'We practice and train very hard and have fun doing it'

Base Info
Photo courtesy of Summer Van Pelt
Photo courtesy of Summer Van Pelt

'We practice and train very hard and have fun doing it'

by: Summer Van Pelt | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: November 29, 2012

By day, Senior Airman James Carson is an Airfield Management Operations supervisor on Kadena Air Base. At night, three times a week, he trains in kuk sool won, a traditional Korean martial art at Risner gym. Carson selected a hobby that allows him to improve on his physical fitness as well as develop balance in his life.

Upon hearing of the opportunity to compete in the World Championship Tournament for Kuk Sool Won, Carson immediately ceased the opportunity even though he had only been training for five months. His instructors were quite proud and impressed by the tenacity and fortitude he displayed in taking his training to the next level.

The tournament, which is held annually to promote goodwill among kuk sool won practitioners, took place this year in Houston, Texas, on Oct. 6. It featured participants from more than 220 dojangs, or martial arts schools, from such countries as the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany and Venezuela. The one-day event included junior and adult-level male and female competitions in empty hand forms, self-defense techniques, weapons-form competition, board breaking and sparring. Carson, a senior white belt, competed in empty-hand, self-defense techniques and sparring, taking home the Gold in all three categories and evoking pride in his teammates, friends, family and his unit. Congratulations!

Q: What have been some of the benefits of doing kuk sool won?
A: I think what has benefited me the most was being able to get back into a physical regiment and training my mind and body through martial arts. I have been able to consistently gain more strength, flexibility and endurance through something I really enjoy doing.

Q: Why did you choose kuk sool won?
A: Since my late high school and early college days, I use to compete in track and field doing the 110-meter and 400-m hurdles. It has been years since those days, and since joining the Air Force I have been looking for ways to compete and train at the same intensity I use to during those times.  Since I was younger, I always showed a high interest in martial arts. When I arrived to my duty station in Okinawa, Japan, I made a vow to myself to finally fulfill that interest. I showed up to one of the kuk sool won sessions in the Risner Gym and have not looked back since.

Q: What made you decide to compete?
A: Initially when I started kuk sool won, I never thought I would get to a level so fast where I would be presented the opportunity by my instructors to compete at the Kuk Sool Won World Championship. When I told my instructors I was ready to compete at the world championship, they were very happy for me and had the most confidence in me to do really well. Of course, our training regiment changed once I made that decision because we knew at that point it was time to prepare fast and train even harder.

Q: You won all three categories you competed in at the tournament. To what do you attribute your success?
A: Without the dedication and the consistency to stick to the rigorous training, I know none of my success would have been possible. There were many of nights where my instructor would allow me to train within the advance class to fully use all the time that the Risner Gym allows kuk sool won sessions to take place. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about kuk sool?
A: If I had to pick one thing, I would say my teammates. To be honest, I cannot just call them teammates. They are more like a family to me. We all come to practice and train very hard and have fun doing it at the same time. I can’t speak for other martial arts schools, but I am for certain that when you make the choice to be a part of kuk sool, you are making a choice to be a part of a special family of great hard working people, and that is what makes it worth it to me.

Q: What did you enjoy most about the competition in Texas?
A: The one part I enjoyed the most (was) seeing all the different schools from around the world and different bases come together to compete and have fun doing it. … I had a great time meeting so many different people and the amount of respect we all had for one another was so high.

Q: What type of support for kuk sool and the tournament did you receive from your unit?
A: I have to give a lot of credit to my unit and leadership from the 18th Operations Support Squadron at Kadena Air Base. They allowed me for several months to have a very flexible work schedule to train without missing classes. They supported me all they way through and I am very thankful I was able to not only represent my school of kuk sool won for Okinawa, Japan, but Kadena Air Base as well during the world tournament – and to bring home gold medals.

Q: Why would you recommend Kuk sool won to others?
A: Kuk sool won is an amazing martial art. It enhances all parts of your being from mind, body and soul. In addition, it prepares and gives you tools you can use throughout everyday life situations to include self defense, discipline and just being an all-around better person within society. Out of the many traditional martial arts in the world, I would highly recommend this one.

Q: Any other thoughts you want to share.
A: I would like to thank Stars and Stripes for giving the opportunity to share my story of becoming a world champion. I also hope for this article to reach out to the rest of my brothers in arms, and hope they can find the time within their busy schedules to take on a traditional martial art and see the benefits it can make on themselves and their military careers.

To learn more about kuk sool won classes for youth (12+) and adults at Kadena Air Base’s  Risner Gym, email: kuksoolwonofkadena@gmail.com or learn more about kuk sool won at: www.kuksoolwon.com

15 minutes of fame
Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball?  Go to Okinawa.Stripes.com to nominate someone.