Alternate Names of the Group:
-Chung Moo Quan
-Oom Yung Doe
-8 Martial Arts for Health
The following information has been provided by former
members of Chung Moo Doe:
Description of the Group:
This is a personality cult using a chain of martial
arts schools as its "front". People, particularly men,
are lured into the group thinking it's a martial arts school,
and they're going to learn about self defense, getting in shape,
etc. Instead, they're subjected to mind control techniques to
essentially get them to worship Chung Moo's founder, John C. Kim.
Exhorbitant lesson fees are charged, providing Kim and his people
with large amounts of money. In 1996, Kim and several of his top
people were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States
Students of Chung Moo were pressured to move in
together, and keep the "respect line" (the way we treated
one another in school) the same on the outside as well as inside
the school. People critical of Chung Moo, including parents, were
to be shunned and kept in the dark about what really went on.
Students, and particularly instructors from what I could see,
were strongly urged to wear their hair and dress as John C. Kim
did. Also, there was a general disapproval of dressing well among
the students, as that meant you had money for clothes that could
have gone towards John C. Kim.
Dietary restrictions weren't a big thing in my
experience with the group, though eating hot soup and hot Korean
food was encouraged during times of sickness, rather than consulting
Sleep was highly regulated in Chung Moo. On more
than one occasion instructors urged students to sleep only a few
hours a night, and boasted how little sleep they themselves needed.
It was said that the Chung Moo forms (martial arts movements)
could replace the human body's need for sleep.
Finances and money were a huge focus of Chung Moo;
it's almost impossible to overstate the importance of money in
the organization. Quite simply, past a certain point, you were
expected to hand over all your extra money for Chung Moo lessons
and teachings. Cash only, and it was disrespectful to ask for
receipts, or copies of membership contracts.
Students were encouraged to spend all their free
time either at the school or in the company of other Chung Moo
members. Association with people not in the group was discouraged.
Multiple jobs were often encouraged to help students pay the lesson
fees, limiting their time even more.
Chung Moo required lots of an individual's time,
not only with regular lessons, but special private lessons, belt
courses, etc. These were strenuous workouts followed by indoctrination
sessions. Once, I recall we had to hold extremely strenuous body
positions, zoning ourselves out to block out the pain, and the
instructors turned out the lights and had us all count out loud
in a droning, monotone voice, putting us into an altered state
It was unthought of for people to act on their
own without consulting instructors. College was a decision that
was frowned upon.
People definitely had to report what they were
thinking and doing, and the activities of others, to the instructors.
In one instance, I was forced to admit in front of fellow students
that I was a virgin. Instructors constantly badgered people with
questions about their personal lives, finances, etc., and it was
easily obvious that choosing not to answer would result in ostracization
or ejection from the group, or, if you were a longtime member,
verbal harassment and even physical assaults.
You were praised and rewarded for bringing down
more money to the school and for appearing to try hard. If the
instructors perceived you weren't trying hard, or weren't bringing
in enough money, you were subjected to humiliation and beatings.
People were not at all encouraged to think as individuals.
School always had to come first. Whenever an individual thought
was expressed, "watch what you say" was the common response.
Any semblance of "talking back" to instructors was met
Chung Moo had extremely rigid rules of conduct;
when to bow, how to bow, how to act, how to speak, what to do.
The rules and rituals overshadowed everything you did in a Chung
Moo school, and often what you did outside.
Students were expected to be totally subservient
to John C. Kim, even if they never actually met him (like myself--I
never met Kim). We were supposed to bow to his picture, bring
down more money for the school on Kim's birthday (said to be April
1st), and pay towards lessons to show respect to Kim. We were
trained to be dependent upon the group, often indoctrinated that
Chung Moo was the highest expression of what it could be to be
a person in this life.
It was said Kim was the "champion of all Asia",
when no such title has ever existed. Claims were made about what
Chung Moo could do (cure disease,etc.) that have never been backed
up. Prices for the lessons weren't openly advertised. Forms and
movements were held "secret", only to be seen by those
who'd paid the high lesson prices.
We were certainly kept quite busy, so we really
didn't have time to think. With keeping members from anti-cult
information, it really didn't come out about what Chung Moo really
was until a couple of years after I'd left, so that really doesn't
apply. However, we definitely were encouraged to look down on
those who'd left the group.
Information was strictly controlled in the organization.
Claims about Kim's near-supernatural abilities were never disclosed
up front, only after a period of indoctrination. Instructors strictly
controlled which students knew what about the organization and
what it truly required. Students knew the least, instructors knew
more, head instructors knew even more, and regional instructors
knew more still. There was a near-worship for people above you,
with the ultimate worship reserved for Kim.
Spying was encouraged. I was involved a few times
in bringing to instructors' attention the fact that other students
were deviating from Chung Moo principles. The doctrine, not personal
relationships, mattered most.
Instructors encouraged certain students to "pal
around" with certain others. The "blue literature",
the standard Chung Moo pamphlet, was held nearly as important
as a Bible to a Christian.
People definitely suffered after having confessed
things to instructors. When an instructor asked something, you
had no choice whether to refuse. Information said in private could
be made public any time, and was. I was present when several students
were embarrassed this way.
An us-vs.-them mentality was indeed prevalent at
Chung Moo. The outsiders were the "goofy ones", where
we really knew what was going on. You were either in Chung Moo
or out of it, no in-between. People's relevancy was judged based
on whether or not they had "Chung Moo".
Loaded language was perhaps the most startling
aspect of Chung Moo to those not part of the group. Very strict
speech patterns dominated, such as "Be all right to ask yourself?"
when asking a question to an instructor, "more faster ways",
when wanting something done quickly, "more goofy ways"
to describe a person's actions, etc.
No independent thoughts were encouraged, only thoughts
towards Chung Moo and how you could better your life in it, mainly
by bringing down more money.
Thought-stopping techniques such as meditation
and deep breathing were used, also the Chung Moo-famous position-holding,
where you held several positions, sometimes for minutes at a time.
It hurt so much you zoned out, causing a halt of all critical
Critical opinions about John C. Kim were not only
seen as illegitimate, but they could result in your being beaten
if you voiced them.
Chung Moo had all the answers to life's questions.
Nothing -- not religion, not family -- could take the place of
having your life right in Chung Moo.
The rigidity present in the organization allowed
for very little emotional expression. Even after an instructor
hit you and you were in pain, you had to "suck it up"
and not show emotion.
Students were always at fault for what they did.
A few times, I was beaten and badly hurt by instructors, who always
justified their actions by saying to me that I wasn't trying hard
enough, which is why they hurt me. They never admitted any mistakes.
Guilt was widely used in Chung Moo, particularly
when comparing what we'd been through in our lives to supposedly
what John C. Kim had been through in his. (There were claims Kim
had lived in the mountains for seven years, living with animals,
The only thing that rivalled the importance of
money in Chung Moo was the use of fear. You were in a state of
low-grade terror nearly every moment you were in a school, thinking
about whether this was the night an instructor would single you
out to be hurt. This released adrenaline constantly into the blood,
which produced something like a low-level stress disorder, further
inhibiting your critical thinking.
Emotional highs and lows were very prevalent. Of
course, outward display had to be controlled, but inwardly, when
the instructors got down on you, you felt terrible, but to receive
praise was like receiving a blessing directly from God.
Students, including myself, were regularly forced
to confess "sins" to the instructors and the rest of
Chung Moo indoctrinated people into thinking their
minds and bodies would essentially turn to mush if they ever left
Chung Moo. We'd be lost in the forest with no guide.
National Association of Martial Arts Educators (NAMAE)
"Traditional Asian Health Methods" seminars
Other Sources of Information:
"Chung Moo Quan: The Cult & The Con."
Reported by Pam Zekman. WBBM-TV, Chicago. 1989.
Kahn, Ric. "Chung Moonies? Critics Call Martial Arts Club
a Cult of Violence and Greed." Boston Phoenix, Oct. 25, 1991.
Vogel, Jennifer. "Be True to Your School: The Dark Side of
the Moo." City Pages (Minn/St. Paul), Apr. 1, 1992.
Web Sites of Chung Moo Doe:
Chung Moo Doe On the Web
Kum Gung Quan
School of Oom Yung Doe