Mu or the search of the essence in the martial art

Taekwondo has a philosophical basis; it develops the intellectual and mental qualifications and is a way of life. Taekwondo belongs to the big family of martial arts. As a philosophy, it first aims attaining self-control and leads further to self-knowledge. However, few really know what this means. In order to understand this, one should look beyond one’s capabilities. On the way to the martial art, one must acquire oneself the art. Not only with the spirit, but with the whole strength of the heart one must feel and follow this way. And this means that should no one deal with the philosophical frame of Art in order to it enjoys her advantages and these they are found beyond the physical exercise.


The philosophical term “Mu” stand for the meaning “the absolute Nothing”, at the same time however it represents also “the higher cause of existence”, that is to say “everything”. A better way to describe this abstract meaning is the pair of terms “Yin - Yang”. Its symbol is well-known. Yin (or “um” in Korean) is synonym with dark, Yang on the contrary with the bright energy. For ex.: day and night, the morning and the evening.  They stand to each other as opposite forms as well as they are complement to each other. In the Far East philosophy the universe is understood as energy (Ki) permanently in movement. Without Ki life does not exist. In this higher meaning of Ki the combination of Yin (= Um) and Yang may coexist in harmony. These two terms form thus an inseparable unit. This is the basis for the harmony among all elements. This leads us now to the term of “DO”, “the Way” and basic element in the word Taekwondo, that means “the philosophical Way that uses the legs “Tae” and the hands “Kwon” for protecting oneself without weapons.


Yin (Um) and Yang stand also in interdependence between movement and immobility. As soon as the energy of movement “Yang” reaches its limits, “Yin (= Um)” takes over and henceforth there is quietness. Practically it means that reaching with the exercise a marginal point the movement stops.


In Taekwondo forms (Poomse) are learned. These carry the name of “Taeguk” and they correspond to the energy of movement. Therefore these forms consist of a sequence of movements protecting oneself in a confrontation against an imaginary opponent. The correct learning of forms implies concentration and breath exercises, which mark the end of the movement when it comes to a stop. In this inner state of silence, also called Mu-guk, new energies are gathered. The term “Mu” is an internal state of emptiness of the mind. It makes then possible the admission of new information. Since Yin cannot exist without Yang, then it is the same between Taeguk and Muguk (Guk means “end of a border”).


The term “Mu” exists in the word “Muguk”. It combines  the meaning of “the absolute nothing” as well as the meaning for “without borders or limits” (e.g. the cosmos); “Taeguk” on the contrary stands for “limitation of something in this infinity” (e.g. sky and earth as components of the cosmos). Beyond that this picture can also be transferred to human beings. “Muguk” is the energy of stagnation “Yin (= Um)” as the energy of the soul; “Taeguk” on the contrary is the energy of movement of the limited body.

The name “Mu-Dojang” links these opposite forces (Um/Yang).  The objectives in practicing Taekwondo are to feel these forces and to reach thereafter the self-knowledge. The Taekwondoin (Taekwondo student), who follows the “Way of the Warrior”, must want as well as must be able to reach the state of the “absolute the nothing”. In this emptiness he will be able to develop new energies again. The “Way” to this achievement is the goal. But emptiness must exist first; otherwise this will not be achieved.

The Taekwondoin goes through all disciplines of the combat art: Poomse (forms), Kyokpa (breaking), Kyorugi (competition). From the start all disciplines will not be equally important. The absolute goal in Taekwondo is however to grow beyond these disciplines in order to reach the Muguk state of mind and to become one with the cosmos. This development process lasts a life long and can only lead to this goal, if one dedicates oneself wholeheartedly to the practicing of Taekwondo.


The essence of Taekwondo cannot be understood without taking into consideration its philosophy. Therefore the sincere Warrior will make thoughts over it and will try to discover his own self as well as others. Only going through this process the true “Master” will become a DO person (DO-in), who grew beyond technique training, in order to come to the actual “DO”, the real essence behind all this procedure of learning.

In the Mu-Dojang the Taekwondoin will be mentored. First, the basic training for developing capacities, and as the student learns more he will be preparing gradually his spirit for further advancement, at last he will understand what it means to feel the “DO” deep inside one’s self. Beyond all that, there is the Muguk state of mind waiting for him to reach harmony with the cosmos.