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Meet Shim Gum Do Founding Master Great Zen Master Chang Sik Kim of American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association

Today we’d like to introduce you to Great Zen Master Chang Sik Kim.

Great Zen Master Chang Sik, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
All my life I wanted to learn martial arts. When I was 13 years old, I met my teacher Dae Soen Sa Nim, (Great Zen Master Seung Sahn Lee, who later founded the Kwan Um School of Zen, an international organization of Zen centers and groups). He told me that I had a ‘martial art’ face. I asked Dae Soen Sa Nim how I could learn. He said if I came to live at his temple and followed his teaching that I could try to get martial art enlightenment myself. If someone else taught me, it wouldn’t be mine. I had to get the knowledge myself.

I lived and studied at the Hwa Gye Sa Temple in Seoul, Korea until I was 21. Then I did a 100-day meditation retreat on Sam Gak Mountain in Seoul. During my meditation, sword forms (ways of moving and positioning the sword) started to appear to me.  As my retreat continued I got many other forms. During my retreat, my teacher appeared to me in a vision and pointed to the wall of the cabin.  A sword was thrusting down through the wall.  He asked me ‘How can you break that sword?’ That question became my koan. At the end of the retreat I suddenly had deep insight and understood the answer. I had attained Mind Sword enlightenment. I called my new art Shim Gum Do, which means Mind Sword Path.

I started teaching Shim Gum Do in Korea and established Korean Shim Gum Do Association. I came to the United States in 1974 and started to teach Shim Gum Do. I have been teaching Shim Gum Do for more than 50 years. During my career, I have lectured at Harvard University, Brown University, MIT, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University and Yale University.  I am a calligraphy artist and I write poetry. I have written two books on Shim Gum Do and eighteen poetry books that have been translated into six languages. To date, I have written more than 65,000 poems.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?When I was born in what is now South Korea in 1944, Korea had been devastated by occupation by the Japanese from 1910 until the end of World War II. Then, when I was a child there was the Korean War. These events had devastated my country. When I arrived in the United States, I had $20 in my pocket and did not speak English at all. By 1976, I was teaching Shim Gum Do on the third floor of a building on Boylston Street near Berkley School of Music. In 1978, I established the American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association. In 1981, we bought a historic Unitarian Church in Brighton and it became Shim Gwang Sa, The Mind Light Temple.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association – what should we know?
Shim Gum Do is a unique, original martial art system. There are 1,000 forms in the art altogether; it is like a martial art encyclopedia. But it is not about fighting. Through practicing the forms of Shim Gum Do and meditation, my students seek their own enlightenment.

At Shim Gwang Sa, a Zen Buddhist Temple that is dedicated to teaching and preserving Shim Gum Do, we integrate the practice and principles of Zen Buddhist meditation with the action meditation of martial art practice. Shim Gum Do is composed of forms in six parts or styles: Zen Sword, Shin Boep (Body Dharma), Ho Shin Sul (Self Defense), Long Stick, Two Sword and Short Stick. The practice of Shim Gum Do brings the mind and body together to develop a clear mind, clear thinking and clear action.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I was faced with a lot of challenges during my life. I did not give up, I kept going straight. One of my core teachings is that if you want to be successful at something, you have to persevere. If you give up when things seems too hard, you will not succeed.


  • Monthly Tuition – $120
  • Two months tuition – $210
  • Residency – $950

Contact Info:

  • Address: 203 Chestnut Hill Avenue, Brighton, Massachusetts 02135
  • Website:
  • Phone: (617) 787-1506
  • Email:

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