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Category Archives: Masters

Re-connecting Song Moo Kwan

Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo is one of the most prominent and influential original schools that developed in Korea. The founder, Supreme Grand Master Byung Jick Ro, has built a strong reputation for himself and Song Moo Kwan through his dedication to training and the roles in developing Taekwondo. This is evident in his

Supreme Grand Master Ro created a very strong school with high quality students but was able to see beyond his own creation to what Taekwondo would mean to the world. His roles in the Korean Taekwondo Association laid the groundwork for what became the international Taekwondo seen today.

His desire to see Song Moo Kwan continue with the strong traditional base lead him to promote Senior Grand Master Joon Pyo Choi to 10th Dan on July 3, 2013. SGM Choi has started moving forward with the first goal of re-connecting to Song Moo Kwan practitioners by recognizing several of the second and third generation students who have been outstanding examples of keeping the SMK path. These people are the first group of American students to have reached high ranks in Taekwondo and their students. SGM Choi plans to properly recognize these students of all ranks for their spirit and dedication to SMK.

LineageFor my part, while I hope to do more, the lineage chart that I have worked on is being brought into active work again. This post includes a copy of what I have so far. I am hoping that more SMK people will submit their lineage to become included on it. You can find a copy of the SMK Lineage Chart here. Please note that the actual paper size is 11×17, so printing may be difficult.

If you wish to provide your information, please feel free to email me at or through Facebook & LinkedIn. The form below works, too!

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What is a good instructor?

In some nondescript, intuitive, immeasurable, non-quantitative, inexplicable way I have begun to sense who the good martial arts instructor is and who is the journeyman that merely shows up and makes a presentation in TKD.

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Training with Grandmaster Kyu Hyun Lee in the Homeland of Taekwondo

Grandmaster Kyu Hyun Lee cuts a striking image; with a shock of white hair centered over the left eye, in concert with his drill sergeant demeanor, his presence is unmistakable.

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Interview with President Global Taekwon-Do Federation, Mrs. Linda Park


The GTF is committed to the traditional values taught by our founder and teacher, Grandmaster Park Jung Tae. For more information about GTF, click here

Interview with President Global Taekwon-Do Federation, Mrs. Linda Park

The Global Taekwon-do Federation (GTF) was formed in 1990 under the leadership of the famous late GrandMaster Park Jung Tae, 9th Degree Black Belt, who was ranked as the leading technical trainer in the world until his death on April 11, 2002.

Since the passing of Grand Master Park Jung Tae on April 11, 2002, GTF has gone through a transition period to take the Federation to the next level of development. At a meeting, the GTF Masters and Senior Instructors unanimously agreed that the Executive Vice-President of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation, Mrs. Linda Park was the only person able to become GTF President. President Linda Park has been involved with Taekwon-Do since 1969 and her knowledge of GTF matters from working side by side with her late husband, Grand Master Park has given her insight to the future greatness of this Federation.

In this personal interview, Mrs. Park shares her memory in the life history of her late husband, as well as her aspirations on the future development of GTF.

Moosin: When did you get involved in Martial Arts and how did it happen?

GM Linda Park: I was always active in sports and one day in late 1969, I was at the Toronto Exhibition in Canada and came upon a Taekwon-Do demonstration by one of the local schools. I was very impressed and thought I would like to get involved with that martial art. A few months later I joined that club and the rest is history.

Moosin: What were the most memorable moments from your training history?

GM Linda Park: I remember Grand Master Park teaching me sparring techniques. He would stand behind me and told me that I had to move to the side not backwards. He said that there was only a spit second between the attack and my defense. If I moved backwards, I could lose that moment of opportunity. I !remember distinctly one time I got kicked in the stomach because I lost focus of what I was to do. I am sure everyone who spars can relate to that powerful turning back kick.

Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson that day. Move circular, not back. Taekwon-Do has shaped my life in remarkable ways. From meeting extraordinary people and travelling the world to participating in exciting championships my moments are numerous as I feel that I am connected to this Art through years of observation, practice and philosophical discussion. Although I no longer physically practice this beautiful Art, the essence of martial arts is part of my daily life through balancing mind, body and spirit.

GM Linda Park (center) with GTF members in Malaysia

GM Linda Park (center) with GTF members in Malaysia

Moosin: How did you meet late Grand Master Park, your husband and what influence did he have on your Taekwon-Do training?

GM Linda Park: I met Grand Master Park when he arrived from Korea as a guest Instructor at the Taekwon-Do school where I was training. His charisma and approachability was mesmerizing to me. He was the ideal Instructor because he encouraged you to excel in your training and reach your highest potential. I loved training with him as did anyone who ever had the opportunity. He emanated an inner power that drew you in. Known for his technical skill, he was respected by all and when you left a training session with him you knew that your skill had been sharpened and you wanted to maintain that level of expertise.

I have experienced many facets of Taekwon-Do through the eyes of being a practitioner, being the wife of a great technical expert, administrator and leader of an international organization and being the mother of a practitioner. Grand Master Park’s passion ignited a passion inside of me to pursue and continue Taekwon-Do even after his death. As of today, I have been supporting Taekwon-Do for 44 years (ITF 20 years and GTF 24 years). I guess there is some merit to my Taekwon-Do experience.

Moosin: What was your most significant achievement as a Martial Artist?

GM Linda Park: Becoming President of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation was very significant for me. Taekwon-Do leadership is traditionally male dominated and I was the first woman to break that mold. There were many challenges to overcome, but my determination to secure the legacy of the late Grand Master Park has driven me to protect GTF on all fronts. I try to follow the tenets of Taekwon-Do and work in unison with the GTF Masters so that we speak one voice.

A Martial Artist is not only someone who performs but also someone who lives according to martial arts philosophy and I would say that is how I live.

GRM Linda Park at Hall of Fame

GM Linda Park (right) was accepting the “The People’s Master” award from Master George Vitale (left)

Moosin: You have been inducted into the Official Taekwon-Do Hall of Fame in Seoul, Korea. What is your feeling?

GM Linda Park: It was a great honour to be inducted into the Official Hall of Fame in Seoul Korea. It was an acknowledgement of my contribution to the promotion of Taekwon-Do since becoming President of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation. As a pioneer of Taekwon-Do, Grand Master Park Jung Tae was inducted in the Taekwon-Do Hall of Fame in 2009. When I was given this great honour, it represented a continuation of building a stronger Global Taekwon-Do Federation with leadership that is recognized and accepted in the Taekwon-Do community.

Moosin: Since your husband and Gen. Choi worked so intensely together, what would you think was their greatest similarity and what was their greatest difference?

GM Linda Park: Both General Choi Hong Hi and Grand Master Park lived and breathed Taekwon-Do. They worked together to improve the technical aspects of training and each played their part in standardizing the ITF techniques. Grand Master Park was a hands on Instructor and was nicknamed “The People’s Master” because he was approachable to anyone no matter what their level was.

He never withheld his skills or knowledge that would benefit the practitioner. In the early days, it was unthinkable for a student to approach Gen. Choi. On occasion, a black belt might get the rare chance to speak directly to him and that would be only after one of the Senior ITF Masters talked to Gen. Choi first. From my perspective, Gen. Choi was distant with the general membership on a personal level and concentrated on using the Masters worldwide to promote and spread ITF Taekwon-Do.

Gen. Choi was distant with the general membership on a personal level and concentrated on using the Masters worldwide to promote and spread ITF Taekwon-Do.

Moosin: Your husband, Grand Master Park was the top representative of ITF when promotion and techniques were concerned. What is the reason for his decision to start a new Federation?

GM Linda Park: The creation of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation came about because Grand Master Park Jung Tae left ITF and there was a void that had to be filled for all the practitioners who wanted to follow him. Grand Master Park devoted his life to Gen. Choi and ITF promotion/development. It was unimaginable that Gen. Choi would turn his back on his top technical instructor as well as most loyal supporter. Through misunderstandings it did happen. Grand Master Park lived and breathed Taekwon-Do and needed to continue developing and promoting Taekwon-Do to the world and he did this through the Global Taekwon-Do Federation (GTF).

Moosin: GTF has it’s roots in ITF. What are the similarities and differences between these two styles?

GM Linda Park: Both GTF and ITF promote a similar system of Taekwon-Do. Both have roots in ancient martial arts philosophy and techniques derived from various methods of self-defense. The main difference between the two styles is that both systems have their own distinct patterns and the techniques and methods of execution are different from each other. ITF has patterns created by Gen. Choi. GTF has patterns created by Grand Master Park Jung Tae. In this respect, it would be incorrect to say GTF has it’s roots in ITF.

[Tweet “It would be incorrect to say GTF has it’s roots in ITF.”]

Moosin: Considering the similarity of ITF and GTF, would a combined competition event be possible?

GM Linda Park: As stated previously, the Global Taekwon-Do Federation has it’s own distinct style and patterns; however, our members do practice the ITF patterns as Grand Master Park taught when he was the ITF Technical Chairman. ITF does not practice GTF patterns. Even so, it is very common to see both GTF and ITF practitioners lat the same event. Time will be a factor to determine if a combined major competition will take place in the future where both parties share in the same vision.

ITF does not practice GTF patterns. Even so, it is very common to see both GTF and ITF practitioners lat the same event.

It will be interesting to see the result of WTF (South Korea) and ITF (North Korea) organizing an event according to the Protocol of Accord recently signed between those two organizations. ITF (North Korea) is only one part of a larger group and the favoritism shown by IOC’s approval has created a further division in the Taekwon-Do community and doesn’t represent Taekwon-Do Federations

GM Linda Park at the GTF Championship

GM Linda Park at the 7Th GTF World Championship2009 in Malaysia

Moosin: If you had to describe Gen. Choi in 2 sentences, what would it be?

GM Linda Park: To describe General Choi Hong Hi is not easy as he was a very complex person. I would say that he was extremely clever, had great resources to achieve what he wanted and took advantage of opportunities to promote and develop ITF Taekwon-Do throughout the world.

Moosin: If you could foresee the future, what would be the first and most important thing you would want to influence.

GM Linda Park: This interview is about Taekwon-Do so I will answer this way. Protocol amongst martial artists is fading and I would encourage practitioners to study martial arts philosophy and to live accordingly. With the current trend of sport vs martial arts, the practitioner who follows Taekwon-Do the sport, will only need a trainer to win.

If we’re not careful, martial arts philosophy associated with Taekwon-Do, the Martial Art will be lost along with the instructors. I don’t want to see this happen. That is one reason GTF will always be a Traditional Martial Arts Federation.

Moosin: What is the short and long-term plans of the organization you lead?

GM Linda Park: The Global Taekwon-Do Federation is known worldwide for its high technical standards so we will continue to ensure !our instructors get the highest quality of training and give support to our members. Our long-term goal will be to maintain high technical standards while at the same time bring people together under an umbrella of peace and harmony through training.

Moosin: How would you see future co-operation between ITF and GTF organizations?

GM Linda Park: Many Masters and Grand Masters have not moved with the times and this makes it difficult to work together as they are set in the old ways and ideas. Grand Master Park Jung Tae always said that we must move with the times. If the Taekwon-Do leaders today can put aside personal ego’s and truly work for the highest good of Taekwon-Do on a universal level, then maybe we have a chance
to do something great together.

Moosin: In your opinion, what makes Taekwon-Do suitable for women?

GM Linda Park: I think Taekwon-Do is especially suited for women because of the technical ratio of 70%-30%. Using the legs 70%, having more power than the hands and also the fact that the legs have a longer reach than the arms gives women confidence that they have a good chance to avoid close encounters with a possible attacker.

As well, the techniques learned in self-defense with more emphasis on kicks gives women the power needed at the time of an attack. The one thing I learned through training is that most people don’t know how to fight or defend Interview with President Global Taekwon-Do Federation,
themselves. Even today with so much emphasis on martial arts/fighting/video games geared to battle etc, the same is true.

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Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate (Part 3)

In the opening chapters of Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son discusses some of the history of Asian martial arts in general, and an awkwardly self-serving history of Tae Kwon Do in particular. He also explains the philosophy and fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do so the English-speaking public understands that Tae Kwon Do is not about sensational fight scenes or breaking boards and bricks with their hands and feet. While it is true that fighting and breaking demonstrate the power, speed and athleticism that can be generated by the human body with Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son stresses that there is arduous study and practice behind these abilities. To become proficient in Tae Kwon Do, students must learn the fundamentals and apply them in concert. For Grandmaster Son, Tae Kwon Do is both an athletic and artistic endeavor. It shares characteristics with other popular sports such as boxing, pole vaulting, and swimming. It also shares qualities commonly associated with the fine arts. Like any artist, the student of Tae Kwon Do practices to improve his skills, knowing full well that perfection can never be achieved, mastering the mechanics of the art to apply them to the best of his ability.

The next seven chapters of Grandmaster Son’s classic text about Korean Karate, or Tae Kwon Do, describe the training in his classes in New York, and earlier in Korea at the powerful and influential Chung Do Kwan, the historical first kwan where he was Master Instructor for approximately nine years. These chapters, which are the bulk of Grandmaster Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, describe warm up exercises, basic techniques, forms, three step sparring, practical self-defense applications, free sparring, additional exercises and finally the breaking of objects, a typical curriculum for many Tae Kwon Do schools yet today. Grandmaster Son himself illustrates the physical aspects of Tae Kwon Do in the thousand plus photographs throughout the book, unlike the introductory chapters, which have no photographs.

The fundamental hard work described by Grandmaster Son in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do begins, as any training session should, with warm-up exercises to avoid injury, each performed in a specific way with a specific purpose and in a specific order. Grandmaster Son’s warm-up exercises are deceptively simple6, but they improve stamina; loosen and strengthen the knees; loosen and stimulate circulation in the legs; strengthen the shoulders and midsection, both front and back; build up the abdominal and back muscles; and improve balance. The 12 simple exercises which accomplish so much involve deep knee bends, massaging of the upper thighs, a series of foot lifts, body twists, waist bends, back stretches, toe touches, and neck stretches, generally performed in three to five repetitions each. “Students find that after a year or so of these simple neck exercises, their shirts seem to have shrunk, particularly around the neck,” writes Grandmaster Son.

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate

Grandmaster Son’s twelve warm-up exercises, by today’s standards, are simple, but deceptively simple. They improve stamina, loosen and strengthen the knees, loosen and stimulate circulation in the legs, strengthen the shoulders and midsection, build up the abdominal and back muscles, and improve balance. They involve deep knee bends, foot lifts, body twists, waist bends, back stretches, toe touches and neck stretches. They are practical for the kind of Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster Son taught at the Chung Do Kwan: one strike, one kick, fight over.

At least the first nine warm-up exercises are simple. The final three exercises are more challenging for beginners. They loosen and stretch the entire body. The tenth exercise is a prone, or straight-leg, sit-up where students don’t just reach to their toes but past them. The eleventh exercise likewise starts from a prone position, but instead of sit-ups, students lift their legs up over their heads and touch the toes of both feet to the floor. The twelfth exercise is a variation of the eleventh; students alternate touching the toes of each foot to the floor above their heads. “The student will probably not be able to do these exercises…right off,” notes Grandmaster Son. “But after a few months, the exercises become easy, and the student realizes he has better control over his body and is making progress.” These last warm-ups, like the first nine, are performed in just three to five repetitions.

These “simple” warm-up exercises, however, do more than prepare students for the rigors of each individual class. It also prepares them for future practice and development. “In the longer run,” writes Grandmaster Son, “the exercises are for the purpose of making the student more supple so he can command his body to make the movements necessary to support the various attacks and blocks he must make in free fighting. Suppleness also allows quick motions to be made,,” Grandmaster Son further notes. “It does not cause speed, but it allows speed. If the student is stiff, speed is impossible. Therefore it behooves the student to apply himself to the preliminary exercises because they are for more than the immediate purpose of just getting him ready for one lesson.” Students and instructors even today will do well to heed Grandmaster Son’s suggestion and perform warm-ups as diligently as other activities in their classes.

After warming-up, students are ready to practice the basic stances, strikes, kicks and blocks. The basics are few in Grandmaster Son’s Tae Kwon Do7. There are four basic stances: basic stance, front stance, back stance and horse stance. There are three basic strikes: punch, reverse punch and knife-hand. Basic blocks include low block, knife-hand block, rising block, double-arm block and single-arm block. The basic kicks are the front kick, side kick and roundhouse kick. These basics are not unfamiliar. Today’s students will recognize basic stance as choon bi or jun bi in Korean (reminder: Grandmaster Son does not use Korean terminology in this book except for Kwon Go). Students of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) will recognize Grandmaster Son’s horse stance as sitting stance. Many readers will know Grandmaster Son’s double-arm block as a reinforced outward block. Grandmaster Son’s roundhouse kick, however, is executed with the ball of the foot, the toes pulled back like a front kick. Many students may not be familiar with the round kick as taught by Grandmaster Son, particularly those who practice sport Tae Kwon Do and/or have been taught to use the top of the foot or instep with a round kick.

One unique feature of Grandmaster Son’s training is the Six Step, a prescribed combination of six basic blows and attacks which introduce students to the problems of attacking and ending attacks in a position that is relatively invulnerable yet suited for mounting another attack if necessary. One might call this Six Step a short form or mini pattern. Starting at basic stance, or ready position, students step back with their right foot into back stance and execute a reinforced knife-hand block with their left hand, their right fist about three inches from the left elbow. Next, students step forward with the right foot into a front stance and execute a high punch with the right hand. For the third step, students execute a left foot side kick (students will know this as a rear leg or turn side kick) to the front, ending in a proper front stance with the fists held in a normal fighting position in front of the body. The fourth step is a roundhouse kick with the right foot, ending again in a front stance, hands in a normal fighting position. Fifth, students execute a left roundhouse kick and assume a front stance once more, hands again in a normal fighting position. The final step is to step forward into a right front stance and execute a high punch with the right hand, ending with a bark (kihap). Unfortunately, no photographs illustrate Grandmaster Son’s Six Step.

The most important thing Grandmaster Son wants students to remember about the basic techniques is to practice them diligently and well. Grandmaster Son directs students to perform the basic techniques ten times each. However, Grandmaster Son notes “that a good workout can be achieved with four [repetitions]…It depends on how much thought and how much effort go into each movement. In order to get full benefit from each class or training period, the student must focus everything he has on each movement. One well-focused punch is worth a hundred or a thousand or an infinite number of unfocused punches…We have found that the students who think and focus on every movement in every training period are the ones who progress most quickly.” To many of today’s students, especially those who practice sport Tae Kwon Do, this philosophy may seem quaint and counter-productive because it does not build endurance or stamina needed for continuous sport sparring. Readers, however, should remember the philosophy taught at the Chung Do Kwan, although Grandmaster Son does not explicitly voice it here: One punch, or one kick, fight finished. The purpose of Grandmaster Son’s art is to end a fight quickly, not to prolong it. For his art, there is no purpose in useless or excessive repetition. Thus, ten good, conscientious repetitions is more than enough for Grandmaster Son.

Ten good, conscientious repetitions is more than enough for Grandmaster Son.

Chapter 6, at more than 150 pages long, is the longest chapter in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do. In Chapter 6, Grandmaster Son deftly defines forms for readers and masterfully iinstructs readers how to perform them. “Forms,” writes Grandmaster Son, “are stylized sequences of attacks and blocks of varying degrees of difficulty…Each position is specific; there is only one right way to do it.” Here, Grandmaster Son once again compares Tae Kwon Do to art. “Actually, doing Tae Kwon Do forms is not entirely dissimilar to the ballet,” he writes. In this chapter, Grandmaster Son underscores that, like any artistic endeavor, no form can be done perfectly: every form can always be done “more precisely, faster, with better focus, and so on.”

Learning any form requires five separate disciplines, according to Grandmaster Son. Students must first learn accuracy of movement, to make all the correct motions in the correct sequence to finish in the terminal position. Then students must learn to make his movements fast, and then to make them strong. Students must also learn how to focus each movement to generate power, and to be balanced at all times while executing the motions. A sixth discipline, however, might be added to this list, since Grandmaster Son spends an entire paragraph on it: relaxation. “It is worth repeating,” Grandmaster Son points out, “that strong movements do not involve gritting the teeth, waggling the head, or hunching the shoulders…In Tae Kwon Do, we learn to concentrate power, to focus it, without the added histrionics…not from winding them all up in knots…Tension not only depreciates the effectiveness of attacks and blocks, but, in the case of the forms, it spoils the appearance of the form as well.”

However, Grandmaster Son cautions, “Forms are not just some corollary dance having no real significance to the Tae Kwon Do student but are integral to the whole process of learning.” How well students perform their patterns, Grandmaster Son further explains, is often a good measure how well they can apply what they have learned in a fight. Forms teach students how to combine techniques into sequences which become habitual. Students also learn to create combinations with an infinite number of possibilities. Learning and practicing forms diligently, students also learn to deliver swift, precise, powerful blows on target. Instructors can also judge the progress of their students by watching them practice their forms, Grandmaster Son notes. “To illustrate this point for your own satisfaction, watch carefully a black belt do his forms and then a lower belt do his: see if you can tell any difference in the speed, power, focus, precision and balance between the two.” Grandmaster Son’s insights apply yet today to traditional and sport Tae Kwon Do patterns, regardless of affiliation.

Forms are not just some corollary dance having no real significance to the Tae Kwon Do student but are integral to the whole process of learning.

The bulk of Chapter 6 instructs students in the nine forms required for testing up to 1st gup at Grandmaster Son’s dojang: Kuk Mu I, Kuk Mu II, Pyong An I, Pyong An II, Pyong An III, Pyong An IV, Pyong An V, Chul Gi I, and Pal Sek. As noted previously in Part 1, these forms reveal the lineage of Grandmaster Son’s Tae Kwon Do. Grandmaster Son himself developed the first two forms in the curriculum, Kuk Mu I and Kuk Mu II, to train the Korean military. The remaining seven forms are borrowed from Okinawa-te back through Won Kuk Lee, founder of the Chung Do Kwan, to Gichin Funakoshi, master of Okinawa-te and founder of Shotokan Karate.

Grandmaster Son presents the forms in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do in significant detail, illustrated with photographs and foot placement diagrams, which are fairly commonplace in other classic books about Tae Kwon Do. Grandmaster Son himself demonstrates each movement of the forms described in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do. The attentive student, with the help of a diligent instructor, should be reasonably able to learn the nine forms in this book from the text, photographs and diagrams.

Grandmaster Son’s presentation, however, offers two features which may be unique to Tae Kwon Do books of this vintage, or in general. In addition to describing and portraying the movements in the forms, Grandmaster Son also explains and demonstrates the applications of various techniques in each form, which helps students better understand how the patterns prepare them for real situations. For example, in Pyong An I, Grandmaster Son writes,

“Figures 27.11 through 27.16a illustrate the fourth position of Pyong An I. Actually, what this represents is an action designed to free the right hand from the grip of an opponent around the wrist (Figures 27.10 through 27.13 in which an opponent is, in fact, grabbing the wrist). The grabbed hand, the right hand in this case, is pulled sharply down and back toward the body at arm’s length to wrench it free from the opponent’s grasp (Figures 27.10 and 27.14). Then the right fist is rotated at arm’s length in a clockwise arc bringing it down into a horizontal position with the fist vertical.”

Grandmaster Son’s text, with the related photographs and foot diagrams, offers more holistic information about forms than is typically found in most books about Tae Kwon Do. This unique characteristic should pique the interest of advanced students and seasoned instructors alike. It is unfortunate that present authors do not understand the benefit of including the applications alongside forms (perhaps it is that they themselves may not know the applications).

Another unique feature of the forms as Grandmaster Son presents them is that Grandmaster Son assigns not only a count but a duration to each form. For example, Kuk Mu I has 20 movements and should be completed in 20 seconds. Pyong Ahn IV, however, involves 21 positions and should take 30 seconds to perform. The duration feature in particular helps students pace themselves as they execute each movement. They can identify when they perform too quickly or too slowly. This feature may be unique only to Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do.

In contrast to many other books about the forms of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son never discusses the meanings or history of any of the forms in the book. For those things, students must look elsewhere. One such reference is Hwang Kee’s Tang Soo Do: Soo Bahk Do. The Chinese characters for Pyung Ahn mean well-balanced, calm and peaceful (Pyung), and “safe, confident and comfortable (Ahn). Grandmaster Hwang Kee, founder of the Moo Duk Kwan, one of the original nine kwans in Korea, has written, “By completely mastering the Pyong Ahn forms, one can develop a feeling of ‘Pyong Ahn’ (peace and confidence) in…mind and body regardless of situation.” Although further discussion of the Pyong Ahn forms is a different subject entirely, readers shuld note that the names of the Pyong Ahn patterns are written using Chinese characters, which may be meaningful to the general history of Asian martial arts, as noted previously in this article.

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son

Page 92 -93 application

Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do has two unique features that have largely been lost in books about Tae Kwon Do. Like a true teacher, Grandmaster Son teaches not only the movements in the Pyong Ahn patterns but also interprets their application to help students better understand how the patterns prepare them for real situations. Grandmaster Son also assigns a duration to each form, or how long each form should take to complete.

After forms, the next subject in Grandmaster Son’s curriculum is three step sparring, which consists of simple attacks, simple blocks and counterattacks. Unlike forms, three step sparring gives students the opportunity to learn the habit of keeping their eyes on their opponent while they are being attacked and to experiment with new attacks and improve their Tae Kwon Do. The purpose of three step sparring is to develop practical attacks for free-style fighting. Sometimes students will develop attacks that would seem to be useful, only to find that they are unable to use them in free style fighting while the opportunity exists. However, the student should not be discouraged. “If he keeps thinking about it and looking for the opportunity to use it,” Grandmaster Son writes, “one day he will find that, without being conscious of it, he has used his new technique and it has become a part of his repertoire. This is the way Tae Kwon Do works,” he adds.

Readers may already be familiar with three step sparring in some flavor. Two students face and bow to each other, then one student steps back, usually with the right foot, into a front stance and executes a low block with the left hand. This student then kihaps to signal that he or she is ready to attack. The other student, when he or she is ready to defend, likewise kihaps and the three step begins. The attacking student steps forward into a front stance and executes a punch to the face but does not make contact. At the same time, the defending student steps back with the right foot into a back stance and executes a knife-hand block with the back of his left hand (for safety), riding the attacking wrist out and down for about a foot. This sequence is repeated twice more. On the third attack, the defender follows up with an attack, which at its most basic is simply a punch to the face. When the three step is completed, the students return to basic or ready stance, and swap roles, continuing back and forth across the dojang. The attacks should not be hurried, no more than one per second, two seconds is even better, notes Grandmaster Son.


Grandmaster Duk Sung Son

Grandmaster Son devotes an entire chapter to Three Step Sparring. For him, Three Step Sparring is an intermediary exercise between forms and sparring. Students are expected to develop and practice defense and attack strategies that appear to be sound, and then attempt to apply them in a realistic manner. One Step Sparring is similar to Three Step Sparring. “One Step Sparring is for advanced students,” Grandmaster Son writes. “It is the same as Three Step Sparring without the first two steps…Two experienced Tae Kwon Doists can get a most vigorous workout in five minutes of One Step Sparring,” he adds.

Although three step sparring is intended to encourage students to experiment, Grandmaster Son provides 16 examples illustrated with photographs. Grandmaster Son’s partner for the three steps and practical applications found in the next chapter is his co-author, Robert J. Clark. In these scenarios, Grandmaster Son introduces advanced blocks and advanced and potentially deadly responses. One series demonstrates a counterattack with a four-knuckle strike to the throat. Another demonstrates blocking upward with the palm heel of the hand as well as a palm heel to the underside of the chin to finish. Yet another illustrates a two-finger counterattack to the eyes. Still another demonstrates a front leg sweep with the hand and, after the takedown, a punch to the face. Others illustrate an x-block and foot sweep blocks (more familiar as inward crescent kicks) along with side kick and round kick counterattacks. Advanced students are likely to enjoy trying the three steps discussed by Grandmaster Kim to discover if any are effective for them. One thing to remember: some of these techniques are intended to be crippling or deadly, and are to be used only in three step sparring practice or, if necessary, for street defense. As for one step sparring, they are the same as three step sparring, but without the first two attacks, notes Grandmaster Son, and are intended for advanced students.

While students should be able to apply what they learn from three step sparring, Grandmaster Son includes a chapter about practical applications to defend against situations which might occur. Grandmaster Son explains and demonstrates 20 self-defense applications against guns, knives, bear hugs, lapel grabs, hair grabs, wrist grabs, rear chokes, side chokes and clubs. Grandmaster Son’s one-strike-one-kick-fight-over approach is realized in these practical applications. A knife-hand block to the wrist has a “fifty-fifty chance that the blow will break the attacker’s wrist,” Grandmaster Son writes, or a similar strike to the collarbone, side of the neck or temple will “disable the opponent…if it does not kill him,” he adds. “Such a blow delivered full force to the temple of the attacker would probably kill him.” When under attack, “the situation simply does not offer any chances after the first one,” notes Grandmaster Son.

Practical Applications

Practicing students are likely recognize Grandmaster Son’s practical applications as Hosinsul, or self-defense. In this chapter, Grandmaster Son demonstrates defense against guns, knives, sticks, chokes and grabs. Some of the techniques found in these pages can be painful, but also crippling or lethal if applied in situations which warrant such a response.

In the 20 applications, Grandmaster Son attacks the eyes, ribs, temple, throat, neck, groin, and joints with finger thrusts, four-knuckle punches, palm strikes, knife-hand strikes, hammer fists, knees, roundhouse kicks, side kicks and front kicks. None of the techniques are complicated; many rely on simple motor skills learned by students during training. Some of the techniques, Grandmaster Son notes, are applications of identical or similar movements from the Pyong Ahn forms. Although some of the targets are vital points, Grandmaster Son does not discuss the effects of striking vital points in any detail. He assumes readers will understand the results of striking the points illustrated in the techniques.

Grandmaster Son stresses that defense against attacks rely on the basic principles of Tae Kwon Do, not formulated plans or specific techniques. Successful execution depends on executing a counterattack faster than thought. There is no time to talk to oneself and devise a plan. “It is thus that the Tae Kwon Do itself, rather than the particular plan, is the more important element in meeting attacks,” Grandmaster Son writes. There can be no hesitation. “All of the counterattacker’s movements must be done with lightning speed, perfect precision, perfect focus, perfect balance, complete accuracy and great power.” Grandmaster Son expects students to experiment and build on these practical applications using their knowledge of the basic principles of Tae Kwon Do.

Defense against attacks rely on the basic principles of Tae Kwon Do, not formulated plans or specific techniques.

Although the practical applications seem to fulfill the ultimate objective of the art of Tae Kwon Do – “Self-protection against any attack at any time under any conditions,” according to Grandmaster Son – they do not. Neither does free-style fighting, or sparring. “Free-style fighting is a substitute,” he argues, “But, since one cannot practice the unexpected, the random occasion when one is attacked in the street, the nearest thing to it is free-style fighting…wherein the opponent presents a series of unexpected attacks and situations which must be dealt with then and there without rehearsals and without premeditation,” Grandmaster Son observes “…therefore it must be a part of every period of instruction for every Tae Kwon Do student above the white belt level.” Students, however, should remember the most important difference between free-style fighting and street fighting. “The distinction,” writes Grandmaster Son, “…is perhaps best exemplified by the attitude toward the fallen opponent. In free-style fighting, one steps back and lets the opponent get to his feet. In the street, one makes sure he cannot get to his feet.”

Grandmaster Son admits that it is impossible to tell someone how to free-style fight, and in one stroke again compares Tae Kwon Do to other arts and sports. “Being an art, [Tae Kwon Do] is…not capable of being defined exactly or taught as a predetermined routine,” he writes.

“No more can one be taught precisely how to free-style than one can be taught how to be a great painter or concert violinist or how to hit 61 home runs or run 100 yards in 9.1 seconds…It is possible to teach the basic do’s and do not’s…But neither for the Tae Kwon Doist nor for the violinist is it possible to tell the student how to express himself through his particular medium…The details can be taught. But the whole, the entire way an individual puts all this together and fights, is an expression of his own personality and his own physical equipment.”

Despite the difficulties of teaching students how to spar, Grandmaster Son nevertheless offers several pages of sage advice – observations, do’s and don’ts – about free-style sparring. No sparring at white belt, although white belts should watch free-style fighting carefully. Light contact while striking and blocking the body and limbs, but no contact to the head or groin. Feet in an approximate back stance, hands made into fists about chin high, the lead hand extended well out in front of the body, the rear hand held away from the face. Use right and left stance about equally to avoid becoming dependent on either stance. To fight a taller opponent, hold the lead hand higher, shorter opponent, lower. Immediately counterattack after blocking. Step back and cover immediately after attacking. The attacker is most vulnerable the instant following an attack. A side kick directed to the head is easy to evade. Beginners will relax after blocking and leave themselves vulnerable. A jump kick should be evaded and countered on the way down, before the opponent can regain sure footing. A jump kick can be intercepted by stepping in and attacking before the kick is launched. It is best to evade a blow, even if it can be blocked. It is bad to both stand still and dance around like a golden-gloves boxer. Stay a little off the centerline of the opponent. Move out of focus at the instant the opponent is about to attack. Avoid developing idiosyncrasies or tics which telegraph impending attack. Watch for idiosyncrasies and tics in the opponent. Do not be too eager to attack. Although it is impossible to tell students how to free-style fight, students can learn to apply the principles of Tae Kwon Do to free-style fighting according to their unique personality and capabilities, Grandmaster Son notes.


While Tae Kwon Do is good for both sexes and all ages, Grandmaster Son comments on the fairer gender and free-style fighting. In particular, Grandmaster Son suggests that, through their interactions during training, and perhaps during free-style fighting specifically, women learn bad habits because men treat them like women. Although men may be chivalrous gentlemen in the dojang, the result does more harm than good for women. “Women know from direct experience that the men with whom they do their free-style fighting will not hit them anywhere, even lightly on the body or on the limbs,” Grandmaster Son observes. As a result, women tend to attack without defending themselves. “It is most difficult to instil in the mind of a woman Tae Kwon Doist that an attacker on the street will not be as generous as her free-style fighting partner,” Grandmaster Son continues. “A woman must learn, as much as any other Tae Kwon Doist, that she can make attacks only so long as she…does not unduly expose herself to a counterattack…[which is] not an uncommon error among Tae Kwon Doists.” Grandmaster Son is, perhaps, ahead of his time to suggest that women should be treated the same as any man in the dojang, so that women learn to defend themselves as capably as men. Forty-five years later, instructors today continue to reconcile this dilemma with young ladies and women in their dojangs. On one hand, society in general expects young ladies and women to be treated with courtesy and respect; everyone knows it is impolite to hit or kick a woman in particular. On the other hand, effective training knows no gender.

Throughout Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son frequently refers to gymnasiums as training areas for Tae Kwon Do. Gymnasiums, no doubt, imply large open spaces for learning Tae Kwon Do, especially for practicing forms, learning practical applications, and free-sparring, but Grandmaster Son’s use of the word gymnasiums also implies the use of equipment and other exercises not specific to the classroom curriculum of Tae Kwon Do. Chapter 10 specifically addresses the use of equipment, i.e. weights, a Kwon Go and a heavy bag, and other exercises and activities, such as breaking, that are just as important to the student of Tae Kwon Do as standard classroom curriculum of warm ups, forms, application and sparring.

Questions about weights and weight lifting are common among students considering supplementary exercises, notes Grandmaster Son. Grandmaster Son, however, wisely cautions students to choose the right kinds of weight exercises that will benefit their Tae Kwon Do. “Weight lifting develops very impressive-looking muscles to be sure,” Grandmaster Son agrees, “but those muscles are not always useful for sports requiring quick and supple movements. The essence of Tae Kwon Do is speed and suppleness. Therefore,” he writes, “…the usual weight-lifting program is not suitable for the Tae Kwon Doist.” Nevertheless, the use of weights, in specific bulk with specific movement, “will build up the right muscles in the right way,” asserts Grandmaster Son. Specifically, men should use small five-pound dumbbells, and women three-pound dumbells, in approximately 18 exercises demonstrated by Grandmaster Son through a series of nearly 40 photographs. “The factor of speed ought to be given some attention in doing the exercises illustrated,” Grandmaster Son points out. “If these exercises are done smartly, quick reactions and quick motions will be established.” However, he notes, “To use weights heavier than those we recommend will not produce the desired results. They will build muscles but not speed and suppleness.”

Along with the prescribed weight program and classroom training, Grandmaster Son also recommends exercising and practicing out of doors at least two or three days a week throughout the year. The proper attire for outdoor work is old clothes, not Tae Kwon Do uniforms, which would draw attention, Grandmaster Son reminds us. Grandmaster Son’s demanding outdoor workout begins with “road work, running or jogging several miles a day…then doing forty of each of the basic attacks, blocks and kicks, followed by each form appropriate to [students’] belt levels at least once; then at least twenty side kicks with each foot full force against a tree and twenty roundhouse kicks as high as possible and with full force against the tree; and finally an extensive set of loosening exercises.” For Grandmaster Son, outdoor workouts and indoor training are both necessary to achieve proper physical conditioning for Tae Kwon Do.

“Something about exercising outdoors adds strength,” Grandmaster Son explains. “The first thing the Tae Kwon Doist notices when he moves outdoors is that his attacks and blocks seem much less strong than they do inside where he can hear the uniform snap against his arm or leg when he makes a fast move.” Perhaps readers will have experienced this sensation Grandmaster Son describes. It is profound and humbling, especially for advanced ranks, who have long grown accustomed to the tactile snapping of their uniforms. Although Grandmaster Son does not say it, the result of this weakened sensation in students is greater effort to regain the lost perception of speed and power. Exercising outdoors in every season also “separates the real Tae Kwon Doists from the dilettantes,” reasons Grandmaster Son. “Jogging a mile and a half into an icy wind in several feet of snow not only builds the legs, it also builds resolve. Then, six months later when the humidity is near 90 and the temperature is past 90, it takes just as much resolve to pursue the same regimen of exercises…as it did in the winter.”

The practice of kicking trees, or other solid objects, is likewise important to developing strength, power and accuracy. “If the student can kick with all his strength a solid object which does not move, a kick to the midsection of a human adversary certainly ought not to offer any problems,” explains Grandmaster Son. Whereas the object of kicking in the classroom is to perfect technique and increase height and speed, the purpose of kicking solid objects during outdoor workouts is accuracy: accuracy at the moment of focus, exactly when contact is made; and accuracy in directing kicks to the intended target. Once more, Grandmaster Son directs students to choose a spot the size of a U.S. dime to hit with their round and side kicks. “Thus,” Grandmaster Son writes, “when the student is kicking the tree or the brick wall, his focus ought to be complete, both laterally and longitudinally, right on target.” Kicking solid objects also strengthens and develops the ability to absorb shock in the legs, acknowledges Grandmaster Son.

One piece of particularly specialized equipment recommended by Grandmaster Son in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do is the Kwon Go, also known as a makiwara in Japanese, or striking or forging post. (Incidentally, Kwon Go is the only Korean term used in the whole of Grandmaster Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do.) At its simplest, a Kwon Go or makiwara is a board or boards fastened vertically in some solid manner and padded on one side with straw, fabric or other material to minimize injury. The famous photograph on the cover of Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do depicts Grandmaster Son striking just such a makiwara. Grandmaster Son’s description of a Kwon Go differs from General Choi’s first book, Tae Kwon Do: The Art of Self-Defence, the first published book about Tae Kwon Do, which describes a single thick board tapered at the top and buried in the ground.8 In comparison, Grandmaster Son’s Kwon Go uses four common boards and can be mounted indoors in most dojangs:

“The Kwon Go consists of a cloth covered, six-sided prism with rectangular faces about a foot long, six to eight inches wide, and about two inches thick. Inside, the padding to make the thickness is either stiff sponge material or tightly packed rags or string wound in such manner that it will fill the prism. The prism is mounted so it is about three and a half to four feet above the floor. It is mounted so that there will be a little spring to it but not much. The spring is not essential, but it is desirable. The mounting can be on a board as wide as the punching pad and half-an-inch thick and reinforced by a similar board running upwards for about seven-eighths the length of the first mounting board, a third similar boarding running three-quarters up the length of the original one, and a fourth one running halfway up. The vertical mounting boards must be securely fastened to the floor as with two angle irons so they will not give as blows are struck on the pad.”

Grandmaster Son, however, does not include any diagrams or other measurements to illustrate how to make the pad or fasten the boards. The only photographs show a finished Kwon Go and demonstrate how students use it with a back fist, knifehand attack, and punch. Readers may note that Grandmaster Son mentions Kwon Go training in relation to the hands, likely because the Kwon Go would not survive powerful strikes with the feet.

To develop side kicks, front kicks, elbow strikes, punches and any other attacks the student of Tae Kwon Do may use, Grandmaster Son recommends a large canvas bag commonly found in boxing gyms and familiar to most readers. While boxers simply punch the canvas bag, however, Grandmaster Son recommends that students of Tae Kwon Do kick the bag as it is swung to improve the strength and timing of their kicks and attacks. “It takes a good kick to stop the heavy bag in mid-swing, but it improves accuracy and timing,” Grandmaster Son notes.

Although the breaking of objects has been sensationalized by Hollywood, breaking pieces of wood, bricks and other objects is an important part of the art of Tae Kwon Do since its founding. Of course, Grandmaster Son cautions, “It is not an end in itself but it provides a datum so the student can see tangible evidence of the power he is able to generate…Spectators can [also] understand seeing objects broken…they can see and understand for themselves that a blow which can break a brick or a series of pieces of wood could do serious damage to a human.” According to Grandmaster Son, “All exhibitions for the public ought to include breaking techniques,” a strategy well-known to the pioneering masters of Tae Kwon Do: During a demonstration for South Korean President Syngham Rhee in 1954, Nam Tae Hi broke 13 clay roof tiles, each three-fourths of an inch thick, with a punch; following the demonstration, President Rhee ordered General Choi to teach the martial art which had been exhibited to the Republic of Korea’s Army. The rest is history. Demonstrations for the next two decades introduced the Korean martial art to the world. Most instructors today would still agree with Grandmaster Son: all public exhibitions should include breaking techniques.

Ready Stance Photos

For Grandmaster Son, a proper basic stance is not just about how the feet and hands are positioned; the eyes are also important. “To the casual reader,” Grandmaster Son writes, “it might seem irrelevant that the eyes must be ‘strong’ too. It is our experience, however, that the student cannot achieve a strong stance with ‘weak’ eyes, eyes half shut or eyes wandering from place to place,” Grandmaster Son observes. “’Strong’ eyes pull the mind into focus.”

In Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son discusses breaking with a punch and a roundhouse kick, noting the importance of focus, balance and Newton’s Third Law. The punch and roundhouse kick are illustrated in photographs of Grandmaster Son breaking four one-inch boards with each technique. The photograph of the punch was taken at the moment of focus, similar to the famous cover photo discussed previously. Grandmaster Son points out the moment of focus in the photo: “The muscles of the upper body and the neck are all drawn taught at the instant of impact, which is the best possible illustration of the concept of focus, a concept difficult to describe and more difficult to depict.” For the photo of the round kick, Grandmaster Son points out the importance of balance before, during and after the technique, and the application of Newton’s Third Law of action and reaction, how the upper body is pulled into the kick.

Grandmaster Son also discusses the importance of proper holding and setup, which is every bit as important as technique, focus and balance. In both photographs of Grandmaster Son breaking with the punch and roundhouse kick, the boards are held by two stout men. “A very important factor in these breaking techniques,” Grandmaster Son acknowledges, “is that the object to be broken is not moved with the impact of the blow. If the object is moved back by the force of the blow…there is considerably less chance of having the object actually break.” An alternative method to set up to break is to mount the object to be broken across the space between two proper stable and solid supports and striking straight downward toward the floor. Although any technique which can be suitably directed downward can be used to break in this manner, Grandmaster Son cautions “that the striker must be careful that his hand does not go through the object to be broken too fast and damage itself on the floor underneath.” People, Grandmaster Son acknowledges, make this unfortunate and painful mistake.

Throughout the book, Grandmaster Son addresses misconceptions, demonstrates proper technique, and explains why techniques, even the basics, must be done in the prescribed manner. For example, a proper basic stance is not just about how the feet and hands are positioned; the eyes are also important. “To the casual reader,” Grandmaster Son writes, “it might seem irrelevant that the eyes must be ‘strong’ too. It is our experience, however, that the student cannot achieve a strong stance with ‘weak’ eyes, eyes half shut or eyes wandering from place to place,” Grandmaster Son observes. “’Strong’ eyes pull the mind into focus.” In the case of a knife-hand technique, the fingers must be slightly bent to “insure maximum tension in the hand” and to “make the hand more difficult to hold if it is grabbed by an opponent.” Grandmaster Son notes, “If the fingers are perfectly straight, it is not difficult to grab them and hold the hand tightly. If the fingers are slightly bent and the hand is seized…the hand can be pulled loose. Try it,” Grandmaster Son encourages. Early in the book, Grandmaster Son also addresses a popular misconception at the time that Tae Kwon Do requires disfigurement of the body or hands. “Distortion of the members or of the limbs or the body itself is a fable pure and simple,” explains Grandmaster Son. “Among those who have achieved proficiency in the martial arts are doctors, musicians, artists, draftsmen and others whose livelihood depends upon the use of their hands.” These are only a few of the many examples found in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do.

As masterful and insightful the contents of Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do might be, the book is not without its problems. One problem is the reproduction of the photography. Although more than 10009 photos appear in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, all but one are too small, dark and muddy to discern much detail. Each page measures only 9 in x 7 in, and many photos appear seven or more to a page, making the average photo about 2.5 x 3 inches, the approximate size of a U.S. business card. Some of the low reproduction quality may be due in part to the paper, which is ivory or off-white and somewhat course, although not unusual for a book. A bright smooth paper may have captured greater details in the photographs.

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate


The greatest flaw in Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate, The Art of Tae Kwon Do is in the organization of text, photographs and illustrations. Textual descriptions and photographs and/or illustrations may appear several pages apart, forcing readers to flip back and forth. Another flaw is the small, dark and muddy photographs, which are only about 2.5 x 3.0 inches in size. Details are lost at this size on the relatively course paper of the book.

The greater flaw, however, is the placement of photographs and illustrations in relation to the book’s contents. Although the description of a technique may appear on one page and reference photographs and/or illustrations by number, the illustrations and photographs are likely to appear several pages away from the description. For instance, using the example from Pyong An I in Chapter 6, the text which describes the fourth position starts on page 89 and continues at the top of page 94, while the photographs and illustrations that demonstrate the technique appear on pages 93 and 94. The photographs and foot diagrams for the forms in Chapter 6 are helpful, even necessary, to help students learn the forms, but this flaw makes it considerably more difficult for students and readers to comprehend and visualize the techniques. Unfortunately, this organizational flaw plagues the entire book, making it more difficult for students to learn the three step sparring and practical application sequences, not just the forms. Diligent readers will find themselves flipping back and forth between pages as they read, making comprehension more difficult than expected.

Despite these flaws, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do contains a wealth of knowledge and insight into the earliest years of the art which instructors and students can apply yet today, regardless of affiliation. The core fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do described by Grandmaster Son more than 45 years ago – focus, strength, speed, relaxation, ventilation, balance, accuracy, self-control, and hard work – have not changed. A true master, Grandmaster Son explains why techniques must be done in the prescribed manner throughout the book, all the while identifying and addressing many common misconceptions and errors students and readers may encounter.

Written by one of the founding masters present when Tae Kwon Do was named, Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do also unwittingly reveals the Japanese, Okinawan and possibly Chinese origins which cannot be easily explained away. The iconic cover photograph of Grandmaster Son punching the Kwon Go, or makiwara, looks back through the veil of Korea’s occupation period to Japan, and further back still to Okinawa, where the forging post likely originated, while within its pages, Grandmaster Son describes it and demonstrates its use. Likewise, the Pyong An forms described and demonstrated in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do affirm the same Japanese and Okinawan roots, and in all probability reveal even earlier Chinese influences. The characters which represent the Pyong An forms are Chinese. Finally, the Pyong An patterns, originally named Pinan, may have been given the name of the Chinese monk who created them. Despite General Choi’s best efforts, and the efforts of the Kukkiwon and World Taekwondo Federation, to convince the world that Tae Kwon Do evolved from Korean martial arts more than 2,000 years old, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do is a modern artifact which provides powerful clues to the probable foreign origins of the art.

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Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate (Part 2)

An Artifact of Tae Kwon Do History

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do

Although the title, cover photo and forms in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do reveal much about the early history of the Tae Kwon Do taught by Grandmaster Son, the purpose of his book is to educate curious, English-speaking Western readers about the mysterious martial art of Tae Kwon Do. For Grandmaster Son, these readers are likely to have a high school education, and perhaps some college experience. Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do uses formal language and sentence structures throughout the book, reminiscent of college textbooks from the same period. Curiously, Grandmaster Son also shuns all things Korean throughout the book, except the art itself of course. The book is written entirely in English. All techniques of the Korean art – stances, kicks, blocks, strikes, exercises & etc. – are presented wholly in English; none are identified by their Korean equivalent. This makes Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do less confusing, perhaps, for Western readers.

[panel style=”panel-default” title=”Sidebar: Duk Sung Son’s Letter, Published 16 June 1959 in the Seoul Shinmun (Translated into English)” footer=” Duk Sung Son’s Letter, Published 16 June 1959 in the Seoul Shinmun”]

With morality and humbleness, the Taekwondo Chung Do Kwan is determined to punish those traitors who threw away their trust to the other numerous Kwans. Especially after Lee Won Kuk left Korea, the traitors deceptively contacted these other Kwans, used the dojang under their own names to slanderously spread their own names. We can no longer watch these violations and wish to make clear to the nation so the Chung Do Kwan is not misunderstood. Therefore, we lay bare their criminal acts.

A Brief History of the Chung Do Kwan

Lee Won Kuk returned from Japan to open his dojang in Yong Chun, Suh Dae Moon Ku in 1944 and produced disciplines (Sado). Following the liberation of Korea, Lee moved his dojang to the Si Chun Church Hall, Kyun Ji Dong and continued to teach. When the Korean War broke out, the members were separated and became refugees, but I gathered some members and continued to teach. When the Allied Forces retreated on January 1, 1951, Lee Won Kuk said he was old and no longer able to teach, so he wanted me to be the next Kwan Jang. I became his successor.

After I returned to the capital city of Seoul, I found Hyun Jong Myun leading the school, but he insisted that I take over the school, perhaps because he thought he couldn’t handle or take the responsibility. My juniors also insisted that I take over. Finally, when Jung Yong Taek, who ran away to Japan, brought a message that nominated me to the Kwan Jang position by Lee Won Kuk, I agreed to be the next Kwan Jang. Because I did not charge the black belts and policemen the 300 hwan fee, I started to have financial problems. At the time, I could not even pay the Sabums. Despite the net loss from operating the Chung Do Kwan, I continued to organize ceremonies and tournaments, and spread the Chung Do Kwan and Taekwondo in published news articles.

After several months, I came back to Seoul and found out Lee Won Kuk and his family all ran away to Japan. I thought they were living in Pusan. Jung Yong Taek also ran away to Japan, but came back several times during the year. However he did not know what Lee Won Kuk and his family’s situation or business was. Lee Won Kuk’s sister in law, Moon Myung Ja, also frequently flew back and forth between Korean and Japan. I don’t know why she visited Korea so often. Jung Yong Taek and Moon Myung Ja were jealous of the Chung Do Kwan’s growth and devised a plan to split the Chung Do Kwan. At last, they formed an illicit connection with discontented members of the Chung Do Kwan and returned to Korea. They obtained not a nomination certificate (Im Myung Jung), but a notice statement (Ji Ryung Jung) signed by Lee Won Kuk. On June 4, 1959, the notice statement was given to Uhm Woon Kyu.

The Korean traitors who ran away to Japan were a matter of regret for me. They don’t know that they will be punished at last. Nam Tae Hi asked me to give a dan certificate to 29th Infantry Division commander Choi Hong Hi, who had some experience in martial art (Sado), so we could use his military authority to spread the Chung Do Kwan. To contribute to Taekwondo’s development, I gave an Honorary 4th Dan certificate signed by myself, Son Duk Sung, to Choi Hong Hi in front of the 3rd Army commander in 1955.

In 1957, Choi insisted that I give him a 6th Dan and sent a certificate he prepared in my name for me to sign. Because Choi and I were sworn brothers, and because my younger brother had a 6th Dan, he wanted one also. I tore up the certificate he sent to me without signing it. General Choi was also sending instructors (Sabums) to Vietnam, but he did that on his own authority and chose the number of instructors to send without consulting me. He also lied and stated that he had 24 years experience in martial arts practice (Sa Do Soo Ryun) and spread propaganda about himself. Therefore, it was unavoidable that I had to cancel his Honorary 4th Dan certificate and Honorary Kwan Jang position.

The Nomination of Sabums

After I received the position of 2nd Kwan Jang of the Chung Do Kwan, I nominated Min Wook Sik, Hyun Jong Myun, and Uhm Woon Kyu as Sabums. Later, I nominated Nam Tae Hi as a Sabum and Uhm Woon Kyu as a Standing or Permanent Sabum (Sang Im Sabum). However Hyun Jong Myun, Uhm Woon Kyu and Nam Tae Hi acted as if they were at war against me and frequently contacted with people who ran away to Japan. Who can nominate a Kwan Jang in a private dojang except the legal person with the authority? I myself am willing to give up my position as the Kwan Jang, if I see a promising and capable person who can be the next successor, but I am still looking for that person. There is no excuse for the actions of Uhm Woon Kyu, when he was sent by me to teach Taekwondo at the Korea Military Academy, Sung Kyun Kwan University and Seoul National University. He should have known better as an educated person. But I feel very sorry for those who received just a notice statement (Ji Ryung Jung) and not a nomination certificate (Im Myung Jung) from him. If he thought about all the other Taekwondo schools and the Chung Do Kwan’s future, he would not do such a betrayal. I want the wise citizens of Korea to judge this matter. When I found out about these matters, I expelled them from the membership on behalf of my name. All the more, the Chung Do Kwan will unite ever more and practice rigorously for tournaments in the future, so please do not be disturbed by this whole action.

Expelled members: Hyun Jong Myun – Uhm Woon Kyu – Nam Tae Hi

Cancellation of Honorary 4th Dan certificate and Honorary Kwan Jang position: Choi Hong Hi

June 15, 1959
Kwan Jang Son Duk Sung


In 1968, Tae Kwon Do was new to the people of the United States, who generally only knew what they had seen on television and in movies. Grandmaster Son acknowledges that these mediums have emphasized only the spectacular feats of Tae Kwon Do and that people believed that it is only about breaking boards and roofing tiles, and fighting. In this book, Grandmaster Son seeks to bridge the gap between the public’s perception and the true art of Tae Kwon Do so they may more fully understand and appreciate the art being taught around the world. In Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son skilfully both promotes his art and educates readers by presenting to readers a complete curriculum by which to train students from 10th gup to 1st gup, from white belt to brown or red belt (depending on the dojang), in Tae Kwon Do, or “Korean Karate.” In the book, Grandmaster Son defines Tae Kwon Do, shares a general history of martial arts, and discusses the many facets of the art, including its tangible and intangible benefits; warm-up and stretching exercises; basic strikes, kicks and blocks; formal patterns; three step sparring; practical applications, i.e. self-defense; free-style fighting; and breaking.

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son

Taekwondo Demo by GM Duk Sung Son

Taekwondo Demo by GM Duk Sung Son

Grandmaster Son assumes that readers of Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do are not at all familiar with the Korean martial art, except for the spectacular fight scenes or breaking demonstrations they might have seen on television. In the first three chapters, while only 17 pages long, Grandmaster Son skillfully explains that Tae Kwon Do is not only a physical or fighting art but an art of the mind and spirit as well. These chapters are important chapters to understand Tae Kwon Do as taught by Grandmaster Son. Grandmaster Son traces a general history of the Asian martial arts, of which Tae Kwon Do is a part; illustrates the physical, mental and spiritual challenges of the art; and describes the art’s interrelated fundamental skills. Both beginning and advanced students are likely to find it rewarding to read and re-read these chapters, for the fundamentals that Grandmaster Son expertly defines and explains still apply to modern Tae Kwon Do of all flavors.

To help define Tae Kwon Do for the layman, Grandmaster Son briefly groups it with similar arts in China, Okinawa, Japan, Burma and Thailand, then insightfully postulates that the similar arts in these countries may have evolved from a single unknown martial art or evolved through normal cultural exchanges during peace and war. Grandmaster Son explains that the martial arts in Southeast Asia may have originated with Indian Buddhist monks who traveled to China and taught Ch’uan-fa, or Kempo, to Chinese kings and monks as they went. China, notes Grandmaster Son, held temporal power over most of Asia at one time or another, including Okinawa, Japan and Korea, and it is probable that Kempo found its way to Korea, influencing the ancient Korean knights, nobles and soldiers known as Hwa Rang Do, a group frequently noted in the history of ancient Korean martial arts; to Okinawa where it was called Okinawa-te or To-de; and later to Japan, where it was called Karate. Aside from acknowledging a likely influence from China on the ancient Korean martial arts, Grandmaster Son broadly defines Tae Kwon Do as a generic study of kicks and punches that from ancient Korean times passed from generation to generation, until Grandmaster Duk Sung Son himself single-handedly formalized it in 1950 and began teaching it to branches of the Korean Army and to cadets at the Korean military academy, the equivalent of West Point Military Academy in the United States. Grandmaster Son also notes that his advanced students taught the art of Tae Kwon Do at Korean colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, at no time in Grandmaster Son’s retelling of the history of Tae Kwon Do itself is any other person credited.

Unfortunately, at no time in Grandmaster Son’s retelling of the history of Tae Kwon Do itself is any other person credited. It is surprising that Grandmaster Son takes sole credit for the formalization of Tae Kwon Do, completely ignoring his Master instructor, Won Kuk Lee; or Won Kuk Lee’s Shotokan instructor, Gichin Funakoshi, whom Won Kuk Lee likely mentioned during the six years Grandmaster Son studied with him; or any leader from any of the other founding kwans. (Readers will remember, however, that Grandmaster Son names Gichin Funakoshi in the history of karate.) One would expect Grandmaster Son to respect and remain loyal to Won Kuk Lee, his Master instructor, by giving him credit where credit is due. On the other hand, it is no surprise that Grandmaster Son never mentions General Choi in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, excluding him just as Grandmaster Son himself had been excluded 13 years before.

body and sound magazine

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son was featured in an article in the March 1990 issue of Omni magazine. The article, titled “Martial Arts: A Road Warrior’s Odyssey,” summarized a single day’s training in several martial arts. Grandmaster Son’s Tae Kwon Do is the first martial art discussed in the article, along with a contemporary photo of Grandmaster Son, who was then 67 years old.

Although most readers may have seen martial arts on television or in movies, “there is more to Tae Kwon Do than simple violence,” writes Grandmaster Son. It is a subject to be studied seriously, but it is also an “interesting and stimulating form of exercise…or diversion,” suitable not only for men but for women and children too, teaching self-protection and self-control, and offering physical exercise and improved health. Students, Grandmaster Son wisely notes, take from Tae Kwon Do what they put into it, in direct proportion to their efforts. To learn Tae Kwon Do for a slight advantage in an attack, six months of fairly intensive study is needed, according to Grandmaster Son. “To be able to meet any assailant under any conditions and be confident, however…an absolute minimum of two years would be required for exceptional students and three for most,” asserts Grandmaster Son. The sensational breaking and fighting that readers have seen on TV and in movies are “much like the visible part of an iceberg,” Grandmaster Son writes, accomplished through arduous study and practice. At several points, Grandmaster Son, a well-known champion of traditional Tae Kwon Do, not the modern sport variety, compares proficient students with dedicated and disciplined athletes in [other] sports, specifically pole vaulting, boxing and swimming (sports which are, ironically, Olympic sporting events, the ranks of which WTF/Kukki Tae Kwon Do will join 30 years hence). Heightened physical conditioning, a core attribute of well-trained athletes, is a natural result of learning and practicing Tae Kwon Do.

[Tweet ” Heightened physical conditioning, a core attribute of well-trained athletes, is a natural result of learning and practicing #TKD”]

Grandmaster Son concisely and adeptly defines and explains the fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do in the early chapters of Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do. These fundamentals – focus, strength, speed, relaxation, ventilation, balance, accuracy, self-control, and hard work – are so intertwined as to be inseparable, all working together in harmony. However, Grandmaster Son tells readers and beginning students, the fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do, as with other similarly artistic enterprises, “are not milestones which one approaches, passes and leaves behind…As the student moves…through various stages of achievement, the obvious growing control of the body, mind and even the spirit is…evident.” To understand these fundamentals is to understand Grandmaster Son’s Tae Kwon Do as he taught it soon after arriving in New York City, but also as he taught it at the Chung Do Kwan in Korea a decade before. Modern students of Tae Kwon Do are likely to recognize these fundamentals, which lay at the heart of the many branches of Tae Kwon Do yet today.

Focus is the concentration of the entire physical force of the body, mind and spirit at the point of contact with the selected part of the body. Tae Kwon Do students train to increase the power of their punches by training all the parts of the body to work together, writes Grandmaster Son, to concentrate all of the physical force at the precise point and moment of impact. Focus, however, is also concentration of the mind, so that the mind is free of extraneous thoughts which restrict the cooperation between the mind and the body, the student seeing and reacting swiftly to an attack. “The thought process must be bypassed,” Grandmaster Son writes, “There is not time to think.”

Grandmaster Son's Korean Karate

The Art of Tae Kwon Do are classic photographs of Grandmaster Son and his students training in Central Park in New York City. “It bears pointing out,” Grandmaster Son chides, “that the Tae Kwon Do uniform is not generally worn in public except for the specific purpose of competition or giving an exhibition – or taking pictures. Drawing attention to his interest and perhaps ability in Tae Kwon Do is one of the things the Tae Kwon Doist eschews. For informal exercises in a public place, the most suitable outfit is old clothes.

Strength, speed and, ironically, relaxation, are other physical fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do. Without them, focus is next to meaningless. Strength can be improved by exercise. However, Grandmaster Son notes, the muscles used in Tae Kwon Do are used in such unique ways that they do not provide much benefit for other athletic endeavors as described above, and vice versa. “Raw physical strength,” writes Grandmaster Son, “is in itself of little use in Tae Kwon Do even if it is the right kind of strength. It must be harnessed and concentrated in the right place at the right time.” To properly apply strength, students of Tae Kwon Do must also develop speed, “the handmaiden of strength.” It is “basic and fundamental to successful development in Tae Kwon Do.” Grandmaster Son cites a basic principle of physics, also known as Newton’s second law of motion, that force is proportionate to mass and its acceleration, or F=MA, which means that the greater the speed of an attack, the more force or power that is generated by the attack. Of course, Grandmaster Son writes, speed plays another important role in Tae Kwon Do. The speedy attack arrives at its target before it can be countered, thereby making the attack effective. Physical speed, in harmony with a focused mind, makes it possible for the body to respond before the mind registers an attack or opening.

[Tweet “Strength, speed and, ironically, relaxation, are other physical fundamentals of #TKD”]

Relaxation, on the other hand, affects both speed and power. To layman or beginning students, relaxation may appear to be the antithesis of speed and power. However, “relaxation is vital,” Grandmaster Son writes. “Neither speed nor strength will be capable of achievement unless [the student]has learned to relax.” Readers will remember that focus involves both the mind and body. “If the body is fully relaxed during focus,” Grandmaster Son notes, “the mind will also be relaxed, so that it is ready to receive impressions and to react.” Focus, as defined by Grandmaster Son, occurs simultaneously in the mind and the body, and is manifested within the last eight to twelve inches of technique, the moment that everything inside pulls together and delivers force at the point of impact. Grandmaster Son also recognizes that an anxious and unrelaxed mind is reflected in the body. Failure to be relaxed in mind or body except during this period of focus affect the ability of students to attack and defend in two ways. First, failure to be physically relaxed causes premature fatigue because the body is tense and tight at all times, not just within the period of physical focus. Second, failure to be relaxed in mind or body also slows attack and defense. Mentally, extraneous thoughts interfere with the ability to deliver a well-timed attack or defense. Physically, the student’s muscles work against one another, counteracting each other, further slowing attack and defense. “Relaxation is not an easy discipline to develop,” acknowledges Grandmaster Son. Beginners fear being embarrassed or hit when they first begin to face opponents for free-style fighting, a state of mind which causes their bodies to likewise be tense. This is natural, Grandmaster Son assures students, “Courage gives one the ability to fight in spite of fear. To relax at the same time takes a large measure of self-control which comes as one progresses in the study of Tae Kwon Do.”

The next two fundamentals, exhalation and ventilation, involve the process of breathing. Exhalation, the easiest fundamental to learn, manifests itself in loud verbalizations at the moment of focus. Most readers who have seen Tae Kwon Do, or any martial art, on television or in movies, will be familiar with these loud verbalizations, but not with their purpose. Grandmaster Son calls this loud verbalization a “bark.” This bark is better known to students of Tae Kwon Do as a kihap, the Korean word meaning “to yell,” although Grandmaster Son does not use any Korean in his book. “Bark” is an unexpected term which also dates Grandmaster Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do to the 1960s. The term, although antiquated, is correct. English dictionaries define a bark as a sharp, explosive, aggressive cry. This “bark” ensures that the student exhales, writes Grandmaster Son. “Nature says the maximum concentration of physical output is achieved on the exhale,” he argues. “Tigers roar when they charge…Battle cries are common to human combat as well.” Barks at the moment of striking also serve a secondary function, Grandmaster Son believes. Such barks, if loud and explosive enough, paralyze an opponent for a fraction of a second and provide the student of Tae Kwon Do an advantage over his opponent. Grandmaster Son is quick to note, however, that when students of Tae Kwon Do spar in the dojang, “the paralyzing effect ceases to exist because the opponent has heard the sudden noise many times before.”

Grandmaster Son's Korean Karate

Grandmaster Son demonstrates the fundamental of focus on a makiwara, heavy bag, and breaking with a punch and a kick in these pages.

Ventilation, the fundamental related to exhalation, is something people in general never think about. It is an automatic reflex, but because we do not think about it, we do not fully exercise it. “Consequently,” writes Grandmaster Son, “as studies have shown, we use [only] a sixth of our lung capacity in normal breathing.” Students of Tae Kwon Do learn to ventilate their lungs properly and increase their lung capacity through deep breathing exercises, which Grandmaster Son explains later in the book. Deep breathing exercises also strengthen the lower abdomen, the source of Tae Kwon Do power, according to Grandmaster Son. “The logic of proper breathing is based on the physiological function of breathing,” Grandmaster Son writes. Increased lung capacity and adequate ventilation make both greater physical output and sustained physical output possible. Proper breathing, Grandmaster Son notes, is “important to the Tae Kwon Doist as it is to any athlete.”

As students of Tae Kwon Do practice the basic exercises and forms, they develop balance and accuracy, the next two fundamental skills of Tae Kwon Do. They learn to initiate all their techniques from a position of balance and to return to a position of balance. “Balance is, of course, a requisite of any athletic effort,” notes Grandmaster Son. If students are not well balanced, especially in free-style sparring, they will not be able to adequately attack and defend, and their opponents will take advantage of the imbalance to win. In a real fight, however, an imbalanced student may be seriously injured by his opponent. Students of Tae Kwon Do likewise develop accuracy, another basic requirement, as they practice the forms and basic exercises. “In order for an attack to be effective,” Grandmaster Son writes, “it must be directed to a specific part of the opponent, and it must in fact go where it is directed.” Readers will understand that, since the fundamentals all work together, a powerful, fast, balanced attack will be meaningless if it cannot strike its intended target because the student has not learned accuracy. However, “The element of accuracy,” Grandmaster Son reflects, “is refined in Tae Kwon Do more than in other sports. A blow or a kick is not just thrown at the opponent: it is directed to the eyes, the bridge of the nose, the temple, or [other target].” Grandmaster Son teaches students to strike specific targets the size of a small U.S. coin, specifically a dime.

Earlier in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son defines Tae Kwon Do as an art of self-control. Good sportsmanship, another fundamental of Tae Kwon Do, is a function of self-control. Students of Tae Kwon Do are expected to adhere to a code of ethics “based upon good sportsmanship and just plain good manners,” writes Grandmaster Son. “When one is dealing with lethal weapons, it is particularly necessary that the rules of good sportsmanship be observed.” Although “violence…is a part of Tae Kwon Do,” Grandmaster Son notes, “it is only a part. Moreover, it is controlled violence.” Good sportsmanship demands good losing and graceful winning, but it is not confined to the dojang. “[Good sportsmanship] must become an essential part of the [student’s] way of living and way of conducting his day-to-day affairs.” As the student of Tae Kwon Do observes its code of ethics and practices good sportsmanship, the student learns good manners. “Good manners are a natural adjunct to good sportsmanship,” Grandmaster Son contends. Good manners, for Grandmaster Son, include not talking to excess or bragging; wearing a clean, well kept uniform to class; paying attention in class; and leaving class early only with prior permission from the instructor.

Korean Karate Book 3

As students of Tae Kwon Do practice the basic exercises and forms, they develop balance and accuracy, two fundamental skills of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son intones in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do. They learn to initiate all their techniques from a position of balance and to return to a position of balance.

Hard work is the last fundamental described in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do. Grandmaser Son refers to it periodically throughout these early chapters. “Hard physical work is necessary in order to acquire the requisite potential of these [fundamentals] of Tae Kwon Do,” Grandmaster Son writes. Readers will recall that Grandmaster Son believes that a minimum of six months of fairly intensive study and practice is required for students to gain a small competitive edge in an attack. More specifically, Grandmaster Son believes that,

“In the early stages there should be a workout of one and a half hours, three or four times a week. This will give [students] a knowledge of Tae Kwon Do but not a proficiency in it. To achieve true proficiency at the black belt level, [students] must put in approximately an hour and a half a day seven days a week. We have found it impossible to get ‘over the hump’ and achieve the control of the body to the extent necessary for black belt proficiency without total application seven days a week.”

For Grandmaster Son and his students, “There is no shortcut…There is no substitute for [hard work] and no good Taekwondoist has achieved his skill without it.” In fact, Grandmaster Son clearly scolds students who do not expect to work hard and schools which do not require hard work. “Students who think they can avoid hard work and schools which devotedly teach only graceful movements are simply wasting their time,” Grandmaster Son admonishes. This attitude reflects a similar attitude expressed by the old Okinawan saying presented earlier in this review: “A dojo without a makiwara is nothing more than a dance school.”

The less tangible aspect of Tae Kwon Do, the spiritual aspect, however, is more important than the physical aspects, according to Grandmaster Son. “Without it, the student cannot tap the inner resources inside himself to become really proficient,” he writes. Along with the ability to harm, students of Tae Kwon Do also learn the responsibility to control their ability to harm. As physical skill develops, an inner sense of responsibility develops along with it. The spiritual weakness that encourages a man to bully others, Grandmaster Son believes, also makes it impossible for the bully to be proficient in Tae Kwon Do. Instead the bully, who does not have the inner reserves to continue with the arduous task of learning Tae Kwon Do, simply quits. Bullies who discover within themselves the fortitude and spirit to continue, however, find their weakness strengthened in proportion to their training and study. They find measures of self-control.

As we have seen, Grandmaster Son compares students of Tae Kwon Do with disciplined athletes. Grandmaster Son also makes a similar comparison between the practice of Tae Kwon Do and other artistic endeavors in these early chapters. Like other artists, serious students of Tae Kwon Do strive to improve with every performance, but according to Grandmaster Son, perfection will always remain out of reach. Serious students of Tae Kwon Do also discover that, although they learn the fundamentals and techniques, they apply and combine them in unique ways. So adept is Grandmaster Son’s comparison, it is best summarized in his own words:

“As in the case of painting, singing or any other human activity generally classified as an art, the art is in the striving and the goal is never reached…The goals always remain ahead because, no matter how fast or strong or coordinated a movement is, it can always be done faster or more strongly or with better coordination…Perfection is never achieved…It is well known that great artists in music, painting, writing and so on never feel they have created the perfect work…In the case of playing the violin, an individual can be taught the mechanics of the art, but the final expression has to come from the total of his own personality. Similarly, free-style fighting techniques must have certain basic patterns and limitations, but the style of the final product is entirely up to the individual.”

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Grandmaster Duk Sung Son's Korean Karate (Part 1)

An Artifact of Tae Kwon Do History

Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do

[panel style=”panel-default” title=”” footer=””]The article first appeared in Totally Taekwondo, edited by Stuart Anslow) April, May, & July 2013.[/panel]

Duk Sung Son, Richard Chun, Ki Whang Kim, Sijak Henry Cho and Jhoon Rhee are credited with being among the first Korean masters to bring Tae Kwon Do, a hard martial art, characterized by powerful blocks, kicks and strikes, to the United States and popularize it in the 1960s. However, unlike the other masters who immigrated to and pioneered the art in America, only Duk Sung Son was present and assisted at the “birth” of Tae Kwon Do.

Many Tae Kwon Do stylists today, especially those younger than 30, know little if anything about Grandmaster Duk Sung Son (1922 – 2011) or his role in the early years of Tae Kwon Do. Duk Sung Son’s impact on Tae Kwon Do is often relegated to little more than a footnote in the history of Tae Kwon Do, overshadowed by General Choi Hong Hi. Grandmaster Son’s leadership, influence and martial arts talents, however, were substantial.

In 1968, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son published the first of two books, Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do. Published in the United States by Prentice-Hall, Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do was the second book in the English language written by a member of the Tae Kwon Do Naming Committee. The first was General Choi Hong Hi’s Taekwon-Do: The Art of Self-Defence, published three years earlier in 1965 by the Daeha Publication Company in Korea. Like General Choi’s book, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s book offers a well-rounded syllabus for promotion in Tae Kwon Do, or “Korean Karate”, from 10th gup (white belt) to 1st gup (brown or red belt). It includes a definition and history of Tae Kwon Do; warm-up exercises; basic strikes, kicks and blocks; patterns; three step sparring; practical applications; free-style fighting; and breaking. As an early record of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do also reveals, intentionally or not, the intertwining histories of the Okinawan, Korean and Japanese martial arts.

Book Cover: Korean Karate

Book Cover: Korean Karate

The first thing that students will notice about Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do is its unusual title. “Korean Karate” is an odd title for a book about Tae Kwon Do. In fact, many instructors of Tae Kwon Do will be the first to tell you that Tae Kwon Do is not karate. “Karate is Japanese,” they would say. “Tae Kwon Do is Korean. They are not the same.” However, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son clearly says that Tae Kwon Do is a Korean style of karate in the title of this book. Readers may quickly dismiss Grandmaster Son’s claim as simply a clever title, since Grandmaster Son’s book is about “the art of Tae Kwon Do.” But Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do is more than a clever title. In a single stroke it reveals to readers the influence of Japanese karate on the Korean art of Tae Kwon Do. The contents of Grandmaster Son’s book, however, reveals much more about the history of Tae Kwon Do.

The second thing that readers will notice about Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do is its cover, which features perhaps the best-known photograph of Grandmaster Duk Sung Son. This photograph is quite likely one of the most memorable photographs ever taken of any martial artist. In the photograph, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son punches a Kwon Go, or makiwara, a padded post or board used to condition the parts of the body for fighting. Grandmaster Son displays complete focus, all his muscles tensed at the exact moment of impact. The muscles of his neck stand out like cords and his mouth is pulled open with the effort of his attack on the makiwara. The photograph is well-known for good reason. It is a dramatically lit black-and-white photograph taken at the perfect moment of impact. Once a student has seen the photograph, he is not likely to forget it.

The masterful photograph is the perfect choice for the cover of Grandmaster Duk Sung Son’s first book. It accurately reflects the character of its contents: A martial art with roots in Okinawan karate mastered through diligent effort. “The fundamental is hard work…It is frequently overlooked, but without it all the other fundamentals do not count…There is no way around [it]and nothing can possibly take its place,” writes Grandmaster Son in Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do. The makiwara that Grandmaster Son strikes in the photograph innocently reveals one root of Tae Kwon Do, which many in Korea sought to obscure after World War II. Makiwara is a Japanese word which means “forging post,” but the makiwara itself originated in Okinawa. Traditional Okinawan dojos have a makiwara, and there is an old Okinawan saying, “A dojo without a makiwara is nothing more than a dance school.”

The histories of the hard martial arts of Japan, Okinawa and Korea are immutably intertwined. In 1609, the Japanese conquered the Kingdom of Ryukyu on the Okinawa Islands, and subsequently banned weapons and the teaching of indigenous martial arts. Out of necessity, Okinawans began in secret to practice to-de, or “China hand,” a traditional empty-handed fighting system which had been blended with various Chinese martial arts. To-de, sometimes called Okinawa-te, translates to karate in Japanese. Gichin Funakoshi, an Okinawan and founder of Shotokan karate, demonstrated his style of Okinawa-te in Japan in 1917 and again in 1922 at the invitation of the Japanese Ministry of Education, and thereafter taught the art of Shotokan karate at several institutions in Japan. In 1931 when Japan invaded China, Sensei Funakoshi would change the meaning from “China hand” to “empty hand” by changing the first character but not the pronunciation. Among Gichin Funakoshi’s students were Won Kuk Lee and General Choi Hong Hi, pioneers of Tae Kwon Do. Today, more than 400 years later, Okinawa remains Japan’s southernmost prefecture.

Korea similarly became a Japanese protectorate in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, Japan forcibly annexed Korea and banned all weapons and the teaching of indigenous martial arts, just as it had on the Okinawan islands 300 years before. The indigenous martial art of Taekyun, whose practice had already declined, was practiced in secret and further declined; by 1945 only a single Taekyun master, Song Duk-Ki, would remain. Within a decade of Korea’s annexation, it was customary for Koreans to travel to Japan for a better education and, subsequently, better opportunities. Koreans studying in Japan were allowed to learn karate. Some Koreans earned their black belts and, at the end of World War II, returned to their homeland, where they began to teach the karate they had learned. The word karate translated into Korean is Tang Soo Do (“way of the China hand”) and Kong Soo Do, (“way of the empty hand”). Won Kuk Lee, who had earned his 4th degree black belt in Shotokan karate from Gichin Funakoshi, founded the first such school, or kwan, in Seoul in 1944. Won Kuk Lee named his school the Chung Do Kwan. Duk Sung Son joined the Chung Do Kwan soon after it opened and began to learn Tang Soo Do as one of Won Kuk Lee’s senior students.

In 1950, Won Kuk Lee returned to Japan, and Duk Sung Son became headmaster of the Chung Do Kwan, which by that time had become the most influential of the five original schools which taught the similar martial arts that would later be named Tae Kwon Do. As headmaster, Duk Sung Son steadfastly promoted the Chung Do Kwan martial art of Tang Soo Do. Duk Sung Son himself taught Tang Soo Do to the Seoul police and the 8th U.S. Army. He also sent advanced students to teach at the most prestigious Korean institutions, including the Korean Military Academy, the Sung Kyun Kwan University and the Seoul National University. Korean President Rhee Seung Man named Duk Sung Son chief instructor of the Republic of South Korea’s Army, where Duk Sung Son first met General Choi, who had, like Won Kuk Lee, studied Shotokan karate with Gichin Funakoshi, and who would soon lead the increasingly important military branch of Duk Sung Son’s Chung Do Kwan. Due to Duk Sung Son’s tireless efforts, the Chung Do Kwan became the largest and most powerful of the original kwans in South Korea.

On April 11, 1955 Duk Sung Son and General Choi attended a special meeting of representatives of the five major kwans, members of the press, and representatives of the Korean government to offer a single name to unify the martial arts being taught in Korea since the country’s liberation after World War II. This committee was originally known as the “First Advisory Committee for Duk Sung Son’s Chung Do Kwan,” a name later changed by General Choi to “Tae Kwon Do’s Naming Committee,” a change which semantically minimized Duk Sung Son’s role in naming Tae Kwon Do. It is generally accepted that at this meeting General Choi suggested the name “Tae Kwon Do,” which he and Nam Tae Hi, one of General Choi’s instructors, had created using Chinese and Korean dictionaries and which sounded similar to Taekyun, the traditional Korean kicking art. Other stories about this fateful meeting, however, say that the Chung Do Kwan as a group, under the guidance and leadership of Master Duk Sung Son, proposed the name “Tae Kwon Do.” Some even say that Master Duk Sung Son himself handed a slip of paper to General Choi on which he suggested the name “Tae Kwon Do,” although this has not been reliably substantiated.

Taekwondo Naming Committee 1955

Members of the naming committee who proposed the name “Tae Kwon Do” & submitted it to President Rhee Seung Man for endorsement. Seated from the left: Nam Tae Hi, Duk Sung Son and General Choi Hong Hi. Other members included members of the press and representatives of President Rhee Seung Man.

In the years following this fateful meeting, General Choi’s military power and political influence continued to increase, both at the Chung Do Kwan and publicly, as Duk Sung Son’s influence began to wane. In 1959, Duk Sung Son published a letter in the Seoul Shinmun, a South Korean newspaper, in which he dismissed General Choi and other advanced students from the Chung Do Kwan over philosophical concerns. This single irrevocable act instantly separated Duk Sung Son from General Choi and the other senior students named in the article, and Master Duk Sung Son was soon ousted from the Chung Do Kwan and excluded from all sports organizations in Korea, including the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association, an important organization in the early growth of Tae Kwon Do.

In 1963, in response to these events and to escape the continued political discord in Korea, Duk Sung Son traveled to the United States and started anew. He began to teach Tae Kwon Do, or “Korean Karate” as it was called in the United States in the 1960s, in Central Park in New York City. He opened his own gym between 21st Street and 7th, and began teaching the art at West Point Military Academy, the University of Princeton, New York State University and the YMCA in New Jersey, among other locations. Duk Sung Son was featured on the cover of the October 1964 issue of Esquire magazine, alongside famous heavyweight boxer Carmine Basilio and professional wrestler Antonino Rocca, advertising an article about how to defend oneself in a barroom brawl. He is also featured in Omni magazine in March 1990 as one of the top five U.S. martial arts masters. He demonstrated Tae Kwon Do to thousands of visitors at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City. Together with several of the Chung Do Kwan masters who had immigrated to the U.S. with him, Grandmaster Son also established the Tae Han Karate Association, which in 1966 became the World Taekwondo Association. At its peak, the World Taekwondo Association listed more than 495 schools in the U.S.A., Venezuela and Australia, and it became the largest Tae Kwon Do organization in the United States. Five years after immigrating to the United States, Grandmaster Duk Sung Son published his first book, Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do.

Esquire Cover with GM Duk Sung Son

Esquire Cover with GM Duk Sung Son

In Korean Karate: The Art of Tae Kwon Do, Grandmaster Son is insightful about the history of the Asian martial arts. He acknowledges that Tae Kwon Do has its counterparts in other countries of the Orient, including Japan, Okinawa, China, Burma and Thailand, and further acknowledges that the similarities between the martial arts in these countries “suggests either a common origin or a substantial cross-fertilization or both” which “can be explained, at least in part, by the natural communications in both peace and war among the countries of the Orient.” In the matter of only a few pages, Grandmaster Son reviews the history of the martial arts in China, Okinawa and Japan, mentioning Gichin Funakoshi by name. Grandmaster Son, however, stops short of saying that Tae Kwon Do, previously known as Tang Soo Do and Kong Soo Do in Korea, evolved from karate. Instead, he reports the politically correct history: Tae Kwon Do dates back more than 2000 years to ancient Korean knights and nobles, which is the same “official” history first recounted by General Choi in the 1950s and published in his Taekwon-do: The Art of Self-Defence in 1965, and now currently published by the Kukkiwon, the world headquarters for Taekwondo established by the government of South Korea, and by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), the governing body for the International Olympic Committee for Olympic Tae Kwon Do around the world.1

Ironically, Chapter 6 contradicts Grandmaster Son’s assertion that Tae Kwon Do dates back to ancient Korea. The bulk of Chapter 6 instructs students on the specific forms required for testing up to but not including black belt at Grandmaster Son’s dojang: Kuk Mu I, Kuk Mu II, Pyong An I, Pyong An II, Pyong An III, Pyong An IV, Pyong An V, Chul Gi I, and Pal Sek. All but two of these forms are borrowed from Okinawan karate, which Gichin Funakoshi had taught to Won Kuk Lee, who likewise taught these forms to his students at the Chung Do Kwan, including Duk Sung Son, who likewise taught them to his students in Korea and, later, the United States. Grandmaster Son himself developed the first two forms in the curriculum, Kuk Mu I and Kuk Mu II, to train the Korean military. The Pyong An, Chul Gi and Pal Sek forms were developed in Okinawa by masters of Okinawa-te. The Pyong An series is known as the Heian forms in Japan and as the Pinan series in Okinawa.2 They were changed to their Japanized form around 1920 by Gichin Funakoshi. Chul Gi is known as Naihanchi in Okinawan karate; in Shotokan karate it is known as Tekki. Pal Sek is known as Bassai or Balsek in various Korean, Japanese and Okinawan karate organizations.

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Hwang Kee and his innovations

In the “Kukkiwon-derivative” TaeKwonDo-world Hwang Kee is almost unknown. In most texts he is sometimes mentioned in the history chapter as the man who founded Moo Duk Kwan in 1945 and that is just about it. I for one find Kukkiwons treatment of Taekwondo history perplexing at times. The official story in their Kukkiwon textbook almost leads people to believe that Taekwondo is thousands of years old and focuses a lot on the three kingdoms era untill the beginning of 1900s. The period from 1910 and onwards is not explained in-depth just mentioning the schools that were founded in the 1940s onward that were going to be united and found TaeKwonDo.

See Also: Martial art TaeKwonDo pioneers and promoters
Hwang Kee Portrait

Hwang Kee Portrait

Moo Duk Kwan was one of those schools and an important root of the present Kukkiwon system. I therefore find their treatment of history perplexing as they only spend about one or two sentences on a man that should be devoted a chapter (as should all the founders of the 9 original Kwan). This is post is just my small contribution on setting the record straight and honouring those that should be honoured.

Before I go on to write a little about his martial arts experiences before founding the Moo Duk Kwan I think I should write that they are all unverified except for Hwang Kee`s own testimony. Nevertheless his final system was if not derived from his alleged training and studies at least strongly influenced by the arts he told he did study.

Taek Kyon influence

Hwang Kee was born in what is now the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. He said in his books and interviews that he trained and mastered the art of Taek Kyon in his youth. Taek Kyon is in some circles believed to be the foundation of modern Taekwondo. Many of our more “spectacular” and circular kicking techniques, and modern sparring format seems to have its roots in Taek Kyon. If not directly then at least it has had some influence on it.

Kwon Bup / Quan Fa influence

In the 1930s Hwang travelled to Japanese controlled China (Manchuria) to work on a railroad there. While working he came into contact with one Yang Kuk Jin, a Chinese Kwon Bup/Quan Fa practitioner. He studied Kwon Bup with Yang for one year. The studies circled around “Tam Tui” (Chinese for “springing legs”) and Yang family style Tai Chi.

Karate influence

Moo Kuk Kwan HQ in Korea

Moo Kuk Kwan HQ in Korea

In 1939 he moved back to Korea to work on the railroad there. While working for the Chosun Railroad Company (later renamed ministry of transportation in 1945) he got access to training facilities and the company library containing a few Karate books. He never stated in any of his writings or interviews what these books were except that they were Karate books but many things points to the early writings of Gichin Funakoshi. His books were most readily available, and the forms (Kata in Japanese/ Hyung in Korean) taught in early Moo Duk Kwan were the same as those covered in Funakoshi’s writings. Also the teaching order of the Hyung in Moo Duk Kwan were the same as early Shotokan Karate.

Another pioneer of Taekwondo; Lee Won Kuk founder of the Chung Do Kwan stated in numerous interviews that Hwang Kee studied with him in the Chung Do Kwan in the 1940s. This fact as well as the Karate books Hwang studied explains why early Moo Duk Kwan followed Shotkan methods so closely. Lee Won Kuk was a direct student of Funakoshi. Lee Won Kuk did say that Hwang never even got a intermediate belt ranking in his Chung Do Kwan indicating that the training Hwang did was sporadicly at best.

See Also: TaeKwonDo Time Travel

Hwang did associate himself with numerous highly ranked Chung Do Kwan students and instructors, as well as being a friend of the founder of Chang Moo Kwan (who also studied Chinese as well as Japanese martial arts), and the man who reopened Yun Moo Kwan as Ji Do Kwan Youn Kwae Byong. It is possible that Hwang trained and exchanged knowledge with any or all of them.

Muye Dobo Tongji influence

In 1957 Hwang discovered an old martial arts manual dating back to 1790s. Those who has read my blog for a long time might remember that I wrote an article about the manual.

Hwang Kee studied this book with eagerness and found references to an older martial art practised in ancient Korea called Subak (also romanticized as Soo Bahk). Also of interest to Hwang was the chapter on Kwon Bup / Quan Fa that contained an illustrated form as well as some theory of practise. These two findings made Hwang envision a new martial art with strong Korean roots. This was probably important back then as all things Japanese were somewhat looked down upon after the Japanese occupation of Korea and all of the crimes they committed toward the Korean people. Hwang who essentially taught Shotokan Karate (he called it Hwa Soo Do or Tang Soo Do) with a few Chinese forms for advanced students was probably wery keen to make and reorganise the martial art to make a truly Korean art. He therefore made many changes to his art stemming from his martial experiences:
Changed the name of his art to Soo Bahk Do

  • Made Chil Sung Hyung (7 forms called 7 stars forms)
  • Made Yuk Rho Hyung (6 forms called 6 paths forms)
  • Made Hwa Sung Hyung.

In the above video you can see Chil Sung Saro Hyung

In the above video you can see both one of the Yuk Rho Hyung as well as one of the Chil Sung Hyung.

Most of these innovations came from Hwang Kee’s studies of the Muye Dobo Tongji including his name change from Tang Soo Do / Hwa Soo Do to Soo Bahk Do.

Another little known fact about Hwang Kee is that he wrote the first Korean language “Taekwondo” book (this happened in 1949, and it is written in both my teachers first book on Taekwondo as well as part 4 of Eric Madis masterpiece article series on the pioneers of Taekwondo), and that he made some of the earliest attempts at organising the Korean schools together. He shunned what was to become the KTA and instead made his own organisation which would include both Moo Duk Kwan and Yon Kwae Byong`s Ji Do Kwan. In the 1960s he estimated that about 70% of the martial artists in Korea belonged to this organisation. He might be correct given that Moo Duk Kwan was one of the most widespread Kwan in that he used his position in the railway company to get access to training facilities over all of Korea.

In the end though many of his students broke away and joined the increasingly more successful KTA and soo Moo Duk Kwan also influenced what was to become Kukkiwon Taekwondo. Hwang Kee moved to the United States and continued to spread his Soo Bahk Do until his death in 2002. Today Moo Duk Kwan Soo Bahk Do contains the above mentioned forms as well as the older Karate derived ones. Many schools also teach weapons although I do not know if this is something they have added in recent years or if Hwang Kee taught weapons himself.

Totally Taekwondo magazine

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Taekwon-Do Grandmaster Charles E. Sereff

C.E. “Chuck” Sereff is to 9th degree black belt and GrandMaster. He is the third highest rank in ITF Taekwon-Do in the world, after General Choi Hong Hi, the Founder of TKD, and GrandMaster Rhee Ki Ha. Master Sereff was promoted to Grandmaster (Sa Sung) Sereff, A-9-1, on 12/8/97.

Master Sereff started martial arts in 1961. Two years later, he founded the first Korean-style school of self-defense in the Denver area. From a small storefront gym with six students, to President of a 15,000 plus student organization, the United States Taekwon-Do Federation, has been a long road! Master Sereff became associated with General Choi Hong Hi, the founder of Taekwon-Do and the ITF, in 1965 after bringing Moon Ku Baek from Korea to teach in the Denver area. In the meantime, Master Sereff had established Taekwon-Do clubs at the US Air Force Academy, the YMCA’s in Denver, and at various recreation centers at the major colleges in Colorado and Wyoming. To date, his teachings spread throughout the world. The USTF was formed in 1974 at the request of General Choi. The Federation now consists of 11 regional directors and 35 state directors from Florida to California, Armed Forces classes, ambassadors in Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand and Papua, New Guinea. Master Sereff was elected President of the USTF in 1979 and currently still retains that position by popular vote.

Master Sereff’s average travel of 30 weekends per year has helped spread General Choi’s true Taekwon-Do tremendously. For example, a typical month near Master Sereff’s 60th birthday had him travelling with Genreal Choi to Tokyo, Australia, New Zealand and finally Hawaii. Along the way, Master Sereff has also found time to coach the US team to victories at the ITF World Championships (1975, Montreal, Canada; 1982, Athens, Greece), and at the latest ITF World Championships in Malaysia in 1994, Master Sereff was appointed the new Vice President of the ITF.

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Master Sereff has also encouraged cultural exhchange via the annual summer Taekwon-Do camps held in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. As the promoter of this camp, it went from 50 students in a small YMCA campground to over 400 at World Camp 1993 at Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter PArk, Colorado. People travel the world from over 30 US states and from countries such as Scotland, Columbia, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Mexico and Papua New Guinea to be with Master Sereff at these events, where a highlight is often the presence of General Choi himself.

In between and sometimes during these extensive commitments, Master Sereff likes to relax with some fishing, a pastime introduced to him as a boy and still a favorite. From Alaska to Florida, and from Malaysia to New Zealand, Master Sereff has always caught his limit!

Master Sereff sends this personal message (from his book “C.E. Chuck Sereff, Made in the USA“):

“I think about all of the people I have taught and met throughout the world. If I had a photo journal of everyone who has touched my life, it would be a thousand pages. I once read a plaque which said — A rich man is one whose children run to him when his arms are empty. My richest treasures are my two sons, their families including four of the most wonderful grandchildren a man could hope for.

It is with great anticipation that I look forward to the 21st century, when I hope to pass the torch of knowledge to my senior students. Teaching and being around young people, in mind and body, has helped me to stay forever young.”

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General Choi Hong Hi, The Founder of TaeKwonDo

Gen. Choi, Hong-Hi was born on November 9 th , 1918 in the rugged and harsh area of North Korea . In his youth, he was frail and quite sickly, a constant source of worry for his parents. Even at an early age, however, the future general showed a strong and independence spirit. At the age o twelve, he was expelled from school for agitating against the Japanese authorities who were in control of Korea. This was the beginning of what would be a long association with the Kwang Ju Students’ Independence Movement. After his explosion, young Choi’s father sends him to study calligraphy under one of the most famous teachers in Korea , Mr. Han II Dong. Han in addition to his skills as a calligrapher, was also a master of Taek Kyon, the ancient Korean art of foot fighting.

The teacher, concerned over the frail condition of his new student, began teaching him the rigorous exercises of Taek Kyon to help build up his body. In 1937, Choi was sent to Japan to further his education. Shortly before leaving, however, the youth had the misfortune to engage in a rather heated argument with a massive professional wrestler who promised to literally tear the youth limb from limb at their next encounter. This threat seemed to give a new impetus to young Choi’s training in the martial arts. In Kyoto , Choi met a fellow Korean, Mr. Kim, who was engaged in teaching the Japanese martial art, Karate. With two years of concentrated training, Choi attained the rank of first degree black belt. These techniques together with Taek Kyon (foot techniques) were the forerunners of modern Taekwon-Do.

They followed a period of both mental and physical training, preparatory school, high school, and finally the University in Tokyo . During this time, training and experimentation in his new fighting techniques were intensified until, with attainment of his second-degree black belt, he began teaching at a YMCA in Tokyo , Japan. Choi recounts a particular experience from this period if time. There was no lamps-post in the city that he didn’t strike or kick to see if the copper wires ahead were vibrating in protest. “ I would imagine that these were the techniques I would use to defend myself against the wrestler, Mr. Hu, if he attempt to carry out his promise to tear me limb when I eventually returned to Korea ”

With the out break of the World War II, the author was forced to enlist in the Japanese army through no volition of his own. While at this post in Pyongyang , North Korea , the author was implicated as the planner of the Korean Independence Movement, known as the Pyongyang Student Soldier’s Movement and interned at a Japanese prison during his eight month pretrial examination. While in prison, to alleviate the boredom and keep physically fit, Choi began practicing his art in the solitude his cell. In a short time, his cellmate and jailer became students of his. Eventually, the whole prison courtyard became one gigantic gymnasium. The liberation in August 1945spared Choi from an imposed seven year prison sentence. Following his release, the ex-prisoner journeyed to Seoul where he organized a student soldier’s party. In January of the following year, Cohi was commissioned a s second lieutenant in the new south Korean army, the “Launching Pad” for putting Taekwon-do into a new orbit.
Soon after, he made company commander in Kwang-Ju where the young second lieutenant lighted the torch of this art by teaching his entire company and then promoted to first lieutenant and transfered to Tae Jon in charge of the Second Infantry Regiment. While at his new post, Choi began spreading the art no only to Korean soldiers but also to the American stationed there. This was the first introduction to Americans of what would eventually become known as Taekwon-do. 1947 was the year of fast promotion. Choi was promoted to captain an then major. IN 1948, he was posted to Seoul as the head of logistics and became Taekwon-do Instructor for the American Military Police School there. In 1948, Choi became a lieutenant colonel.

In 1949, Choi was promoted to full colonel and visited the United States for the first time, attending the fort Riley Ground General School . While there, this art was introduced to the American public. And in 1951, brigadier general, During this time, he organized the Ground General School in Pusan as assistant Commandant and Chief of the Academic Department. Choi was appointed as Chief of Staff of the First Corps in 1952 and was responsible for the briefing General MacArthur during the latter’s visit to Kang Nung. At the time of the armistice, Choi was in command of the 5 th Infantry Division. The year 1953 was an eventful one for the General, in both his military career and in the progress of the new martial art. He became the author of the first authoritative book on military intelligence in Korea . He organized and activated the crack 29 th infantry Division at Cheju Island, which eventually became the spearhead of Taekwon-do in the military and established the Oh Do Kwan ( Gym of my Way) where he succeeded no only in training the cadre instructors for the entire military but also developing the Taek Kyon and Karate techniques into a modern system of Taekwon-do, with the help of M.r Nam Tae HI, his right hand man in 1954.

In the latter part of that year, he commander Chong Do Kwan ( Gym of the Blue Wave), The largest civilian gym in Korea : Choi was also promoted to major general. Technically, 1955 signalled the beginning of Taekwon-do as a formally recognized art in Korea . During that year, a special board was formed which included leading master instructors, historians, and prominent leaders of society. A number of names for the new martial art were submitted. On the 11 th of April, the board summoned by Gen. Choi, decide on the name of Taekwon-do which had been submitted by him. This single unified name of Taekwon-do replaced the different and confusing terms: Dang Soo, Gong Soo, Taek KYon, Kwon Bup, etc.

Unfortunately General Choi passed away on June 15th, 2002 in Pyongyang , North Korea

(Taken of condensed book of Taekwon-do: Art of self defense, General Choi Hong HI. Pag 747-748-749)

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