defense mechanism that is there to protect you, to give you strength when you are weak and in danger, but that it is not in charge.  Humans also have a mind to analyze what’s wrong, and a heart to make the right choice.  The mind can figure out where your anger comes from and help you to take steps to place it back under your control, and to hopefully eventually solve the original problem as well.  But the heart can help you feel what others feel, as well as yourself.  It’s where compassion and mercy reside.  It can help you to maybe empathize with someone who is different than you, and see their side of things as well.  Once you can do that, mutual respect for another is not far behind.  Anger tends to appear when you feel disadvantaged or not respected.  It tends to go away when others show basic respect towards everyone around them.

I guess anger can lead you to the Dark Side, or something like that if you’re not careful, but you just have to remember that you are the one who is in charge in the end.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Honesty is the Only Policy

By Kyle Feagans, brown belt

Honesty is a trait that defines our inner character.

Honesty is the barometer used to measure who and what type of person you are.

Honesty means you do not have to be policed to do or say the right things.

Honesty is to do the thing whenever and wherever possible.

Being honest with one self can be very difficult.  To be honest, at the end of a long and challenging day, who really wants to sit back and think about the areas in their where they may or may not have been honest?  It can be a struggle to take a few seconds or minutes each and say:
  • Did I do a good job of balancing my work and family life?
  • Did I take care of the issues at work or home that I dreaded most today?
  • Did I give my all during my MSK Taekwondo workout today?
  • Did I challenge myself to step outside my own comfort zone today
  • Did I really need to out for lunch or could I have eaten that lunch I brought to work?
While each of the above items is important, the most important one is “balance.”  Work and family without balance is…just work.

Being honest with my family, like being honest with one self, at the end of a long day, has its challenges too.  However, honesty here means you our committed to and that you care about others the way you care about yourself.  You know it is important ask:
  • Did I take the time to tell my wife and kids that I love them and that I am proud of them?
  • Did I start and/or finish a chore or project that I said I would?
  • Was I really too busy to play a game with my family?
  • Did I listen with enthusiasm about the events of my wife and children’s day?
  • Did I take advantage of the time that I was given to spend with my family today?
Again, each of these items is important, the most important one is to tell my family that I love and am proud of them.

Being honest with co-workers and friends is vital to building depth, strength and integrity in the relationship.  It is difficult to build a working relationship with a co-worker or to build a lifelong friendship with someone without honesty.  Honesty is a key ingredient to the success of any business personal relationship.  Developing honesty with co-workers and friends can be as simple as asking yourself the following questions:
  • Did I take a few moments to say hi to a co-worker or ask how their day is going?
  • Did I really listen to a thought or idea of a co-worker or friend?
  • Did I act professional or show respect to a co-worker that may not have shown either one to me?
  • Did I offer to help a co-worker when they needed it?
  • Did I encourage a friend or co-worker when they were discouraged or frustrated?
Honesty is a way of life…it defines who we really are inside and out. There are tremendous consequences if you are not honest with family members, people you work with friends or even yourself.   Honesty breads traits such as respect, honor, trustworthiness and loyalty.  The consequences of being dishonest are to have these traits come under question.  These traits are typically at the core of one’s success and happiness in life.  It is also important to be honest in my daily life for my children.  I always know that it is possible that they are watching how their dad would handle an issue requiring honesty.

Honesty can be difficult when you know it will hurt you and or those around you.  Honesty does not come without consequences.  Always remember that there are good consequences too and the final result may end up as a positive.  It may strengthen a relationship with a family member, friend or co-worker.

I feel like I can accomplish anything life throws my way.  I also know that I will have the full support of family and friends with whatever challenges life may throw my way.   I have a sense of self-confidence that I would not have otherwise.  I know that I can sleep at night because I chose to do the right thing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Setting the Example

By Eric Evans, 1st dan

Setting an example for others is a key aspect of being a Moo Sul Kwan martial artist.  It requires a black belt attitude at all times and in all situations.  Leading by example is not reserved for Moo Sul Kwan Instructors and Black Belts alone. It is a requirement at all belt levels and is a task that must be continually refined. Setting the example is what we should all strive for in and outside of class.

Traveling back to Missouri each year for the AMASEA National Conventions is always exciting. I look forward to meeting new instructors, students, exploring St. Louis and Cape Girardeau.  I also look forward to the Great Grandmaster Shin workouts. The workouts consistently push me beyond what I thought I could achieve.  I remember the first time we were told that we were going to warm up with chops. In my mind I thought, "No problem" as chops were a normal part of my daily workout routine. Then Great Grandmaster Shin told us that we were starting with 300 chops. Start? What had I gotten myself into? A wave of doubt hit me at first, but then something extraordinary happened. As we were performing the exercise I looked over and saw that Great Grandmaster Shin was doing them with us. Even after he had taught two or three other classes, he was still the example. This rejuvenated my spirit. He was giving us his best effort and that in turn pushed me to put forward my best effort, pushing myself further than I ever had before.

This attitude is repeated time and again through our CTI Instructors. Our instructors lead by example in and out of the dojang. They actively participate in the workouts with us and never ask us to do anything they are not willing to do themselves. MSK instructors and black belts are also students. They attend extra training classes to learn new ways of instruction. I believe this is one of the key reasons our organization is so strong and offers invaluable life long lessons to each and every student.

The Colorado Taekwondo Institute strives to develop leaders who help to enrich the program in their own unique way. Becoming a person that leads by example requires individual dedicated effort.  Being an effective leader is not a characteristic that can be taught but applying basic CTI techniques can help a student advance.  For example, when we learn to perfect our poomse it helps to breakdown the individual elements.  In addition to learning the actual moves we must also learn what the moves are designed for, what the meaning or pace of the poomse is and how we can improve ourselves. Each individual component of the poomse must be broken down and improved. Each move must have an intended target, power, an impact point and focus.

In comparison, to learn how to become a student that leads by example it is helpful to break down the dedication that it takes.

We must display integrity so the organization can display a positive influence and enrich the lives of families in our community.

When we are in class we must pay attention and dedicate 100% of our effort.

We must set the example of how to act through our words, our thoughts and our execution of techniques. Responding with a loud, crisp 'Yes Sir!' is just one example that invigorates the class and helps them push harder. A new white belt has the promise of hope when they see a fellow student persevere through difficult techniques or poomse they have just learned.

We must apply extra effort through attendance of advanced classes such as black belt club and events such as the tournaments, CTI Expo, Camp MSK and demonstrations.

Each student should seize the opportunity to complete the monthly homework and write articles on subjects that interest them. The articles enrich the life of the author but more importantly provides students an additional opportunity to continue to learn.  

Students should also journal their thoughts and experiences. This will allow them to reflect back on how they progressed through training and the effort they put forth to became a Moo Sul Kwan Martial Artist.

"Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."
- Albert Schweitzer