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  • Writer's pictureSusie Cuseo

Mi Guk Kwan News: April 2023

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

In this edition:


Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan and the Song of the Sip Sahm Seh

(Part II)

By Kwan Jhang Nim Charles Ferraro (

Let us continue our discussion with the five stars (elemental theory or Oh Heng) of our logo that represents the five elements: metal, wood, fire, earth and water.

Physical movement in Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan corresponds with one of the elements. For example: advancing forward is associated with metal; retreating or

withdrawing correlates with wood; looking or moving left is equated with water; looking or moving right with fire and maintaining central equilibrium is associated with earth through your connection to it.

Each element has underlying fundamental properties: water soaks and flows downward and therefore, descends or moves downward; fire heats, so it

ascends and moves upward; wood allows its form to be shaped into straight or curved pieces; metal can be melted, molded and then hardened and Earth’s properties include the provision of nourishment through sowing and reaping.

There are four major principles describing these changes, as well as the inter-relationships that exists in any given circumstance. They are mutual creation, mutual closeness, mutual destruction and mutual fear.

Mutual Creation: Wood creates fire; fire creates earth; earth creates metal; metal creates water and water creates wood.

Mutual Closeness: Wood is close to water; water to metal; metal to earth; earth to fire and fire to wood.

Mutual Destruction: Earth limits - contains or absorbs water; water extinguishes fire; fire conquers - melts metal; metal cuts - carves wood and wood contains earth.

Mutual Fear: Each element respects the one that could destroy it. Wood fears metal;

metal fears fire; fire fears water; water fears earth and earth fears wood.

As you can see from looking at the logo the stars and the eight points of the compass are both housed within the Um/Yang symbol. This is because the differences and similarities among the principles can be analyzed in terms of the Um/Yang (law of opposites). The principles of creation and closeness are constructive principles and are considered to be Yang, whereas, principles of destruction and fear, their opposites

are destructive principles and are viewed as Um.

The techniques and philosophy of Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan carefully conform to the Sip Sahm Seh or Thirteen Influences (combination of the five elements and the eight directions).

Tang Soo Do is a system of maintaining good health by conforming and living in harmony with the principles of the Um/Yang and the five elements theory. Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan fosters a positive holistic Um/Yang relationship between mental activity and physical movement. Training in Tang Soo Do is designed to balance the internal organs and promote healing that is harmonious and beneficial to the entire body. Maintaining a dynamically balanced system preserves health by preventing illness and improving both the quality and length of life.

Oh Heng, like Pal Gwe, is derived from the Um/Yang; has an Um/Yang characteristic but also has its own unique attributes. Besides moving in a physical direction (Yang), each Gwe has a specific strategy or technique (Um) associated with it. These strategies and techniques can be applied directly to Ja Yu Deh Ryun (free sparring). Additionally, many of the individual techniques and strategies can also be found in Yuk Rho, Chil Sung, Hwa Sun hyungs, as well as the traditional hyungs, such as, Bassai, Naihanghi, Jinto, Kong San Kun, etc.

Just as the Um and Yang philosophy strives to explain nature, the Oh Heng is a further attempt to explain the more complex forces of nature. The five elements theory (Oh Heng) provides for each element to produce a unique energy (Ki) that can be cultivated for Kwon Bup (sparring/defense) and for health.

Five Energies



Water Energy (Soo Ki)



Wood Energy (Mok Ki)



Fire Energy (Hwa Ki)



Metal Energy (Kum Ki)



Earth Energy (Ji Ki)


Golden Rule

During Ja Yu Deh Ryun (Kwon Bup) there is what is seen by the eye or the Weh Ga Ryu (external – Yang), the five elements and strategies governing the external aspects of Ja Yu Deh Ryun are called Oh Bo and they are: Fire - Advance – Jin; Water - Retreat – Toe; Wood - Move Left – Koe; Metal - Move Right – Earth - Ban and To Center – Jung.

In Ja Yu Deh Ryun there is what is lurking below the surface that which is unseen or the Neh Ga Ryu (internal – Um). The five steps/elements governing the internal aspects of Ja Yu Deh Ryun are called, Oh Mal and they are:

Fire – listen with your hands; listen with your whole body. (Korean: Chum)

Breathing with your hands/whole body has to do with reading your opponent based on his eyes, body movement, stance or breath. The portion of the Song of the Sip Sahm Seh that pertains to this strategy is: “Pay attention to the slightest change from full to empty.”

Water – Connect with your opponent, literally means chariots in a row and has to do with controlling your opponent. (Korean: Yeon)

Once you begin to read your opponent then you can connect with him. From the Song of the Sip Sahm Seh: “Surprising things will happen when you meet your opponent.” Move in harmony with your opponent so that you move as one entity. It also adds, “Pay attention to the slightest change from full to empty” this is the beginning of controlling your opponent.

Wood – Adhere to; stick to your opponent. (Korean: Jum)

Once you have gained a connection with your opponent, then you must maintain it by adhering to him. You can practice this physically through an exercise called “sticky hands” or it can be a mu sang exercise where you mirror your opponent’s movement.

Metal – Follow and lead as you adhere; take control. (Korean: Soo)

You must learn to follow or lead your opponent without aggression. You will find that you can control your opponent without any effort.

Earth – Following with non-aggression. (Korean: Bujuhang)

This is done by standing your ground and yielding to an attack without necessarily using footwork.

You will notice that each of these strategies prepares you perfectly for the next one, however, it is important to understand that these strategies are used simultaneously when they are being applied.

These concepts are better explained in the words of Yang Ch’eng-fu. Yang Family Forty Chapters: 1930, “Sticking means lifting and raising high; adhering means clinging and attachment; connecting means giving up yourself and not separating from the opponent; and following means that I respond to my opponent’s movements.”

I leave you with this quote from Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, "Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?” Tang Soo Do training is not easy, it requires discipline, dedication and drive. We are all human and from time to time we stray from the path. No one can do it by themselves. We all need help to succeed. If we didn't, then why would we need a teacher? All martial arts are passed on from "heart to heart", from teacher to student. It has been said that "pride goeth before the fall". We will all stumble if our pride gets in our way and we cannot bring ourselves to ask for help; then we are destined to fail. The "So what" part of the quote is basically pointing out that we should all just put our pride aside and humble ourselves to our teachers and our seniors and avail ourselves to asking and accepting their help. Alone we will fail, but together we will succeed, and we will accomplish our goals.


Upcoming Events

April 28, 2023 – Annual Texas State Championships – New Braunfels, TX – Contact SBN Brett Riley: 830.606.0444

April 29, 2023 – Gup Testing – White belt through Cho Dan Evaluations – 12:30 pm – West Haven Dojang.

May 6, 2023 - Kodanja Class @ NMA 1-3 PM – Contact SBN Hoke Nunan: 512.335.2890

May 13, 2023 – 55th Region 9 Dan Shimsa / Clinic – San Diego, CA – Contact SBN Mark Pattison – 760.942.7280.

May 23, 2023 – Gup Testing – white belt through 4th gup upgrade – 6:30 pm - West Haven Dojang.

May 20, 2023 – Dan Testing @ Aim and Focus Karate – Austin, TX – Contact SBN Ben Johnson 512.257.8552

May 20, 2023 – 46th Annual All Tang Soo Do Connecticut State Championships – Edith E. MacKrille Gymnasium, West Haven, CT – Contact KJN Charles Ferraro 203.932.5335.

June 17, 2023 – Jesse Fahlsing Memorial Tournament – Austin, TX – Contact SBN Ben Johnson: 512.257.8552

June 20, 2023 – Gup Testing – white belt through 4th gup upgrade – 6:30 pm - West Haven Dojang.

July 3-4, 2023 – School Closed for 4th of July Holiday.

July 8, 2023 – Kodanja Class @ NMA 1-3 PM – Contact SBN Hoke Nunan: 512.335.1890

July 15th, 2023 – Gup Testing – White through Cho Dan Evaluations – 12:30 pm – West Haven Dojang.

July 20-22, 2023 – 6th Worldwide Tang Soo Do Family World Championships – hosted by Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Association, Inc. – DoubleTree Hotel at Universal, 5780 Major Blvd., Orlando, Florida 32819. Hotel Reservation Link:

Link for Registration:

July 24, 2023 – Kodanja Class – West Haven Dojang – 7:30 pm.


Keep Going with Kyum Son

By SBN Gregg Primm

Edited by SBN Susie Cuseo (

American pastor and author Rick Warren is quoted to say, “Humility is not denying your strengths, humility is being honest about your weaknesses.” Humility is crucial to real success; many people become successful but lose their character. Success is not what you get, but who you become as a person.

Like a lot of big things, it started small.

More than 10 years ago I was sitting at the edge of my bed putting on my shoes and noticed something unexpected: the process of doing so differed with each leg. I hadn’t noticed that I’d been doing this: I just sort of instinctively did it. It didn’t hurt and I could lift my leg while standing, but when seated it didn’t budge. This was my first step that led me to a complete hip replacement eight years later. For almost four years I pursued this problem with guidance both from my instructor, SBN Hoke Nunan, who’d had similar issues with his own hip in the past. After a lot of physical therapy, x-rays, MRIs, escalating levels of pain coupled with progressively poorer mechanical function in the hip, the decision was made to have arthroscopic surgery to repair a tear and shave off a bone spur; theoretically; fixing everything. Unfortunately, the surgery revealed a bigger problem: the bone spur had worn a hole about the size of a dime in the cartilage inside my hip and I had bone-on-bone contact. At the ripe old age of 45 I had arthritis in my right hip. Now it wasn’t all bad news. While the surgery didn’t fix my irreparable hip, it did restore almost all of the mobility and functionality eliminating the pain, allowing me to train hard and prepare for my Sahm dan test. The test was a wonderful experience and my technique was as good as it had ever been, perhaps even better.

Within a year I was once again losing mobility, range of motion and experiencing some truly serious pain. I couldn’t even do a back stance without feeling like a nail was being driven into my hip. I knew it was time to make the call. I stopped training for three months and in 2017 I had a shiny new hip for Christmas. One thing that SBN Nunan and I discussed prior to the surgery is how joint replacements – and especially hip replacements -- had ended the careers of several martial artists, including some who were far more gifted and advanced than I. As I approached my surgery, I was determined to not let this happen to me. I set a schedule for recovery and by March of 2018 I was back on the mat.

And that’s when I nearly quit.

Joint replacements are funny things. My new hip was fully functional. I had a fantastic range of motion, perhaps the best it’s ever been. However, basic things that once were simple and easy to do now didn’t happen at all. My right foot didn’t turn out properly in a front stance. Kicks couldn’t get higher than waist level. Spin kicks were awkward at best. Jump kicks were largely a thing of the past. Suffice it to say having a new hip when training in martial arts where it is very hip-centric presented many opportunities for frustration.

After a few months back in the studio I found I was beginning to dread returning; feeling embarrassed, anxious and growing both angrier and depressed. Every time I trained I compared my frustratingly limited gains against my memories of training pre-hip problems. I began to realize that despite my best efforts to train hard, improve and adjust to the “new me,” I wasn’t going to be able to get back to the level of performance I’d taken for granted just a few years ago. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

That’s when I realized I had a decision to make: I either needed to find a way to love training again or quit altogether. There weren’t any other options. Quitting would certainly have been the easier option. Having had a hip replacement seemed like a good excuse to do so. Who would blame me? I knew that the easier choice is almost always the wrong one, even when it seems like the right thing to do. So I spent a lot of time trying to determine why I was so frustrated with training, why I was so miserable and one day it just became obvious: Kyum Son. Humility – one of our Eight Key Concepts.

Everything I was feeling was due to a failure of having humility. I was so proud of where I’d been before I couldn’t take pride in being where I was now. My ego was so wrapped up in this idea of who I’d once been as a martial artist that I felt nothing but shame at the martial artist I now was. I was angry because I was getting older and my body had changed in some fundamental ways. I didn’t want to accept any of it.

That’s when it hit me. I think that’s why so many martial artists walk (or limp) away from their martial arts career following a joint replacement. They’re so busy trying to be the artist they once were they can’t find the joy in being the martial artist they now are.

Muk nyum for the end of class is a bit of time to reflect on the good done in class that day: some accomplishment, however, small. I always tell my students that some days you might feel like the only good thing you did was show up for class, but that’s something to be proud of in and of itself. Maybe I should listen to my own words a bit more often.

So, I decided to let myself off the hook a bit and stop comparing what I can do now with what I could do. I chose to accept who I am now and to stop measuring my own successes against the yardstick of someone I simply can’t be. My goal was to be the best martial artist I can be today. Not 5 or 10 years ago. Now.

It worked. I got back into the studio, re-engaged with my Nunan’s Martial Arts family, began teaching and training again with enthusiasm. I may not be great, but I’m not half bad either. I still can perform all the techniques while doing my best. I’m pretty good with all things considered. At the end of class I take a few moments to let myself know what I did right that day even if it was just showing up, but that’s OK. I once again love what I do and love sharing it with others. That’s a pretty great place to be.

Radhanath Swami, a Bhakti Yoga practitioner and spiritual leader for more than 40 years states, “Humility is all about being truthful and honest.” It is most important to be honest to yourself.


Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Studio Profile: Opening Your Own Studio

By Virginia Folger Dan #411 (

We all started our training for different reasons. There are even more reasons why we continue to train. When talking to different studio owners, you will also find many reasons why they decided to open a dojang. Just like in training, sometimes when you open a studio the reason you stayed open is different from the one you first started with. Whatever the reasons, staying true to the values of Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan and passing on our knowledge of our art are a necessity to grow the MGK.

Some owners run classes on the side while others have studios that are their full-

time job. Either way, we are helping students of all ages and capabilities improve their lives. Whether they stay in the Mi Guk Kwan and earn their black belt or master belt or if they only train until their orange or green belt, studio owners affect each person in some way that these students will keep with them throughout their lives.

Currently, in the Mi Guk Kwan, we have studios across the states from California to Connecticut, as well as in other countries, such as Chile. Many students wonder how to open a studio and what is needed. Having a space where you can teach is one of the basic requirements.

Before you jump in and start renting a studio space, you first must have a good understanding of our art and how to explain it to others. These are two different skills. It is possible to be good at something and understand it but not have the ability to expound on it well to others. The interpretation received by an older student will differ from younger children who are the majority of those learning the discipline of Tang Soo Do. Breaking down self-defense and philosophy in a way that a 6-year-old understands it and benefits from it is much different when explaining the same concepts to an adult.

To be a head instructor, you must be a certified master instructor or Sa Bom Nim

(SBN). If you are a Dan and wish to open a studio you must test for Kyo Sa Nim (KSN) or certified instructor as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd Dan. When a SBN or KSN opens a studio, they have a passion for martial arts and for imparting their knowledge and experience to future students. However, this is not enough to be successful. An understanding of business and how to bring in and retain students is important in running a studio for a long time. Even if you are opening a studio on the side and it is not your full-time job you still need to be able to afford to keep the lights on. We can’t help students if we are not able to stay open.

It is helpful if you have a mentor to assist you. This should be someone who shares your values and vision for your school. Your mentor will be that person who you can talk through big decisions with and to check in with to make sure you are staying on the course you set out to accomplish.

In the Mi Guk Kwan we are a family. We should help and support each other to grow in training and teaching. Part of this protocol is to ensure we reach out to any current MGK schools in the area to make sure there are no issues with you opening near them. This ensures that we are not competing with each other and that we are all paying proper respect to our fellow practitioners. We have plenty of competition to deal with; we don’t need to be competing with our Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan family.

Being a studio owner is not for everyone, but it is a very rewarding and noble position to take for those who can. If the responsibility and dedication are not something you can commit to, assisting with teaching in your studio is helpful to your studio owner and is another amazing way to give back to those who have helped you get to where you are.

Each state has different requirements to open a business, so it is important that you research what is required for your area. If you think that opening a studio is something you may be interested in, talk with your instructor and see if they can assist you with a plan to do so.

American motivational speaker and author Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar stated, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” If you want to change the lives of others in a positive and productive way, consider opening a studio if you have the means and motivation.


Sa Bom Spotlight: Masters James and Sarah Bergers

By SBN Susie Cuseo (

Imagine being only 12 years old and teaching Tang Soo Do to students young and old. How about continuing to teach for over 30 years and owning your own studio to top it off? Also, can you picture having a family who’s also dedicated to that studio and its students with a wife of 20 years, an 18-year-old daughter who’s a third Dan and a second Dan 16-year-old son. This SBN profile is on Masters James and Sarah Bergers.

SBN James Bergers was born and raised in Connecticut. He ended up attending Southern Connecticut State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education English. He went on to attend Quinnipiac University and graduated with a Healthcare Administration degree while working full time. He’s currently working at the Lord Chamberlain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stratford, CT as an administrator for more than 20 years.

His introduction to martial arts began when he would go to his sister’s dance classes where there was a Tae Kwon Do studio next door. His interest was piqued and he started on his long but rewarding path of training and instructing. He stayed with Tae Kwon Do for about a year and a half until the studio had to close. He met up with Kwan Jhang Nim Charles Ferraro where he taught classes at the Derby Elks Club. He decided to continue his martial arts career by taking classes with him. At the same time his sister, Sara, joined him in studying Tang Soo Do where she reached the rank of third dan before stopping.

SBN Sarah Bergers was born in West Palm Beach, Florida but grew up in Connecticut after moving there before she was a year old. She attended the Southern Connecticut State University studying Special Education. She grew up working during her summers at her family’s business of rental power sports equipment like jet skis and boats. She and Master James dated in high school and went their separate ways when they attended their respective colleges. They inevitably met up again after college and got married in 2003. Within a period of four years they had their two children and opened up their own studio. Before managing and teaching at Valley Karate, Master Sarah worked as a Special Education teacher for a couple of years.

Master Bergers spoke with Kwan Jhang Nim Charles Ferraro about opening up a studio to consolidate students in the Shelton valley. SBN Bergers ran Valley Karate over Porky’s Café in Shelton and eventually took over the studio to supplement the family’s income. Then 18 years ago the Bergers decided to relocate the studio to their new address of 549 Howe Avenue that was quite spacious with mirrors already installed due to the fact that it was previously a dance studio. This location included a bathroom, changing rooms for students, office space for administrative purposes and a decent sized parking lot. Master James has continued augmenting the family’s income by purchasing other real estate investments.

In January of 2023 Master James successfully tested for eighth Dan while Master Sarah will be testing for fifth Dan in 2024. She is currently doing her best to work full time as an administrative assistant at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT while raising two teenagers in high school. Kaitlyn will be attending a local university in the fall of 2023. Ryan is currently a sophomore. Both young adults help at the studio with teaching and trial lessons. They keep very busy with Kaitlyn participating in dance and field hockey while Ryan is working on getting his driver’s license and playing lacrosse.

So what does SBN James foresee in his future as a Pahl Dan instructor and studio owner? Now that he is an 8th Dan he plans on focusing his teaching on more of his Master level instructors and students to encourage them to get to their next level. American motivational writer, William Arthur Ward, is quoted to say, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” SBN James is one of those great teachers who does inspire his students to excel in learning the way of Tang Soo Do. One has stated, “He’s tough but kind and always helps when you’re struggling. He has a connection with everyone.” Another says this of SBN James, “He’s an exceptional instructor because he’s able to work with students of all ages. He believes in you and what you can do when you don’t believe in yourself. The lessons he teaches everyone lasts a lifetime. His experience and passion for teaching shines through with every class. He cares about his students and wants to help them achieve their goals.” Students under his tutelage strive to perform well at tournaments and on tests. At any given Dan Shimsa there will be at least one candidate from Valley Karate.

Parents of Lil Dragon students would agree in saying that, “Master Sarah is kind and compassionate with all the children. She keeps the class fun and engaging. She’s aware of each student’s individual needs and adapts her instruction accordingly.” This is what makes her an exceptional instructor and teacher.

Did you know there was a time when there were two Sarah Bergers in the family for about five years? However, that ended when his sister, Sara, got married and then there was only one Sarah Bergers remaining. Even Master James’ father, Alan, can be included into the family of Tang Soo Do when he utilized his time as a ring coordinator and in any other capacity whenever Master James competed at tournaments.

Outside of the studio, the family enjoys traveling together to visit family, especially in Georgia, keeping active by working out and going to sporting events that the younger Bergers participate in. They are truly a family-centric entity. In addition to those activities, Master James also enjoys riding his motorcycle and boating.

Master James has participated in numerous competitions on the state and local levels and even internationally three times. He has been on the Board of Directors for the Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Association for over 10 years in various capacities such as Chairperson, Vice Chair, Treasurer and Secretary. His love of teaching started when he was quite young and still has not waned. He teaches every Thursday at the studio where his passion continues to grow with each day. Many lives have been affected by his instruction and leadership. Outside of the studio, Master James has been on the Board of Directors for Nursing Homes and the National Board of the American Healthcare Association for several years.

When asked why they continue to train, Master James responded, “I enjoy training and progressing with my family and students. Additionally, I love how Tang Soo Do has afforded me the opportunity to stay healthy, fit and keeps my brain sharp by constantly learning new things physically and mentally.” Master Sarah stated, “We value community because it keeps you going. It is motivating being part of the Tang Soo Do family.”

American actress Lucy Liu is quoted to say, “Martial arts are art forms and require a great deal of discipline and dedication. I so admire people who focus their lives on it, because it’s not an easy thing to do.” Tang Soo Do is part of every member of the Bergers family who dedicate lots of their time and effort into teaching others and carrying on the legacy of this beautiful art form while using what they’ve learned to better themselves outside the studio.


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