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Commentary: Osan Soldier Combats PTSD through Korean Martial Arts

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Huddleston
  • 375th Ground Liaison Detachment

My name is SFC Michael Huddleston and I work with the 51st OSS/OSK and both the 25th and 36th Fighter squadrons as a ground liaison officer coordinating between the Army and Air Force.

I have studied Haidong-gumdo for the past two years, but I have always had a love and passion for the martial arts. Haidong-gumdo or “Way of the East Sea Sword” is a lesser-known Korean martial art. My story with Haidong-gumdo is one of overcoming challenges and finding peace within myself in working through my issues with PTSD. 

I’ve been in and out of Mental Health since 2005 after my first tour in Iraq. Struggling with PTSD has been taxing with the nightmares and other associated issues that accompany it. Different things work for people because we’re all different and respond to certain therapies. To help enhance that process of healing, there needs to be an outlet to “blow off the steam” and focus the mind to help see the good in life. 

In therapy, they tell you that you need to find an outlet to redirect thoughts and emotions so you’re not stewing in the quagmire and alone with your thoughts. I’ve always sought out some sort of physical activity such as running, rock climbing or hiking to get out in nature because that gets you outside of four walls. It’s refreshing and helps me think differently. Getting outdoors is like food for the soul, but nothing has been more fulfilling than martial arts.

They say martial arts are good to help provide way to a healthy mental attitude and I can attest to that also. I’ve struggled with PTSD and associated issues for many years now, but Haidong-gumdo has been one thing that has helped me by leaps and bounds. It sounds like some “Kung Fu Panda” stuff, but I truly have found inner peace through studying Haidong-gumdo and I’ve used it like self-therapy. 

I started studying Haidong-gumdo about two years ago after seeing a flyer at the gym one day and decided to give it a try to see if it was like Kendo, but it was so much better. As Kendo is more one vs. one, Haidong-gumdo is more of a one vs. many and also how soldiers were taught to fight and use a sword. It’s truly a beautiful art. Master Joseph Ahn, the instructor at Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys has been an inspiration to me as a mentor and a close friend. 

He always challenges me to push myself to master forms and techniques along with providing guidance as one of his instructors for the children classes. 

I have a saying, “to walk the path of the tiger, one has to take the first step.” In Haidong-gumdo, a tiger on our uniform signifies a “master” status has been earned and it’s no small feat. I use that as my motivation to keep pushing in life, work, and in Haidong-gumdo. Over the past weekend I earned my second-degree black belt which puts me one step closer to my dream of opening my own school back in the states once I retire. I hope that everyone can find that outlet to help strengthen themselves both mentally and physically. All you need to do is take that first step.