Monster Newsletter #295–Tales of the Kang Duk Won!
Good morning and Good Work Out to you!
The very best work out, you know?
Let’s talk about work outs.
Let’s talk about the Kang Duk Won.
I had a fellow wrote me an email
that he really enjoyed those classical forms,
I train in it every day and I like it a lot, I like the way you break it down, it has really made it simple for me to learn
and it made me think.
In the following description of the Kang Duk Won
I want you to remember
that I was a white boy from suburbia,
didn’t even see a black person until I was 17,
was very protected,
not very intelligent,
and really ready to meet something of the real world.
Also remember that before I went to the Kang Duk Won,
I spent two years
in a classy dojo.
Full length wall mirrors,
the best in matting,
rows of kicking bags,
the shelves lined with trophies…
and I gave it up for the Kang Duk Won
The Kang Duk Won was born in Korea,
and had a unique lineage line to the founders of karate.
I wrote a bit about the lineage on the Monster Martial Arts site.
The San Jose Kang Duk Won was located on The Alameda,
right next to the Towne Theater,
which was a filthy theater,
physically and morally.
It showed a movie starring some gal
name of Linda Lovelace
for a couple of years.
Men in grey overcoats came and went.
To the left of the Towne Theater was the Kang Duk Won.
The big front window was cracked and duc taped.
There was a box office that had been covered up on the left.
Walk through the door onto indoor outdoor carpeting
that was, you guessed it, duc taped.
Bob’s office was on the left.
A beat to crap desk
a few business cards.
A radio that was always kept so low you couldn’t hear it.
When I started my own school I found out why the radio was so low.
Sitting in that office with nothing going on,
you get hypersensitive to sound.
The lowest volume tended to blare and irritate.
He had a pic on the wall,
don’t recall exactly what it was.
At one time I think it was a blow up
of the artwork on a version of
the book of five rings.
I think there was a calender on one of the walls.
The office was small, cramped,
and there was barely room for two chairs.
If you didn’t unfold them.
I always remember standing around before class
with six or seven very large bikers,
laughing and joking.
Really golden moments.
Visitors sat on a picnic bench under the front window.
The mat was actually made from sailboat canvas.
It was filthy,
and there was a wicked stitch up the side of the thing,
and where forms turned
the mat had ripped and been duc taped together.
There was a small mirror in the front of the room,
you could do one pose,
and if you stepped to the side
the mirror lost you.
Above the mirror was a pic of Norman Rha,
who taught Bob KDW.
To the sides of Norman
were mismatched Korean and American flags.
To the sides of the mirror were planter boxes,
one with sand,
one with pebbles.
Before class people lined up and thrust their fingers
into the sand and into the pebbles.
Waiting to pound sand,
other students would do their forms,
or do their hundreds.
Doing hundreds meant
doing hundreds of kicks before class.
Not ten or twenty,
but usually around two hundred kicks
each kick you knew,
right and left,
was considered a good warm up.
While we did forms and hundreds
the building would shake rhythmically.
and a dull pounding sound
came from the back room.
The back room was the changing room.
The kicking bag hung there.
Bob packed it himself,
and he was always taking it down
and getting it restitched.
The thing looked like Frankenstein’s manhood.
There was a bag of sand on a ledge
against one wall.
Somebody was always pounding on that.
To the left and rear was the water heater.
It had fallen over and was propped up.
When it fell it apparently ripped some piping loose,
and you could see sky.
The amount of sky you could see
with every rain.
To the right was the bathroom.
The toilet was the first toilet ever built,
and the floor under it had broken,
and it was slanted so bad
you had to do a one legged squat to, uh, squat.
Back out in the front,
I have to tell you
about the physical dimensions.
If I stood in the middle of the mat
and did long stances in pinan one
I could take up almost the whole room.
It was maybe 15 wide
maybe 22 or 23 long.
And the people crowded on.
Classes were usually 15 to 20 people.
I remember one class
over 30 people.
You’d think there was no room to stand,
we all did our forms.
as the class progressed
we did different forms,
beginners beginning forms,
and up through twenty different forms.
I learned how to navigate
by doing forms in such crowded conditions.
You just learned how to move
and where to place your feet
and nobody ever tripped or stumbled.
We just didn’t.
from my description…
who knows what you think.
Beat to crap.
And filled with joy.
Dirt can’t suppress a spirit.
And we would have a machine of twenty people
moving in unison,
feeding their energy
in a way that no other school had.
I know every school is unique,
and there had to be energy like this somewhere,
but I couldn’t find it.
I went to various schools and watched,
and nowhere was there this energy.
It got warm.
In the summer,
San Jose being a bottleneck,
the temp would hit 130 in that room.
In the winter
we would not suit up
until just before class,
then we would run out there
and do our forms maniacally,
just to get the blood going in our freezing feet.
the most important part.
There were so many people over the years,
the glass blower,
a couple of grave diggers,
the Ames Research Center Scientist,
the gas station owner
the reserve cop
and all the bikers.
Lots of bikers.
I should probably write a single newsletter
about these guys,
they really made my art real.
If you did your technique weak,
and you suddenly got a little worried and tried to hit harder,
and yet were terrified to hit harder.
Only after a couple of years
and finally learning how to put some oomph in my strikes,
did they stop frowning.
a few times,
I really remember the first time,
I hit too hard,
knocked this big Hells Angel to the floor,
and he got up grinning and shook my hand.
He just said,
‘Yeah, man. Yeah!’
People would come to class
Nobody hit them too hard,
we all had good control,
but there was just this dedicated feeling
that frightened people.
You have to be a zealot
if you want to learn the true art.
You have to be willing to experience
a controlled craziness,
be willing to learn how to hurt people
so that you never hurt people.
here a link.
Kang Duk Won
I always think this is the best deal I have.
Get it as part of the Evolution of an Art,
a monstrous amount of sheer, pure
right from the ancients information,
and you have the heart and soul of me.
No matter where I go,
no matter what I do,
my bones have been imprinted
with the fists of the kang duk won
and the wonderful people
who gave me their best.
I know you all have your own stories,
your own experiences as to how you learned the art,
write me a good one,
maybe I can use it for the newsletter.
You guys have a great work out.
Google Sewing the Legs of Calves on in Kung Fu
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History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.