Re-printed with permission
Master Byung Seok Lee, King Tiger Tae Kwon Do
This article was sent to
me by a good friend and Tang Soo Do practitioner in The Netherlands.
It appeared in the January 1997 issue of Tae Kwon Do Times magazine. While written within the context of Tae Kwon Do, it has no boundaries
and is relevant for Tang Soo Do as well as any art that utilizes the
term "Master" or its equivalent. Thank you Master Lee for
allowing its use here.
What Is A Sa
"King, Teacher and Parents are the same, they should be treated equally"
free like the wind
I live with our nature,
I am strong like a wave in the ocean;
dreaming of being a better person.
I am powerful like an eagle;
flying through the sky.
I trained and sweated hard, tasting my salt
I have trained for this day.
accomplished many long days of physical difficulties.
I have developed both my body and mind.
here at the beginning with my lovable disciples.
Now I give them my body, mind and spirit,
so this will be the tip flame of their life.
them to know,
Why we stand up here today,
Why we trained very hard for many days.
Why we are here together, and what our next goal is.
morning in darkness, we prepared for this moment.
With the lighting of the flame,
we are also lighting our new lives.
With birth of the flame,
we become newborn again.
to be a candlelight of our society,
like a beacon for others to see.
We have to be like the tip of the flame."
the Black Belt Tea & Candlelight Ceremony for black belt students given
by Master Byung Seok Lee)
a Sa Bum Nim? In America we use Sa Bum Nim as a title for a Tae Kwon Do
instructor. What does this title mean? Sensei is used for Karate
instructors. What is the definition of a sensei? What does it mean to be
a master? Sa Bum Nim, sensei, master are all titles for certain ranks of
instructors, but what do these titles mean? What are their origins?
martial arts has two roots. One of the roots is from Kyungdang of the
Kogooryeo Dynasty. The other root is from the Hwarangdo which evolved
during the Silla Dynasty. Kyungdang was the Kogooryeo Dynasty's
educational system. This form of education was for the youth of middle
and lower classes. The main course of study was martial arts and moral
values. This type of education started around the second century;
however, similar kinds of educational systems existed before the
Kyungdang which was the main educational system during the Kogooryeo
Hwarangdo began during the Silla Dynasty as the educational system for
the youth from the upper class. This Hwarangdo was established by King
Jin Hung around the sixth century. Certain youth organizations had
existed before the Hwarangdo youth organization in which the Hwarangdo
organization was modeled. One such organization was the Wonhwa, a young
lady's organization. To be in the Wonhwa, the young women had to possess
beauty and intelligence. Later, problems arose within the Wonhwa system
and the Hwarangdo was formed.
theories about the birth of the Hwarangdo exist according to Moo Ye Do
Bo Tong Ji, the first Korean martial arts textbook. There was one young
boy called by the name Hwang Rang. When he was seven years old he went
to the BaikJe Dynasty and learned martial arts, especially
swordsmanship. Even at his young age, he was a great swordsman. Everyone
in the BaikJae dynasty praised his skills. The people introduced him to
their King, and one day while he was performing, he intentionally killed
the King for his country, the Silla Dynasty. The people of the BaikJae
dynasty became angry and killed this young man. However, the Silla
Dynasty people designated a memorial day for him. A mask of his face was
made and used while practicing martial arts to help teach them loyalty
to their country. From this moment, what we know as Tae Kwon Do began to
develop. However, when the Chosen (Yi) Dynasty came to power the
fighting arts began to fade away. People were encouraged to be more
scholarly and martial arts became unpopular.
the Chosun (Yi) Dynasty, Korean arts were about to fade away until King
Sun Jo experienced the invasion of the Japanese. He encouraged people to
study the martial arts once again. However, not much changed. Only a few
martial arts were practiced and taught to small groups. Only small
groups of instructors and students existed and one instructor had about
one to ten students at the most. The students followed their instructors
like a father. Fellow students respected one another like brothers and
sisters. This is why they addressed their instructors as Sa Bu which
means "teacher like father." Nim, is a suffix that is added to Sa Bu, or
other titles, and attaches the meaning of respect and love to the title.
With this added dimension, the teacher and his students had a better
relationship with each other, more like family. Also during this time,
they introduced their instructor to others as Eun Sa Nim or Seu Sung Nim.
Seu Sung Nim means one who gives wisdom and intelligence. Eun Sa Nim
means someone who gives grace.
day titles for instructors have changed. As advanced civilization came
to Korea, its martial arts experienced many changes. Tae Kwon Do became
more popular and many more started to practice it. A variety of titles
for instructors arose as more people began to study martial arts. All
the old titles still existed along with the new ones such as Sa Bum Nim,
Kyo Sa Nim, and Sun Saeng Nim. The meaning of Sa Bum Nim is someone who
teaches good moral values and to be a light of society. Kyo Sa Nim means
a person who teaches others. Sun Saeng Nim (Sensei) means a person born
earlier, or gained knowledge earlier than another. We sometimes use Kwan
Jang Nim which only means head of an organization or head of a house.
Kwan Jang Nim does not mean Grandmaster. If someone takes the name of
Kwan Jang Nim, it is used under their rules, not by others.
master? We must look at this in the Bible. The Bible says a master, a
rabbi, or a teacher is someone who has the basic foundation of others'
knowledge, or someone who gave others knowledge. The foundation of one's
wisdom is that who is called master. Here in America, everybody called
master is a fourth or fifth dan and higher. This is not a bad idea
because at least fourth dan and higher Tae Kwon Do instructors can talk
about the true meaning of Tae Kwon Do and teach their disciples or
students. It does not mean that third, second and first dan instructors
cannot do this. Here in America hidden rules exist about masters. To be
called a master, one must be fourth dan and higher and teach; and
assistant instructors must be first dan and higher and teach.
that however people use these titles they understand their proper
meaning. If they are Tae Kwon Do instructors, they must be the epitome
of the word Sa Bum (a man who is a model for others and teaches them). I
hope they are all models to others and teach them ethical, moral values.
As for the meaning of the word master - a man who is the foundation of
wisdom and knowledge for others - all masters should teach not just one
but all sides of Tae Kwon Do. Some people teach only physical values;
some only moral values; some only mental values. A true instructor
teaches them all.
Tang Soo Do" in the Reference section)