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Hong Ik Martial Arts of Bronxville Meaning of Oh Haeng


The meaning of Oh is five. The original meaning of Haeng is intersection, but it currently also means “go forward – at the intersection, you need to choose a direction and go forward”. You may better understand Oh Haeng as the five essential elements of the solar system working together (five elements  go forward  five elements working together) 

What are the 5 Elements?

Essential 5 elements of solar system are TREE, FIRE, EARTH (soil), METAL (Rock), and WATER

  • Water comprises over 70% of Earth. It has also been discovered in other planets and moons. For instance, Europa (moon of Jupiter) has twice the amount of water as Earth and Enceladus (moon of Saturn) releases steam into the air
  • Fire is most active in the solar system which emanates light and heat. It occurs when four hydrogen atoms combine (fuse) into helium.  Because the four hydrogen atoms weigh more than the one helium atom, the left over mass is released, generating the Sun’s fiery energy  
  • Tree is regarded as a plant. It stands apart from the other 4 elements due to its live energy. So far, trees have only been found on Earth 
  • Metal (Rock) and Earth (soil) are present on planets most similar to Earth (notably Mercury, Venus, and Mars) 

Material Understanding

  1. Tree – soft on the outside (bark), hard on the inside, expanding to the side and upwards, changing by the seasons, Yang energy that is grown from Um energy – +
  2. Fire – light on the outside and inside, has its feature but unable to grab, rising upwards, releasing heat and light, dominant Yang energy + + 
  3. Metal – solid on the outside and inside, sinking downwards, heavy and cold on the surface, Um energy that is grown from Yang energy                             + –
  4. Water – smooth  on the outside and inside, flowing downwards, heavy and absorbing heat/light, dominant Um energy                                                                    – –
  5. Earth (soil) – neutral element, has all other four elements:
  • Tree soil : soil that has moisture – +
  • Fire soil : soil that has dryness + +
  • Metal soil : soil that has hardness + –
  • Water soil : soil that is saturated – –

Philosophical Understanding 

  • Scents and fruits from the tree are given to all indiscriminately. Thus Tree symbolizes compassion or benevolence 
  • Fire is intrinsically active and full of passionate energy. To express inner respect to others, it requires one’s active and passionate energy. Thus Fire symbolizes respect
  • Metal/Rock is typically cold and sharp. It likes to chop and separate what is no longer useful or right. Thus Metal/Rock symbolizes justice
  • Water prefers flow over stagnation and constantly adapts, taking the shape of all objects. By accepting others’ differences, it becomes wiser by learning from such differences.Thus Water symbolizes wisdom
  • Earth/soil has the characteristic of all four other elements. Earth/soil maintains a fair, neutral condition in the right amount at the right time. It seeks a balanced solution without leaning to any one side, and as a result, others garner trust. Thus Earth/soil symbolizes trust

Oh Haeng Creation

Trees burn and make fire. Fire turns into ash and makes soil. Soil (Earth) solidifies and turns into stone/metal, which through condensation creates water. Water provides energy source to trees. 

Oh Haeng Destruction

Tree separates the Earth (soil) with its roots. It disturbs the unification of the Earth. Earth absorb Water, it makes Water disappear. Water extinguishes Fire. Fire melts Metal, it makes Metal lose its function. Metal cuts tree, it kills tree. 

Oh Haeng Reversal

Differing from the destruction cycle, Oh Haeng Reversal occurs when a destructive element is overwhelmed by the element it is trying to destroy. Some examples would be:

  • Metal cuts Tree but if Metal is overwhelmed by Tree, the destruction cycle will be reversed: for example, if cutting thick Tree with razor blade (Metal)  Razor blade will be destroyed by Tree (rather than destroying it)
  • Water extinguishes Fire but if the amount of Water is not enough, Fire will evaporate small amount of Water
  • Tree separates the unification of soil (Earth) but if the desert (Earth) forms around a single Tree, the desert (Earth) will destroy the Tree
  • Fire makes Metal lose its function by melting it, but a metal pot can withstand the heat of a candle flame, which will eventually get burned out
  • Earth absorbs Water but if Earth (soil) is overwhelmed by Water, the destruction cycle will be reversed: strong current carries soil (Earth) downstream  the soil (Earth) will lose its function from lack of unification

Oh Haeng Deterrence

By use of Oh Haeng creation cycles during or before the impact of destruction cycles, the force of the destruction cycle is deterred. For example:

  • When Tree is destroyed by Metal, if Tree creates Fire, Fire will deter Metal.
  • When Fire is destroyed by Water, if Fire creates soil (Earth), Earth will deter Water.
  • When soil (Earth) is destroyed by Tree, if Earth creates Metal, Metal will deter Tree.
  • When Metal is destroyed by Fire, if Metal creates Water, Water will deter Fire.
  • When Water is destroyed by soil (Earth), if Water creates Tree, Tree will deter Earth. 

Oh Haeng Extremes

Extremes can be good in the short term and may help to revive or renew the strength of the element, but staying in the extreme is self-destructive.

 For example:

  • Excessive Tree will result in weak support from the ground, then Tree will fall down. 
  • Excessive Fire eventually burns out all its fuel and dies.
  • Excessive soil (Earth) turns into desert.
  • Reasonable amounts of Rock will build a stable castle but excessive Rock will cause it to collapse.
  • Excessive water with its force makes new path of Water flow but when the force of Water flow is weakened, it results in isolation from main Water flow, and as result it dries away.

— Lectured by Master Yoo, JM

    Edited by Hyun Sa Myung Duk (Drew Vanover) and Chun Shim (Carlos Stern)