Tuesday, December 01, 2015 • 10:19

Local resident Heon K. Kim offers free Korean Archery sessions on Saturdays in VC

"Master Kim" excited to host Asian Archery Exchange in October

The traditional Korean bow and arrow set can be made of many different natural materials, such as bamboo or water buffalo horn.
August 21, 2013
Heon K. Kim came to Valley Center ten years ago in search of an ideal spot in which to grow his various plants, including a yellow cactus plant that can be seen growing on the hillside of his property along Lilac Road. Upon his arrival from South Korea, Kim spent six months in San Marcos before his search for better land led him to Valley Center.

"My job is growing plants, and I've been exporting and importing plants for thirty-five years," he says. "I wanted to find good land that I can't find other places."

Kim was introduced to the art of traditional Korean archery almost by accident when his desire to stay healthy led him to an unexpected new hobby.

"About twenty-five years ago, I was working a lot and I had no time to practice strengthening my body," he says. "I tried to learn the sword, so I made up my mind to go to the class the next morning. But when I got there, they had moved! So someone asked me if I wanted to try kuk gung, which is Korean archery. The first day I went there, everyone was very welcoming, so I went there every morning, and I continued to study there for five years."

Drawing back the bowstring requires pulling and pushing together.
The traditions of Korean archery date back to the early stages of ancient Korea. The composite bow used by Korean archers was already widely used during the Koguryo Dynasty that lasted from 37 B.C. to 668 A.D. The composite bow was one of the main weapons used in conflicts with bordering nations and is regarded as one of the most treasured inheritances of the Korean people.

The bow itself is classified as a typical composite short bow, and is traditionally made from various materials, such as water buffalo horn, bamboo, mulberry wood, oak, cow sinew, fish air bladder glue, cherry tree skin and other natural materials.

To pull the bow string in Korean archery, the archer uses the thumb, unlike in European archery, which uses the fingers. To protect the Korean archer, a thumb ring is used to allow for maximum draw and distance.

The targets in Korean archery are set at a distance of 145 meters, making for a difficult shot even in the most ideal conditions.

Master Kim shows his skill with the bow and arrow.
Accordingly, "Master Kim," as he is known to his archery students, begins the training with lots of practice learning simply how to stand properly. The novice archer then practices the proper grip on the bow, the steps of positioning and learning how to properly breathe while drawing back the bowstring. The students then receive an arrow with which to practice, then after mastering the art of proper technique with the arrow, they are allowed to practice on a short-range target before moving up to the official target range.

Mary Gordon, a Valley Center resident who has been attending Master Kim's sessions for a few months, says it took her about eight sessions before she "graduated" to the long-range targets.

And a student named Chur, who attends with his wife and their young daughter, says that the Saturday archery has become a family tradition.

"We started about a year ago," he says. "I came to watch my family, and Master Kim pulled me in. Now we come every Saturday. It's a nice way to spend time together."

To help better acquaint the community with the rich traditions of archery in the various Asian cultures, Master Kim has organized the first Asian Archery Exchange for Oct. 12–13 at his home, located at 29745 Lilac Rd. in Valley Center.

The event will feature an exchange of Korean, Chinese and Japanese archery traditions, as presented by four different instructors. Master Kim will present Korean archery, while Rick Beal and Marcus Bossett will present Japanese archery and Justin Ma will present Chinese archery.

The event will include serious practice, insightful lectures, fun contests and, of course, good company. All skill levels are welcome and the event is free to the public.

Master Kim's Korean archery sessions on Saturdays are also free and open to the public.

For more information, or to sign up for Korean archery, contact Heon K. Kim by e-mail at kukgung@yahoo.com or by phone at 760-749-7211.

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