The Meaning of Pyung Ahn



The Meaning of Pyung Ahn

The term Pyung Ahn encompasses the underlying philosophy of our art. It is written in Chinese characters and can have several different meanings but the one I prefer is “peace and security”.


“In Tang Soo Do , our goal is really to learn the meaning of Pyung Ahn” – (Master Hwang Hyun Chul) .


The first character shows a scale with the weight balanced evenly on both sides. Because it is perfectly balanced it can be considered to be calm and peaceful.

Pyung Symbol

The second character needs to be looked at in two parts. The top looks like a roof which provides shelter and security. Underneath the roof appears to be a parent hugging a child. This represents comfort, security and confidence. It is akin to the phrase “an Englishman’s home is his castle”. So the phrase can also mean “calm and confident”.

Second Pyung Ahn Symbol

We must learn to be balanced both mentally and physically.

We should try to avoid boastful or aggressive behaviour and control our tempers. During a grading test the examiner will look for Pyung Ahn in your movement and mental discipline.


In GrandMaster Hwang Kee’s 1978 book we find the following passage on page 372 – “by completely mastering the pyong ahn forms one can develop a feeling of pyong ahn in your mind and body regardless of the situation. This feeling is attained because of the self defence ability developed by practising the pyong ahn forms.”


We have here a blueprint for attaining our goal from the founder of the Moo Duk Kwan. It is clear that we must train in all aspects of the Pyung Ahn forms. From the pursuit of perfect technique and form to the relentless practise of the self defence applications.


“In summary, to study forms one must be concerned with the application and meaning behind each movement and technique, both offensive and defensive “ – GrandMaster Hwang Kee.


Along the way we should try to develop a calm and confident manner when dealing with others on a daily basis. Ultimately, our aim should be to achieve victory without combat but should it be absolutely necessary to engage in physical conflict we must protect the security of ourselves and family.


We should also understand the philosophy of the Moo Duk Kwan.

The symbol for Moo appears to resemble a sword which means military or martial but more importantly there is another radical striking through it meaning “stop”. Therefore, the philosophy is that of preventing conflict. Duk means ethics or morals which are bound in our five basic principles. Kwan refers to our school and family.

1. Loyalty to Queen & Country

2. Obedience to parents & elders

3. Respect to Instructors & seniors

4. Self Control

5. Never misuse Tang Soo Do

Moo Duk Kwan Symbol

Most of you will know that the term “Tang Soo Do” means “ Chinese hand Way ”. It reflects the shared cultural heritage between China and Korea . Our art even transcends self defence and we should strive to unite mind, body and spirit. As well as striving to avoid conflict with all around us we must also seek inner peace within ourselves.

Harsh physical training is only one side of the coin, the other, sometimes much harder to achieve, is the pursuit of personal character development. The five basic principles shown above are taken from the teachings of a Buddhist monk many centuries ago.


I believe in the warrior-scholar. One who continually wants to delve deeper and learn more. I would expect a Tang Soo Do practitioner who reaches a certain level of expertise in Kup So ( vital point strikes ) to also seek ways to alleviate pain. This would bring them back into balance according to the principles of Um/Yang.


The “Do” in Tang Soo is very important. It literally means “the way”.

This concept is thousands of years old and steeped in oriental philosophy. In China it was known as Taoism and it’s principles included being one with nature, cultivating the character and breathing exercises to promote health and well being.


Other doctrines include the teachings of Confuscius (551-479 BC) which can clearly be seen in the 5 Basic Principles and the philosophy of the Moo Duk Kwan. Although we have the “Do” of Taoism; the “Virtues” of Confucianism and the “Conduct” of Buddhism these distinct doctrines sit quite happily with Tang Soo Do and are by no means mutually exclusive.


The term “Ho Sin Sul” literally means personal protection or what we refer to as Self Defence. All of the forms we practise should be fully understood. Simply put, no one movement is meaningless but always remember it is as important to train the mind as well as the body.

It is an all encompassing philosophy. For example we would not train for Ho Sin Sul and then defeat our body through the use of drugs, tobacco or alcohol.


Try to have a balance from the stresses of everyday life. Meditate for just 15 minutes or take a short walk to appreciate the countryside.

Ho Sin Sul includes the philosophy of Um & Yang . We must seek a balance in self defence as well as in daily life. If the attack is straight then defend circular and vice versa. If you are pushed or the attack is too strong then yield. In a short time these energies will reverse.