On May 3, 2008, Grandmaster Park Jong Soo, who is himself, one of the original masters and pioneers of Taekwon Do, invited a variety of Grandmasters to a Taekwon Do seminar in Vancouver, Canada.
The seminar was a tribute to the pioneers of Taekwon Do. However, some felt a little uncomfortable about coming to an event put on by members of the ITF, after 20 years or more, of separation from the organization. Although they felt close ties to GM Park, many of the ITF masters withdrew support for General Choi Hong Hi in 1988, when he introduced and established Taekwon Do in North Korea.
During this time, being shortly after the cold war, and was still very much a reality for North and South Korea. So General Choi’s actions were considered taboo by western world. Most of the ITF masters were former officers in the South Korean military, and therefore, felt duty bound to remain loyal to South Korea. However, General Choi’s decision to bring Taekwon Do to North Korea was not an act of betrayal to South Korea. In 1972, he was exiled from South Korea for publicly protesting against a South Korean dictatorship style government at the time. In 1988, he felt it was time to extend an olive branch of peace to North Korea by using Taekwon Do to develop a common ground between the two sides. He had hopes that they would realize their common history, and re establish a bond of unity.
Now we move forward to 2007, where the North Korean demonstration Team has completed a Good will Tour of the USA. At first, Americans didn’t know what to think, but after the performance, they realized that these people are no one’s enemy. Instead, they found that they are just ordinary people, just like themselves. The Goodwill tour, not only demonstrated true Taekwon Do in action, but changed how North Koreans and Americans felt about each other. A ray of hope for better relations was established.
The olive branch of peace, and brotherhood has been laid at our feet. I believe that we should embrace peace, acceptance, and dispense with war, hatred, and separation, whenever possible. This has given us an opportunity for a new era. I believe that Taekwon Do will be the driving force that will reunite the Koreas one day. Just as the Hwarang youth group in the early 7th century, was the driving force that originally unified the three kingdoms of ancient Korea. The man who delivers that, will be just as prominent in Korean history as General Choi.
General Choi Hong Hi was the founder of Taekwon Do in 1955, and also the ITF in 1965. In 2002, Gen. Choi past away, giving us his legacy. Although we preserve General Choi’s Taekwon Do through the sages, the leadership of the ITF will usher in a new chapter of Taekwon Do. In order to unify Taekwon Do, we must first start to mend the first divide. This work has already begun under the leadership of the succeeding President of the ITF, Prof. Chang Ung, who has made great progress toward the merging of the ITF and WTF to form one Taekwon Do. The next great divide was in 1988, when the majority of ITF masters withdrew their support for Gen. Choi and resigned from the ITF ( as previously mentioned ).
Now it is 2008, since General Choi has passed away, whatever issues they had with him must also pass away. The feelings about the cold war should be put to rest. It is time to move forward , and work together for peace and unity. So, Grandmaster Park Jong Soo has reached out to the other original masters of Taekwon Do. The first step here, is just to talk, and become reacquainted. He knows this would not happen overnight, and would take time to re establish old relationships, build new ones, and to earn trust. In this first annual event, three brave Grandmasters took the first step to planting seeds for the future. Grandmaster Joon Jae Lee ( JJ Lee ) of Calgary, Alberta, Grandmaster Han Sam Soo of Chilliwack, B.C., Canada, and Grandmaster Cho Pyung Kyu, of San Diego, Calif., USA attended the seminar. This event is expected to develop into an international event in the years ahead, and will be reach out to more of the Taekwon Do pioneers from around the world.
The seminar was hosted by Peter Clair, 6th degree black belt, and Chief Instructor of Legacy Taekwon Do in Surrey, B.C., Canada, and also by Russell Kellythorne, 5th degree black belt, and a direct student of Grandmaster Park since 1968. The seminar was conducted by Grandmaster Park Jong Soo, and included much of the teachings set out in his DVD series collection of fundamental movements, proper stretching, patterns, and self defence. Peter Clair stated, “This event included students from a variety of Taekwon Do organizations, coming together to pay tribute to the pioneers of Taekwon Do, and to give thanks to those who paved the way for all Taekwon Do instructors and students of today. Regardless of your present affiliations, our common roots are connected to the pioneers, who came before us.”
The participants gave a lot of positive feedback, and were very thankful for the opportunity to learn from one of the great legends of Taekwon Do. They all thoroughly enjoyed their experience. Toward the conclusion of the seminar, the other Grandmasters presented themselves, as they received plaques of appreciation, and made themselves available for the signing of belts and uniforms in Korean calligraphy with the students.
The students were again, thrilled and enjoyed getting photos with the pioneers of Taekwon Do, followed up with a banquet that evening, in their honor.
Thank you, once again to the pioneers of Taekwon Do.
Written by Peter Clair