Gongkwon Yusul (GKYS)

Mixed Martial Art Combat Hapkido System

Grandmaster Kang Jun

Gong Kwon Yusul (GKYS) also known as Korean MMA for it's time was coined in 1996 and is accredited to its founder, Grandmaster Kang Jun who was born on 11 July 1969 in Seoul Korea.

During the 5th grade, at age 10, he began training in the Japanese martial art called Hakkoryu Jujitsu under Grandmaster Ki Taek Lee who was a good friend of Kang Jun's father. The Korean name for Hakkoryu Jujitsu was Pal Kwang Ryu Yusul.

During high school, he began studying Judo and was the Seoul City Judo champion along with being an active competitor in a variety of tournament formats. He also began studying Hapkido and utilised the blend of skills from the arts of Hapkido, Judo and Jujitsu to give him a clear advantage in competition.

Yet despite his success he would often be criticized for not using purely traditional techniques. He retired from active Judo due to a knee injury.

After decades of Hapkido training, he earned 6th Degree black belts in both Hwarangdo Hapkido and Yu Sool Kwan Hapkido (KHF). He also attended HSD University and majored in Taekwondo, achieving a 4th Degree black belt.

In addition, he possesses a 5th Degree in Gumdo (Swordsmanship). Grand Master Kang has also trained in Kyuktooki (Korean-style Kickboxing) and a number of other styles. He studied various theories between traditional martial arts and sports martial arts. After years of commitment and study to the Martial Arts, he refined his Hapkido curriculum and called it "Combat Hapkido" to distinguish it from traditional Hapkido. After two years of building this system and receiving criticism from other Hapkido instructors, he officially called his system Gong Kwon Yu Sul in 1998.
His enthusiasm for learning martial arts never declined. He has devoted his life to martial arts.

Since its launch, GKYS has grown to over 50 dojangs in Korea as well as expanding internationally to Brazil, USA, Canada, Russia, Spain, Germany and Australia.

Master Ryoo, Young Seol was keen to learn this new art to innovate his Hapkido and together with a few of his leading students went to a seminar to meet Grandmaster Kang Jun in 2009. Quite impressed they decided to learn and teach this martial art to their students. The first to grade were GIANT Instructors Giorgio & Anthony Repice in 2012, view the grading video shown.

GIANT Instructor Giorgio with Master Ryoo's grace became the national director for GKYS in Australia from 2012 to 2015 and grew the art to over five states NSW, ACT, QLD, VIC and Tasmania. He also held two national competitions (2014,15) and graded seven black belts.

In late 2014, Instructor Giorgio held a two week national tour and hosted Grandmaster Kang Jun around Australia. Gongkwon Yusul also got a mention on Southern Cross News in Tasmania:

View the video shown to get a glimpse of the 2014 Black Belt Grading's:

With the explosion of Mixed Martial Arts since the 1990's, technical areas in traditional arts are slowly beginning to expand. GKYS offers an effective system that completes the bridge between traditional arts like Karate or Taekwondo and modern MMA styles by integrating the respect & manner found in traditional systems.

Even though GKYS may have alot of techniques that are used in today's MMA competitions, it has certain rules that limit the training for self defence. Rules such as no punches to the head in training or competition and no training against multiple attackers. However, the art's rapid expansion is due to its approach to contact sparring, where takedown and groundwork techniques are seamlessly integrated with stand-up fighting skills. Another uniqueness of GKYS is Grandmaster Kang's integration of specific self defence techniques into sparring, making them able to be applied in normal free sparring situations.

Check out a video from the early days featuring tournament competitions and GKYS training:

GKYS Principles

Written by: Grandmaster Kang Jun (International Gongkwon Yusul Association)

Translated by:          Master Dong-Hyeon Yun (Gong Kwon Yusul Germany) & Instructor Giorgio Repice (Gong Kwon Yusul Australia)

Just as we know that there are no rabbits on the moon, even though we have never been there, one does not have to start training Gongkwon Yusul in order understand the principles on which it is based.

I think it is important to give accurate information on the principles and the techniques of Gongkwon Yusul. I consider this especially important since there are people who consider Gongkwon Yusul merely an eccentric method of fighting, or who got the wrong impression that Gongkwon Yusul is a kind of imitation of other martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kyokushin Karate or MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) after watching a few videos.

One keeps hearing that high-ranking black belts from Korea and other countries commend Gongkwon Yusul for containing the best program. The reason for this may be that they have seen an unprecedented and unseen 'variety of techniques' as well as the 'autonomous realisation of the principles by the students themselves' in Gongkwon Yusul. Therefore, no other martial artist who already experienced Gongkwon Yusul doubts that Gongkwon Yusul will become a representative martial art of Korea.

When a beginner starts to train Gongkwon Yusul, they might not even perceive the structure of the programme. It would be for them as if he was walking in utter darkness. But if they continued training for about 6 months, they would amazingly acquire the techniques and philosophy of Gongkwon Yusul on their own. It would be as if a match was ignited in the darkness and could suddenly recognise and distinguish things. The feeling of this moment of recognition makes your skin tingle. It is beyond words.

I developed Gongkwon Yusul having the hope that future students can experience the same joy and enthusiasm that I experienced by training Gongkwon Yusul. I am proud that such a martial art, based on a solid and fundamental theoretical background, emerged in Korea.

In Gongkwon Yusul, there are four unique principles that cannot be found in other martial arts. Some say that these principles are a milestone in the world of martial arts, others call them 'brilliant' and 'ingenious'. This can, however, also be seen as a reflection of the fact that the martial arts are meeting the changing needs of society and our age, and are constantly evolving.

1. The Principle of Mat Dae Ki (Partner drills from a measured distance using the back of the hand)

Mat Dae Ki consists of four different techniques:

Mat Dae Ki - Suki (Punching) (12 bon)
Mat Dae Ki - Joksul (Kicking) (10 bon)
Mat Dae Ki - Me Chi Ki (Throwing) (10 Bon)
Mat Dea Ki - Gwan Jol Ki (7 Bon)

Mat Dae Ki is a purely Korean word. It originates from the expression that two people touch each other's back of the hand. By taking the Mat Dae Ki position, the distance between two people is set in a certain way.

The exercises of the offensive and defensive actions from such a distance and stance are very helpful to discern the principles and mechanics of dynamically adjusting one's stance. For example, kicking techniques need the biggest distance. If the distance is too close, the use of a kicking technique will be very difficult. On the other hand, hand (striking) and throwing techniques are good at close range. If someone wants to grab the enemy from afar, he will not succeed. But if one has exercised kicking, throwing and striking techniques from the Mat Dae Ki distance, he can use a kick successfully in such a narrow space, and soon he acquires the principle of the right use of space. On the other hand, the Mat Dae Ki distance is not close enough for grappling, throwing and striking techniques. But if you train the Mat Dae Ki exercise long enough, you learn methods to cover the long distance. This knowledge won't be taught explicitly during the training lessons, the students figure it out on their own.

The traditional and common throwing techniques and joint lock techniques were only usable when the opponent grabbed either me or a piece of my clothing. The throwing and joint locks in Mat Dae Ki are applicable especially from the distance of two arms' length, so that the techniques work totally different from the known ones.

2. The Principle of Creativity

During the training of Mat Dae Ki you simultaneously learn Samwonbon. Samwonbon is a fundamental training to gradually improve the skill of combining different techniques. If a student has mastered the Mat Dae Ki program fairly well, he can creatively put together a number of combinations of techniques and use it in sparring. I give you an example:

By combining (1) Mat Dae Ki SuKi No. 2, (2) Mat Dae Ki Joksul No. 4, (3) Mat Dae Ki Mechiki No. 9 and (4) Mat Dae Ki Gwanjolki No. 6 in a row, you will get (1) a striking technique, (2) a kicking technique, (3) a technique to cover the distance and (4) a throw ending in a ground grappling technique, put together like a chain, so that a unique set of a technical compilation (= Bon) arises.
Every Bon is unique.

It's like the PIN code of a four-digit combination lock, which is only known to the owner. You can creatively produce a Bon that would fit just you, depending on how tall or small, big or skinny you are.

This creativity-based and also creativity-supporting training method is already being used at the beginner's stage. By such experience, the candidate of the black belt rank will later be able to put together his own creative Bon, give it a name and make it known. Every Gongkwon Yusul student showing interest in this new Bon can learn and use it. In such cases, we will announce the source of the Bon and honour its inventor.

Gongkwon Yusul aussies travel to Germany in 2014:

3. The Principle of Harmony Between Eum and Yang

Mat Dae Ki Sugi consists of various hand techniques in attack and defence actions: i.e. 8 Eumsu (8 defensive hand techniques) and 8 Yangsu (8 offensive hand techniques). In other words, they represent a number of basic techniques. The beginners, who learn these techniques for the first time and as isolated techniques, do not know how to apply these techniques in practice yet. One trains Yangsu (offensive techniques) and the other trains Eumsu (defensive techniques). If both practise together, it will be clear that these techniques are linked harmoniously. By practising alone, one does not understand the meaning of the individual movements. By practising together, one will definitely understand. Like the gear wheels of a clock interlock and turn, the offensive and defensive actions run harmoniously interlocked with each other.

This principle can also be recognised in Gongkwon Yusul's Hyeongs (forms). After two people, Yongjin-Hyeong and Mujin-Hyeong, have trained separately, they will bring together what they have learned on their own. Then it becomes clear how the principles of attack and defence have to be understood. By following this system one comes to realise the main principle of Gongkwon Yusul: the self-learning principle. To meet this goal, the Hyeongs are designed to get back to the starting point without allowing minor mistakes right from the beginning, including the consideration aspects like viewing direction, balance, stride length, direction of movement, speed, strength, power, breath, fine-tuning of movements and chain actions of striking techniques.

Pictured is GIANT Instructor Giorgio Repice and Grandmaster Kang playing a game of chess, I wonder who won?

4. The Principle of Samwonbon

There are the following Samwonbon:

(1) Shim Moo Bon - 10 Bon (the quest for Mudo, the martial arts)

(2) Gyun Beop Bon - 9 Bon (finding Beop, the principles)

(3) Ip Ki Bon - 6 Bon (finding Ki, the techniques)

(4) Jwa Sul Bon - 5 Bon (becoming comfortable with Sul, the methods)

(5) Waryak Bon  - 5 Bon (determining the strategy)

(6) Seong Do Bon - 5 Bon (Realising Do, the way of martial arts)

(7) Jonyong Bon - 5 Bon (finding respect for the applications)

(8) Bansu Bon  - 7 Bon (returning to Su, the methods)

(9) Bang Beop Bon 1 Bon - 7 Bon (letting go of Beop, the principles)

(10) Mang Do Bon - 10 Bon (forgetting Do, the way, as the highest level of martial arts)

If non-experts were to see this Samwonbon, they would immediately get the impression that this is the core of Gongkwon Yusul. This is a collection of the essentials of Gongkwon Yusul techniques, consisting of 77 Bon, i.e. 77 different ways of throwing and controlling an opponent. Samwonbon is a simulated fighting situation involving two or three people. The entire collection of Samwonbon combines techniques ranging from (1) punching/kicking through (2) ways to cover the distance between oneself and the opponent and (3) throws to (4) grappling techniques; they form an integrated curriculum whose practise enables a student to force an opponent into submission by a rapid combination of 5 to 12 techniques.

On a theoretical level, Samwonbon in Gongkwon Yusul stems from the three great original sources: Beop (principles), Sul (methods), Ki (Techniques). I.e., Samwon means the three original sources. You do not just learn Samwonbon by heart, but you acquire these three original sources through creative training, paying attention to the physical ability, character and skill of yourself. These aspects, like creativity, liberty and contextualisation of techniques, form the characteristic traits of Gongkwon Yusul.

As has been described earlier, Gongkwon Yusul incorporates the four main principles from which stems the diversity of all other techniques: Sugi Bon (the Bon of techniques involving the hands), Daeryeon Bon (the Bon of fighting practice), Sugi Joksul Bon (the Bon of punching and kicking techniques), Daeryeon (free sparring) and Wasulgi (grappling techniques).

If you, dear reader, are willing to consider this martial art with some genuine interest, you will find that Gongkwon Yusul - in contrast to other martial arts - provides a full-fledged system with a clear strategy to incorporate the best of all systems in one and this is why it has had such a great influence on the martial art systems at GIANT.

GKYS Technical Overview

Watch Grandmaster Kang in action showing the various sparring transitions of Gongkwon Yusul:

Striking (Tagyeokki)
Striking in Gongkwon Yusul utilises all parts of the body and includes: punching, empty-hand striking, elbows and knees. As you would expect with a Korean martial art, it also incorporates as wide variety of kicking techniques drawn from both Korean and non-Korean sources.

Throwing and Takedowns (Maechigi)
Includes throws using the hip, waist, legs, shoulders and upper body. Also encompassing a wide range of sweeps, reaps and tackles. Takedowns are learned from standing, sparring and kneeling applications.

Standing Grappling Techniques (Sulgi)
This includes grappling both with and without the gi/dobok. Includes joint locking (Matdeygi) using any of the major joints such as the wrist, shoulder, elbow, ankle and knee. It also uses muscle locks, chokes and strangles.

Groundwork Grappling (Wasul)
The integration of groundwork skills is important in Gongkwon Yusul comprising around 30% of the total system. As mentioned above it includes: joint-locks, chokes and strangles, positioning and pinning as well as strikes while on the ground.

Forms of Partner Drills (Mat Dae Ki)
Mat Dae Ki (back of the hand partner drills), is the commencing distance in GKYS sparring. You commence by touching the back of your partners hand and perform various sets of techniques ranging from hand striking, leg striking, throwing and joint locks.

Samwonbon encompasses much more than just basic repetition of techniques. In Samwonbon individuals apply the techniques of Gongkwon Yusul in a semi-cooperative fashion in order to develop an understanding of the principles behind Gongkwon Yusul. A single Samwonbon sequence may include the full range of techniques (striking, takedown, locking and or ground work) within the flow of the sequence. Samwonbon may be instigated from sparring, kneeling or grappling positions.

Sparring (Dae Ryeon)
This may include pre-arranged partner work as well as free flow sparring. Sparring is conducted in one of 4 formats:

  1. Stand-up free sparing (no takedowns)
  2. Stand up with takedowns (no head punching)
  3. Groundwork only with no striking
  4. Light contact-utilising head-gear which allows kicking and hand strikes, takedowns and groundwork with no striking to the head

For further information on Gongkwon Yusul refer to the GKYS International website

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