by Gudrun Graf (comments: 0)

The combatant way to enlightenment


My way

At that time (1992) I'd been practicing Taiji and Qigong already for many years. My damaged health and a threatening wheelchair prophecy of a physician had been the reason to look for new and different ways and go. Now time was ripe to add Zen meditation to my body experiences. This is how I landed in the small hermitage Golgul. It lies close to Kyong ju (the historical city worldwide known as "Museum without walls"), in the midst of the marvellous mountains of Korea. Lord Buddha, engraved in a waste rock, watches over valleys, forests, cascades and villages toward the sea.

Awaited from a handful curiously looking young men we were full of expectation from both sides. They turned out to be the "teachers". Up to this time I had no idea that this temple was the place where Buddhist Masters were trained in Sonmudo. In the morning, a quarter to 4, a knocking woke me. It was accompanied by the chanting of a monk, who did the morning call for the small temple family. Tired and shivering I followed the group into an ice-cold rock cave. The following "108 Bows" warmed me up in no time. With clearing mind I began to understand that Temple-life means to live in an ascetic, strict and paltry way, filled with discipline but actually ideal to gain spiritual knowledge and martial art abilities at the same time.

Fast I decided to learn this discipline. So I became - as first European woman - a disciple of grand master Seol (the monk Jeok-un). From that time on I was a member of the Temple-Family. For me it wasn't meant to become a martial-artist, but, as Jeok-un Sunim expressed it: "In about two years you will be able to move like healthy people do!"


It is known that over centuries Buddhist Monks were trained equally in religious discipline and in Martial Arts.  The Chinese Shaolin Temple experiences a big revival in the last years. In Japan exists a strong connection between traditional weapon schools and Buddhist-Shinto Organisations. Less known to the world is the SonKwanMoo (Sonmudo = Zen Martial Arts), the Buddhist Martial Arts from Korea. The roots go back onto the beginnings from Buddhism and the time with never ending military conflicts with Japan. Unforgotten the year 1592. Thousands of monks fought side on side with the Korean people to defend their country.

Sonmudo as it is known in our days, has its origin in the temple Pomo, close to Pusan. It was a monk named Yang-ik who taught a few students and passed on a over centuries hidden knowledge. One of his pupils was Seol, Jeok-un, the later founder of Sonmudo. When he was abbot in Kirim temple, he discovered the holy place Golgul during his morning training. It was a shabby hermitage and Jeok-un Sunim decided to transform it to a place of meditation and Sonmudo-training. Over the years this small hermitage has become an impressive temple and all temple members help with the work - Master Seol ahead! Under his guidance the community stepped out of shrouded mystery: With the foundation of the "International federation of Sonmudo" gates has opened for a broader public.

Body and Mind getting strengthened

Sonmudo differs substantially to other Korean Martial Arts like Taekwondo or Hapkido. There are neither plates or bricks to be smashed, nor cries. Young monks like to specialize themselves on spectacular kick movements. They are representative for Korean Martial Arts. But in Sonmudo the main emphasis goes to perform the exercises very slowly. The high level of Sonmudo becomes apparent in motions which requires large balance and control (similar to Taiji and Qigong).

The great variety of the training method is special: It consist of relaxing exercises (stretching and calming Yoga), intensive breath exercises (Chakra breathing), Ki-Kung (Qigong) and dynamic Martial Arts. Additionally large value is put into positive thoughts and attitude towards life and into healthy nutrition (no meat). This should help to calm mind and body and to renew it.

Sonmudo clearly offers a larger use for health than we normally expect of Martial Arts. Not amazing that many students are older than the average Martial Arts practitioners. Many of them have experiences other styles or work with traditional medicine (TCM, TKM). Due to the high level, Sonmudo is the only Korean Martial Art Style recognized by Shaolin in China. There is an active exchange between both schools.

In the last years Sonmudo made itself a name under the teachings by Frédéric Foubert. Me, myself, I received the teaching permission for Sonmudo (main focus on Ki Kung) after an intensive training over more than four years. One year I spent by living with the community in Golgulsa.

Today I see myself as a connecting link between East and West. I will be in Golgulsa in october and november again!

German Version

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Gudrun is a certified Qi Gong teacher and naturopathy therapist living and working in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria. Apart from Tao and Chi Nei Tsang, she has specialized in Family Constellations.

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