If you take Crenshaw frequently you will have noticed Moo Sool Won, a Korean martial arts school housed in the bright orange building between Crenshaw and Olympic. The large floor-to-ceiling picture windows allow you to watch students young, old and in between practicing their moves. The school was started in 1968 by Great Grandmaster Yong Moon, (a highly respected teacher in the world of Kung Fu)and has provided our community with a path of health, ethical development and really cool Kung Fu moves! I first met the energetic and cheerful Grandmaster Ari Moon, Great Grandmaster Moon's wife, at a community meeting. We connected easily and quickly and the next thing I knew I was taking Kung Fu classes. The school has numerous awards displayed on the walls including several Presidential Fitness Awards from George Bush, Obama and Bill Clinton, the Presidential Call to Service award, awards from the Marine Corps and numerous awards from the California assembly and Senate along wth mayoral and city council awards. Pictures of Grandmaster Ari Moon performing beautifully executed moves at various stages of her life are also displayed throughout the school. I decided an interview with her would be interesting to our readers because of the amazing work the school does with children in our community. Besides offering training for children of all ages, they provide an after school tutoring program, summer camps and community service activities.
The Neighborhood News: How long have you been in our community?
Grandmaster Moon: We've been in this area 23 years and in this location 14 years.
TNN: How long have you been practicing martial arts?
GM: About 45 years. I started when I was 7 years old. My parents understood it would give me a good foundation for discipline, respect and concentration.
TNN: What is the most extraordinary thing all of this practice has given you?
GM:This has saved my life twice. Not meaning that somebody tried to kill me, that's not my lifestyle. I was in a very big car accident on bike. I have a very heavy damage too, and most people they don't survive. They die. But my body is more flexible than other people because of the training, so my body knows how, in the emergency, to defend itself. Your body responds quickly. You don't have to think about it, positive reaction naturally comes out. If you know Kung Fu, you can drive better, you can cook better, you can work better.
TNN: You have a very strong program for children.
GM: When young children start Kung Fu, they face beautiful growth and the development of their EQ, [emotional quotient] IQ [intelligence] both. Concentration increases, also focus increases. Also you have positive attitudes. We teaching all of those and responsibility. All of these exercises were created by Great Grandmaster Yong Moon, who has a chiropractic background, so he knows what is the best exercises for the bodies of young children to the older senior.
TNN: Talk about how this practice extends into the home and school of your young students.
GM: We have student home rules. In order to get their belts they have to pass the home rules report card that parents and teachers grade. What you learning here, you have to take it home, you have to take it to school, you have to take it to work. You learn to follow directions. Not only in the Moo Sool Won school but we work together, teacher in the school and the parents in the home. That's why we have the ten commandments here, ten student home rules: Students show respect to Mom and Dad, and Family Members. Student maintain a good relationships with Siblings and Friends. Students help with household chores and keep rooms clean. Student keeps body, hair, teeth, and nails clean at all times. Student maintains a positive and a pleasing personality.
Student gets started and finishes tasks on time. Student is truthful at all times. For Teacher's approval: Student shows respect for teachers and follows instructions. Student studies school work at school and finishes homework at home. Student balances work with play and manages time effectively.
The home and the dojo, (Moo Sool Won school) and school, they have to be triangle. That's what I call the body, mind and spirit.
TNN:Beautiful. What do you see with the kids when you do this?
GM: First time that they come in, they don't know how to follow directions. We teaching, they getting the better grade. If they fail classes, they catch up to C, they catch up to B, they catch up to A, so they coming to A class of student. So there's not only things to know how to do physically here, but mentally too. Also, we are saving the parents and government money.
TNN: Because you're not going to the doctors all the time?
GM: That's right. You spend a little tiny bit of money right here right now, but you're gaining so much.
TNN: Explain the different belt grades.
GM: First of all, you start in the white belt. Number one; between the masters and the students we teach Respect. Then - Good character, Healthy and Fitness - then the Martial Art called the Kung Fu, Self-Defensive skill. A lot of people think self-defense is used when somebody have to be attacking and punching and kicking, that's not true. Somebody might be attacking in their speech. You say, “okay, stop yelling at me. Communication better”. That is defending yourself. You play ball and if you know how to do Kung Fu, you don't get hit. Your reflexes are better. White belt test is after around two months, two to three classes a week.
Then next step is the yellow belt. We call this the Responsibility belt. We're teaching responsibility and to respect the parents and you have to get good grades. Kung Fu kids in Yellow belt don't have any issue, any problem in the grade. They improve. Also, Helping Out, they're helping household. They can’t leave a mess, put socks here, put stuff there, no. Keep neat and also help to do household chores.
TNN: And these kids do it?
GM: Of course!
TNN:The parents must love you.
GM: Oh yes, yes ma'am. The kids are learning serious principles.Then, next step is Orange belt. Self-Confidence. When they know white belt and yellow belt and develop a learning skill...so then comes in Self-confidence. We focus on “Believing, in ones abilities.” “Success in all endeavors.” “Truth to self and others” and “Confident yet humble.”
GM:Then next level is Green Belt. Green belt is “Self-discipline.” Self-control. Focus and Concentration. Be Proactive. Perseverance. Learn Teamwork. Finish what you start.
Then Blue Belt. Positive Attitude. Good Manners. Enthusiasm For Life. Pleasing personality. Positive thinker. Trustworthy.
Red Belt is Courage. Conquer fear. Strong will. Learn from your mistakes. Live to the Fullest.
In the red and black belt, is balance. Balance mind, body and spirit. Help create a strong foundation. Be a Leader. Cultivate Well Being. Strive for Self-Mastery.
Once you have white through to red and black, then you are prepared for black belt. Be responsible, Self-confident, Self-disciplined, Positive attitude, Courageous, Balanced, Appreciative. This is not going to be changed in one day, and you have to stay focused. Six into 18 months through to three year in a group. With private lessons and depending on their abilities can be less than a year. After you've become a black belt, you don't have problems with your lifestyle because you have education due to Kung Fu.
TNN:What does the word Kung Fu actually mean?
GM:Kung Fu means study. Study of mind, study of physical, study of spirit. A lot of time people think it's just fighting. That's not true. Kung Fu means “study of”... if you play piano, you do art, that is a Kung Fu.
TNN:So it's like a practice.
GM:That's right, practice.
TNN: It means to transform oneself to become whole and functional and for ones talents to come out. You were talking about that earlier; everybody has different talents. So this practice allows the individual to begin to be in touch with their talents.
TNN:And have the discipline to bring their talents out, whatever they are.
TNN:How long have you been teaching kids?
TNN:As they get older, do they stay with the practice?
GM:I have a third generation here. Great Grandmaster has been teaching since 1968. Then come in father and then son and now grandson. Mama has a black belt, she has daughter and then she come in black belt. I have a lot of parents like that.
TNN:What about the seniors?
GM:Yes, we have a lot of seniors also.
TNN:What happens with the seniors? They come in, they're achy, they're older, why are they coming?
GM:A lot of times somebody introduce them to our school. We also do a lot of demonstrations for seniors and at their centers. Sometimes they're having the pain, so we show them the pain relief. The pain really leaves; it’s gone. If you do Moo Sool Wan Kung Fu, you develop natural beauty. You don't have to have plastic surgery. Your body, as you’re getting older, you don’t have to be stooped over. They end up with strength, flexibility and energy and happier.
TNN:Well I know when I started, my back had been sore for two weeks. I had to move carefully so that I didn't throw it out. I was getting ready to go to the doctors to get an x-ray to find out what was going on back there. Then I came for my first class here and when I left, it was gone and it hasn't come back yet.
GM: That is the healing. A lot of people have arthritis, cholesterol, diabetes. High blood pressure. Moo Sool Wan Kung Fu helps to heal this. Dianne you stay one year and you will be ten years younger, one year from now.
GM: That's right. Everybody. Also I have some students who have cancer recovered too. I have people where the doctor say they have 3 months but they live 12 years.
TNN:You also do a lot of community-oriented activities.
TNN:What kind of things do you do in the community?
GM:I've been here 23 years. It used to be very insecure unclean place. A lot of bad kids here, selling drugs. But wherever our school goes things change, we are proactive. Every Saturday, our kids go out and clean our neighborhoods. Pick up trash. Look at our school and the neighborhood here, it's safe and clean.Also we're teaching our students, every morning go out of your home, sweep and pick up trash. If you do, everybody do and then all our community is so clean, so bright.
TNN:Moo Sool Wan has such positive energy and you always end your classes with a group cheer. “I'm happy, we're happy, everybody's happy.” You call this the happy virus. GM:That's right, happy virus. Why? Because I went through hardship, too. So many times hardship. I’m a Christian. Many times when I came into hardship, I say, look at the outside, it's beautiful, isn't it, Dianne? We have a bird; you go to the beach and see the fish. They're not worried about the money; they don't worry about sickness; they don't worry about fighting. Only human being have to be suffering. Why? Because they don't see themselves. That's why, I look at myself, I say if I'm happy, I see my husband happy, my two son happy, my students happy. Then one day I be meditating and then I pray and see everything coming from me. Sadness, happiness….it's up to you. You want to be healthy lifestyle? It's up to you. You want to be rich style? It's up to you. That is everything depends from me. You have white lens in your eyes, what do you see? You see white; you don't see the black. You wear the red one; you see red. You see yellow. Whatever cover your eyes, that what you see. So I said, okay, happy. Happy! Smile! Smile is a power!
The World Martial Arts Federation Moo Sool Won 1149 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019 To find out about After School Program (Pick up, tutoring, martial arts, snacks) call 323-857-1234
Established in August of 2008 by writer, artist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.