Tuesday, December 21, 2010
While most people were nestled all snug in their beds, a small but dedicated group of CHOSUN TAEKWONDO ACADEMY black belts were introduced to modifications in the Original Koryo poomsae by Master Doug Cook at their Sunday morning Black Belt Class on December 19, 2010. The poomsae will be detailed in an upcoming book authored by Master Cook and Grandmaster Richard Chun and published by YMAA of Boston. Originally created in the mid 1960s along with the remaining eight Yudanja series forms, Original Koryo has become a "hidden poomsae", rarely taught at dojangs around the world. This formal exercise which was replaced by the existing Koryo poomsae in the early 1970s, has fortunately been preserved by Grandmaster Richard Chun and transmitted to his students through the United States Taekwondo Association. The CHOSUN students are the first recipients of these significant modifications in Original Koryo which were executed in the name of standardization.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
POOMSAE SEMINAR WITH GRANDMASTER JANG BEOM PARK, KUKKIWON
The poomsae seminar held at Queensborough Community College on Sunday, October 3, 2010 was a highly interesting and rewarding experience. Many new variations in techniques were described in detail by Kukkiwon Grandmaster Jeon Beom Park. Representing Chosun were Master Cook, Instructor Lisa Ehrenreich and Ms. Marcele Mitscherlich. The seminar focused primarily on Taegeuk poomsae as well as the first four Yudanja series formal exercises including Koryo, Keumgang, Taebaek and Pyongwon. The operational word during the seminar was "CHANGE". It was made clear that alterations in poomsae were being made in the name of standardization and not for self-defense purposes. This was a welcome revelation that clearly distinguishes the practice of poomsae into two catagories, that of sport and tradititional, practical solo defensive practice.The seminar was sponsored by the Taekwondo Association of Greater New York.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Recently, my daughter Erin completed a 200-hour instructor training course at the Kripalu Yoga Center located in Lenox, Massachusetts. My wife Patty and I went to pick her up one beautiful, autumn day and while walking up a stairway I noticed a poster on a wall. In it was a photo of a woman sitting on a bus with a caption reading: “I was only trying to get home from work.”
For those of us old enough to remember, the precipitous event that produced this antiquated photograph represented a world of change. On December 1, 1955, in segregated Montgomery, Alabama, after a long, hard day at work, a seamstress named Rosa Parks headed homeward. Dog tired, she took a seat in the front section of a city bus. After a few stops, the bus driver demanded that she give up her seat to a man of European descent. She refused. Shortly after, she was arrested, convicted of disorderly conduct and subsequently, lost her job. The response of one woman to this unreasonable command inspired the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ultimately, it helped end segregation in Alabama and is a testament to the fact that the actions of one person can have a profound effect on the fabric of humanity at large. Later, when interviewed, Ms. Parks said: “I was only trying to get home from work.” Rosa Parks literally changed the complexion of racial discrimination in America without any premeditated intent whatsoever.
Today, as martial artists, as modern warriors endowed with an ancient wisdom, we endeavor, by example, to live a life of virtue as dictated by the Five Tenets of Tae Kwon Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit. We set our sights not on elusive perfection, but on a path to excellence both physically and ethically. As living vessels of these moral principles, we possess the power to influence change for the better whether it be at work, at home or in school. Yet, when we awake in the morning, just as Rosa Parks did one December day in 1955, we never know where our daily path will take us.
During a recent promotion test at my school, the Chosun Taekwondo Academy, a ten-year old girl rose to read her required essay on the topic of indomitable will. By the conclusion of her reading, there was not a dry eye in the audience. I feel it is safe to say that not many adults could have annunciated this virtue as well as this child did. She is small; a little wisp of a thing, yet she spoke of her confidence and how, regardless of how her peers might attempt to discourage her, she would diligently press ahead with her adolescent dreams and, eventually, with those that will flesh out her adult life. Both she and her parents attributed this sense of self-assurance directly to her tae kwon do training. Who’s to say what this youngster might accomplish in the decades ahead? Might she one day change the world simply by returning home from school or work?
Fortunately for us today, the great martial arts masters of the past chose to imbue their hard-earned disciplines, no longer as viable in a world of advanced weaponry, with meritorious codes of honor in an effort to survive cultural upheaval within their society. Evidence of this trend manifested itself in the creation of Funakoshi’s karate-do and Kano’s judo. Rather than teaching techniques primarily intended to devastate an enemy on the field of battle, elementary and college level students attending schools in Okinawa and Japan, particularly during the early 20th century, were exposed to martial arts training as a vehicle for physical fitness and character enhancement. Later, following the liberation from Japanese imperialism that coincided with the conclusion of the World War II, Korean masters returned to their native land, continuing this tradition. We, as tae kwon doists of the new millennium are the recipients this time-honored practice. Granted, practical tae kwon do was initially developed as a form of self-defense for soldiers in the theatre of combat. However, by recognizing the necessity for an ethical framework intended to govern and balance the destructive power we as martial artists possess, our predecessors fashioned an environment where altruism trumps apathy. By way of example, the Chosun Taekwondo Academy Leadership Team, a group of active, young students whose mission it is to serve our local community under the direction of black belts Cheryl Crouchen and Mary Suleski, recently raised a large amount of revenue for the Lions Club International and provided Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. Likewise, I continuously attempt to gainfully influence fellow martial artists of all ages and creeds, by teaching with integrity and by sharing my knowledge of tae kwon do, globally, through the books and articles I have written.
Nevertheless, I am certain that my students are not unique in their pursuit of virtue through the practice of traditional tae kwon do even though our comprehensive curriculum clearly emphasizes the philosophical elements of the art. Many of the schools I have visited across America can easily boast of members equally as devoted to leaving a positive stamp on their communities. Yet, regardless of the source, it is often the deed that occurs unlooked for that resonates most through humankind at large just as in the case of Rosa Parks or my young student who stands ready to affect a climate of benevolence whenever necessary. Given the blueprint set down by previous generations of masters and grandmasters, the important work of cultivating an elevated lifestyle wrapped in virtue becomes less a chore and more a gratifying reward. Therefore, as martial artists of the 21st century, we must strive for ethical consistency through the disciplined, virtuous practice of tae kwon do so that if called upon by fate, we will be prepared to manifest positive change anywhere, anytime or anyplace, as best we can…even if we are just trying to get home from work.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Recently, two of my students and I were invited to participate in a special class hosted by ITF practitioner Master George Vitale of Original Taekwon-Do in Brooklyn, New York. Although our styles differed somewhat, we were nevertheless reminded of the similarities both in technique and spirit. Taekwondo, the traditional martial art and world sport of Korea, is a miracle of unification. In the short span of less than sixty years since its creation in the 1950s, the founders and visionaries of this discipline have successfully elevated its status from a provincial defensive system geared towards the armed forces, to a common word in Western households where children and adults alike benefit from its many virtues. Yet, this was not always the case, for just as the Yin/Yang, the cornerstone of Taoist doctrine suggests harmony between two opposing forces, a group of dedicated masters — often at odds with one another — ultimately triumphed in uniting several disparate factions into a single, standardized entity.
As far back as 1946, attempts were made to merge the Korean martial arts while at the same time eliminating foreign influences that were injected during the Japanese Occupation from 1910 to 1945. Perhaps the most visible protagonist in this evolutionary process, however, was General Choi Hong Hi who, in the 1930s, began his training under Hong Il Dong. Hong not only taught his young pupil calligraphy but, due to his frail nature, began teaching him Taekkyon, the indigenous martial discipline unique to the Korean Peninsula. In 1937, the future “Father of Tae Kwon Do” was sent to Kyoto to further his education. Later, after settling in Tokyo, he continued his training under the direction of Gichen Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate-Do. After being promoted to second-degree black belt, Choi and his associate, Byung In Yoon, began teaching Karate at the Tokyo YMCA.
General Choi is rightly credited with developing much of what we know today as traditional taekwondo along with its unique set of tul, or patterns, known as the Chang-Han series (originally a set of twenty tul with four additional forms being added in the 1970s). This was a direct result of his contempt for the Japanese and his desire to spawn a martial art with a distinctly Korean philosophy. However, his contribution to Tae Kwon Do, coupled with that of other courageous innovators, did not stop there.
If any date can be recognized as the birthday of taekwondo it would be April 11, 1955. It was on this day that a group of men sat in conference with the purpose of proposing a name for the loose confederation of kwans (schools) whose foundations were the Korean disciplines (among them Kong Soo Do, Tang Soo Do, Taekkyon, and Kwon Bop) that would come to be known as Tae Kwon Do. In attendance were General Choi Hong Hi, Yoo Hwa Chung, Son Duk Sung, General Lee Hyung Ku, Cho Kyung Kyu, Chung Dae Chun, Han Chang Won, Chang Kyung Rok, Hong Soon Ho, Ko Kwang Rae, and Hyun Jong Myung. Some were martial artists; others, financiers, politicians and military men. A record of this meeting states: “Choi recommends the name taekwon-do. He explains the name both literally and technically. Mr. Yoo says, “I completely agree with the name taekwon submitted by Gen. Choi. I think, however, it would be utterly significant that we have the approval from the president, Syngman Rhee, since giving a name to a martial art is so important. “All members unanimously agreed.”
During his tenure as president of the Korea Taekwondo Association, Choi traveled throughout Asia and Europe spreading knowledge of Tae Kwon Do. Acting as team leader to Kyo Cha Han, Jong Soo Park, Jae Hwa Kwan, and Joong Keun Kim, he arranged and presented frequent demonstrations depicting the effectiveness of his native discipline. Finally, on March 22, 1966, representatives of many nations met with Choi resulting in the founding of the International Taekwon-do Federation. What began as a group of nine charter members including Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, West Germany, America, Egypt, Italy, and Turkey, quickly grew to a global organization boasting thirty members in two years. Yet, even taekwondo, complete with its honorable and virtuous background is not immune to internal politics. Choi eventually fell out of grace with the Korean government, in part due to his insistence on demonstrating taekwondo in North Korea, and immigrated to Canada taking the workings of the International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF) along with him. While this organization flourished and continues to maintain a strong global presence, the torch of constant progress, at least in Korea, the homeland of taekwondo, was handed on to yet another of equal foresight and vigor.
If it can be said that General Choi Hong Hi was accountable for the early growth of traditional taekwondo, then it would be equally correct to say that Dr. Un Yong Kim, is responsible for the explosive acceptance of taekwondo as a world sport. Born on March 19, 1931, Un Yong, literally translated as “dragon above the clouds,” dreamed of becoming a diplomat in the service of his native land. This ambition was fully realized in 1965 when he was appointed representative to the 20th United Nations General Assembly after receiving his doctorate from Yonsei University two years earlier. An accomplished concert pianist fluent in five languages, Dr. Kim increasingly began focusing on the sports community while remaining in government service.
Following his election as president of the Korea Taekwondo Association in 1971, Dr. Kim and others felt the need for a centralized training center where practitioners from around the globe could gather collectively to train, test and seek advancement in the art of taekwondo. His efforts resulted in the building of the Kukkiwon, now the Mecca of Tae Kwon Do operations worldwide. Literally translated as “National Gymnasium,” the Kukkiwon is located atop a hillside in the Kangnam District of Seoul. Construction began on November 9, 1971, with the facility being inaugurated on November 30, 1972. Mirroring traditional Korean architecture, its humble exterior is deceptive in that it houses management offices, locker rooms, seminar space and a museum. But perhaps most importantly, aside from the large competition area that allows various national and university teams to test their skills against one another, it was at the time headquarters to the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) established on June 3, 1973. This organization effectively replaced in South Korea the International Taekwon-Do Federation, the brainchild, as we have seen of General Choi Hong Hi. Its origination was precipitated following a meeting of the thirty delegate countries that had participated in the First World Taekwondo Championships held at the Kukkiwon in May of 1973. At this meeting Dr. Un Yong Kim was elected president of the new federation.
In 1988, a monumental event took place that solidified taekwondo as a world sport in the eyes of the general public. To the delight of its citizenry, Seoul, South Korea, played host to the 1988 Olympic Games. Since the country chosen to sponsor the event is traditionally entitled to choose a demonstration sport, the Korean leadership, including Dr. Kim, naturally chose to display Tae Kwon Do with great success. Row upon row of seasoned taekwondo practitioners performed basic techniques and breaking skills on the field of the newly built Olympic Stadium that was filled to capacity. This honor united the hearts and minds of the Korean people and catapulted their national martial art to world prominence. Dr. Un Yong Kim, who in 1992 became vice president of the International Olympic Committee, continued promoting Tae Kwon Do on an international level through his affiliation with various sports organizations. It is largely due to Dr. Kim’s tireless efforts through the WTF that Tae Kwon Do debuted at the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a full-medal Olympic sport.
Presently, with its new headquarters at 4F Joyang Building 113, Samseong Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, the World Taekwondo Federation acts as a clearinghouse for tens of thousands of applicants throughout the world seeking legitimate black belt certification through their national governing bodies. Unquestionably, through the stewardship of its many officials coupled with its 182 member nations, Taekwondo remains the only martial art in the world today, other than Judo, with official Olympic status. Naturally, there are numerous individuals within our borders and throughout the world who have dedicated their lives to promoting the Korean martial arts both in a traditional and sportive manner. Great masters such as Richard Chun, Sijak Henry Cho, Sung Duk Son, Won Kuk Lee, Sang Kyu Shim, Jhoon Rhee, and Ki Whang Kim, to name a few — names etched forever in the bedrock of taekwondo — will never be truly repaid for the contributions they have made to the art.
It is hard to say if ever the WTF and the ITF will join forces. Yet the advantages of unification are tempting. With the loss of Grandmaster Tran and the splintering of ITF factions following the passing of General Choi, discussions and rumors abound. Subsequently, in a world of constant change, who is to say what the future of taekwondo holds?
Friday, February 5, 2010
Why visit Korea to train in taekwondo when there are so many great masters here in America? Why visit France to sample great wine? Why visit the Holy Land to explore Christianity and Judaism? Why travel to Tibet to climb majestic mountains? Simply put, visiting these destinations allows the traveler to experience the object of their interest at its root. Taekwondo is a creation of Korea. Absorbing the techniques of the traditional Korean martial art, in conjunction with its cultural surroundings, adds color and meaning to the art. Visiting Korea promotes an organic geographical and chronological connection with Taekwondo's past. Training with the originators of taekwondo in their native land can change the way the practitioner views the martial arts forever. If you have ever dreamt of visiting the homeland of taekwondo, now is the time to do so. Join Master Doug Cook, Grandmaster Richard Chun and a select group of students on an unforgettable journey to the "land of the morning calm". Train at world-famous dojangs and temples located high in the mountains. Sample the unique culture, delicacies and native artwork of Korea. For more information, follow the "Korea Training & Cultural Tour" link on the home page of this web site www.chosuntkd.com for details. This will be our fifth exciting group adventure to Korea and each tour offers benefits all its own. Join us and make a dream a reality!
Friday, January 1, 2010
Happy New Decade! It is the time of year when many people commit to resolutions that will hopefully improve their way of life in some way. Unfortunately, many of these self-promises are broken before the month is out. Not so with the martial artist and particularly those of you who study traditional taekwondo at CHOSUN. Each of you make a "resolution" every three months to earn a new belt or stripe, keeping the taste of achievement fresh in your mouth. Martial artists in general appreciate the value of perseverance and apply this virtue on a daily basis. So, whatever your resolution may be for the new year, pursue it with vigor. Make it measurable and achievable. And in the words of Grandmaster Richard Chun..."Never Give Up!"