Local dojo takes trip to Kuk Sool Won homeland | TheUnion.com

Local dojo takes trip to Kuk Sool Won homeland

Members from Gold Country Kuk Sol Woon (in green jumpsuits) venture toward the king's throne quarters at the Chosun Dynasty Royal Palace in South Korea.
Submitted by Lila Reyna |

“If it wasn’t for Kuk Sool, I would probably be in the penitentiary right now … and this is the truth.”

The words flowed from Carl Beaird’s mouth with such sincerity and purpose, almost needing the sentiment to be felt as strongly by the listener as it was believed by him.

“Etiquette, ethics, camaraderie, centering, focus, love for your fellow man, how to treat people regardless, staying focused so that the negative stuff doesn’t affect you,” are all things Beaird said he has embraced since he began practicing Kuk Sool Won.

Beaird, a 74-year-old first-degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Kuk Sool Won, was one of 21 members from Gold Country Kuk Sool Won to travel half way around the world to experience the motherland in which their chosen discipline was born.

Beaird has been a member of Gold Country Kuk Sool Won for 14 years, and when the opportunity arose to travel to South Korea and not only compete among the best the martial art has to offer at the World’s Kuk Sool Won Championships in Busan, South Korea, but also traverse the countryside and experience the culture, he jumped at the chance.

Once in South Korea, Beaird hesitated to compete. After all, it was the World’s Kuk Sool Won Championships, but with some encouragement from his mentor and teacher, Tony Reyna, he elected to compete in two forms.

“I wasn’t going to compete at first,” Beaird said. “But then (Reyna) said, ‘Pick one or two things if you wish that you would like to do and make up your mind that you are going to have fun doing it.’”

Beaird chose the open-hand form and sword form.

Beaird, with the support of his wife, Maureecia, and fellow black belts, performed the forms, and when he finished, the NBA-sized arena erupted with applause that coincided with a standing ovation, none of which Beaird could see but instead felt. Beaird is completely blind and has been since 1961.

“My co-black belt escorted me out and lined me up,” Beaird said. “We did all the formalities that you do for the judges, and I proceeded to do Juhng Guhm Hyung (sword form), and when I finished, I got a standing ovation … It was humbling because I didn’t expect it. You just expect to do your best and hope everything goes right.”

Beaird was honored with a gold medal for perseverance, met many of the Kuk Sool masters and made the rounds on Korean news outlets.

“I met all the grandmasters in Korea, and it was a humbling experience,” Beaird said. “I didn’t know that was going to happen. I was on Korean CNN, and they treated me with the utmost respect and my wife. And they encouraged me to continue.”

Beaird has been training with Reyna at Gold Country Kuk Sool Won since 1999 and credits Reyna with getting him to the level he is at now.

“When I came in and told him I was blind, he said, ‘Well, we will have to work together at this,” Beaird said. “We had to figure out a way for him to translate to me what to do. So we figured out that he would do the moves, and I would tactically see what he was doing, and little by little, I learned one form, then another form. I learned locking techniques and striking techniques, the stretching stuff, and the meditation techniques, and I worked with the regular class so things started going rapidly.”

Beaird now trains up to five times a week between private lessons and classes at the Nevada City dojo, he said.

Beaird’s achievement was just one of many highlights from the trip.

Ryan Mathias, 21, has been with Kuk Sool Won since he was 11 years old, and he left his mark in South Korea, becoming the world champion in sparring.

“Sparring was quite a bit different,” Mathias said. “In America, sparring is done with light hitting so people as young as 3 can do it, but there, it’s full-contact kicking and no hands.”

Reyna said he was proud to see how well Mathias handled himself on such a large stage.

“He was sparring against the Korean people who take it very seriously and don’t like it when an American wins,” Reyna said. “But as soon as he won, they were so gracious and very good sports.”

Mathias also took second place in breaking and third in sword forms.

Despite Mathias’ Kuk Sool prowess, he remains humble and focused.

“I try to be as humble as I can, so I don’t think very highly of any of the awards I’ve won,” he said. “I mean, I like it, but I don’t walk around showing it off. I enjoy tournaments, but it’s not really my focus. My focus is more about helping people, and that’s what makes me happy.”

Like Mathias, Reyna doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on the competition portion of Kuk Sool,

“We go to competitions for three reasons,” said Reyna. “One is to learn about ourselves, two is to learn more about Kook Sol Won, and the third is to have fun. Whether you win a medal or not is not important. Having fun and learning is important.”

Reyna reinforces the three tenants of the discipline at Gold Country Kuk Sool Won.

“The most important things in Kuk Sool Won are etiquette, patience and practice,” he said. “Etiquette means all encompassing manners; patience — things take time; and practice to us means working hard. We believe if you have etiquette, patience and work hard, you can do most things in life.”

Reyna, who was chosen as one of three international judges to represent the U.S. at the competition, is a fifth-degree black belt and has been running Gold Country Kuk Sool Won in Nevada City for 20 years. This was the first year he took members from his classes to South Korea. Of Gold Country’s 350 students, 21 made the trek to South Korea, learning about the culture and exploring the land in which their chosen discipline first originated.

The group from Gold Country was in Busan, South Korea, for the competition, then headed to Daegu, South Korea, where they visited the Buddhist temple Baekdamsa, and then traveled to Seoul, South Korea, where they visited the Chosun Dynasty Palace.

“Kook Sol Won is a Korean royal court martial art, so a lot of techniques come from the palace, and we got to see where that comes from,” Reyna said. “A hope for a trip like this is so you can go to the motherland of where your martial art began and to experience the roots of where it came from, to see the people. The people were so gracious and welcoming to us. (We) just really got to experience the essence of (South) Korea.”

Even though the trip was just more than a week long, by the end of it, the consensus was everybody was ready to come back to the states, Reyna said.

Beaird concurred.

“When the airplane landed in San Francisco, we all turned to the foothills and said home, peace, tranquility, and there is nothing like it.”

Gold Country Kuk Sool Won is located at 127 Argall Way in Nevada City.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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