When martial arts expert Christopher Wilson teaches Kuk Sool Won, his goal goes beyond teaching youngsters the techniques and forms specific to this Korean martial arts system. In addition, Wilson believes his students can learn to develop important personal traits, including determination, affability, and self-confidence, and in turn, integrate these into their own daily living experiences, at home, in school and in their neighborhoods.
It’s his interest in giving kids an opportunity to improve themselves that motivated Wilson to begin offering free martial arts lessons at the North Hollywood Regional Branch Library of the Los Angeles Public Library, last year. It’s his way of giving back to the community, but he says, he benefits, too. For Wilson, one of the perks is simply seeing the children having so much fun!
Each week students eagerly gather at the library ready to learn the rudiments of Korean combat practices, the beginnings of which date back as early as 2700 B.C. As they participate in Wilson’s class, they are among the thousands of students worldwide who are currently learning Kuk Sool Won, which was started in 1958 by Suh In-Hyuk.
Wilson’s students always begin class with the appropriate respectful bow, as etiquette is essential, Wilson explains. Then, participants begin a physical workout, which includes a warm-up and foundational stances and forms, as well as a series of self-defense combination drills. Wilson ends every physical workout with what he calls “the fun stuff”, spins and drops that leave everyone energized, and often a bit giddy. The class concludes with a short discussion geared toward character building.
Even though Wilson’s class is designated as one of the teen programs at the library, people of all ages have joined the class since it began last year, Wilson said. He’s had children as young as four years of age; often times, parents delve right in and participate along with their children. Wilson likes to welcome anyone who is interested.
As well, attendance is variable. On several occasions, Wilson has had more than fifty attendees. Since some of the children also participate in seasonal sports, such as football, Wilson is flexible with his curriculum and easily designs the class specifically to whoever is present.
An ardent teacher, these days Wilson works full-time as a martial arts instructor. However, this wasn’t always the case. For several years, he worked in real estate back in his native South Carolina. However, in the process of learning more about Kuk Sool Won, which he was first introduced to at his local YMCA, Wilson was inspired to do more. Thus, he made a switch in careers.
Last year, Wilson who has a 3rd degree black belt, got married to his wife Christa, who has a 2nd degree black belt, and together they embarked on a new endeavor, namely becoming proprietors of Kuk Sool Won of North Hollywood. Now, besides teaching classes, the couple is gaining valuable business acumen.
During the past seven years, Wilson’s deep-seated enthusiasm for teaching has been far-reaching. He’s offered free women’s self-defense workshops, worked with special needs children, including those with autism, and along with his wife Christa, presented a variety of demonstrations at notable festivals and competitions, including the U.S. Capitol Classics and the Long Beach Internationals, among others.
“We want kids to get excited about learning new things, not just martial arts,” he said. “We want to inspire kids to learn, so they’ll love learning for their entire lives!”
(Free martial arts classes are offered each Thursday, at 4:15 p.m. at the North Hollywood Regional Branch Library, 5211 Tujunga Avenue, North Hollywood, 91601. (Newcomers are asked to arrive at 4:00 for a brief introduction.) Participants should wear comfortable clothing and shoes, appropriate for athletics. Parents are invited to participate, or they can sit and watch. For additional information about library programs at this branch, call: (818) 766-7185.)