In a somewhat improbable development for a town of 28,000, or at least any town of 28,000 located outside of Korea, Benicia will soon host two Korean-style martial arts centers within its city limits. Both institutions are led by people formerly associated with Benicia Martial Arts Academy, whose lease in the Southampton shopping center recently expired. One, located downtown and closed during the time of this writing, will retain the old name but focus on a different, purportedly easier fighting style, while a second will operate under the title “Royal Court Martial Arts Activity” and continue specializing in Kung Jung Mu Sul.
Will Gomez, a long-time Benicia resident and instructor at the old location, has already begun teaching classes at the Royal Court in the upper floor of the Benicia Health and Fitness Center. For Gomez, the move feels like a welcome return to his roots: he began taking classes in Kung Jung Mu Sul, (which means, “Royal Court Martial Arts”) at this very building over a decade ago. When asked what sort of positive benefits the training conferred, he noted the feeling of confidence and discipline he felt even as a beginner. “I felt like if I could dream it I could do it.”
Kung Jung Mu Sul doesn’t yet command the name-brand heft of Karate or Tae Kwan Do, but Gomez feels it has tremendous potential for growth, especially in the Bay Area, a region rich in opportunities for Korean Mixed Martial Arts. Gomez believes that the discipline’s strength is that it offers the earnest athlete a Martial Arts System unrivaled in its comprehensiveness, while at the same time providing amateurs unique opportunities for physical, emotional and cognitive refinement. “It’s not just about physical training—it’s about character development.” Kung Jung Mu Sul and Kul Sul Do (the fighting style emphasized by Benicia Martial Arts Academy) draw from different fighting styles used centuries ago by the members of the protectors of Korea’s historic royalty. An ideal curriculum in the discipline would’ve included hand-to-hand combat, archery, and battling while on horses.
There are no horses hidden away in Gomez’s studio, but an average student can expect to learn everything from stretches to how to down an opponent with “joint lock manipulation.” What’s more, they’ll be following the instructions in Korean. (On a similar note, the Benicia Martial Arts Academy offers courses in “martial arts etiquette and Korean terminology.” If all this still sounds intriguing but still maddeningly obscure, Gomez maintains that skills gained from Kung Jung Mu Sul translate easily into real-world success. “All my black belts are going to college…many to U.C.s.” And with students as young as four joined up for Gomez’s “tiny tigers,” it looks like he’ll have plenty of time to try and rear up future scholars and warriors.
The Royal Court Arts Academy is located at 1150 West 7th St. and is open to all regardless of age or ability.
The Benicia Martial Arts Academy is located at 513 1st St., and has a similarly inclusive policy. It has an extensive and fascinating website that answers questions like, “Why do Martial Artists Break Things?” Find out at www.kuksuldo.com.