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A Generation Passes

Some 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 for granted
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 teaching the
techniques and philosophy by which he lived his life.
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. After his
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
to 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 there.
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
on, 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 be

"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 (1918-2002)

Submitted by Bob Olinghouse, 5th Dan

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Revised Last 1/09/08