Customer Focus: Kuk Sool Won of Eastbourne

About Kuk Sool Won of Eastbourne

I founded the Kuk Sool Won of Eastbourne School of traditional Korean Martial Arts in 1992, and run it with the help of my wife, Julie Holmes, a 3rd Degree Black Belt and eldest son, Robin, a 4th Degree Black Belt. The school has continued successfully since that time. In its 22-year history, it has produced 60 1st Degree Black Belts, and several of those students have progressed further up the Dahn ladder to 2nd, 3rd & 4th Degree. There is a teaching staff of 10 instructors, some junior and some senior, who have all passed a special, one-year instructor’s course. Weekly Instructor only classes and quarterly workshops continue through the year. Although the student/instructor relationship is highly respected, there is a fantastic feeling of belonging to a huge extended family, which creates a great atmosphere at the School.

Junior classes are for ages 5-15, and the students progress through a comprehensive syllabus, that allows them to learn at a rate that they feel comfortable with. Although good manners and respect for fellow students and instructors is the general rule, Instructors do their best to make sure that the juniors have fun while they are learning. All the usual martial arts disciplines are followed at the school, with games with a martial arts theme being played just before the end of a class. Over the years, several students who started as juniors, go on to stay through their teenage years, and then into their twenties.

Adult classes, which are for ages 16 – 65, are populated by students from all sorts of backgrounds. They are also popular with the parents of junior members, who see their child enjoying their training and then deciding to join themselves. This happens again and again!

In January 2014, after running Kuk Sool Schools for 38 years, I decided to hand over the day-to-day running of the Eastbourne School to my son Robin, a 4th Degree Black Belt, by making him the School’s Chief Instructor. I will continue as the School’s senior Master. In February 2014, Sa Buem Nim Robin announced that he had found a location that would become the School’s first, full-time facility! The past year has seen a tremendous amount of work put in to get planning permission and to refurbish the facility, in order to create an excellent martial arts training environment for the Eastbourne School. The new facility opened in October, and on November 21st 2014, Grandmaster Suh, the founder of Kuk Sool Won, will be at the School to perform the official opening ceremony and to conduct a seminar for the students.

About Senior Master Philip D Holmes

I first became involved with the Oriental martial arts in 1964, at the age of 15, as a direct result of being physically attacked by a gang of malevolent youths. This altercation was a profound experience, which left me with a strong desire to learn some form of self-defence, were it ever to happen again. Within a few months of the attack taking place, I enrolled in a judo class, and any sense of revenge I may have harboured, was soon wrestled out of me, both physically and mentally, due to having a traditional teacher of the art, to guide me in the true meaning of the way!

After Judo, I tried different Oriental martial arts styles and in 1974, I discovered Kuk Sool Won, (traditional Korean martial arts), which was founded by Grandmaster SUH, IN HYUK in 1958. This is the art I have now studied and practised for the past 40 years.

I started teaching Kuk Sool in 1976 in East Anglia. However, in 1982, I visited and stayed at the headquarters of Kuk Sool Won in Pusan, South Korea. While I was there studying Kuk Sool, I discovered that at the higher levels, the masters all seemed to know about Oriental Medicine and in particular, acupuncture, acupressure and herbal medicine. As I have always had an altruistic nature, and had always wanted to help others, which until then had not found expression, all at once it seemed to fall into place; it became very clear to me what I was on this Earth to do. So, in 1985, I decided to learn Traditional Oriental Medicine specialising in Acupuncture, and enrolled in the International College of Oriental Medicine in their 4-Year Degree Course. In 1989, I was asked to become a lecturer and in 1991, the Director of Studies. This appointment is why I moved from East Anglia to East Sussex, and how it was that the Eastbourne School was founded.

Over the years I have travelled extensively in the UK, Europe, the USA and S. Korea, due to my involvement in Kuk Sool. In 1989, I was appointed as a UK Chief Instructor, together with Senior Master John Ives and in 1991, inducted into the Combat Magazine’s ‘Hall of Fame’. In 2014, while celebrating my 50th anniversary of studying and practising the Oriental Martial Arts, I was awarded the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt by Grandmaster Suh, In Hyuk.

In conclusion, I feel very privileged to have been involved in everything that has happened to me on my martial arts journey so far, and when I see the current set of instructors and students at the Eastbourne School, under the leadership of their new Chief Instructor, I am happy that the future of Kuk Sool is in good health and safe hands.


Gerard and Joy have been attending Kuk Sool Won UK and European Tournaments and Master’s Exhibitions for many years, and I had several conversations with them about the possibility of joining NEST. Every year I talked with them I thought, what nice people they are, they never pressured me and I never joined! Being a dinosaur, I didn’t feel I needed a management company to collect my fees. Then one day, one of my students, Master Philip Hinchliffe said, “You must look at the NEST system, it really is very good.” So in 2007, I took the plunge and contacted Gerard and arranged a meeting with him and Joy. Since I joined NEST, I have never looked back. I cannot believe how much easier my life has been made, in relation to the collection of fees from students, plus a multitude of other, seen and unseen benefits.

I find the Student Management section on the NEST website particularly helpful, as it is very easy to track students’ details. Also the Marketing and Tools section and the Income section, are all invaluable in helping to run and keep track of a busy school.

In 2010/11, when the recession really started to bite, our member numbers reduced by almost 50%, and the school was struggling. I telephoned Gerard for help. Without going into all the details, I can assure any prospective Martial Arts School Owner thinking about joining NEST, they will always be there for you and they will never let you down. With Gerard’s help and support from the NEST staff, within a short period of time, the school got back on its feet and is now going from strength to strength. When you need help, NEST simply is a Martial Art School Owner’s very best friend!

(Interview from December 2014 )

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