Monday, November 4, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter Archive volumn 4 #11 November, 2013

Dojang News and Events
Bi-annual Black Belt Test
Saturday October 19, 2013                              

There was a full house at the recent Chosun Bi-annual Black Belt Promotion Test with Grandmaster Richard Chun presiding. Thanks to all who came out to celebrate the great DSC_5397 BBachievements of these dedicated Chosun Taekwondo Academy students. Reached for comment, Master Cook stated, "The Black Belt is a license to learn and not a permit to quit. Ever onward new Black Belts."
4th Dan - Terrie Wynne and Arun Salgunan
2nd Dan - Mary Sudul, Laura LoForese, Late Lawson, and Adam Hanson
1st Dan - Jason Gaillard, Nelson Gaillard, Carolyn Cunningham, Laura Towey, John Towey, Michael Esch, Mark Rodenberg, Fiona Dunn, Shane Heslin, Anika Simon, Francesco Desiderio and Caswell Gluckstein
Congratulations to all!
Click above image for more photos

An excerpt from a Black Belt essay
by Anika Simon:

"One of my most happy moments was at my Bodan Belt test. I needed to do a spinning hook kick for my break. I was very worried that it would take many tries, but I ended up breaking the wood on my very first try. I felt so proud of myself. This is now my favorite kick." 

Read a composite of student essay excerpts on the Chosun Blog.

Read entire newsletter...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Essay Excerpts from Black Belt Candidates - October 19, 2013

"Most important to me is the strong sense of connection between our practice and the history of Taekwondo.  Through our direct inheritance from Grandmaster Chun to the Korean masters preceding him, Master Cook ensures that our training enshrines history in our practice, rather than obscures it.  It is a profound gift, as significant to the martial art as a familial inheritance, and must be treasured as such.   So while I seek to develop technical proficiencies, I am most humbled to become aware of the rich tradition surrounding it.  To the black belt candidate, this adds meaningfulness to the endeavor far beyond recreation and sport."  Mark Rodenburg-1st Dan Black Belt
 "What I have learned from Master Cook is how long and how hard it is to learn the basics and how technique is so critical.  This is when practice and perseverance play a significant role in learning the art.  What also helps me persevere is that it takes skillful people to run a school like this.  It is the dedication that I see from the instructors that motivates me to keep coming back to class." John Towey - 1st Dan Black Belt

 "As I look back upon my life as a martial artist, I think about my first obstacle, the staircase. The steepest staircase I have ever seen. I huffed an puffed to the top wearing my brand new white Dobok, I was very excited and hoped the staircase would be the biggest obstacle I would have to face. I couldn't have been more wrong." Fiona Dunn - 1st Dan Black Belt

 "One of my most happy moments was at my Dodan belt test. I needed to do a spinning hook kick for my break. I was very worried that it would take many tries, but I ended up breaking the wood on my very first try. I felt so proud of myself. This is now my favorite kick. One of my most challenging moments was when I switched from KickStart to the regular class. It was scary because there were so many people I did not know and many students were better than me. Anika Simon - 1st Dan Black Belt

 "In 1st grade, I was asked to join the Leadership Team. I like to help people and the Leadership Team does that. For example, I helped customers find books at the Book & Bake Sale event, set tables at the Community Kitchen event and collected and rolled coins to purchase gifts to help families during the holidays, and planted flowers and pulled weeds at the Town Park Gazebo Gardening."  Francesco Desiderio - 1st Dan Black Belt

 "Another thing I think about my training in Taekwondo is how the different instructors have helped me. I feel instructor Pyke always looks out for me and has also helped me with private lessons. Instructor Klugman helped stop my habit of hopping forward after a stepping basic. Master Cook helped me in all parts of Taekwondo!" Caswell Gluckstein - 1st Dan Black Belt
 "I love Taekwondo whether it's practicing it, watching it, or just thinking about it. Whenever I walk into the dojang I am ready to train. I am welcomed by all of the black belts and I bow to them. Then Master Cook says next class and we all walk out onto the floor and we have an amazing class with meditation and focused training. I know that I will stick to the martial arts for probably the rest of my life, thanks to Master Cook. " Nelson Gaillard - 1st Dan Black Belt
 "I have truly enjoyed this time as a bodan. It has given me a chance to review and work on various techniques that always seem to take a back seat to learning the new curriculum. In fact, it's only been in the last two months that I have finally felt that I had somewhat of a handle on everthing in the curriculum. I'm not saying that things don't need work but I've started to develop confidence in myself. I know with continued training that I will improve. My balance is better and I have physically gotten stronger. In fact, there must be something that has changed in my personal demeanor because in the high school where I teach, I have noticed that I have less trouble with students doing what I ask them to do. Suddenly during training this past week, when I ki-hap, I feel the energy resonating through me. Body, mind and energy (spirit) have aligned. I believe that I am finally ready to begin my journey as black belt." Carolyn Cunningham - 1st Dan Balck Belt
"Overtime, the school in Clifton dissolved and I once again sought to continue expand my practice of taekwondo. I decided to attend Chosun Taekwondo Academy because I wanted to learn Traditional Taekwondo. While my time at Chosun has been brief, I have learned a plethora of information in regards to the art, techniques, philosophy, and history of Taekwondo. Through the instruction of Master Cook and the Chosun Instructors, I have learned new kicking and hand techniques in addition to improving the techniques that I have learned over the years. Additionally, I have also learned how to develop ki energy within my body and how to meditate better. Lastly and most importantly, I developed a knowledge of the rich history of taekwondo and Korean culture, the breadth of which I would not have been able to learn anywhere else.

Overall, the benefits of my taekwondo training up to this point in time has been amazing and I would not sacrifice it for anything. From a physical standpoint, taekwondo has made me more coordinated, agile, and conditioned. Mentally, taekwondo has taught me patience, understanding, empathy, and self- control. Spiritually, taekwondo has provided me with a moral compass with which to live my life. It has taught me to embrace the duality of opposites within the universe and to enjoy both the peaks and valleys that one will experience in their life. In closing, my taekwondo training up to this point has been poignant and unforgettable and I look forward to the new challenges and knowledge that await me as a black belt." Shane Heslin - 1st Dan Black Belt

"At our first test it dawned on us that there was a group of adults all testing for yellow belt. We became a crew of sorts looking for each other in the evenings and encouraging each other to continue. Even at green belt, we were labeled "gang green" and Master Cook told us to try and ascend the ranks staying together.
On the day of each belt test, we took a picture of ourselves before the test, often with Master Cook if we could, to mark our progression; like a child using a pencil to tick off his height in a door jam after each season. I kept all of my belts in a row in my bedroom so I could visually see our advancement through the ranks and I could recall each test and its challenges. It was very satisfying.
A pivotal moment for us was the journey we made with the school to study in Korea in the summer of 2012. We were purple belts, right at the mid-point of our training. We could not believe that when we went into these schools on the other side of the earth, and the Master called out a command in Korean, that we knew exactly what to do! One experience in particular was very rewarding for me. There were only 3 colored belts on the trip, and we were all purple. When we went to study with Grand Master Kyu-hyun Lee, he assigned a black belt to work with each of us privately on our forms. The woman who partnered with me spoke no English, yet we trained together and communicated for a few hours. Even today, Taeguk Oh Jang is still my favorite form, as it reminds me of that day out in the countryside, learning from my very own private Korean coach". Laura Towey - 1st Dan Black Belt

"I must take some time to explain how increasingly rare it is to find a martial arts school that is teaching a traditional martial art. In my many searches for a martial arts school, I discovered that, due to economic necessity, most schools are forced to cater to the trends of the day, i.e. sport Taekwondo and mixed martial arts. Many schools dropped basic formalities, trained wearing t-shirts, and lacked any serious discipline. This, inevitably, will dilute and water down the traditional practice of any martial art and can easily result in a very dangerous environment." Jason Gaillard - 1st Dan Black Belt


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter archive Volumn 4 #10 October, 2013

On the Horizon
Book-Signing and reception for new book, Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae- Original Koryo and Koryo by Richard Chun and Doug Cook
Friday November 1, 2013  6pm - 8pm
Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe
31 Main Street  Warwick, NY

Join Grandmaster Richard Chun and Master Doug Cook for a book-signing and reception for their new book recently released by YMAA Publications, Inc. This is a rare opportunity to engage in Master Doug Cook and Grandmaster Richard Chun (seated) enhconversation with a true martial arts pioneer, Grandmaster Richard Chun and co-author Master Doug Cook. Don't miss this extraordinary event!
For information contact Chosun: 

Read book reviews on and consider writing one!
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Alphabet Soup of Taekwondo

Appeared in TaeKwonDo Times magazine "Traditions" column
In modern taekwondo, there seems no shortage of enticing programs ostensibly meant to bolster enthusiasm but, upon closer inspection, more likely intended to enhance student retention. Terms such as Black Belt Club, S.W.A.T. Team, Splits Club and S.T.O.R.M. Team, abound to name a few. Yet, what is it about these acronym-rich entities that bode poorly for the transmission of traditional taekwondo as the noble art that it was meant to be?

Being a successful school owner for almost two decades and throwing my entire adult life into practicing, teaching and writing about traditional taekwondo, I more than most know the value and, frankly, the necessity, of retaining students. Without the dedicated practitioners who cross the threshold of our dojang doors day in and day out, we would be left with nothing more than four square walls, some puzzle mat and an assortment of training gear; not a promising environment for the perpetuation of the Korean martial arts and certainly not a winning model for a competent instructor to earn a living.

Truth is there are critics out there who claim that money should never enter into the equation of conveying martial arts to those worthy of its virtues; that teaching taekwondo, karate-do, tangsoodo, or any other Asian discipline, should be done pro bono. While I strongly disagree with this concept, I disagree equally with the notion of relying on clever marketing gimmicks, if I may refer to them as such, for branding programs that should be a basic component of the standard taekwondo curriculum in the first place.

For instance, we as martial arts instructors should be encouraging all of our color belt students to reach for the coveted black belt at some point during their martial arts journey and not simply those who can afford to pay a fee in addition to their monthly tuition for the privilege of being members of a Black Belt Club. Presently, our school is home to well over one-hundred black belts with 80% of these being adults. Yet, I have never relied upon questionable schemes that segregate students predicated not on their level of proficiency, but rather on their ability to buy into a program of advancement based largely on club membership.  Show me a white belt who does not sincerely wish to achieve the esteemed honor of earning a black belt and the absurdity of these labels quickly become apparent. It is incumbent upon masters and instructors alike to motivate students through a comprehensive curriculum of pure-form, traditional taekwondo skills supplemented by encouragement rather than on an alphabet soup of financially predatory programs albeit if they are, to some extent, benign.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions. Many schools have established a Leadership Team – a group of individuals, in our case adolescents, who wish to gain more from their taekwondo training than the standard routine can afford them. This desire is compounded by a requirement to perform community service on a quarterly basis and to begin the long, pedagogical process of learning how to teach taekwondo, not only practice it. Members of our Leadership Team train vigorously, assist with KickStart and Youth Training classes, enjoy culturally-related field trips and raise tens of thousands of dollars for local charities. They are absorbing highly valuable philanthropic skills, reaching out to the community and cultivating compassion for society in the process. However, even this worthy mission can be corrupted by exorbitant fees ranging, as I have heard, often into hundreds of dollars per month. We charge nothing above monthly tuition for participation in our Leadership Team where the member’s only contract is their commitment.

The desire to establish a commercially solvent martial arts school should be accompanied by the realization that traditional taekwondo training is simply not for everyone. Unfortunately, not all who begin will continue regardless of all the encouragement we can afford to give. With this in mind, for the school owner or manager with little or no business experience, it is easy to fall prey to illusory programs that mirror attempts by gyms and health clubs to secure membership. Lengthy annual contracts, limited schedules, abbreviated class time, delinquent fees, third-party billing companies, unnecessary clubs fees, the “dumbing-down” of the syllabus, all fall into this category. Some of these resources can prove indispensible to those unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the clerical component of their institute. However, financially-obligatory pacts that require individuals to pay tuition after termination of membership can prove onerous at best. I personally have never supported practices such as these and have enjoyed continuous growth every year since our school’s inception. Yes, it requires more work on the part of my staff and me, but as any martial arts school owner who truly appreciates what they do for a living can tell you, I am glad for it.

I realize I will receive criticism and push-back from a segment of my colleagues for revealing my views regarding the branding of programs that should be commonplace. Nevertheless, it has always been my opinion that students embrace traditional taekwondo as a vehicle intended to enrich their lives through the sincere practice of a disciplined martial art and not to be bludgeoned by dubious sales strategies that, if left unchecked, are certain to pollute the dojang.

In today’s world where money is often the measure of success, it is easy to allow dollars to trump tradition in the martial arts. And since, unlike other professions, taekwondo is not officially regulated, some individuals take advantage of this aberration. Yet, financial victory, technical excellence and community awareness are all within reach simply by offering students an uncorrupted, comprehensive curriculum in conjunction with a clear path to advancement that naturally results in student retention.

A taekwondo school as a viable business entity should stand in solemn tribute to the moral values we teach – courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit – and not be built on acrimonious, manipulative tactics meant to hold students against their will. Martial arts by their very nature, act a filter supporting those who personify discipline while discouraging those who consistently seek the easy way out. This process should not be subverted by unbridled greed stoked by a sea of superfluous programs.



Master Doug Cook, a 6th dan black belt, is head instructor of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy located in Warwick, New York, a senior student of Grandmaster Richard Chun, and author of three best-selling books entitled: Taekwondo…Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior, Traditional Taekwondo - Core Techniques, History and Philosophy, and Taekwondo–A Path to Excellence, all published by YMAA of Boston. Master Cook and Grandmaster Chun have recently completed a new book, Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae: Original Koryo and Koryo, targeted for publication in July of 2013. Master Cook can be reached for lectures, workshops or questions at or

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter archive Volumn 4 #9 September 2013

DSC_3688 2
Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the September, 2013 edition of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter. 

As the eventful summer of 2013 comes to a close, we can look ahead to a busy autumn season at Chosun. Every September, Chosun hosts an OPEN HOUSE for the community to come and see the school in action. If you know someone who has an interest in either the martial arts or yoga, please let them know about this event. This is a chance to talk to students and instructors about their experiences, see a taekwondo demonstration and take advantage of our Basic Training Package. Looking further ahead, mark your calendar for the 16th Annual Awards Banquet and Dinner Dance which is always the culminating social highlight of the year. And even farther ahead yet, it is not too early to plan for the 2014 Chosun Taekwondo Academy Korea Training and Cultural Tour. This tour promises to be extremely exciting with the addition of a excursion  to the beautiful Jeju Island. Please contact Chosun for information or to reserve your place: 
For highlights of 2012 at Chosun, view the Chosun Taekwondo Academy 2012 Retrospective.

Kamsahamnida,facebook button
Patty Cook, Editor


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Many Benefits of Meditation by Master Doug Cook

The following appeared in Warwick Valley Life magazine - September 2013

Meditation is a treasure chest overflowing with the virtues of enhanced focus, increased energy, heightened self-awareness, improved overall health and a greater sense of well-being. Yet, as with any worthwhile endeavor, these rewards do not come easy.
Observing an individual seated quietly in a meditative posture reveals nothing of the extreme effort hidden just below the surface needed to achieve practical results. Nevertheless, with sincere practice, anyone can become proficient in this ancient discipline.

More than ever, clinicians are discovering significant distinctions, both physically and intellectually, in the minds of those who regularly engage in meditation. Recently, the Huffington Post published an article citing the many benefits of frequent practice including stress relief, hypertension reduction and improvement in cognitive functions. But several types exist and it is important to match the style to the intention.  Some forms of meditation are meant to clear the mind and relax the body, others to cultivate internal energy, and still more are aimed at visualization.

One approach I teach students as a preface to a meaningful meditation session consists of sitting cross-legged in a full or half-lotus position supported by a cushion to promote comfort. The hands are then positioned in a gesture known as a mudra - a Sanskrit term referring to a seal of authenticity. There are a variety of mudras, each intended to amplify or authenticate a spiritual concept. The cosmic mudra, where the back of the left hand is placed in the palm of the right, thumbs touching, is a simple and effective mudra to begin with. Strive to articulate a perfect oval rather than permitting the thumbs to create a “peak” or the palms to collapse into a “valley”. Allow the hands to rest gently in the lap. Close the eyes and sit erect with the tip of the nose in line with the navel. Turning responsibility for your meditation over to the breath, slowly inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Invariably, as you meditate, stray thoughts will attempt to intrude on the mind; briefly acknowledge these feelings and permit them to pass through your consciousness just as clouds drift past in the sky, all the while returning to the breath. Assign a single count to each cycle of inhalation/exhalation. Count to ten only, and then return to one. Eventually, with patience and time, you may be able to abandon your counting altogether and simply focus on the breath, utilizing it as a silent mantra or phrase. This basic method of meditation should serve to calm the mind prior to the activities of the day if practiced in the morning, and partially eliminate the distraction of anticipating rather than fully experiencing the constantly changing present.   

Enhancing the flow of internal energy known as ki in Korean and Japanese, or qi in Chinese, throughout the body, is yet another objective of meditation. For instance, in order to promote health, the practitioner of kiatsu, or ki therapy, messages various acupoints along the body to stimulate ki flow; when an abundant amount of ki is present, a sense of well being is experienced, when it is deficient, illness is likely to ensue. This requires long practice but can be addressed through meditation and breathing exercises. While inhaling and exhaling, place your hands on your abdomen. What do you feel? When you breathe in, the abdominal area should expand; likewise, when you exhale, the abdominal area contracts. This process is commonly known as normal or Buddhist Breathing. Now, make a conscious effort to reverse this sequence, allowing the opposite to occur where the area surrounding your tanjun, or ki center, two inches below the navel and one inch in, contracts during inhalation and conversely expands when you exhale. This style of breathing is referred to as reverse or Taoist Breathing and represents an ancient method by which your breathing acts as a pump to move the flow of ki throughout a series of pathways or meridians traversing the body.

Lastly, visualization represents another aspect associated with the meditative process. Visualization can be employed prior to work-related meetings, academic testing and competitions as a precursor to success. In fact, it is not uncommon for the Olympic athlete to mentally see themselves performing flawlessly while meditating before an actual event.

While we may never reach a state of nirvana, oneness or enlightenment, as advanced by the great meditation masters, there is a little bit of the Buddha in each of us and meditation can become the key to a more relaxed and healthy mind, body and spirit.

Master Doug Cook, a 6th degree black belt, is head instructor of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy located in Warwick, New York and an author of four best-selling books focusing on the traditional martial arts. A six-time New York State gold medalist, he has frequently trained in South Korea and is the recipient of many citations and awards presented to him there and in the America. Master Cook can be reached for lectures, workshops or questions at or at




Friday, August 2, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter Archive Volumn #4 August, 2013

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the August, 2013 edition of the
Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter.
There are no lazy days of summer at Chosun this year! As you can see from the information below, this has been one of the busiest and most eventful summers on record. From the long awaited release of
Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae - Original Koryo and Koryo to the Taekwondo Retreat in Southern France, to the recent Mutual Martial Arts Seminar, the life and reach of the Chosun brand is expanding and growing both locally and internationally. We never take this success for granted and continually strive to be true to our ideals by offering our students authentic martial arts training. We are in the middle of the Chosun Summer Program and there are many exciting training opportunities yet to come. Be sure to check the Special Events page on the Chosun website for listings of these programs.

 For highlights of 2012 at Chosun, view the
Chosun Taekwondo Academy 2012 Retrospective.

Patty Cook, Editor
Read entire newsletter...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter archive Volumn 4 July, 2013

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the July, 2013 edition of the
Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter.
The long awaited book,
Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae - Original Koryo and Koryo by Richard Chun and Doug Cook will be released this month by YMAA Publications, Inc.
Reached for comment, Master Cook stated, " Take custody of your taekwondo inheritance by adding the original version of the most popular black belt poomsae to your training routine. Learn Original Koryo, the precursor to Koryo poomsae, through the pages of Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae - Original Koryo and Koryo, published by YMAA of Boston. Written by martial arts-legend Grandmaster Richard Chun and myself, this work promises to become an essential tool in the cultivation of traditional taekwondo technique." The book can be ordered from or and is available at booksellers worldwide. Details about a book signing celebration will follow. The DVD will be released later in the year.

Read entire newsletter... 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter archive Volumn 4 #6 June, 2013

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the June, 2013 edition of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter.
While many martial arts schools abbreviate their schedule for the summer, we are happy to offer even more training options at Chosun. Be sure to check your July invoice for the Chosun summer schedule
that features Sunday Training in the Warwick Town Park. Join Master Cook, Chosun instructors, and guest master instructors for exciting mornings of special training surrounded by nature. No charge / rain or shine / for all martial artists regardless of school affiliation. Happy summer training!
For highlights of 2012 at Chosun, view the Chosun Taekwondo Academy 2012 Retrospective.

Kamsahamnida,facebook button
Patty Cook,

Happy Father's Day!
Chosun Taekwondo Academy celebrating 16 years!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Evolution of Tae Kwon Do Poomsae, Hyung and Tul

by Master Doug Cook

6th Dan Black Belt / Chosun Taekwondo Academy

 Long before the advent of sport sparring and the invention of modern safety gear, in a time when to fight meant to defend one’s life from almost certain death an ingenious method of transmitting martial arts skills from venerated master to loyal disciple was developed. Legend has it that
experienced warriors returning unscathed from combat, a testimony in and of itself to their martial prowess, mimicked techniques used to vanquish opponents on the field of battle for the benefit of those less qualified in the ways of war. This ritual may have been practiced around a campfire, in secret gardens or in the incense-filled halls of ancient Buddhist temples lending credence to the notion that the dynamic practice of formal exercises has existed for centuries. Several examples demonstrating this concept can be traced back to antiquity with roots found in primitive works of art and ancient yogic postures originally intended to promote health and core strength in sedentary clerics.

 Today, poomsae, hyung or tul - all culturally-specific terms for Korean martial arts patterns - can be defined as choreographed sequences of techniques aimed at defeating multiple attackers originating from various directions. They can also be thought of as “quality shapes of strength” representing the comprehensive catalog of Traditional and Kukki Tae Kwon Do skills. Moreover, poomsae demonstratively symbolize the essence of the art and can be distilled down into two discrete categories – those created in modern times as opposed to those tracing their pedigree to primordial practices.

In an effort to quantify the significance of this division, we must first appreciate that the formal exercises found in Tae Kwon Do today were not created in a vacuum. Rather, an analysis of the historical evidence at hand reveals that empty-hand fighting arts, in conjunction with their associated formal exercises, developed naturally across continents as various cultures adapted to cope with the dangers posed by increased trade and human aggression accompanied by imperialist desire. Still, the need to practice prearranged chains of combat tactics in a relatively relaxed environment devoid of mayhem and death was apparently universal.

In his book, Moving Zen, Shotokan karate-do practitioner C.W. Nicol describes forms practice as “a dynamic dance; a battle without bloodshed or vanquished.” He further goes on to say that, “we are somehow touching the warrior ancestry of all humanity” and that “of all the training in karate, none is more vigorous, demanding or exhilarating than the sincere performance of kata.” From this we can see that poomsae training, if approached in a traditional manner, not only cultivates defensive and offensive proficiency coupled with ki (internal energy) development, but establishes a profound link with masters of the past who clearly did not perform formal exercises merely for physical fitness as some would claim, but as a means of collating hard-earned martial skills often fostered on the field of battle or in the supercharged atmosphere of some distant training hall, for the benefits of students across the centuries.

In order to fully understand the complete history, philosophy and martial applications of Tae Kwon Do poomsae, hyung or tul, one must openly and without bias, take into account the role Okinawan/Japanese kata and Chinese taolu played in their creation. In 1901, on the Ryukyu archipelago, Yasutsune “Anko” Itosu (1830-1915) introduced karate into the mainstream curriculum of the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School and, later, throughout the Okinawan educational system as a whole with the long range goal of cultivating physical fitness and character enrichment in adolescents. This worthy objective was partially accomplished by practicing sanitized versions of the Pinan (Peaceful Mind) kata created by Itosu. Since, at least for school children, self-defense was not the prime focus of training the practical applications of techniques within the forms were intentionally masked in ambiguity or eliminated altogether. This method of instruction represented a major shift in formal exercise training that would have ramifications far into the future. Criticized for diluting the fundamental purpose of kata, and thus karate in general since forms represented the core of the art, Itosu later wrote, “You must decide whether your kata is for cultivation of health or for its practical use.” He further advised adult students to, “Always practice kata with its practical use in mind.”

 Yet, a further endorsement that kata represented a central pillar of karate-do doctrine, awaited the appearance of Gichen Funakoshi (1868-1957) who in his youth, traveled the back roads between Naha and Shuri by lantern light to study with both Itosu and one of his colleagues, Yasutsune Azato (1828-1906), sub rosa. Funakoshi’s required repetition of a single kata under the vigilant eye of Azato day in and day out, often for months on end, to the point of humiliation, clearly instilled an appreciation for the formal exercises that he would carry across a lifetime.

Funakoshi did not bring his karate to Japan until 1922 while in his early fifties. Yet through a concerted effort by he and his third son Gigo (1906-1945), who emigrated to Tokyo in 1923 at the age of seventeen, significant changes were made to the traditional methods of teaching Okinawan karate. By way of example, in an attempt to simplify the pronunciation of the Pinan kata, Funakoshi rechristened the nomenclature to Heian while altering certain prescribed stances and kicks. Likewise, Gigo is credited with the creation of ritual one-step sparring and the three Taikyoku, or Kihon kata that virtually mirror the Kicho patterns used today in traditional Tae Kwon Do. The Taikyoku set was generally used as a precursor to the more complex Heian kata.

Recognizing the vital roles Itosu, Azato and Funikoshi played in the proliferation of formal exercises brings us ever closer to the nexus of the correlation between Okinawan/Japanese kata and contemporary Tae Kwon Do poomsae, hyung or tul.  Indisputably, Korean formal exercises were heavily influenced by events that occurred in neighboring countries shortly before, or concurrent with, the Japanese Occupation of the nation during the years of 1910 to 1945. Clearly, the practice of karate required a deep understanding and respect for kata which continues to stand as a centerpiece of its practice to this day. This principle must surely have been inculcated in the minds of Chung Do Kwan founder Won Kook Lee (1907-2003), Byung In Yoon (1920-1983) of the Chang Moo Kwan, Hwang Kee (1914-2002) father of the Moo Duk Kwan and Choi Hong Hi (1918-2002) creator of the Oh Do Kwan, while studying in Japan under the direction of either Shudokan karate founder Kanken Toyama (1988-1966) or Funikoshi. All of these innovators, soon destined to promote enduring martial traditions within the borders of their native land, returned home from abroad undoubtedly with practical knowledge of the Taikyoku, Pinan, Bassai, Jitte, Empi and Tekki kata – all considered traditional formal exercises - that would ultimately evolve into the Kicho, Pyung-Ahn, Balsek, Sip Soo, Yunbee and Chul-Ki hyung respectively of Tae Kwon Do.

Throughout the 1950s and early 60s, when Tae Kwon Do, still referred to as taesoodo, tangsoodo and kongsoodo in many circles, was in its infancy, poomsae practice consisted largely of exercises derived from these Okinawan, Japanese and Chinese disciplines. As a result, the founding fathers of the original kwans or institutes could not help but transmit the formal exercises they learned abroad while at university as their nation staggered under the weight of the Japanese Occupation. Nevertheless, a strong desire existed among many masters, Choi Hong Hi not being the least, to create patterns with a distinctly Korean flavor. Consequently, in founding his style of Tae Kwon Do, Choi was the first to deviate from the past by developing the Chang Han set of formal exercises between 1955 and 1988 with the assistance of Tae Hi Nam, Young Il Kong, Cha Kyo Han, Chang Keun Choi, Jae Lim Woo, Kim Bok Man and Jung Tae Park, that bear the shadow of techniques culled from his training in karate-do. Furthermore, as a tribute, Choi based the underlying definition of each pattern on personalities and concepts pivotal to Korean history.  The Chang Han series of International Taekwon-do Federation tul currently consists of twenty-four patterns and differs significantly from others in the fact that their movements subscribe to a wave or sign-curve motion of the body as it transitions from stance to stance, sequence to sequence.

              Following Choi’s exodus from Korea and the eventual entrenchment of the Korea Taekwondo Association coupled with the establishment of the Kukkiwon and World Taekwondo Federation by a younger generation of practitioners not directly affected by Japanese instruction, three revolutionary sets of formal exercises were developed over the course of eight years in an effort to eliminate any vestige of foreign influence from the emerging art. Of these, the elder Palgwe and Yudanja series poomsae, created between 1965 and 1967, were intended to test the proficiency of color belt or gup level students, and dan or black belt practitioners, respectively. Partially inspired by the Pinan/Heian kata, the eight Palgwe poomsae reflect philosophical doctrines culled from the ancient Book of Changes or the I Ching and tend to emphasize low stances amplified by a variety of effective hand techniques. Moreover, technical components increase in complexity as they advance from one form to the next providing an effective barometer for rank advancement. Likewise, the Yudanja poomsae were crafted concurrent with the Palgwe set and at the time included Original Koryo, Keumgang, Taebaek, Pyongwon, Sipjin, Jitae, Cheonkwon, Hansoo and Ilyo, the latter eight of which continue to be sanctioned by the Kukkiwon and World Taekwondo Federation today. Aside from their technical diversity, the Yudanja set follow lines of motion described by Chinese and Korean characters that depict the philosophical concept characterized by each poomsae and contain advanced techniques unique to the dan grade holder. The committee members participating in the formation of the Palgwe and Yudanja poomsae consisted of kwan representatives Keun Sik Kwak (Chung Do Kwan), Young Sup Lee (Song Moo Kwan), Kyo Yoon Lee (Han Moo Kwan), Hae Man Park (Chung Do Kwan), Jong Myung Hyun (Oh Do Kwan), Soon Bae Kim (Chang Moo Kwan) and Chong Woo Lee (Ji Do Kwan).

              Nevertheless, Tae Kwon Do is the child of change and has continued to evolve in complexity since its inception during the tumultuous midpoint of the twentieth century. Even today, technical enhancements are evident at almost every training venue one visits in Korea, the homeland of the art; whether it is at universities offering taekwondology as a major, or the Kukkiwon, center of taekwondo operations worldwide, the quest for modernization proceeds unabated. And so, it should come as no surprise that less than a decade after the introduction of the Palgwe set it was decided by committee to generate a new and innovative series of formal exercises in conjunction with a vastly revised version of Original Koryo.

              Born in 1972, the Taegeuk poomsae by decree effectively replaced the existing Palgwe set. This significant modification in the Tae Kwon Do curriculum of the time is thought to have been politically-oriented inasmuch as the Moo Duk Kwan was not represented during the formulation of the Palgwe series. Yet in a practical sense, the Taegeuk poomsae were exceptional in that they contained the upright high forward or walking stance and featured a greater percentage of kicking techniques than their forerunners. Moreover, as Tae Kwon Do began to evolve into a combat sport with Olympic aspirations, a method was required to teach and support the upright fighting stance used in sparring competition and these new poomsae satisfied that need. If viewed from above, the pattern of movements within these forms trace the Chinese symbol for “king”. Bearing the namesake of the Korean flag, the Taegeuk patterns share philosophical principles running parallel to those of the Palgwe series based on the powers or elements of the Universe.

              Concurrently with the creation of the Taegeuk series, Original Koryo was superseded by an intricate, new poomsae bearing the same name. Opening dramatically with a knife hand block in back stance quickly followed by two sides kicks of varying height, Kukki Koryo poomsae was deemed appropriately challenging for the black belt holder and a worthy vehicle to gauge proficiency for promotion to 2nd dan. Overseeing the developmental process of Kukki Koryo and the Taegeuk series was Keun Sik Kwak (Chung Do Kwan), Young Sup Lee (Song Moo Kwan), Kyo Yoon Lee (Han Moo Kwan), Hae Man Park (Chung Do Kwan), Jong Myung Hyun (Oh Do Kwan), Soon Bae Kim (Chang Moo Kwan) and Chong Woo Lee (Ji Do Kwan) with the addition of Young Ki Bae (Ji Do Kwan) and Young Tae Han (Moo Duk Kwan). Certainly, over the years, other patterns were created by first and second generation grandmasters including the seven Chil Sung hyung of Moo Duk Kwan Soo Bahk Do and the eighteen Songham formal exercises of ATA Tae Kwon Do that reflect slightly divergent styles of Korean martial arts.

                     Today, the required performance of poomsae, hyung or tul by Korean stylists, except for those engaged in the practice of ITF Taekwon-Do, varies greatly from organization to organization and school to school. Based on the 1970s edict by Kukkiwon that the Taegeuk series eclipse the Palgwe set completely, a vast majority of master instructors sadly jettisoned the latter in favor of the former altogether. Likewise, the original iteration of Koryo was replaced by the radically different version currently sanctioned by the World Taekwondo Federation, Kukkiwon and the Korea Taekwondo Association. Nevertheless, schools supporting a classical approach to training frequently include both the Palgwe set and what has now come to be known as Original Koryo in their present syllabus. Moreover, as an adjunct to the traditional curriculum, many poomsae or hyung, with a direct lineage to their Japanese/Okinawan and Chinese kin are included as well. Although altered somewhat to suit the basic parameters of  Tae Kwon Do, we see evidence of this fact with the inclusion of formal exercises such as Balsek (Bassai), Chil-Ki (Tekki/Nihanji), Yunbee (Empi), Sip Soo (Jitte) and Jion, to name a few.

              Yet, just as the eum/yang or the duality of opposites predicts, formal exercise practice symbolizes a danger that cuts both ways; forfeiting poomsae training altogether in favor of strategies that focus exclusively on sport sparring represents a tragedy of grand proportions in denying the practitioner to experience the myriad benefits associated with the process. Likewise, attempting to master every pattern within the lexicon of Kukki and traditional Tae Kwon Do could, potentially, be of equal disservice since an in-depth analysis or hae sul of the practical applications embedded in the form may become blurred or ignored altogether. After all, as Funakoshi was fond of saying, “The old masters used to keep a narrow field but plough a deep furrow.”

              In many circles today, it is said that if the traditional methods of teaching Tae Kwon Do are to be preserved, it will occur in the West. This statement is partially based on the fact that major founders of the art no longer reside within the borders of Korea, but have long ago relocated here and abroad. Moreover, there exist a vast number of instructors outside the homeland of Tae Kwon Do who favor the practice of formal exercises coupled with practical self-defense techniques, both hallmarks of traditional Tae Kwon Do, over Olympic-style sparring and martial arts practice merely as a path to physical fitness. Clearly, it is this group who will safeguard the rich heritage of traditional Tae Kwon Do and act as fertile ground for the conservation and continued cultivation of the formal exercises unique to the art.


Master Doug Cook, a 6th dan black belt, is head instructor of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy located in Warwick, New York, a senior student of Grandmaster Richard Chun, and author of three best-selling books entitled: Taekwondo…Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior, Traditional Taekwondo - Core Techniques, History and Philosophy, and his most recent contribution, Taekwondo–A Path to Excellence, focusing on the rewards and virtues of tae kwon do, published by YMAA of Boston. Master Cook and Grandmaster Chun have just completed a new book on Original and Kukki Koryo poomsae targeted for publication in July of 2013. Master Cook can be reached for lectures, seminars or workshops at or

More to follow in upcoming new book; Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae - Original Koryo and Koryo by Richard Chun and Doug Cook, published by YMAA Publications, Inc.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chosun e-newsletter Archive Volumn 4 #5 May, 2013

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the May, 2013 edition of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy e-newsletter. Grand Master Richard Chun often exclaims, "Never Give Up!" It is his hard work and life achievements that have not only
brought him success but have inspired countless students after him on their taekwondo "Path to Excellence." We are very fortunate as a school to have his legacy to follow and pass on to future generations of practitioners. Enjoy reading all the success stories below...

For highlights of 2012 at Chosun, view the Chosun Taekwondo Academy 2012 Retrospective.

Kamsahamnida,facebook button
Patty Cook,

Happy Mothers Day!
Chosun Taekwondo Academy celebrating 16 years!

Read entire newsletter...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Grand Master Richard Chun - A Biography by Chosun Student Benjamin Taesung Durgin - Bodan essay April 2013

Grand Master Richard Chun is a great martial artist.  I was inspired by his book, Spirit and Practice Beyond Self-Defense.  It was an exciting and emotional story.  After I read the book, I felt less
nervous about the black belt promotion test.  Instead, I feel more confident.  I have learned a lot about Grand Master Chun, but I also learned a lot about Taekwondo.  This is what I learned about Grand Master Chun.

            Master Chun is one of six boys and two girls.  His father was a hard worker and his mother stayed home to take care of the family.  During childhood, Master Chun became a daejang, or a leader of a gang of boys.  He became a daejang by doing something very dangerous and was injured.  He was punched by a kid and wanted revenge, so he signed up for Taekwondo lessons.  He had to work part time jobs to afford the lessons.  Every ten days, he had to mop the floor of the dojang, so he came early to do his job quickly.  He kept Taekwondo a secret from his friends because he wanted revenge.  A few months later, he became a green belt.  The next school day, he looked for the guy he wanted to revenge, but the guy did not accept his challenge.  He let Master Chun punch him.  But, Master Chun became friends with him, instead.  Master Chun learned from his master that Taekwondo is not for fighting and revenge, but it is for peace. 

            During the Korean War, his family escaped to Cheju Island.  While he was there, he trained Taekwondo by himself.  He compared himself to a beautiful mountain called, Mount Hallasan because his knowledge was still inside of him no matter where he was like the mountain was covered in fog.   I thought that was a useful comparison.                                                                                                                   

              When the Korean War was over, Master Chun was happy.  He was proud of his parents for their strength.  Master Chun moved to Seoul.  He went to Yonsei University and graduated in 1957.  He started to compete in tournaments and learned from his master how to be a better competitor.  He learned that to win one hundred percent of the time, he needs to understand himself and understand his opponent.  I thought that was great advice.  He won the tournament.  His trophy is displayed on a shelf at Yonsei University.

            Master Chun signed up as one of two hundred candidates for a sales job for Air France.  He was one of two people who got the job.  He became a district manager.  Patience, perseverance and hard work helped him get this job.  He learned these things from Taekwondo.  This taught me that Taekwondo does not only help me get a belt.  It helps me in other ways in life. 

            Master Chun moved to the United States in 1962 when he was twenty-eight years old.  He earned his Master Degree in Business and Marketing from George Washington University.  He also earned a Ph.D. in education.  He taught Taekwondo in the United States at Sigward’s Academy.  His first class was in a dusty room with only ten students.  He worked as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant to earn money.  Master Chun never gives up and shows a lot of perserverance.

            In 1964, he started a new school with twenty-five students.  He noticed that his students were not doing their side-kicks correctly.  He made changes to his program and added twenty minute warm-ups in the beginning of class.  He believed that his students needed better flexibility and exercise to master their techniques.  This tells me that Master Chun is a great teacher.

            One night, at a bar, there were a group of men who fought him.  Master Chun defended himself and hurt them, and the men ran away.  Then two weeks later, Master Chun apologized to the men that he hurt because he did not feel good that he had to hurt them.  This tells me that Master Chun is a good man who always makes the right choices. 

            In 1967, Master Chun was the organizer of The First Universal Open Championship.  It included all kinds of martial arts and had 450 participants.  Master Chun’s favorite student named Joe Hayes won first place.

            In 1973, Master Chun was the head coach of the USA Taekwondo team for the first World Taekwondo Championships in Seoul.  Korea’s team won first place, Master Chun’s USA team came in second place and Mexico and China came in third.  He used this time to teach his students about Korean food, to travel Korea to share his story to his students about how he found Taekwondo.  I learned from this that Master Chun cares about his students and teaches them well. 

In 1980, Master Chun served as President of the United States Taekwondo Association.  He assisted in organizing Taekwondo as an event in the 1988 Olympics.  In 1985, he became a special assistant to the president of the World Taekwondo Federation.  Master Chun was inducted in the Black Belt Hall of Fame by Black Belt Magazine in 1979 and 2004.   He was inducted Taekwondo Hall of Fame by Taekwondo Times Magazine.  Master Chun served as District Governor for the Lions Club.  He is married with two children.

This is what I learned about Grand Master Richard Chun.  As I said before, Master Chun is a good man. He is a true martial artist and displays everything that I am learning from Taekwondo such as courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and indomitable spirit, plus more.  I enjoyed reading and learning about Master Chun.  Not only did I learn about his life, I learned a lot about the meaning of Taekwondo and how I can apply it in my life as I grow up.