The original triangular logo of 1958 — Kuk Sool Won’s (KSW) inaugural year — was replaced by Kuk Sa Nim (Grandmaster) just three years later with the one still in use today. At first glance, one would be forgiven for interpreting the logo’s central and most striking feature, the large menacing fist, as simply a symbol of power and its “flourishes” as having nothing but aesthetic value. The reality, however, is far more complex: this logo is the sum of extremely cleverly integrated components, each one (a total of seven in all) a constant reminder to all KSW students of its eclectic and deep-rooted history.

ONE: Let’s start with the aforementioned FIST. The cornerstones of KSW’s development were the so-called tribal (or village) martial arts, the Buddhist martial arts and the Royal Court martial arts. The fist at the centre of the logo represents the tribal martial arts origins of KSW.

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TWO: And the stick the fist is clenching? More accurately, it’s a STAFF. The staff symbolises the Buddhist martial arts origins of KSW.

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THREE: The third and final weapons depicted (the fist should certainly be described as a weapon!) are the two SWORDS circling the fist. Representing the Korean Royal Court, these swords (in reality, straight, but which have been curved under artist’s licence to be more easily accommodated into the logo) complete the historical martial arts aspect of the logo.

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FOUR: Immediately under the fist are the three Korean (Hangul) characters 국술원, transliterated as “Kuk Sool Won” and translated as “National Martial Arts Association”.

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FIVE: The most obvious clue (if there is one!) to the symbolism of the two short “RIBBONS” emanating from the bottom right and left of 국술원 is their alignment: they form two sides of a triangle, replicating both the way students point their fingers when standing to attention (with their thumbs tucked in behind their belts) as well as forming the triangle of ki (breathing).

ribbons-logo

SIX: Even the shape and outline of the KSW logo have been carefully considered for their relevance: the THICK LINE BORDERING THE LOGO depicts Korea’s national flower, Hibiscus syriacus (known to Koreans as mu-gung-hwa [무궁화] and to non-Koreans — as well as to non-Latin-speaking botanists! — as “the Rose of Sharon”).

flower-logo

SEVEN: Finally, the BLANK SPACE WITHIN THE ROSE OF SHARON BORDER: for KSW students, this is arguably the most important feature of all. This space symbolises two ideas: firstly, room (room for learning, room for thinking and room for personal development through KSW); and, secondly, KSW’s philosophy of all-inclusiveness (namely, that it transcends race, creed, colour and nationality — as stipulated in the Kuk Sool Won Pledge).

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Author: Carl Richmond, Kuk Sool Won (Boston)