After World War II and the Korean War, Asian martial arts started to be shown in America. These early demonstrations began a transformation within the American public that could not have been predicted. That transformation eventually flowed to me and ultimately had a profound impact on my life.

There was a time when I traveled from South Carolina to New York, some 13 hours one way, just to see Chinese martial arts movies in Chinatown. I would drive up with a friend and watch several of these exciting films, then come straight back. My fascination with Asian martial art thought was overpowering. What was behind those piercing martial art eyes? I had to know!

A year after graduation from high school in 1969 I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Little did I suspect this would lead me to my life’s work and love. After completing training as a security policeman, I volunteered for duty in Vietnam. Instead, I was sent to Korea. Unknown to me at the time, I was about to begin my life’s journey into the Korean culture, its history, and martial arts.

I ended up at the U.S. Air Force base at Kunsan, South Korea. It was there that I was first introduced to the Korean traditional martial art of Kuk Sool by Master Oh, Yi Kuen. For two years I trained in this ancient art. It was at my black belt testing and promotion that I met Grandmaster Suh, In Hyuk for the first time. I had no idea what the future held for us. To me he was my instructor’s teacher who taught only 4th degree black belts and higher which, I thought, put him way out of my reach.

After my discharge from the Air Force I attempted to stay in Korea to study Kuk Sool but was unable to get a visa. I had no choice but to return home to South Carolina. Kuk Sool was not yet in the U.S., so I started a club. That was the only way I could keep in practice and not forget the techniques I had learned.

Upon receiving news that Grandmaster Suh had immigrated to the U.S. and was holding a seminar at Louisiana State University, I jumped on my Harley Davidson and roared out to Baton Rouge to meet him once again. He remembered me from Korea, and very fortunately, with a letter of introduction from Master Oh, I was accepted as his second American student. I was later to become the first non-Korean to reach master level in Kuk Sool. I was given the Korean name Suh, Sung Sool by Grandmaster Suh when he accepted me, and I began a martial art journey from the past that few will ever experience. My standing orders were to eat, sleep, and train. For five years I lived in Grandmaster Suh’s school and followed those orders. At times it was very difficult and many people told me I was crazy, but I knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I was determined to make the most of it, no matter how difficult.

My living in the school had to come to an end following my arranged marriage to Lee, Choon Ok, a Korean Kuk Sool instructor. Our wedding took place July 13, 1980, and we now have two beautiful daughters, Emerald Mi-Yong and Jada Mi-Ho.

In 1981 we opened our first Kuk Sool school in San Mateo, California, and we continue to train under Grandmaster Suh to this day. We have both taught and demonstrated Kuk Sool in many countries around the world, yet our martial art education goes on under the watchful eye of Grandmaster Suh.

With the encouragement of my mentor, I started college and earned my B.A. degree from San Francisco State University. Two years after that I received my acupuncture degree from the San Francisco College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, providing me with a healing art traditionally obtained by masters. The driving force for me to accomplish these studies was the fact that ancient martial artists were often scholars, and I wanted to follow the ancient tradition.

My interest in learning about martial arts expanded to the study of the historic roots of all martial arts traditions. To inspect the legacy of martial arts traditions more objectively, I decided to start with the history of Korean martial arts in depth. What better way to approach this than to go to its homeland? So I spent another two years in Korea collecting data and gathering research.

After my last sabbatical, I moved to Houston, Texas, in 1991, where I presently live with my family. I have dedicated my entire adult life to studying and practicing Korean martial arts. I have spent uncounted hours training my body and educating my mind. I truly believe that the martial arts- Kuk Sool, in particular- have enriched and fulfilled my life in a way no other path could have.

As a small token of appreciation to my adopted culture that has given me ancient roots and the art that I love and admire, I humbly decided to write this book.

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This site and its contents Copyright R. Barry Harmon, 2008