Thank you Sir for agreeing to do this interview for our magazine. Let’s begin.
Tell us about your early days of training with you and your brothers.
Just like most of us, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris helped inspire our love for martial arts. My brothers and I went from gym to gym trying boxing, karate, kenpo, Taekwon-Do until we stumbled in the school of Hang Ung Lee. We instantly were overjoyed! The teachers looked like Bruce Lee and that was enough for us! We were kids and didn’t know any better. H.U. Lee also happen to be the president of the American Taekwondo Association and was recently at that time a member of the ITF. H.U. Lee taught Martial Arts in the Army during the Vietnam War. We loved the harsh training he provided. We trained every day! After class, we went home and trained even more. Tournament competition was a big deal in our school. I wanted to become a champion and make our school be proud. I trained with four of my brothers and my mother who eventually reached her 4th Dan.
We travelled to all parts of the United States winning state and local championships, two of my brothers and myself won multiple National championships. I started helping teaching at age 15. Immediately I started helping every night. Since then I have been teaching classes daily. I opened my first club while still in high school. My club was very successful. I opened my first full time Dojang at age 21.
The early days were magical! Kick boxing was at its height, Martial Arts movies seemed to come out one per year. Tournaments every weekend! Great times!
What did your daily training consist of?
We would also teach first then attend our own class. Classes always consisted of hellish warm up and exhausting exercises! The instructors loved it when they could make someone throw up! If someone fell out, then that was even a bigger bonus! Once this was achieved then we could start the real class! Floor work, drills, patterns, sparring. No pads! The harder it was the more I loved it! We witnessed many students come and go. Bruises, busted lips and broken noses seemed to be badges of courage more than a injury!
Give us an understanding of Taekwon-Do in the early days in USA.
Taekwon-Do was still not a common name back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Many of us referred to it as Karate or just Korean Karate for marketing purposes. I didn’t know the difference while trying out several academies before enrolling into what I found out was Taekwon-Do.
Movies were one of the largest influences in American culture. Bruce, Chuck Norris and others had a massive impact of the growth of martial arts. ESPN had kickboxing! When the movie “Karate Kid” came out then it was game over for martial arts schools! The flood gates of new students rolled in! Business boomed in America with all martial arts. USA has the most full time, successful martial arts schools than any other country. Unlike most other countries, many in America see martial arts instruction as an occupation and make their livelihood by teaching martial arts. Taekwon-Do is not only my passion, but my occupation aswell.
When did you start teaching full time?
While in High school. Since age 17.
Tell us your work with ITF Union
I sit on the board of Executives. We are a group of Grandmasters who wish to share the Generals legacy with all countries regardless of economic standing.
We are a younger generation and wish to not follow the same internal destruction as the ITF by simply being open minded to today’s needs and political circumstances. We cannot be the “Old” ITF. In able to keep the ITF alive we must change and adapt new policies, give more control over to its leaders and work together without ego. Our board is made up of leaders who are humble and truly want the best for a untied team of leaders to have a place to call home.
The success of the ITF UNION can be seen by the recent announcements of the joining of Grandmaster Trajtenberg, Grandmaster Dacak and GrandmasterG rispino and the vast numbers of Grandmasters, Masters and instructors that have followed them. These are amazing people with a huge legacy. They have fit seamlessly in our family and it is an absolute pleasure to work with them.
How often do you train now?
I teach everyday but I will personally train twice per week. I like to walk though all my patterns, stretch, hit bags and go for walks. I do not train super hard anymore due to a back injury. I eat well, do not, drink, smoke or use any medicines of any kind. Some weeks I might do more or less training based on a event that might be coming up.
You are in the ITFU Executives. Where do you see the organization in 19 years?
I can’t believe how large we have grown already! Wouldn’t it be great if all groups decided to unite under the Union banner? We definitely are open to seeing everyone join our Union concepts! In 19 years the “Old” generation will be retired. Newer leadership and concepts will emerge and hopefully help everyone learn that we can be independent but yet have a home.We provide a home. In 19 years I plan to be retired and looking forward to what new awaits us. All I know is that I am trying to do my part in unification and not destruction. If we all promise to work toward not continuing to add to the destruction of Taekwon-Do, then how can we not build?
You came from a Taekwon-Do family? Tell us about this?
Yes, my whole family trained. Me and my four brothers as well as my mom. My three daughters and step son all earned their black belts. Two of my brothers still teach and train. Both are 7th Dans. My brother and I also cross train and hold belts in many other styles.
Do you have any closing comments?
I am very pleased with the direction of the Union. Grand Master Dalton is dong an amazing job of bringing so many people together. We are all family. If we promise to always take care of our family then a wonderful future will surely happen!