We start our run with Grandmaster Rai who started his journey in 1974 and achieved his GM title in 2021, yet he insists all must call him Master. A true example of humility indeed if you ask me. Let’s get on, as this promises to open your eyes on a man that is the real deal, yet is unknown in many circles.
Firstly, thank you for agreeing to take part in our new ‘Grandmaster in question’ Sir. You’re welcome, Chris.
What country did you grow up in as a kid?
I was born In Leicester, England and moved to Canada when I was 9 years old.
How big was your family that you grew up with?
I have one younger brother 3 years younger who was also a black belt in ITF Taekwon-Do.
So, what age did you start TaeKwonDo?
I started ITF Taekwon-Do when I was 10 years old under GM Lee Sukhi.
What inspired you to start? i.e. a film star, lack of fitness, self defence, confidence etc.
My uncle was a black belt in Karate and also practiced Kung Fu. I remember as far back as age of 4 learning from him how to kick and punch. He was the inspiration for me to get into Taekwon-Do when I arrived in Canada. My father was also a big part of me joining Taekwon-Do. He was involved in sports and wanted my brother and I to know how to defend ourselves.
When you took up TKD, did your family support you?
Since I was young when I started Taekwon-Do, I had no choice and listened to what my father and mother asked me to do. GM Lee was a very strict instructor and we learned Taekwon-Do the military way. There was only yes sir. No sir didn’t exist and the training was very hard. Often he would pull our noses as form of punishment and give us push ups. Quite honestly that was the best form of training. At the time I hated it as I thought it was too hard, but now I wish we could teach this way. We learned a lot of DO in those days.
Regarding family, did any of them take up TKD?
Yes, my brother Majar who is 3 years younger than me. We started together. All four of my daughters took up TaeKwon-Do. They are all Black Belts and the oldest three have represented Canada at the world championships. They all won medals at the worlds. My wife has a green belt in it too.
What grade did they get if any?
He received his 2nd degree black belt in ITF the same time as I got mine. He then went on and competed in WAKO and open Karate Tournaments while I stayed with the ITF.
Do they still train?
Yes, he became world champion in Karate tournaments. He often wore his ITF Dobok to tournaments. He still trains even now just didn’t grade for degrees.
Did you compete during your career at all?
I competed in every tournament that was hosted in Canada and USA. GM Lee made sure we went to tournaments.
Do you have a memory about competing you would like to share? i.e. injuries sustained, the teaching methods taught by your instructor, highs or lows, people met etc.
Tournaments were fun and there were a lot of competition. There were always over 600 competitors in every tournament. We used to start at 9 am sharp and often found ourselves still competing at midnight. I was from the era of great Canadian competitors like Paul Germain, Richard Parris, Alain Dumai, Fred Barkley and many more. It was always a pleasure to watch them and compete with them.
What was your best title won when you were competing?
I won so many awards while competing and all of them were the best as they all had good memories.
Did you ever serve on your national TKD squad?
In 1992, I represented Canada travelling to Scotland at GM Rhee Ki Ha’s tournament. We ended up winning Gold there. I travelled many times to the World Championships as Umpire for Canada after that.
How many times did you meet the Founder?
I met Gen. Choi many times. I was very lucky as GM Lee Sukhi was very close to Gen. Choi. I remember when I was 11 years old and Gen. Choi came to the Burlington Dojang. I didn’t know who he was but found out later that he was the founder. In 1985 I was invited to his house to record the introduction of Juche Tul. This was the first time the pattern was introduced to the senior masters and instructors that were there at his residence. After that, I visited him many times and was very fortunate to listen to his knowledge of Taekwon-Do. We, the instructors in Canada always visited him on Jan 1 every year to wish him a Happy new year and longevity.
Did you ever travel or assist him?
I attended many seminars that were conducted by Gen. Choi. In 1995, I started training at the ITF Dojang which was ran by Pres. Choi Jung Hwa, the son of the founder. GM Lee Sukhi had retired from Taekwon-Do in 1985, and I continued my training with Master Rim Song Hack and later, GM Park Jong Soo. In 1995 I started at the ITF Dojang. While there I was very privileged as Gen. Choi would come to the Dojang and myself and other visiting instructors would get to learn from Gen. Choi. In 2000, I was asked by Pres. Choi to travel with Gen. Choi to France as his assistant. That was an opportunity that I would never miss. That trip I learned so much from the founder.
What was your fondest memory of the Founder?
I have so many fond memories of Gen. Choi. He was such a nice man. Always willing to teach. I remember while being in France with him, we had just left the hotel room and were walking in the hallway when a young blue belt asked Gen. Choi about walking stance. Gen. Choi stopped and gave this young lad a one hour lesson on walking stance. When I asked him sir we were getting late for breakfast, he replied ” This is more important”. We ended up skipping breakfast and going straight to the seminar. I will never forget that day and I’m sure the young child that got a one on one lesson with Gen. Choi will never forget.
What age did you become an instructor?
I had my first school in 1986. It was in hamilton under GM Park Jong Soo. He had asked me to teach at his school there after GM Lee Sukhi had left. He told me that since I was GM Lee’s student, he wanted me to teach as he knew the students would learn discipline. I remember him testing me by making me ride on the subway back and forth in different Taekwon-Do stances to test my balance. I had over 600 students by the time 1989. In 1989 I became a Police officer and had to stop teaching full time, so another instructor took over. I continued my training though in Taekwon-Do
What encouraged that transition?
I always loved teaching, even now it is a complete fulfilment for me. When I was asked to teach full time, it was a dream come true. Even while being a police officer, I taught at the police College. I only taught ITF to the police officers. We had a group of us that traveled around Canada and USA and competed in the Police games in Taekwon-Do. When I retired in 2015, I had opened my own ITFschool in 2014. I had great students and the school reached over 300 active students in only 3 years. I had 14 students represent Canada at the World ITF Championships under Pres. Choi. All of them returned with medals.
What is your best memory as an instructor? Student achievement / first Black Belt / title status etc.
I have so many memories as every student was special to me. But when my daughters achieved their black belts, I was the most complete. To put the black belt around their waists was an unforgettable experience. Also when I was announce 7th Degree by Pres. Choi at the World Championships in Birmingham, England. It was special for me as my eldest daughter who was on Team, Canada had won several medals there making that trip an unforgettable trip.
What has been your best achievement in TKD apart from becoming a Grand Master?
There have been so many. I became the treasurer of ITF in 2004, the special assistance to pres. Choi in 2004 and then the head of the ITF Technical Committee in 2005. The greatest achievement was when I was awarded the Choi family loyalty award from Pres. Choi. Only a few of those are handed out every few years.
Do you have one memory you can share about TKD? A fun story / who you met etc.
When Gm Lee Sukhi left in 1985 he was an 8th Degree and I a 2nd degree. I never thought I would see him again. He was my first master and will always be my Instructor. In 2017, he came to Canada with his wife, Mrs. Lee. Myself and Master Zdeb who was his most senior student greeted him at the airport. I had never touched GM Lee as it was just never allowed. But on that day when he came out of the exit doors in the airport terminal, he asked me to give him a hug. I was so afraid as touching your instructor was a no no. I hesitated but he grabbed me hugged me. I was in tears as I got to hold my teacher. It was even more special for me as he attended my dojang. That day I wore my second degree black belt as I will always be a 2nd degree to him. He asked me why didn’t I wear my 8th degree black belt. I said I am only a 2nd for your eyes sir. It was so rewarding for me to have my students meet my Master Instructor.
What are your hopes or plans for TaeKwonDo in general for the future?
My plans are to continue to teach this beautiful art. Hopefully we can all let go of ego and become one big family again like Gen. Choi always said we were. Like I say to everyone I get a chance to teach. I am still a student in Taekwon-do and still have a lot to learn. Taekwon-Do is a life long journey that never stops. I know recently I was promoted to 9th Degree, but I will not refer to myself as that as to me Gen. Choi, Gm Lee Sukhi and GM Choi Jung Hwa are my 9th Degrees. As a student of theirs, I can never be their equal. This is why I tell everyone to only call me Master and not Grand Master. I wish more senior Instructors would think the same way. I see so many higher degrees at seminars only watch. They should be teaching and setting an example for everyone. Like GM Choi Jung always says “WHEN YOU KNOW ONE THING THROUGH AND THROUGH, YOU KNOW EVERYTHING.” Well when do we ever know anything through and through.
If you could change anything from your career, what would it be?
I would change nothing. I have enjoyed every moment in Taekwon-Do. It has been the most rewarding. I have met so many wonderful people and have learned from so many great Instructors. Amongst all, I have gotten to travel the world and seen so many different cultures and experience the best of the country has to offer.
Lastly, what is your current position you hold in TaeKwonDo apart from GM?
I have been asked to continue my post as member of the Technical Commitee under ITFU by GM Dalton which I am pleased to so
I am glad I have gotten to know so many wonderful Instructors and students in the ITFU who have welcomed me with open arms. We are all branches of one big tree. All teaching Gen. Choi’s Taekwon-Do. One day we will be one tree trunk with only one blooming branch. I ask all the leaders to meet together and become one. Forget titles. Maybe hold a Championships with all of us under the same room. Thank you once again for allowing me this opportunity. Lastly my position in Taekwon-Do is: I am a student for life learning everyday. Taekwon .