02 July 2015

The 'Soo Shim Kwan' Name

I recently saw a Bruce Lee interview again in which he advises one to become like water. Of course, this immediately made me think about our federation's name: "Soo Shim Kwan" [水心館]. The Chinese characters 水心 that is pronounced Soo-Shim 수심 in Korean, literally translates as Water-Mind.

Originally the name of our federation was Potchefstroom Regional Federation. At the time the federations in South Africa were named after the geographic regions they catered for. This changed in 2003. Many instructors had expanded their dojang representation well beyond particular regions. A chief instructor might have instructors with dojang in multiple provinces. It was then decided that federations need not be confined to particular regions anymore and so the original 11 federations in South Africa chose new names. As one of the original federation heads I knew exactly what name I'd choose, as I had already decided on a name many years before. (Read about the Soo Shim Kwan history here.)

In 1997 I had read an interview in Tae Kwon Do Times in which the Korean concept of Soo Shim was mentioned.

“It is, as the Korean people say, ‘Soo Shim’, water-mind; meaning one who practices the arts will be like water.” Byung Lee, 1997. "Legends of Korea : The Tree" (In Taekwon-Do Times. July.)

It very much resonated with me, and I knew that if I ever have the opportunity to start my own group, that is the name I'll choose as it represents my understanding and approach to the martial arts. These water analogies found in the works of Taoist authors and other Oriental philosophers and also implied in the teachings of great martial artists have always been very important to me. Now, as I live in Korea and study Oriental philosophy, I'm even more convinced about the appropriateness of the name Soo Shim Kwan.

Ironically, few Koreans are familiar with East Asian philosophy and not many know much about even Korean philosophy. When I mention the term Soo-Shim 水心 to the average Korean, they are unlikely to understand the philosophical meaning. One of the meanings of Soo-Shim, based on a different Chinese characters combination denotes the "depths of the ocean" 水深. This is often what Koreans think of when I say Soo-Shim. Another meaning of Soo-Shim, based on another Chinese character combination is "anxiety" 愁心. Unfortunately the study of Chinese characters is not part of the modern school curriculum in Korea anymore. It is, however, the older, more learned Koreans whom have studied the old Chinese characters that immediately grasp the philosophical meaning of our name 水心, and often nod in approval.

I provided a summary of the meaning of our name on our Philosophy page.

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