Introduction to GiCheon:

In Korea, there are many studios, centers, and institutions that promote various self-cultivation methods and attract large numbers of adherents. GiCheon is a part of this self-cultivation trend. It is a mind-body practice, which manifests itself in the form of self-cultivation, martial art, dance, therapeutic gymnastics, massage and acupuncture. GiCheon is one of the oldest surviving practices, as it was taught in Korea since 1970s (most of other practices are of more recent origin[1]) and it has greatly influenced other practices and movements[2].

Chinese and Korean systems of accumulating Ki[3], life energy, emphasize Tanjŏn (丹田, Chinese Dāntián). In a narrow sense, it is a point three fingers below the navel. In a wider sense, it is a whole area of lower abdomen, lumbar and pelvis. Main postures in these practices involve bending the knees. While holding the positions, Ki is believed to be generated in Tanjŏn and spread to the whole body and mind, enhancing physical, mental and moral life.

Park Tae Yang (called by GiCheon practitioners as Taeyang Jinin) first started teaching GiCheon in South Korea in early 1970-ies. Park Tae Yang stated that he has descended from the mountains, where GiCheon tradition was secretly passed on for thousands of years. The practitioners associate GiCheon not only with Tangun, the legendary forefather of Korean nation, but with the origin of humanity itself. They believe that GiCheon has existed for at least 15 000 of years.

Taeyang Jinin confirmed that he learned GiCheon training method from Wonhae Sangin, an old man who possessed extraordinary powers. Korean and Chinese history is full of records stating that famous historical figures or martial artists have met an old man in the mountains who either taught them martial arts or granted some guidance. Koreans call these old men in the mountains Sinsŏn (神仙), which can be translated as a spiritually enlightened mountain ascetic who has become like god.

Some GiCheon followers believe that the teacher of Taeyang Jinin was such a spiritually enlightened Sinsŏn. They perceive GiCheon as a practice of inner alchemy, through which a human can completely transform her or his body and mind and become a Sinsŏn. But GiCheon practice is very hard and painful. So many adepts agree to settle for less: they do not expect to turn into a perfected god-like being, but try to advance at least a few steps along this path by improving their physical and mental-emotional state.

GiCheon history and mythology do not contain information on invention of this training method. The practitioners do not know when and how was GiCheon formed. Taeyang Jinin is believed to have passed on already existing tradition, not to have created it. The teachers emphasize mostly the physical practice. In modern studios in Korea GiCheon stories are not systematically taught to the practitioners. The motto of GiCheon is “말과 글에 집착하지 말고 몸으로만 수행해라”: do not cling to words and letters, just practice with your own body.

Since its origination in 1970-ies, various kinds of teachers taught GiCheon at mountain centers, rented studios, police stations, schools, universities, academies and colleges, private companies and banks, hospitals, clinics and health centers in South Korea. Recently GiCheon is gaining in popularity also outside Korea. A wide range of GiCheon practitioners include different occupations, various ages and health conditions, diverse social and economic status. There are schoolchildren, university students, company workers, sales-persons, taxi-drivers, construction workers, school teachers, university professors, owners of small businesses and big corporations, bank workers, housewives, news-reporters and others among GiCheon adepts.

GiCheon session usually runs for an hour or one hour and a half. In many studios the floor is washed before and after the training. The lesson starts with warming up, then static positions are practiced, then the dynamic ones. Newcomers and advanced students practice all together. New students repeat the positions looking at the teacher and at the experienced trainees. The instructor corrects the positions and does T‘at‘ong (타통). Tatong is beating the students on the back and legs with a bamboo or wooden stick, when a student holds a static position. The purpose of Tatong is to help relax the muscles, open Ki channels and improve Ki flow. Most of the adherents comment that Tatong brings pleasant and refreshing feeling, but some insist that it is also painful. From my own experience, I remember that in the beginning I generally perceived Tatong as painful, while later I felt that it made my muscles less tense and lightened the pain, a constant companion of GiCheon training.

If the training is not in the open air, often meditation music[4] is turned on during the session, and incent sticks are burned. Before and after the class students and teacher bow to each other in a special way, which is called GiCheon greeting.

[1] Dahn World came into existence in 1980-ies, Seok Mun Breathing and Maum meditation in 1990-ies.

[2] For example Haedong Gumdo was created in 1980-ies by Kim Jeong-Ho and Na Han-Il, two students of Taeyang Jinin, the first GiCheon teacher, on the basis of GiCheon sword art. In general, Korean martial arts of 20-th century can be said to influence each other and intersect with each other. For example the leader of Kuksul (국술), Sŏ In Hyŏk (서인혁) used to be a “brother” of Taeyang Jinin in early 1970-ies, they practiced and taught together. Among seven people who founded Dahn World, originally named Dahnhak Seonwon (단학선원), four were GiCheon practitioners. Shortly after creation of Dahnhak Seonwon in 1980-ies, the instructors of this organization used to attend GiCheon studio and practice GiCheon there.

[3] Ki is one of the basic notions in East-Asian culture. The word Ki (, Chinese ​) was translated into English as “the vivifying principle or aura of Chinese cosmogony”, breath, vapor, air, steam, gas, ether, vital fluid, force, influence, vital force, vital energy, material force, configurative energy, temper, manner, demeanor, feelings, passion-nature, weather, life-giving principle, matter-energy, subtle spirits, vital energizing field.

[4] “Korean music for meditation” (명상 국악 음악) is sold in South Korean shops. It is usually produced by modern composers on the basis of traditional music.





Copyright to SangMuWon.