of the greatest martial art patriarchs seem to be passing as if they
were all called home at once. I was lucky enough to have met some of
these men during their lives, yet I feel that I have missed a great
opportunity in knowing them better. I am upset with myself for taking
that they were here and at some level, believing that
they would always be here. I think about my own father, who I am lucky
is alive and well, but I know that he will not always be here. That is a
frightening thought. Many of you have lost someone close and you know
what I mean.
My heart goes out to the Songahm Tae Kwon Do
family, the International Taekwon-Do Federation family, the Global Tae
Kwon Do Federation family, the members of the Chang Moo Kwan, and the
members of the Moo Duk Kwan as they have all lost their fathers
recently. Life must continue and the legacy that these men have left
literally changed the face of martial arts forever.
In the summer
of 2000, Nam Suk Lee, the President of the Chang Moo Kwan, passed away.
Grandmaster Lee was one of Byung In Yoon's original students. In 1946,
he was appointed as the first instructor of the newly formed Chung Moo
Kwan. In 1947, he was appointed as the first instructor of the Tae Kwon
Do department of the Korean ministry of communications. In 1961, he was
appointed Director General of the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association (KTA).
In 1969, he was elected Vice President of the KTA. In 1973, he served on
the Council of Techniques for the KTA
and was appointed to the
executive council of the World Tae Kwon Do Federation. Grandmaster Lee
also held the position of treasurer for the WTF and traveled extensively
techniques and philosophy by which he lived his
In the fall, Haeng Ung Lee, founder of one of the most
successful martial arts organizations in America, the American Tae Kwon
Do Association (ATA), died. He knew that he was dying and he used the
end of his time here to make sure that he had set a course for Songahm
students to follow. Before his passing, he nominated Soon Ho Lee to
become the Songahm Grandmaster and outlined a detailed process for him
to follow in order to be recognized. I am certain that it was with mixed
emotions of pride and regret that S. H. Lee achieved the title eight
months after Eternal Grandmaster Lee's death.
In April of this
year, we lost Jung Tae Park, the founder of the Global Tae Kwon Do
Federation. Grandmaster Park was a pioneer in Tae Kwon Do and began his
training in 1948 before the name
of Tae Kwon Do existed. In 1964, he
joined the Korean army and became a leading instructor. He spent two
years in Vietnam teaching Korean and American soldiers unarmed combat.
time in Vietnam, he was selected to train the instructors
for the ITF in Korea. Grandmaster Park was also a pioneer of Tae Kwon Do
in Hungary and Poland, being one of the first instructors ever
teach in these countries. Grandmaster Park was a driving force behind
the worldwide spread of Tae Kwon Do. His organization, the GTF, includes
members from 78 countries and is truly global.
In June of this
year General Choi, founder of Tae Kwon Do died. During his life, General
Choi was exiled, imprisoned, sentenced to death, maligned, honored,
hated, and loved. I once went into a large and prestigious school in
Denver, Colorado, to train while on vacation. The school owner invited
me by phone and was very kind but when I arrived, he was not there.
Instead, his son greeted me and asked about my background. When I told
him that I studied the Chang Moo Kwan-style ITF forms he said, "Oh, you
do communist style." The conversation spiraled downward from
That was the first time that I heard that phrase, but it was
not the last. General Choi was born in 1918 long before there was a
North or South Korea. Tong Il, or unification, of the two countries was
his fondest wish. He saw the healing that Tae Kwon Do training is
capable of and hoped that by sharing this all-Korea martial art with the
people of the North, it might provide a common
experience that would
hasten the unification. The South Korean government ordered him to stop
and threatened to pull his visa and the visas of all of his instructors.
He made an unbelievably difficult decision and one that would shape the
rest of his life and the landscape of Tae Kwon Do forever. He refused.
You know the story: South Korea recreated the World Taekwondo
Federation, changed all the forms and, basically, started over. There
has been a rift between ITF (traditional schools) and WTF (sport Tae
Kwon Do schools) ever since. Regardless of the side you grew up
it is undeniable that General Choi, Hong Hi dedicated his life to
sharing Tae Kwon Do with the world.
In July, Hwang Kee, founder
of Moo Duk Kwan and Tang Soo Do died. When he was born, his parents
named him Star Child because they knew he was destined for great things
during his lifetime. When Hwang Kee was 22, he had his first formal
martial art lesson. I think about how many students express to me their
sincere wish that they had begun their martial arts experience earlier
and then I think of Hwang Kee. Every time he asked a teacher for
instruction, the teacher denied his request because he was too young.
Hwang Kee's first instructor was Yang Kuk Jin who accepted him only
after Hwang Kee visited his house every day and asked to be his student.
Hwang Kee was only able to train with Master Yang for a little over a
year before he had to return to Seoul. Years later, Hwang Kee went back
to train with Master Yang but in 1946, China became a communist country
and Hwang Kee was cut off from his master. He worked for a railway
company during this time and studied on his own from books that he found
in the library including books on Okinawan
Karate and a 300-year-old
text called Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji. He was a true scholar and he will
"The life of a human being, perhaps 100 years, can
be considered as a day when compared with eternity. Therefore, we
mortals are no more than simple travelers who pass by the eternal years
of an eon in a day. It is evident that no one can live more than a
limited amount of time. Nevertheless, most people foolishly enslave
themselves to materialism as if they could live for thousands of years.
And some people strive to bequeath a good spiritual legacy for coming
generations, in this way, gaining immortality. Obviously, the spirit is
perpetual while material is not; therefore, what we can do to leave
behind something for the welfare of mankind is, perhaps, the most
important thing in our lives.
"Here I leave Taekwon-Do for
mankind as a trace of man of the late 20th century. The 24 patterns
represent 24 hours, one day, or all my life." Choi Hong Hi
Submitted by Bob Olinghouse, 5th