American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association

Posted by Xinyu Zhang

Located on Chestnut Hill Avenue in Brighton, Massachusetts, the central temple of the American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association is housed in the former First Unitarian Parish of Brighton. As a historic landmark of Brighton, the temple participated in the 2007 200th anniversary celebrations of Brighton. The stone steeple and impressive stained glass windows evoke the former function of the structure. Now, large signs and images of Shim Gum Do forms grace the outside walls, welcoming the public to participate in the martial arts classes offered.PLM-Temple

Founding Master

Shim Gum Do Founding Master Zen Master Chang Sik Kim was first introduced to Buddhist teachings at a young age when he was given a koan by Zen Master Seung Sahn Lee (founder of the Kwan Um School of Zen in the Chogye Order). “A great Zen Sword Master saw the reflection of the moon in a pool of water. He drew out his sword and cut the reflection in half and the two halves separated. How is this possible?” Zen Master Seung Sahn Lee told Zen Master Kim that he could find out the answer to the koan and attain martial art enlightenment if he came to live at his temple and follow his teachings. Following this meeting, Zen Master Kim entered the Hwa Gye Sa temple in Seoul, Korea and began his formal training under Zen Master Seung Sahn Lee at the age of 13. At the temple, Zen Master Kim’s days were filled with practice. The Dharma was taught through the experiences of the daily life of the temple. Zen Master Kim’s temple work of cleaning and cooking symbolized the importance of clearing the mind, taking care of the basic necessities of life and not wasting food or energy. In 1965 at the age of 21, Master Kim undertook an intensive one hundred day retreat. During this retreat, the Master attained Mind Sword Enlightenment, through which the practice and forms of Shim Gum Do were revealed to him.

In 1971, Master Chang Sik Kim officially introduced Shim Gum Do with the Proclamation of Shim Gum Do, the doctrinal explanation of the Mind Sword Path as a Zen Buddhist practice and path. He established the Korean Shim Gum Do Association and began teaching Shim Gum Do in Korea. In 1974, Zen Master Kim came to the United States and established the American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association unifying all of the worldwide Shim Gum Do Associations.DSe4v_0VAAAt5gA

Currently Zen Master Chang Sik Kim lives and teaches at his temple Shim Gwang Sa, the Mind Light Temple in Brighton, Massachusetts. Zen Master Kim is also accomplished in other Zen arts – the art of calligraphy and of poetry – through which he continues to express the power of the moment. He is a published author of a number of books: 17 Poetry books that have been translated into six languages and “The Art of Zen Sword, A History of Shim Gum Do” and “The First Star Black Belt Forms of Shim Gum Do Zen Sword, The Manual of Course Material from White to First Star Black Belt.”

Dharma Lineage and Community

Dharma lineage of Shim Gum Do traces back to India, where it starts with the Buddha Shakyamuni, Mahakasyapa and Ananda. It then passes down to Nagarjuna and Bodhidharma and gets spread to China to the 29th patriarch Hui Ke and 33rd patriarch Hui Neng. The lineage stays in China until the 56th patriarch Shih-shih Ch’ing-kung and spreads to Korea to the next patriarch Tae-Ko Bo-Wu. Shim Gum Do Founding Master Zen Master Chang Sik Kim is the 79th patriarch in his lineage.

There are approximately 150 active members including ten live-in residents. Daily classes usually have between 5 and 15 students, and workshops will have about 50. Approximately 50% of the regular members are Euro-Americans, about 65% are men and 5-10% of the members are children. The remaining members represent the ethnic and religious diversity of the Boston area. The Shim Gum Do community is a diverse group of people including children, teenagers, students, college students, graduate students, and adults from all walks of life. In addition to the central temple in Brighton, there is a Shim Gum Do school in Pennsylvania, a club in New Jersey, teaching centers in Korea and an Italian group based in Milan.



Shim means mind. Shim Gum Do believes that all things are created by mind alone. According to the Proclamation of Shim Gum Do, this means that if you want to understand the true way “you must perceive where name and form come from and you must understand that name and form are created by mind”. They believe that in this world, one by one, each thing is complete; one by one, each thing has substance. If you cut off all thinking, return to before thinking then this is your substance and universal substance. They call this “primary point”. If you “keep this mind, you and everything, you and the universe, become one”. “Clear like space, without name and form, without opposites, that is the Absolute. “That is also “Mind or Buddha or God or Truth or Energy”.

Gum means sword. They believe that there are two kinds of Gum: a killing Gum and a life-giving Gum. Their Gum chases evil away, helps goodness, makes the correct way, manifests Great Love, Great Compassion, the Great Bodhisattva Way and fights for the cause of justice. Sometimes this Gum appears as “a steel sword, sometimes a wooden sword, a fist sword, a mind sword or a no-name-no-form-energy sword”. The Proclamation says that “on the outside, it repulses enemies of peace; internally it cuts off our ignorance, makes our bad karma disappear, enables us to get complete freedom and to find the True Light”. If we function correctly then this is the Gum of correct function. Any place anytime, if we follow the situation then what appears as dirty water becomes a clear and pure world.

Do means path. They believe that everyday mind is the path, the true way. According to the Proclamation, “If you make your opinion, your condition and your situation disappear then your true self appears and finding the correct opinion, correct situation and correct condition are possible. Then all that you can see, hear or smell is the truth, all is ‘Do’.” “Do not make ‘I, my, me’, then everyday life is the truth and the path.” Then you will get the Great Bodhisattva Way and it will be possible to save all beings from suffering. The name for this is Do.

Shim is Buddha, which is clear like space.

Gum is Dharma, which is the correct function of energy.

Do is Sangha, which is Great Love and Great Compassion.

The Practice

Shim Gum Do practice is very much about mind and body energy alignment. The American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association uniquely combines Zen ‘non-action’ with action meditation and forms of martial arts. Shim Gum Do or ‘Mind Sword Path’ includes six basic arts—Sword, Shin Boep or ‘Body Dharma’(a weaponless art form similar to ‘karate’), Ho Shin Sul or self-defense (involving breaking grabs and offenses, throwing, rolling and pressure points), Long Stick, Short Stick and Two Swords. Within these six basic arts, there are approximately 1,000 forms. Students follow the Shim Gum Do path with bi-monthly tests, marking their progress through the thirty-three black belt levels. Students of Shim Gum Do begin studying either Sword or Shin Boep, and may study one of the other forms after their first year of training. Students first learn the basic forms to develop strength and flexibility. Ultimately training in Shim Gum Do goes beyond the realm of martial arts by putting Zen into action.Through the Shim Gum Do forms, practitioners develop their internal energy and balance body and mind. The Shim Gum Do action and non-action clarify the mind and transform the practitioner. It is an avenue towards getting enlightenment.

Daily, weekly and monthly classes are offered to men and women with a separate course available for children ages 5 and up. All classes at the Mind Light Temple include warm ups, training in the different forms, meditation and readings from Zen Master Kim’s Dharma talks. Students first learn the basic forms– standing, moving one’s energy and stepping. From this point, students learn forms or whole sequences of moves.

The Temple also offers a residential training program focusing on the deeper incorporation of Shim Gum Do into daily life. Residents at Mind Light Temple do not practice a monastic lifestyle and may continue to participate in worldly activities and maintain an outside job. The residents wake each morning to bow, practice meditation and Shim Gum Do martial arts. Upon returning in the evening, classes are held for the public and taught by Zen Master Kim and Headmaster Mary Stackhouse Kim. Residents also practice Shim Gum Do during the day on the weekends. Through the learning, practice and study of the forms of Shim Gum Do, one aims at developing the strength and techniques to fight the internal enemies of ignorance, desire, opinion and ego. The Shim Gum Do path of martial arts is learning to fight the demons and bad habits within oneself and build a clear direction and strong compassion.


Works Cited

American Buddhist Shim Gum Do Association. The Pluralism Project. Web. 2 December, 2018.

Shim Gum Do-Mind Sword Path. Web 2 December, 2018.

Master Seung Sahn Lee, Master Chang Sik Kim. “World Shim Gum Do Proclamation 1971”. Web 2 December, 2018.