Seeing the Kang Duk Won
I began my study of the true art in 1969. I had a couple years experience in Brand XXX, but I had no idea that I was stuck in junk food, and that there was a juicy steak out there.
I was invited, by a fellow who worked with me, to come down and watch a class. I was nervous, I had visions of having to fight my way out of the school in the mother of all dojo wars. But, heck, I was what I was and that was all that I was, so I went.
The dojo was located on a dark street in San Jose. It wasn’t a bad section of town, but it wasn’t the suburbia I had grown up in.
Kang Duk Won, said the legend over the front of the building.
‘House for Espousing Virtue.’
I crossed the street, trying to see in the heavily fogged windows, and midway across the street I was struck by the fact that the glass seemed to be curving outward.
Bulging? Glass doesn’t bulge! They don’t curve outward like a wall in a fishbowl!
Yet the windows were bulging. They were bulging and if I had walked up with a straight edge the straight edge would have matched the window, and curved also.
What was happening? I hadn’t even entered the school, yet something was happening!
I crossed the sidewalk, curious, a bit askew in my mind.
No trophies on display.
Not painted recently.
A big crack in one of the windows.
The bulging glass.
I entered the school.
On the mat people were stretching, punching, doing forms, that sort of thing. Nothing unusual here.
“Hi, Alex invited me to watch.”
The fellow at the desk called Alex off the mat.
Alex greeted me and introduced me to several fellows. I was a bit nervous being introduced as an instructor from Brand XXX, but nobody took a stance and glared at me, so I figured I was safe.
I sat on a chair and settled down to watch.
The instructor, Bob Babich, who I had met previously, came out of the back room and began the class.
No protective gear.
Mat wasn’t washed. Had ugly looking rips in it.
The class stretched, did kicks, punches, all facing away from me. Then they began three step punching exercises.
One, two three!
A loud kiai filled the air.
I watched, interested, but not impressed. Of course, as I said, they were facing away from me.
They made the turn and started back down the mat.
One, two, three!
The kiai washed over me, made me feel like my hair was being blown straight out behind me.
Except there was no wind.
There were only 20 people exuding energy. Energy like I had never seen.
And I knew why the windows bulged.
They bulged from energy and intention. They bulged from the art, the true art, being manifested. And I thank the gods to this very day that I had, somehow, reached a point in my personal evolution where I could perceive such a thing. I stayed at the Kang Duk Won for seven years.
On the next page I’ll tell you about Life at the Kang Duk Won.
This has been a page about the Kang Duk Won.