Combat February 1981

Hee Il Cho Man of Contrasts

by George Sfetas and Norman Howell

"I can find peace amidst the cities roarbefore the dry, frayed face of confusion, the exhausted hour. My peace is cradled within"

Master Hee II Cho is generally acknowledged to be one of the world's finest kicking technicians. He is aiso the most controversial Taekwondo Master, having introduced boxing and full contact training within his teaching.

The road that brought Master Cho to his present superstar status was a long and arduos one. Cho arrived in the United States in 1969, having served in the Korean Army teaching Taekwondo to special forces. His outstanding ability took him to India and Germany, aIways as a Combat instructor to elite troops.

The ambitious young man from Korea found the United States too soft for his brand of teaching. Stints of teaching in Chicago, Indiana and Milwakee proved to be a difficult time for Cho. Students would drop out of his classes and parents complained aboutthe severity with which Master Cho treated their children. Steeped in the hard tradition of his 1,000 year old art, Cho was confronted with the reality of an America indifferent to tradition, impatientwith discipline, obsessed with quick results and blined by showmanship

Master Hee II Cho eventually moved to California in 1975 and opened a studio in Los Angeles. Wise to the needs of his adopted country, Cho began incorporating techniques from boxing and adapting Western training methods to the needs of his Martial Art. He is an advocate of weight training and roadwork, something that the more traditional Taekwondo fraternity has always looked down upon.

Master Hee Il Cho holds very interesting views on full-contact Karate. He is not ashamed to say that he teaches it, pointing out though, that full-contact and Martial Arts are different. He explains that fullcontact was developed by Westerners. It is not linked to any particular Martial Art, but contained elements from all styles, Oriental and Western. Essentially, it is a new sport, at an early stage of development, with an exciting future ahead of it. Taekwondo is a Korean art of self-defence. Its development is linked with the history of Korea, its techniques tested in countless battles, its philosophy handed down the ages by wise men. The ultimate aim of Taekwondo is not beating an opponent, but the achievment of mind body union, inner harmony.

Master Cho feels that without adequate training, a traditional black belt pitted against a seasoned contact fighter, more often than not will come out the loser. The black belt will lack the required stamina, will not be used to wearing equipment, ducking and weaving and absorbing punishment.

Ultimately it is a question of hardness and conditioning, supplenessof body and agility of mind. Master Hee Il Cho can teach all of these, although he makes a point of keeping fullcontact teaching and Karate instruction separate. Open minded he might be, but he is a Taekwondo Master conditioned from an early age to regard his art as a complete fighting system. Mixing Taekwondo with full contact would take the heart out of Taekwondo and the ring-effectiveness of full contact.

What Taekwondo means to Master Hee 11 Cho is obvious to anyone who has read his book entitled 'Man of Contrasts', regarded by many as the finest book on Taekwondo in the English language. For those who do not train in the Korean style, there are excellent chapters on weight-training and body conditioning.

A man of many facets he certainly is. He has adapted his way of thinking to incorporate the best in Western fighting techniques, yet there is no dilution of Taekwondo. It's a hard ~ uncompromising style, and Cfio is fanatical in upholding obedience, dedication and punctuality. Students can still get thrown out for missing a class.

Master Hee Il Cho will be coming to England soon. He will hold seminars and courses for all Martial Arts students, but might be prevailed upon to teach some of his full-contact techniques that enabled his best students to win so many tournaments. Look for details in Combat soon! Be sure not to miss this remarkable man, thought by many senior Martial Artists to be one of the best in any style, anywhere.

© copyright Combat February 1981