The Three Pillars of Self Defense – Kuk Sool True Story

* True Account by Head Instructor Steffen Kellogg from Kuk Sool Won™ of St Paul, Minnesota

I have always loved stories of Kuk Sool being successfully used in self-defense. But until recently I had not been in an altercation that went to the extreme of actual physical confrontation. I had always been able to talk my way out of confrontation or just project enough of an aura of confidence to deter attackers. Last night that all changed…

First a little back ground on the philosophy of self-defense that I teach. Seth Hicks Pu Sa Bum Nim (Kuk Sool Won™ of Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University) and I were once discussing how we teach self-defense. We were both in agreement, but he had the better presentation; so I stole his presentation idea. Since then I’ve taught the three pillars of self-defense: etiquette, self-control, and lastly, the physical techniques of self-defense.

  • Etiquette
  • Self-Control
  • Physical Techniques

I tell my students that 90% of possible confrontations can be avoided with good etiquette. And that of that 10% left over, another 90% can be avoided simply by being able to control our body, breathing, and emotions. Projecting confidence, being assertive, and not letting your anger get the best of you are all parts of self-control. Each one helps to deter potential aggressors. Finally, the physical techniques are used in the last extreme to protect ourselves or others when we have tried everything else and getting away without risk is not an option.

The True Self-Defense Story

I have been apartment caretaking for about 5 and half years. In that time I’ve handled countless complaints, noise disturbances, and belligerents. So last night at 3AM when I was woken by pounding on a door and bellowing in the hall, I was more annoyed than surprised. I quickly put on my dobak pants and went out in the hall to calm things down. What I found was a man trying to kick down the door of one of my tenants. Another of the tenants had already called the police and was trying to get the belligerent to leave from a safe distance away. I could smell the alcohol on this guy from 20 feet away. I quickly interposed myself between the drunk and the door. At this point it had gone beyond caring what the drunk wanted, I was worried for the lady behind the door. I didn’t want this guy getting to her.

So I took up a conciliatory natural stance. I had both hands up feet set beneath me with my knees slightly bent. He backed off from the door, and started making odd squaring off gestures like he wanted to be in a fighting stance but had only seen one in a Bruce Lee movie. That didn’t bother me as long as he was out range and not armed. I started trying to calm him. Calling him sir, trying to tell him the police were on the way (he thought they would help him), telling him that he needed to either leave or calm down, that there was no way he was going into that apartment. Normally this is all it takes. The guy had nothing to lose, he didn’t have friends watching, there was no face to lose, but he still wouldn’t leave.

His next tactic was to mock me. Self-control was the name of the day. I don’t lose anything by accepting mocking (especially by someone that drunk). He started to advance on me and I dropped my left foot back enough to be in a more defensive stance. Still at this point I did not want to hurt him. I just wanted to stall him until the police could get there. Unfortunately, for me he decided to play with the fire alarm. I pulled his hand away from the alarm, and that is when techniques came into play.

One of the things I especially love about Kuk Sool is the wide range of options we have. We can go for real damage, strict defense, or restraint. I went for restraint.

Kuk Sool Techniques and Armbars

As soon as I removed his hand from the fire alarm he went for me with a wild overhand flail. I blocked his arm and drove him back a couple of steps. I quickly swept his feet (Ki Bon Soo 9), and slid on top. While he was flailing away I slid my leg around his arm and pulled him into an arm bar using my whole body as a fulcrum (a black belt ground sparring technique) I now had him pinned the ground with one leg holding his head down, and the other holding his body down. His elbow was mine to break or not. Still he struggled. Two light heal kicks to the ribs (warning shots), and a verbal threat to increase the kicks until his ribs broke and I was able to completely restrain him until the police arrived.

The whole physical episode had taken less then thirty seconds. When he was properly subdued and in custody, I took stock. My tenant was safe. My heart was pounding but my breathing was completely under control. I could feel the adrenaline rush, but never did the adrenaline control me. I had successfully used what I had learned in Kuk Sool over the years without seriously injuring the belligerent. He was bleeding from a ripped open suture in his hand (he had apparently had an operation on his hand the previous week), and I only had some minor scratches on my calf from his fingernails. And I had managed to do everything within the confines of a 4 foot wide hallway. The mental and physical techniques, that I have practiced for so long in Kuk Sool worked beautifully.

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One Comment

  1. What a brilliant story! I love it and a perfect demonstration of what martial arts is all about. More stories like this help to raise the profile of martial arts in general to the public rather than the ‘back street’ rough people that we are often mistaken for.

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