SOO, PARK JONG  SPCIAL (1941-2021)

  I was asked to write about my instructor, Grand Master Park Jong Soo. I have chosen to write about the Grand Master Park I was blessed to know during the years leading up to his untimely death. These are some of the most amazing years of my life. People often ask me “what was Grand Master Park like?” My answer is that he was all about Tae Kwon-Do.
 I first met Grand Master Park in 1986. I tested in front of (then) Master Park for my 2nd Dan at his upstairs Dojang on Yonge Street in Toronto. (My first Dan was awarded from the Kukkiwon.) Testing before Grand Master Park was a wonderful experience. The test included patterns, step-sparring, broke a ton of wood and sparred for over an hour. It is an incredible memory that I will never forget. When Grand Master Park would attend our color belt tests, he would take off his suit jacket and watch…and then demonstrate something such as a low block. The entire building would shake from his power. 
His tournaments, sometimes held at the Canadian National Exhibition, were the highest quality with amazing competitors. I would also see him at other Grand Masters’ tournaments. He always had time to talk to you. He would always stay longer than the other Grand Masters. Like I said, he was all about Tae Kwon-Do. 
All-to-often someone is referred to as a Pioneer of Tae Kwon-Do. It can be an overused title. Grand Master Park was an original Pioneer. Grand Master Park was all about fulfilling General Choi’s final wish; One World-One Tae Kwon-Do. When Grand Master Park taught, he never used “I” but rather always refers to General Choi during his lessons, a true sign of reverence and humility. Even though he was a renaissance man and well versed in many worldly topics, he spent his most of his precious time either teaching or spreading Tae Kwon-Do worldwide. His depth of historical knowledge and perspective is equal to his concern and caring for the future of Tae Kwon-Do. I saw it firsthand.
I am in awe of how often he traveled and how many people’s lives he touched. Grand Master Park spent an incredible amount of time accompanying General Choi around the world; so much so that his many Dojangs suffered from his absence. He also told me he should have been more attentive to his family, but he needed to bring Tae Kwon-Do everywhere. During many of our conversations, he cautioned me to keep a better balance with my family, and my Dojang. He reiterated this as he handed his Allied International Tae Kwon-Do Council over to me.
Once he asked if I would be his student my life would change. We trained hard. These day included training, meals, more training, teaching and more meals. He was always looking for an opportunity to train/teach. A wonderful situation that shows how dedicated he was to teaching our great art occurred on a weekend when he was attending Grand Master Robert Zang’s tournament in Pittsburgh, PA. He was to give a 3 hour seminar and also was the guest of honor at the tournament. Grand Master Park told us he wanted to see Grand Master Zang’s Dojang and have a meal. I drove Grand Master Park to the Dojang and noticed he was carrying his briefcase. We went in and toured the Dojang. It was a very nice facility with an area dedicated to him. Grand Master Park was very complimentary and asked to use the restroom. To our surprise, he soon emerged in his dobuk and said let’s train! Grand Master Zang loaned me a dobuk and a belt. We were treated to a fantastic training session and martial art experience. He taught us and fielded our many questions with command, grace and humility.
In 2015 we traveled to S. Korea. As we were standing together before General Choi’s monument on Jeju Island, (I didn’t know Grand Master Park had never seen it before) I got choked up as I could see his love and reverence for Gen Choi like never before. He was definitely in a moment of his life that he had never experienced before. The time in Korea was spent giving seminars, meeting with the president of the then WTF and spending time at Taekwondowon Complex in Muju, S. Korea.
Grand Master Park wanted to also give us a special treat and to experience some of Tae Kwon-do’s history. He was part of the development and grand opening of this amazing “village.” This was followed by a trip to Japan for more seminars.
One thing I noticed about Grand Master Park was his ability to bring out the best in others by putting them on the spot, or thrusting them into the spotlight, or just surprising you. Some examples of this can be seen in the following examples. Grand Master was gracious enough to attend many of my invitational tournaments. However, one year when we were attending his tournament, I entered the venue with my wife Tica. We walked over to the head table and bowed. In front of a group of visiting dignitaries, Grand Master Park said “You two do such a great job running your tournament.

Today you will run mine!” Another example was when I went to my first private lesson. That evening he asked me to teach his classes. I said of course and asked what he wanted me to cover. He said, “You just do” and went into his office. Later at dinner, I asked how he thought I did. He said, “How do you think you did?” As practitioners of Tae Kwon-Do, you know just how uncomfortable a moment/question like this can be. As I started to answer he interrupted with a firm “BE HONEST WITH ME.” I answered that I thought I taught well but wasn’t sure if I did what he wanted.

His reply was, “You did as I asked. You taught my class.” He gave me that smile of his and said, “Now let’s eat.” For as fierce as Grand Master Park was, he was also a “calming” voice to me. At times when things were not going right or someone was not treating him with proper respect, I would become a little “protective” or bothered. He would lean over and say, “it’s ok, he/she doesn’t understand” or “‘they have some growing up to do.” I don’t mean to imply he never got angry. He did when it was appropriate, and it was quite formidable. In his earlier days he was not as easy-going I hope to be able to discuss this in future writings Before I conclude, I would like to share a story that I believe shows his wonderful stubbornness, his kindness, his humility, and his way. Before we were married Tica were in Toronto for a weekend getaway. 

She had yet to meet Grand Master Park. I told her we needed to stop by Grand Master’s Dojang on Yonge Street and say hello. When we got there, the door was unlocked. We went downstairs and found him sitting on a couch with his leg up and pantleg rolled up. He motioned us to come in as we asked if we were interrupting. He was very happy to see us.

I introduced him to Tica. He asked her to touch his knee. She looked at me with a little terror in her eyes. Smiling, I said, “When this man asks you to touch his knee, you touch his knee.” As she did, he asked her what she thought. She told him it was swollen, felt a little warm and may be infected. He said, the doctor thought that it might be but “I think no.” Then he said we must go to lunch! As we began to walk to the stairs, he began using a golf putter as a cane and was limping.

I asked if maybe he should be using crutches. His reply again was that the doctor said yes but “I think no.” As we were finishing our meal, I noticed his shoe was untied and he was having difficulty bending down to tie it. 

Without him asking I dropped down on one knee and began tying it. He bonked me on the head with his massive hand and exclaimed, “The mouse does not always have to take care of the elephant!” To which I replied “Sir! I don’t even know what that means so I can’t argue with you!” That’s the man he was. The mouse wishes he could still be assisting the elephant. I miss him. Article by Grand Master Chuck Gorino 9th Dan AITC #US-9-005


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