In response to a query about seemingly “extreme” physical training

What your GM is doing is probably his unique version of shugyo as applied to the world of today. Shugyo means “the Way of enlightenment through physical discipline”. It is a method of physical training that pushes the trainee to the utmost of his or her physical limits. The samurai did it, as did the ninja, as well as various other traditional martial arts at one time or another. In the broadest sense of the word, today’s foremost practitioners of Shugyo are the special forces of the world: the SEALs, the SAS, etc., etc.

Shugyo exists in every form of traditional martial arts. The difference lie in the focus and extent to which each art emphasizes it.

Usually, Shugyo is done as a special event (after adequate preparatory training) that goes over the length of a certain time-frame (a few days, a week, etc., ala special forces’ “Hell Week”). Participants usually prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually in advance prior to Shugyo.

Your practice of punching the tree till you bleed would be one form of Shugyo, and I can understand why you’d then write your name in your own blood. Your name, in blood, is declaring to whatever “gods and spirits” of the world that are watching, in vivid, fiery red, “This I have done; I, who is mortal”.

To paraphrase a certain saying, “Pain, where is thy sting”.

As a form of Shugyo, if it works for you, then it works for you. But you must grasp what it is that your GM wants for his students to accomplish through this practice. Your interpretation of the purpose of this practice might be different from that of your GM’s. Don’t just train. Learn as well train.

Having said that, whatever the reason and purpose behind your method of training, look after your hands (and your understanding) well.

Soft hands don’t necessarily make you a lousy martial artist. Hard hands don’t necessarily make you a great martial artist. Functional hands at least let you brush your teeth.

On a lighter note, to paraphrase Mr. Miyagi, “What tree ever do to you?”


What Is Taegeuk?

“Taegeuk is a symbol representing the principles of the cosmos creation and the norms of human life. The circumference of the Taegeuk mark symbolizes infinity and the two parts, red and blue, inside the circle symbolize yin(negative) and yang(positive), which look like rotating all the time.

Therefore, Taegeuk is the light which is the unified core of the cosmos and human life and its boundlessness signifies energy and the source of life. The yin and yang represents the development of the cosmos and human life and the oneness of symmetrical halves, such as negative and positive, hardness and softness, and materials and anti-materials.

The eight bar-signs (called kwae) outside the circle are so arranged to go along with the Taegeuk in an orderly system. One bar means the yang and two bars the yin, both representing the creation of harmonization with the basic principles of all cosmos phenomena. The Taegeuk, infinity and yin-yang are the three elements constituting the philosophical trinity as mentioned in the Samil Sinko, the Scripture of Korean race.”

– from Kukkiwon’s web site