Traditional TaeKwon-Do September 1977

The Promise of TaeKwon-Do
by Hee Il Cho

This life is full of changing changelessness and I have tried all my life to harmonize with the current of events before me rather than resist the tides of change with force. These principles' came naturally to me although they are very much the concept of yin and yang which is so much a part of Asian beliefa and martial arts.

In order to help me realize this harmony, I had one great assistant that never failed me but gave me strength, courage in the face of adversity, ambition and control of myself and my destiny - that was TaeKwon-Do. I cannot now separate TaeKwon-Do from the essence of my life; my art is so much part of me. All my life's experiences have sprung from my abilities In TaeKwon-Do. The only, path I have journeyed is that which TaeKwonDo has provided.

My Joumey started when I was ten years old. I went to a local falr where four or flve neighborhood boys beat me up so badly I think I was almost half dead when theyhad flnished with me. I felt stung with humitiation, crushed from defeat. For a long time after this fight a burning anger ate inside my heart. TIhis anger was to also be the creator of my competitive spirit. l wanted to make sure that I would never again in my life be in a similar position. So it was, I started training in Kang Soo Do.

It was hard training. Even though I was very young, they treated me wlth indifference to my age. Classes were two hours long every day. If you couldn't follow, too bad. Only the most fit and strongest managed to pass through the training.

Due to the depresaion after the war, my country was very poor at this time. The studio facilities consisted of a dirt floor and meager equipment. Despite these conditions we had to show respect to our studio; humble as it was it was treated like a palace. The head lnstructor seemed almost godlike to me at that age. 0ften I was asked to wash his feet after class. I think a year passed before he even talked to me once. So it was I learned humillty and respect for my peers. The higher belts were very tough and gave me a hard time. I couldn't understand why, then, and, often retumed to my home disconcerted, but I understand now. Beside my physical development, they were helping me with my mental attitude. I stayed with this studio for three years until I received my first degree black belt. Then I left the school because my family moved to Inchon which Is close to Seoul.

It was at Inchon that I came to know TaeKwon-Do. I found that TaeKwon-Do satisfied my mental growth as well as my physical, development. I became a more complete person and martial artist through TaeKwon-Do. I knew by then that martial arts would be my life. When I was twenty-one I had to serve my country in the army for three years. Since I was by then a fourth degree black belt, they enlisted me to teach the art of self defense to the Korean service men.

Once I was out of the service, and since I was a member of the Intemational TaeKwon-Do Federation, I enrolled and graduated from the l.T.F. instructors' course. Following this, I decided to further my training in TaeKwon-Do under the guidance of General Choi Hong-Hi. I had followed his career and had always respected and admired the work this man had done to further the true meaning of TaeKwon-Do, not only in my own country but throughout the world.

My journey continued after this taking me to India and Germany to teach armed forces. I then had an opportunity to go to the United States with a demonstration team. I had heard so much about the freedoms of the U.S. and the people of this country. I thought that if there was any place in the world that I could hope to achieve my goals, the United States was going to be the place.

So my journey was broadening; the horizons of my life were swiftly changing. I arrived in the U.S. thinking that life was full of endless possibilities, and it was. I gave my first demonstration in Chicago. While there I heard from one of my friends that a TaeKwon-Do instructor was needed in South Bend, Indiana. I got the position as instructor in South Bend, working by day in a factory and by night as an instructor. Days were long fifteen hours of work a day. Du;ing this time I was thankful for my hard training in Korea. I knew that with patience and perseverance I would pass this moment in my life and move on to better times. I learned to apply my martial arts training to understanding my life and its many changes.

I was to travel during the next years to many different cities in the United States and to compete in many tournaments, always seeking to extend myself. I had a very strong competitive spirit which drove me onward as a fighter. There were many pressures on me because I was a sixth degree black belt; high ranking black belts just didn't fight in tournaments. An added pressure was the amount of prejudice there was against Orientals at that time. I was called 'snake eyes' and 'the yellow man' in newspaper articles. Sometimes it hurt, but I eventually turned a blind eye and knew that in time these attitudes would pass.

It was by competing in tournaments and being among other fighters I came to understand the American as a person and a martial artist. This helped me as an instructor. I realized that the type of training I had in Korea would have to be adapted in some areas to relate to the American way of life. In order to be a good instructor you have to understand your students. I had to understand the American and the difference between the different cultures. I tried to take the best of both worlds and balance them in my teachings. It's not enough just to be physically talented as an instructor. I try to show my students a way to understand first themselves, and then to relate their martial arts training and integrate it into their daily lives. I ask them to search into themselves to reach a union between their mind and bociles. This achieved, they start to become true martial artists.

My travels were to take me to Rhode Island, and it was there among those people that I was to settle and In time to build up seven schools. The people of Rhode Island are tough, strong, and proud. They work hard, but they know a good time also. They are also the most appreciative people I have ever met. I trained many young people in Rhode Island and received much satisfaction from them. A lot of my students especially at the high school age were experiencing the difficulties of being caught in the then extending drug scene, and an apathy of not knowing where their lives were leading them. I tried to show mem how their TaeKwon-Do training would give them the courage and mental strength to overcome the changes in their lives, help them grow into responsible, joyful adults. Today ten of those young men are teaching TaeKwon-Do in established schools and making their lives journey wlth TaeKwon-Do as I have. They in tum are training other young black belt instructors. They compete as a professional full contact team, 'The TaeKwon-Do Tigers,' and also fight professionally Individually.

After six years in Rhode Island I found myself thinking about California. I never really had got used to the hard winters in Rhode Istand and often longed for the sun during those cold months. It was not easy to leave so many friends, but my young instructors were well-established spreading the TaeKwon-Do way. I still have very strong ties with all my students in Rhode Island and visit Rhode Island often.

So it is now that many of my dreams have been fulfilled, but I will never stop learning, reaching deepar and deeper into TaeKwonDo. As time changes, so has TaeKwon-Do. The same rigid methods of training I grew up with are no longer, but the principles of this unique art have not changed.

I traln daily and seek inside myself to reach closer toward perfection. I search through my perseverance, endurance, patience and training to know a deeper understanding of my art. Again and again I throw kick after kick. I do not need my eyes, the kick has become an extension of my senses. I cannot separate TaeKwon-Do from the essence of my life. I will go on training and training, seeking out life's endless horizons.

This is the generation when people are most obsessed with their feelings. The major topic of conversation seemingly is whether someone is happy or sad, loved or unloved. There are many different outlets for the tremendous stress and pressure we all live amongst, but one of the finest analysts, health givers, and emotional healers is TaeKwon-Do.

I won't say that it's easy. There are many despairs that will taunt you and much patience will be asked of you. But if you are willing to make the effort and commit yourself, the rewards are limitless, more than you can really imagine. This I promise you.

© copyright Traditional TaeKwon-Do September 1977