Jason Gaillard at Dongyang Taekwondo in Jeju Island, South Korea
We arrived at the world headquarters of Taekwondo on a sunny
hot afternoon. The Kukkiwon building has the presence of a college campus. As
we entered the front door some people went down the steps to change and I
followed a group that went over to look down onto the floor of the Kukkiwon. I
had a similar feeling in Rome when I was looking down into the Colosseum. The
ceiling was draped with the flag from every country. After we changed
downstairs, Master Cook asked Bill and me to join him in the office and bring
the gifts to present to the heads of the Kukkiwon. Master Cook was invited to
sit down at a round table with Grandmaster Hong(head of poomsae instruction for
the Kukkiwon) and one or two other men. People who walked by were smiling and
welcoming and I bowed deeply greeting them all. In the Kukkiwon,
Grandmasters roam the halls and offices in plain clothes so you never know who
is before you. When in doubt bow and bow deep. From there, we went down to the
main arena. Grandmaster Hong greeted us with a big smile joined by a 22 year
old woman in uniform. After a warm up we began learning basics stances and
techniques and then onto poomsae. The training was intense and laser precise.
The woman demonstrated every form with phenomenal technique and power.
Grandmaster Hong had a firm command with a big smile. Each of us did the
poomsae up to our level and then dropped off to the sideline to watch the rest.
At the end we were witness to an extraordinary event. We watched 9th
dan Grandmaster Hong instruct 7th dan Grandmaster Alejandro and 6th
dan Master Cook. I can’t emphasize how extremely rare it is to witness a master
and grandmaster being taught at this level. As I was sitting off to the side
soaking it all in I began noticing the dark spots and smears all over the mats.
The mats are dirty I thought until it hit me... it was blood. I always thought
the Kukkiwon would be a polished showpiece for Taekwondo and when the reality
of the space hit me, I realized this place is no joke and the people who enter this
domain are warriors of the highest caliber.