"To master the martial arts, master its principles" (Charles James)


On the Cheonjikido style patch, the hanja/kanji for the number twelve appears at the top, a direct reference to our Core Principle of Twelves. This symbol also resembles a cross upon a hillside. As everything within the inner circle of the patch falls below the top of this hanja/kanji, so the art of Cheonjikido emanates from the framework of a Core Principle of Twelves as well as a biblical worldview that recognizes only one Master or Soke in this earthly life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The human being, its whole person, is a trinity, possessing a spirit (i.e. conscience, bridge to the Creator), a soul (i.e. mind, will, emotions), and a physical body (I Thessalonians 5:23). Such is the essence of the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27). Each of these parts, though distinct with each reserving the full and unique identity of the person, are interconnected and do not exist or operate independent of the others. Therefore, a true and holistic martial artist must train body, soul, and spirit; thus a Core Principle of Twelves: twelve principles of spirit, twelve principles of soul, twelve principles of body. The three horizontal lines in the hanja/kanji for the number twelve represent the three parts of the person (i.e. spirit, soul, and body) and the three sets of twelve that correspondingly result. The vertical line represents man's Creator; and as the vertical line only intersects with the top horizontal line, so the spirit of man is the only conduit by which the person can communicate or fellowship with His Maker.

Within Cheonjikido’s Core Principle of Twelves are reflected Chang Moo Kwan's Eight Elements of Courtesy and Eight Elements of Fighting, as well as the Ten Principles of Aikido. These reflections are highlighted below in BOLD PRINT.

twelve principles of spirit

  1. reality

    • Martial arts is not religion; martial arts did not develop from Buddhism or Confucianism; and Cheonjikido is NOT the holy grail of martial arts, nor is it of primary importance in this life.
    • "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)."
  2. mortality

    • The martial artist is finite, always vulnerable, and inevitably meets his Maker.
    • “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11)."
    • “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away” (I Peter 1:24)."
    • “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).”
  3. worship

    • Cheonjikido operates within the framework of a biblical worldview that acknowledges only one Soke or Master in this earthly life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (I Corinthians 8:6)."
    • "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)."
    • "Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment . . . (Matthew 22:37-38)."
  4. love

    • It is by love that the martial artist can be saved from harm while his attacker is spared from sin.
    • ". . . And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:39-40)."
    • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12)."
  5. karma

    • That martial artist that lives by the sword dies by the sword.
    • “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7)."
    • “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52)."
  6. restraint

    • Self-defense begins against the uke of self.
    • “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls (Proverbs 25:28)."
    • “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city (Proverbs 16:32).”
  7. virtue

    • Martial arts without a moral framework is nothing short of barbarism.
    • “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue (II Peter 1:3)."
    • “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good . . . (I Peter 3:10-11).”
  8. peace

    • A brawler fights for vengeance; a martial artist fights for peace and healing.
    • “ . . . Let him seek peace and ensue it (I Peter 3:11).”
    • “Blessed are the peacemakers . . . (Matthew 5:9).”
    • “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).”
  9. meekness

    • Meekness is not weakness; it’s humbleness of speech and aversion to haste. Armed with meekness, the mouth is a formidable first line of defense that can disarm and diffuse.
    • “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men (Titus 3:2).”
    • “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath (James 1:19).”
    • “He that hath knowledge spareth his words (Proverbs 17:27).”
    • “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1).”
  10. duty

    • A martial artist is duty-bound to defend those who cannot defend themselves.
    • “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works? (Proverbs 24:10-12).”
    • “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (I John 3:16).”
  11. longsuffering

    • Martial arts cannot be learned quickly but as a slowing moving bull that eventually travels a thousand miles.
    • “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:4).”
  12. cultivation

    • The role of a student is perpetual and must be cultivated according to capability; there is no security in belt color; and a black belt is little more than a doorway to further learning, critical assessment, and integration.
    • “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise (Proverbs 12:15).
    • “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Proverbs 9:9).”

twelve principles of soul

  1. the lessons of history

    • A successful martial artist must know where he came from to know where he is going; and if one values the lessons of history, his art is by default eclectic, pragmatic, and evolving--not away from the roots but through them.
    • Those that don't know their history are doomed to repeat it; those that don't know their history may be doomed NOT to repeat it.
  2. kata = bridge + atlas + treasure chest

    • Kata defines a style: the BRIDGE to prompt and effective disarmament, an ATLAS of martial technique, and a TREASURE CHEST of martial principle.
    • A martial arts fool hath said in his heart that kata hath no value.
    • Kata is a self-defense manual meant to be studied and applied, not memorized and performed.

    • The way of a heaven lake accumulates, integrates, and cultivates.
    • A martial arts student who constantly learns without opportunity to teach what he has learned inevitably overtrains and becomes burned out or undertrains and falls into stagnancy. A martial arts instructor who teaches without being taught becomes self-absorbed and eventually dries up.
    • There are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists. Moreover, all Cheonjikido students are instructors, and all Cheonjikido instructors are perpetual students.

    • There are righteous obligations between a martial arts instructor and his students.
    • As from children of age toward an aged father, so does one’s sensei merit respect, courtesy, and a measure of loyalty.
    • As from children toward an aged mother, so do one’s students merit esteem, succor, and tender commitment.
    • As from children of age toward one another, so do one’s martial siblings merit trust as between friends through training that is exercise and not competition.

    • As the calm still surface of the lake which reflects alike the moon and the flying bird, so must the soul of a martial artist live calm.
    • Rest with remaining mind (i.e. zanshin); encounter enmity with no mind (i.e. mushin); and gaze as falling snow with the whole body upon the whole of an opponent.

    • Discretionary living is healthful living.
    • A wise martial artist is circumspect: perceiving with the sword and against the sword, avoiding an unnecessary fight and refusing a fight he is certain to lose.

    • Wisdom favors subduing one’s opponent (i.e. naha-te) over destroying him (i.e shuri-te); and at times, to truly subdue is to reluctantly destroy, and that right quickly.
    • The art of subduing must be quick: If a fight last more than thirty seconds, the martial artist has failed to subdue his opponent.

    • Practice go-no-sen, taking defensive initiative against the periphery of an attack.
    • Seek sen-no-sen, taking initiative against the onset of an attack.
    • Pursue sen-sen-no-sen, taking superior initiative against the intent of an attack.

    • Unless one understands the rhythms of reversal, his martial artistry will not be reliable.
    • Kata conceals information in both its normal progression and the rhythms of reversal.

    • To train for a long time, simply rehearsing and regurgitating with the hands and feet, is the way of a puppet, not unlike one who learns to dance. To train with the heart and soul, creating and developing for the sake of others, is the way of an artist.
    • A martial puppet waxes old and dies alone. A martial artist bequeaths an array of tools, tools not handed to him.

    • Words must be put into practice, yet true practice is not with words; it’s with the entire body. What the martial artist has learned through preaching can be forgotten very quickly, but what he has learned through practice with the whole body can be remembered for a lifetime.
    • A martial artist who does not put into practice what he preaches, able to pontificate but unable to demonstrate, erects his house upon a foundation of sand.
  12. KOKYU

    • Cheonjikido without kokyu is like a car without fuel. To breathe is not simply to inhale and exhale, but to concentrate power and effect timing in such a way that the martial artist dances to his own rhythm: breathing freely and allowing his energy to flow.
    • Without breathing control, the martial artist cannot relax, and if the martial artist cannot relax, he loses a source of considerable power necessary to execute successful techniques.

twelve principles of body


    • If you are alive, you have ki—bestowed by the Omnipotent Creator of all things when He breathed into the nostrils of our first father and man became a living soul. If you are healthy, you have just as much ki as any martial arts master.
    • The martial artist must be as a blade upon a whetstone, honed unto an awareness of the breath of life. He must be as steam rising from a pot of cooking rice, wont to extend that vitality from the harmony of the mind, will, and emotions through the physical medium of the body.
    • Aiki, the static expression of ki, is the undistracted state in which one’s living soul and its attributes, some to a greater or lesser extent, are brought into harmony with the motions or actions of one’s own physical body.
    • Kiai or Kihap, the dynamic expression of aiki, is the harmony or coordinated focus of body and soul extended through an opponent to upset his balance and end the fight. In terms of kata, the use of the kiai/kihap or the “spirit shout” is a tool for dynamically exerting aiki and eventually learning to do so without opening one’s mouth or even moving.
    • Extending ki (i.e. maintaining aiki and exerting kiai/kihap) is foundational to putting away weakening distraction and honing and applying one’s very soul in a conflict situation. Doing so can defeat a formidable opponent with a single glance.
  2. MA-AI

    • Maintaining adequate distance in encounters where space is forever changing, with every attack and every opponent, is crucial: never close enough to be hit, never far enough to be countered.
    • A martial artist must lean to constantly judge the changing ma-ai of an encounter, and training with an assortment of uke’s with different levels of strength and ability is the best means to that end.

    • A formidable martial artist doesn’t strike with his hands or his feet, he hits with the planets, working in harmony with the laws of physics and using them to his advantage.
    • The human body is finite, always vulnerable, and governed by the laws of physics. Therefore, effecting kuzushi is the primary objective in any fight situation; musubi delegates advantage to the weak; muchimi diminishes reaction; natural and compact motion trumps that which is tense and protracted; dual action forces an opponent to choose; circular motion disrupts an opponent’s ability to stand or support himself by redirecting and accelerating force; and the ability to subtly shift one’s weight is the mark of a sure foundation.
    • A martial artist must be a physical scientist who understands and applies the laws of kinetic energy (i.e. the kinetic energy of an object is directly proportional to the square of its speed, so move 3 times faster, hit 9 times harder) motion (i.e. for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), and thermodynamics (i.e. energy cannot be created or destroyed, only redirected or transformed, and everything moves from a state of order to disorder).

    • Itten, just below the belt knot, is the physical center of the body; and when the whole body moves from this one point and goes to one point, the weak become strong.
    • One point movement is whole body movement, and it is crucial for the martial artist to see every stance, every step, every strike, every throw, every transition, and every technique as necessarily involving this tai-sabaki and so deep that it cannot be mastered for a long, long time.
    • Whole body movement develops whole body wisdom that acts instinctively and goes to one point. If a martial artist can perform one technique, he has one technique; if he understands the applies the principles of one point and tai sabaki to one technique, he has a thousand techniques.

    • Cheonjikido is 70% footwork and 30% hand technique, beginning from stance and keeping weight underside.
    • Like a Daruma doll, a martial artist who keeps his weight underside may be tilted but not trampled, never overextending that he might arise and return.

    • There are no obvious first strikes in Cheonjikido, only defensive atemi purposed, not to injure, but to unbalance, protect balance, or obliterate the will to fight.

    • Accuracy in attack and defense is of more value than the strength of an ox; and the ability to pinpoint one technique is worth more than a hundred punches and kicks.
    • Developing true targeting precision necessitates supplementing and complimenting one’s art with the principles of Tuite and Kyusho-jitsu.

    • Repetition and equal attention to both sides of the body are key to instinctive reaction.
    • A technique cannot be properly demonstrated or understood until it has been done ten thousand times on the right and on the left.
    • Train in random application of right and left technique; and learn to leave the comfort zones of rank, order, and perspective.

    • Blocks and strikes are enshrouding facades.
    • Effective self-defense technique is often found between the postures.

    • Reckon hands as swords and swords as hands.
    • A weapon is a lever, and the one wielding it is the fulcrum.
    • Sound martial arts principles can be applied to an unarmed or armed attacker; and different types of weapons don't necessitate different types of self-defense.

    • Building a sound martial arts house involves the way of fist law and empty hand.
    • A superior martial art reflects a proper blending of hard art with soft art, a balance of power and fluidity, acute coordination of rhythm and strength.

    • Practical training is against real-world attacks and with practical technique that is amazing when done well and viable when done poorly.
    • Don’t train to inflict without training to be inflicted. Power and speed wane, but fortitude endures.
    • Above all, train wisely and with temperance, giving equal attention to strength, endurance, and flexibility. Overtraining or unbalanced training rests in the bosom of fools and can do irreparable damage to mind, body, and soul.