Author: Patrick Harrigan

Did Putin learn nothing from martial arts?

Editorial: Did Putin learn nothing from martial arts?

Putin’s martial arts credentials questioned

At the Rose Monday carnival in Düsseldorf, Germany, on 15 February 2021, Vladimir Putin was portrayed exposed in an untimely posture in front of critic Alexei Navalny. Ina Fassbender/AFP

No serious martial artist would make Putin’s blunders.

It should now be perfectly clear to everyone — including Vladimir Putin — that it was a grave strategic blunder for Russia to launch an unprovoked invasion upon a peaceful and democratic neighbor, the Ukraine. Despite vehement denials, things have gone badly both for Putin and for Russia. All thanks to the ‘martial artist’ Putin’s utter failure to grasp a single core principle of martial arts.

Indeed, Putin had already lost his war before he started it, principally by violating this cardinal principal from the ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War:

Know your enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.”

— Sun Tzu

Putin — who likes to be considered as a master of martial arts including judo and taekwondo — has instead demonstrated his ignorance of martial arts principles as well as critical strategic considerations. He has:

  • failed to appreciate Russian military’s own weaknesses and overestimated its capabilities while floating his fantasy of rescuing the Ukraine from Jewish Nazis;
  • failed to anticipate the resolve and ability of Ukrainians to resist his invasion; and he
  • failed to foresee how it would unify western nations and strengthen NATO instead of weakening it.

“When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.”

— Sun Tzu

The list could go on into details about Russian-style command and intelligence failures. Suffice it to say that Putin failed to grasp even most fundamental injunction that applies to any endeavor, but most especially to the conduct of war.

Why does a reputed master of the theory and practice of judo keep getting slammed on the floor?

Putin’s ability in the martial arts extends no further than the sphere of executing sets of techniques. He has exposed his own failure to comprehend and apply martial art principles to affairs outside of dojangs.
Putin’s ability in the martial arts extends no further than the sphere of executing mere techniques. He has exposed his own failure to comprehend and apply martial art principles to practical affairs outside of dojangs. Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a training session with the Russian national judo team at the Yug-Sport Training Center in Sochi, Russia. Mikhail Klimentyev / AP

Techniques without Principles

Putin’s honorary 9th Dan black belt degrees, however politically motivated, would suggest a certain level of proficiency in both the tactical and strategic spheres. And yet, whatever tactics or tricks Putin may have gathered along the way from judo or taekwondo, nevertheless he has plainly failed to grasp the principles underlying the art of war — unfortunately at a horrific cost in lives and infrastructure, crippling not only a peaceful neighboring country but dealing blows to Russia itself at multiple levels with catastrophic consequences.

This also raises another question. What martial arts teacher or teachers of Putin are responsible for teaching him fighting tactics while failing to teach him anything deeper beyond mere techniques? Did one short-sighted grand master after another lead Putin down the flowery path of flattery? Or was Putin’s martial arts instruction so inadequate that it only prodded him further down the path to his own self-destruction?

Expelled from World Taekwondo

Meanwhile, World Taekwondo has strongly condemned Putin’s “brutal attacks on innocent lives in Ukraine, which go against the World Taekwondo vision of ‘Peace is More Precious than Triumph’ and the World Taekwondo values of respect and tolerance,” in a statement issued on February 28, 2022 shortly after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The International Judo Federation also announced that it had removed Putin from all positions held in the International Judo Federation, the Budapest-based governing body said in a statement. The move came week after World Taekwondo stripped Putin of his honorary 9th Dan black belt. Putin was also suspended as the honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation.

“World Taekwondo condemns the brutal attack on innocent people in Ukraine. This is against the purpose of World Taekwondo and the values ​​of respect-tolerance.”

—World Taekwondo statement

The 69-year-old Putin is a judo black belt and co-authored a book ironically entitled Judo: History, Theory, Practice. So, if Putin is really a master of the theory and practice of judo, why does he keep getting slammed on the floor?

Untethered from Principles

Despite all his power, influence and wealth, Vladimir Putin is sadly only too typical of modern day martial artists who — regardless of their rank or years of training — remain focused almost entirely upon techniques untethered from the art’s unchanging underlying principles. They may become ‘great’ in terms of technical prowess — yet they remain stuck as little more than an advanced class of technicians.

Kangdukwon kwan jan kim Hwa Chong
World Kangdukwon Kwan Jang Nim Hwa Chong

As World Kangdukwon Kwan Jang Nim Hwa Chong continues to remind us, one should aim to think and act like a general, and not think like a foot soldier.

The novice enlists as a private. The dedicated ones advance to become officers. Only a few become generals who can see and predict the whole field of battle.

Likewise, few taekwondo students ever progress beyond the initial stage of basic training. They may learn and master every technical aspect of training, yet without knowing how to apply taekwondo principles to daily life, they struggle to navigate through life and rarely rise to levels of vision and action that commands the entire battlefield of modern life.

Kangdukwon especially and explicitly emphasizes the ethics underlying taekwondo. Each kwan has a character of its own, a distinctive set of principles transmitted from teacher to students. That of Kangdukwon may be said to emphasize generosity in the broadest sense and constant quest to evolve or ‘modernize’ in adapting to changing circumstances.

Peace more important than victory

World Taekwondo said in its official statement that “World Taekwondo condemns the brutal attack on innocent people in Ukraine. This is against the purpose of World Taekwondo and the values ​​of respect-tolerance.” World Taekwondo has always held on to the belief that peace is more important than victory.

We as martial artists owe it to ourselves and to our lineages to embody far more than the outward accoutrements of power and prestige as flaunted by Putin in public and in private. We owe it to more than our teachers and parents to embody the principles that we stand for.

Kangdukwon Moo Do grows worldwide

Explosive growth of Kangdukwon Moo Do

World Master Kangdukwon Moo Do banner

In the five decades since GGM Ahn Gun Soon introduced taekwondo Kangdukwon to Vietnam, his successors have built Kangdukwon Moo Do into a world powerhouse — with a decidedly Vietnamese flavor.

Grand Master Ahn Gun Soon (seated at center) surrounded by his former students including GM Nguyen Kim Chau during the opening of the World Master Kangdukwon Moo Do Academy in HCM City, Vietnam in October 2010.
Grand Master Ahn Gun Soon (seated at center) surrounded by his former students including GM Nguyen Kim Chau during the opening of the World Master Kangdukwon Moo Do Academy in HCM City, Vietnam in October 2010.
Left to right: GM Dinh Cong Tien 8th Dan | GM Nguyen Son 9th Dan | GM Nguyen Van Binh 7th Dan | GM Nguyen Kim Chau 9th Dan | GM Hoang Xuan Son 8th Dan | GM Nguyen Van Thanh 8th Dan | GM Chuong 8th Dan (Photos taken in 2017 HCM City, Vietnam
Left to right: GM Dinh Cong Tien 8th Dan | GM Nguyen Son 9th Dan | GM Nguyen Van Binh 7th Dan | GM Nguyen Kim Chau 9th Dan | GM Hoang Xuan Son 8th Dan | GM Nguyen Van Thanh 8th Dan | GM Chuong 8th Dan (photo taken in 2017 HCM City, Vietnam)
Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 From left to right: Master Phan Anh Dung / 1st Dan Master Pham Huu Giai / 2nd Dan GM Hoang Xuan Son GM Nguyen Son GM Nguyen Kim Chau
Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 From left to right: Master Phan Anh Dung / 1st Dan Master Pham Huu Giai / 2nd Dan GM Hoang Xuan Son GM Nguyen Son GM Nguyen Kim Chau
Jan 18, 2022 VinhLinh Nguyen Kim Chau
Jan 18, 2022 VinhLinh Nguyen Kim Chau
Kangdukwon will be taught in Russia.
January 2022: Kangdukwon will be taught in Russia.

Kangdukwon in Portugal

A Short History of Kangdukwon in Portugal

World Kangdukwon recognizes Portugal’s Fernando Branco and Academia Tigre Branco

The story of taekwondo in Portugal resembles that of the art in many other countries around the world. Taekwondo’s wild popularity has worked both to the art’s advantage and to its disadvantage. It has even propelled the careers of people of all kinds whose practice whatever techniques it take to pay the rent — and more.

The story of Fernando Branco illustrates many of the challenges facing serious students of taekwondo.

Fernando Branco began his taekwondo training in 1987 under Master Paulo Jorge, a direct student of the Portuguese pioneer Grandmaster Chung Sung Yong. In 1999 he graduated to first Dan under Master Ilidio Bernardo, and in 2001 he started giving classes in school gymnasiums in Oporto District, Portugal.

Portugal's Tigre Branco Academy seniors stand beside Taekwondo Kangdukwon Master Fernando Branco
Taekwondo Kangdukwon Master Fernando Branco and students at Tigre Branco Academy

Branco had already been training for two decades when he opened his own dojang, Academia Tigre Branco, in 2007. As a man of principle, however, he found that his own advancement and that of his students in Portugal’s taekwondo world was being hindered by his stubborn refusal to tolerate official corruption or practices that put commercial interests before taekwondo’s underlying principle of promoting and defending justice.

“Today Taekwondo is losing its traditional martial essence. It is developing solely into an Olympic sport, which leads to more greed, and a more political and commercial attitude.”

-Fernando Branco
Fernanco Branco

“Due to the many political games and poor decisions of the institutions that manage Taekwondo in Portugal, which only gave importance to its commercial aspect, I as a teacher felt the need to search for something more. I needed a teacher who could give me the necessary support in terms of history, culture and tradition of this wonderful martial art.”

—Fernando Branco

Roots in Korean Culture

“In 2008 I discovered that my master had been concealing and manipulating money meant to register me and my students with the Portuguese Taekwondo Federation,” he says. “That was when I decided to look abroad for a traditional kwan and a master to help me and teach.”

Fernando Branco, Grand Master Chang-Hak-Kim and Marcelo Ruhland at Acadamia Tigre Branco
Fernando Branco, Grand Master Chang-Hak-Kim and Marcelo Ruhland at Academia Tigre Branco in 2016

“That was when fate brought me to Master Marcelo Ruhland of São Paulo, Brazil, who introduced me to Chang Hak Kim, a grand master of both taekwondo and hapkido. After several contacts, Grand Master Chang dispatched Master Marcelo to Portugal to gather information regarding my school and myself. He asked for all my exams program and technical videos about my Taekwondo and Hapkido. The following year GM Chang made his first visit to my dojang and that was when I realized what a wonderful person he is.”

“After showing my work and after a period of probation, Grandmaster Chang accepted me as his student. In recognition of my work and qualities, he promoted me to 1st Dan black belt in taekwondo Kangdukwon. It was a great honour for me!”

Since 2008 Master Branco has backed away from martial politics, concentrating only on teaching and learning from Grandmaster Chang. Sometimes he visits Brazil to train with Grandmaster Chang and sometimes Grandmaster Chang visits Portugal to conduct training seminars at Master Branco’s dojang.

Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association
Seal of the Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association

In 2012, Fernando Branco founded the Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association with the aim of uniting the practitioners of Taekwondo and Hapkido under one roof. The Association has steadily grown; its members have a strong sense of loyalty and feel united as one martial art family.

Since the Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association was formed, it has already produced national poomsae champions and many regional champions. Recently for three consecutive years the Portuguese Taekwondo Federation has recognized Traditional Hanguk Moo Sool Association with 224 active members as Portugal’s biggest and most successful dojang. At same time the Portuguese Taekwondo Federation also has recognized Master Fernando Branco with its career award for 25 years in Taekwondo.

In 2015, with the creation of the World Kangdukwon Federation under its newly-appointed kwan jang nim Hwa Chong, Fernando Branco along with Marcelo Ruhland of Brazil reached out to the WKF inquire about the possibility of affiliation. Progress was slow, however, since the WKF had not yet established standards for recognizing new members. Linguistic and geographical differences did nothing to make the process faster or easier.

Kangdukwon in Vietnam also followed a similarly long course to full recognition. Only in 2021 did its teachers and dojangs achieve full recognition as students of the late Kangdukwon Grand Master Ahn Gun Soon. The Hispanic branch of world Kangdukwon, under Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak, had to be certified separately.

Kangdukwon kwan jan kim Hwa Chong
Kangdukwon kwan jan kim Hwa Chong

That recognition and certification finally occurred in September 2022 with its approval by Hwa Chong, the illustrious 10th Dan great grand master of taekwondo Kangdukwon who trained with the founders starting in 1953 and who was appointed as head of world Kangdukwon in 2015 by Chul Hee Park (1932 – 4 April 2016).

In a statement issued at the suggestion of Great Grand Master Hwa Chong on 12 September 2022, his long time administrative deputy, publisher, remote sparring partner and friend Patrick Harrigan wrote:

Kwan Jang Nim of taekwondo Kangdukwon, Hwa Chong expressly acknowledges Portugal’s Tigre Branco Academy and its founder Master Fernando Branco as a genuine and respected representative of the World Kangdukwon Federation Hispanic branch under Kangdukwon Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak…In further recognition of  Master Fernando Branco’s  35 years of earnest and steadfast devotion to promoting the ethical values of taekwondo Kangdukwon throughout Portugal and beyond, and considering that Master Fernando Branco has been ranked as 5th Dan since 2012, he is therefore approved for promotion to sixth Dan Master of taekwondo Kangdukwon.”

Patrick Harrigan, WKF Vice-President for International Affairs, 12 September 2022

“I believe in traditional martial arts and I am proud of our work. These results only prove that I am on the right track,” says Master Branco.

Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak at center flanked by Masters Fernando Branco and Marcelo Ruhland. Promotion exam at Fernando Branco's dojang in Portugal, 27 June 2016.
Grand Master Kim Chang-Hak at center flanked by Masters Fernando Branco and Marcelo Ruhland. Promotion exam at Fernando Branco’s dojang in Portugal, 27 June 2016.

“In the wonderful breakout sessions between training sessions where we talked about Taekwondo, its philosophy, culture, etc… I realized that Grand Master Chang is a very reserved person of few words, enjoying much more being inside the dojang teaching than talking. The times we talked he always avoided discussing the problems of Taekwondo and that he also felt discouraged with the course that Taekwondo had taken. And that he liked that Taekwondo was always practiced in an absolute way, not thinking only of the sportive part. I also sensed that GM Chang felt a little sad in his words, as if he had been forgotten by his country and for all that he had already done for Taekwondo and Hapkido.”

“He always taught me that Taekwondo should be used as the Korean Hongik Ingan philosophy. Taekwondo through its principles and training would serve mainly to ennoble the Human Being and a tool to help other people. Perhaps this is why GM Chang dedicated himself much more to Hapkido because he lost many students who only wanted the sportive part of Taekwondo. Unfortunately in 2011 GM Chang had a stroke and was somewhat limited, but he continues to give classes with the same smile and joy as always.”

Acadamia Tigre Branco

“What determines the greatness of my grand master? It can be said that great men are those who accomplish great things, but also those who manage to make the world a little better thanks to their existence. By educating a simple child or by dedicating his most precious hours to his disciples. A great man is the one who makes the difference in someone’s life. He is the one who knows how to sow in the garden of affections, delicate flowers of attention and humility, and the most remarkable and decisive moments of his existence. So all my words of gratitude are meager to Grand Master Chang Hak Kim for teaching us and continuing to believe in us.”

Academia Tigre Branco dojang
Academia Tigre Branco dojang

“I still believe in true Taekwondo, pure in its essence and virtue, a global and martial Taekwondo encompassing a sporting aspect and not the opposite. And it is for this Taekwondo that I live and breathe.”

Academia Tigre Branco on YouTube

Academia Tigre Branco website

Who (or what) is a Great Peng?

Great Peng and the purpose of Taekwondo

Dapeng (大鵬) is a giant bird that transforms from a Kun or giant fish in Chinese mythology.
In Chinese mythology a Kun (鲲) giant fish transforms into a Da Peng (大鵬) or giant bird.

Whether one’s martial arts journey began yesterday or decades ago, it began with a set of intentions. Some people train for fitness or for self-defense — or simply for the camaraderie of the dojang. Others aim to stand out as tournament competitors, champions who have defeated or surpassed all rivals in a sports tournament.

Sooner or later, however, as the years and injuries accumulate, everyone comes to a point where one pauses and reflects, asking, “Where is my Taekwondo training — my martial arts journey — taking me? How does Taekwondo fit into the rest of my life?” 

“Where is my Taekwondo training — my martial arts journey — taking me? How does Taekwondo fit into the rest of my life?”

Hwa Chong, World Kangdukwon Kwan Jang Nim and President
Hwa Chong, Kangdukwon Kwan Jang Nim

Taekwondo schools often tend to discourage students from seriously analyzing or questioning the fundamentals. Kangdukwon, however, encourages its students to actively examine and question everything about Taekwondo — indeed, everything about life.

Hwa Chong, Taekwondo teacher and mentor par excellence for over fifty years, recently remarked that “every student of Kangdukwon should understand the purpose of Taekwondo.” Its purpose, he said, is “to turn an ordinary person into an extraordinary person.” That is the whole aim and purpose of Taekwondo.

“The purpose of Taekwondo is to turn an ordinary person into an extraordinary person.”

— Hwa Chong

So of course the question that follows is: What then do the Great Grand Masters (such as Hwa Chong) mean by an “extraordinary person”?

Peng represents Indomitable Will

"Dapeng" (大鵬, a mythological bird in China) from the Kyōaka Hyaku-Monogatar (狂歌百物語, Japanese picture)
A single wing of a Great Peng, it is said here, is so great that it darkens the sky. Da Peng (大鵬) from the Kyōaka Hyaku-Monogatar (狂歌百物語, Japanese picture)

To illustrate his point, Grand Master Chong draws upon the metaphor of the Great Peng (大鵬). A fanciful creation of the ancient Chinese poetic imagination to Western interpreters, the image of Peng, a giant bird in Chinese mythology, soaring high in the sky is a symbol of great aspiration and indomitable will.

The Peng begins life as a Kun (), meaning a giant fish, but the word kun originally meant fish roe or spawn. In other words, the incomprehensibly great Peng starts life as a small fry, a little fish in a sea full of bigger fish.

What distinguishes the Kun from all other fish, however, is not its gigantic size as much as its ability to sprout wings and transmogrify itself into a truly gargantuan creature that lives high in the sky. A single wing of a great Peng, it is said, is so great that it darkens the sky.

大鵬 Great Peng

The Ch’an Buddhist master Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清, 1546-1623) declares the Peng is the image of the Taoist sage, and suggests the bird’s flight does not result from the piling up of wind but from the deep piling up of te or “virtue”. Julian Pas concurs that “the true sage is compared to the enormous bird.” The Peng soars above the limited perspective of the worldly multitude.

“A fish need wings to become a Peng.

What are the wings of a Peng?

This answer is found in the Five Virtues:

Wisdom, Benevolence, Faith, Discipline and Courage

These are your wings.

As your virtues grow and expand, so do your wings

Until one day, you are flying.

That is enlightenment or accomplishment in Taekwondo.

Some people are born with talents.

Others must strive to attain that enlightenment.

Neither things nor techniques bring enlightenment.

Virtuous actions lead to enlightenment.

That is the conclusion, the goal of Taekwondo practice.”

— Hwa Chong

Peng or Pinocchio?

As odd as the theme of the Peng may seem to modern educated people, yet the same theme appears in more familiar guises, including European fairy tales. All convey similar messages: the need for a moral compass to navigate life and discover or recover one’s authentic identity. It is the path to live as a Zhenren (真人), “a person who has cultivated perfection and attained the Tao”, literally a “true or genuine person”.

Like Pinocchio, we are all puppets. Pinocchio by Enrico Mazzanti (1852-1910) - the first illustrator (1883) of Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino
Like Pinocchio, each one of us is a puppet buffeted by inner and outer forces. Pinocchio by Enrico Mazzanti (1852-1910) – the first illustrator (1883) of Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino

The ancient notion of the Peng is an example of a worldwide theme with such variations as The Adventures of Pinocchio, which chronicles the adventures of a wooden puppet whose lonely maker, Geppetto, makes a wish that his puppet could be a real boy. A fairy grants his wish by bringing the puppet, Pinocchio, to life, but tells Pinocchio that he must prove his worth before she will make him into a real boy. Little Pinocchio must transform himself to become an authentic human — a daunting task for a marionette with a head and heart made of wood.

The Peng transforms itself and is the agent of its own transformation, unlike Pinocchio, an enchanted log that was transformed into a “real boy” not by his own agency, but by that of external agents — a fairy and a puppet maker. As in any true fairy tale, we learn that finally “the Fairy with Azure Hair saves Pinocchio at the last moment.” Unlike the Peng, Pinocchio does not and cannot transform himself.

The message is clear: Be a Peng, not a Pinnochio.

Another difference between Pinocchio and a Great Peng: Pinocchio must learn his lessons from hard experience. Again and again, he stumbles and falls in with bad company until finally he returns to care for the aged Geppetto.

The Great Peng, however, is a different sort of fish. His transformations begin even when he is still a small fry. Before long, he is a fish of gargantuan size. When he can grow no further as a fish, he sprouts wings to fly and remain aloft for six months at a time. His wings are so broad that one wing alone darkens the sky.

What does it mean? Why bother with a 2,000 year old Chinese poetic fantasy? How does the transformation of the Kun into the Great Peng apply to us or to Taekwondo?

Taekwondo may be thought of as such an alchemical process of refinement and self-transformation. You only get as much out of it as you put into it, in other words.

Like puppets, each one of us is conditioned from childhood to conform to certain beliefs about oneself and what one is capable of achieving in life. From infancy, we are essentially puppets buffeted by forces from within and without that we do not fully understand, let alone control.

“The World Kangdukwon Federation should establish a ‘Great Peng Award’ for outstanding contributors and achievers who promote Taekwondo globally in the future.”

-Hwa Chong

Taekwondo — as taught by genuine masters of the art — is much more than a body of techniques for punching, kicking and blocking. A grand master who has not learned how to think like a general is not an authentic grand master.

As Grand Master Hwa Chong is telling us, Taekwondo is nothing less than a lifelong process of evolution or transformation from an ordinary person into a Peng or a Zhenren, a sage whose lofty perspective goes far beyond the comprehension of ordinary people. Or a true cosmopolitan, at the very least.

"I don't know who your are anymore."
“I don’t know who your are anymore.”

Kangdukwon Moo Do in West Africa

Kangdukwon Moo Do excels in Burkina Faso

Master Nguyen Minh Kiệt (center) with senior student O.A.G. Apollinaire (at right) in Burkina Faso, Africa
Master Louis Kiet started practicing TKD at Corps II 1970.
Taekwondo instructor Nguyen Minh Kiệt in 1971

When Louis Nguyễn Minh Kiệt first began learning taekwondo in 1970 as a young ARVN recruit at Corps II, he had no idea where it would take him. By the following year, he had became a taekwondo drill instructor.

From 1973-1975 he trained with Grand Master Chau Nguyen Kim at the Van Kiep National Training Center of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). It was there in 1974 that Master Chau promoted Kiệt to 1st Dan.

When the Vietnam war ended, Kiệt was sent to a concentration camp where he remained until 1978. It was not until 1983 that Kiệt was allowed to resume judo and taekwondo training.

Master Louis Nguyễn Minh Kiệt
Master Nguyễn Minh Kiệt today

In 1995, Master Nguyen Minh Kiệt took a big step when he came to Africa to teach taekwondo and judo at the National Police Training Center in Burkina Faso. Later as coach of Burkina Faso’s national taekwondo team, he participated in the Africa Taekwondo Championships where his students distinguished themselves by winning numerous medals.

Master Nguyễn Minh Kiệt’s dojang, in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso displays the national flags of both Vietnam and Burkina Faso. There he and his senior student O.A.G. Apollinaire train that nation’s next generation both in sparring techniques and in the cosmopolitan values that characterize Kangdukwon Moodo taekwondo worldwide.

Master Nguyễn Minh Kiệt’s dojang, in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso displays the national flags of both Vietnam and Burkina Faso.
Master Nguyễn Minh Kiệt’s dojang, in the capital of Burkina Faso displays the national flags of both Vietnam and Burkina Faso.
Master Nguyen Minh Kiệt with students at Burkina Faso, Africa
Master Nguyen Minh Kiệt with students at Burkina Faso, Africa

Invictus

Invictus 

BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY

The poem that inspired Nelson Mandela, ‘Invictus’ read by Morgan Freeman

Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.

In Memoriam

Michigan Taekwondo mourns loss of mentors

Drs. Dennis Burke and Dee Edington pass away

In a hard blow to those who knew them, three of Kangdukwon Taekwondo’s strongest advocates in the United States have recently passed away:

  • Rodney J. Grambeau Sr. 1920 – 2018
  • Dee Edington 3 Sept 1937 – 21 June 2022
  • Dennis Burke 3 June 1930 – 15 May 2022

As early as 1978, Dr. Dee Edington and Dr. Rodney Grambeau worked to get Taekwondo approved as a U-Michigan Physical Education course. Hwa Chong, who introduced Kangdukwon Taekwondo to Michigan in 1967, was then appointed as a Lecturer in Kinesiology. Retired from teaching Taekwondo in 2014, he readily acknowledges the crucial roles played by all three individuals, who will be sorely missed.

Their contributions to the development of Taekwondo as an Olympic sport cannot be overstated according to Hwa Chong who became President of United Stated Taekwondo Union and served as Manager of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Taekwondo team. Their generosity and cosmopolitan vision remain as an inspiration to students of Taekwondo to this day.

Dr. Dee Edington 3 Sept 1937 – 21 June 2022

Dr. Dee Edington, former Kinesiology director, professor, and renowned health and wellness researcher, passed away in June 2022. He was 84 years old.

Dee inspired students, colleagues and made a lasting impact as an author, a professor at the University of Michigan (U-M) and as Director of Kinesiology for 22 years. Dee’s work continues to impact people across the healthcare spectrum and in every industry.

Edington received his B.S. in mathematics from Michigan State University, M.S. in physical education from Florida State University, and Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Michigan State University. He began teaching at the University of Michigan in 1976, and in 1977 was appointed chair of the Physical Education program, which at the time was housed in the School of Education.

In 1984, the University separated Physical Education from the School of Education, and Edington became the first director of the Division of Physical Education. In 1990, the U-M Board of Regents officially approved the Division of Kinesiology as a stand-alone, degree-granting unit with Edington at the helm.

Grand Master Hwa Chong, retired Lecturer in Kinesiology, fondly remembers Dee Edington for his sincere interest and support in helping to make Taekwondo an Olympic sport.


R.I.P. Dr. Dennis Burke, 3 June 1930 – 15 May 2022

Dr. Dennis Burke passed away on Sunday, May 15th, 2022. Michigan Taekwondo remains deeply indebted to Dr. Burke, who was past Chairman of the United States Taekwondo Union (USTU) Medical Department (1993-1995).

Dennis R. Burke “Stoney”, MD was born on June 3, 1930, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was a Veteran of the Korean War, graduated from U-Michigan with his medical doctorate in 1961; was in private family practice in Ann Arbor for over sixty years.

Dennis Burke, who had experience as a kick boxer, first encountered Taekwondo in the person of Hwa Chong in the 1960’s. Dr. Burke was also was one of the coaches of the U-Michigan Boxing Team and was a big backer of Master Hwa Chong and the U-Michigan Taekwondo Club. 

Dr. Dennis  and Mrs. Louis Burke flanked by Grand Master and Mrs. Hwa Chong at the U-Michigan Taekwondo Club's 50th anniversary dinner on 4 October, 2014
Dr. Dennis  and Mrs. Louis Burke stand beside Grand Master and Mrs. Hwa Chong at the U-Michigan Taekwondo Club’s 50th anniversary dinner on 4 October, 2014

Dr. Dennis Burke, M.D. was a veteran of the Korean War who later graduated from the University of Michigan with his medical doctorate and was in private family practice in Ann Arbor for over fifty years. He also served for years at EMU and U-M as a physician for their student health services.

Dr. Dennis Burke was one of the U of M team doctors for the football and hockey teams
from 1962 – 1967. He also was one of the coaches of the U of M boxing team, assisting Coach Tony Sensoli, and participation in U of M taekwondo with Master Hwa Chong.

“We have lost a wonderful cosmopolitan and friend.”

— Hwa Chong

“We have lost a wonderful cosmopolitan and friend,” says Master Chong. “Dr. Burke served all U-M Taekwondo tournaments and advised free of charge in the early years of University of Michigan Taekwondo activities. As Chairman of the United States Taekwondo Union, he always provided free service and advice in support of Kang Duk Won Taekwondo activities.”

The cost of hiring an M.D. to be present throughout every USTU event would have run to many thousands of dollars. All that cost was saved at a critical time due to Dr. Burke’s enthusiasm to participate and generosity with his time and expertise. Dr. Dennis Burke was yet another shining example of what Master Chong calls the Cosmopolitan Spirit.


Rodney J. Grambeau Sr. 1920 – 2018

In Memoriam: Dr. Rodney Grambeau

Dr. Rodney J. Grambeau Sr. (9/2/1920 – 8/22/2018) was a professor emeritus of Sport Management and Communication at the University of Michigan, recognized by NIRSA as a Legacy Member, and former chair and editor of the National Touch and Flag Football Rules. The first edition of the NIRSA Flag & Touch Football Rules Book & Officials’ Manual — published 35 years ago and a staple of campus recreation directors’ bookshelves ever since — was dedicated to him.

And while his legacy in the field of intramural sports and campus recreation is among his hallmarks, it certainly isn’t where it ends. Rod was a consultant to the National Olympic Committee 1972, an observer/evaluator of BIG TEN Football and Basketball officials for more than a decade, not to mention a life member of Phi Epsilon Kappa and Sigma Delta Psi fraternities. He was also a lifelong athlete, winning six Paddleball National Championships in Master Doubles alongside his longtime playing partner Steve Galetti. The annual Michigan Female and Male Outstanding Intramural Official Award is named in his honor.

Rodney was born in Onaway, MI and grew up in Royal Oak, Mi. He served in the Pacific during WWII in the Navy. Upon his return, he married Patricia May Baker and with her raised the six of us in Ann Arbor. Rodney received his BS degree from Eastern Michigan University and received his M.A. degree in 1948 and EdD degree in 1959, both from The University of Michigan. He joined The University of Michigan faculty in 1947 as an Assistant Supervisor in Physical Education and Assistant Intramural Director. He was named Professor of Physical Education in 1968, and served as Director of the Intramural and Recreational Sports program from 1968-75. He was named Professor Emeritus in Sports Management and Communication in 1987.

Rodney loved sports of all kinds, especially U of M sports and its athletes, whom he taught and mentored throughout his 39-year career there. His love of “the game” carried over into his officiating at the high school, college, and semi-professional levels, serving as an observer of football and basketball officials for the Big Ten Conference and consulting to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Pakistan Kangdukwon News

Pakistan Kangdukwon Federation banner
Kangdukwon Grand Master Saleem Jehangir (at center) recently conducted a boot camp workshop for Pakistani black belts. Pakistan Kangdukwon Federation continues its journey of establishing Kangdukwon in Pakistan by adding clubs steadily.

Pakistan Kangdukwon Federation continues its journey of establishing the World
Kangdukwon Tae Kwon Do in Pakistan by adding clubs under its wings, and asserting
its presence through holding demonstrations and Boot Camps.

Kangdukwon Grand Master Saleem Jehangir conducted a 2022 boot camp workshop for Pakistani black belts. Pakistan Kangdukwon Federation continues its journey of establishing Kangdukwon in Pakistan by adding clubs steadily.
2022 boot camp workshop conducted in Karachi for Pakistani black belts who learned the fundamentals of Kangdukwon theory and practice from South Asia’s first-ever black belt and founder of taekwondo in Pakistan, Saleem Jehangir (seated at center).

Three more academies have joined the Pakistan Kangdukwon Federation:

  • Eagle Kangdukwon Taekwondo Academy
  • Players Union Taekwondo Academy
  • Pakistan Players Taekwondo Academy
Masters Shahid Mir, Wasim Ahmad and Ahsan Khan, with students at the belt promotion ceremony at the Mir Martial Arts Academy in Karachi in early 2022.
Masters Shahid Mir, Wasim Ahmad and Ahsan Khan, with students at the belt promotion ceremony at the Mir Martial Arts Academy in Karachi in early 2022.

Mir Martial Arts Academy shares this video of one of their outdoor classes for children:

Mir Martial Arts Academy outdoor class for children

Courtesy: Grand Master Saleem Jehangir

President, Pakistan Kang Duk Won Federation

Vice President and Board Member, World Kang Duk Won Federation

R.I.P. Dr. Dennis R. Burke

Kangdukwon Taekwondo loses a stalwart friend

R.I.P. Dr. Dennis Burke, 3 June 1930 – 15 May 2022

Kangdukwon Taekwondo has lost a stalwart friend in the late Dr. Dennis Burke.

Dr. Dennis  and Mrs. Louis Burke flanked by Grand Master and Mrs. Hwa Chong at the U-Michigan Taekwondo Club's 50th anniversary dinner on 4 October, 2014
Dr. Dennis  and Mrs. Louis Burke stand beside Grand Master and Mrs. Hwa Chong at the U-Michigan Taekwondo Club’s 50th anniversary dinner on 4 October, 2014

“We have lost a wonderful cosmopolitan and friend,” says Master Chong. “Dr. Burke served all U-M Taekwondo tournaments and advised free of charge in the early years of University of Michigan Taekwondo activities. As Chairman of the United States Taekwondo Union, he always provided free service and advice in support of Kang Duk Won Taekwondo activities.”

“We have lost a wonderful cosmopolitan and friend.”

— Hwa Chong

Dennis R. Burke “Stoney”, MD was born on June 3, 1930, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was a Veteran of the Korean War, graduated from U-Michigan with his medical doctorate in 1961; was in private family practice in Ann Arbor for over sixty years.

Past Chairman of the United States Taekwondo Union (USTU) Medical Department (1993-1995) Dr. Dennis Burke passed away on Sunday, May 15th, 2022.

He was a veteran of the Korean War, graduated from U of Michigan with his medical doctorate and was in private family practice in Ann Arbor for more than fifty years.

Dennis Burke, who had been a kick boxer, first encountered taekwondo in the person of Hwa Chong in the 1960’s. Dr. Burke was also was one of the coaches of the U-Michigan Boxing Team and was a big backer of Master Hwa Chong and the U-Michigan Taekwondo Club. 

Dr. Dennis Burke
10165 North Platt Road,
Milan, Michigan 48160
Mrs. Louis Burke (734)-764-8325

“I have given you a compass. Now use it!”

“We must break out of our shells and evolve.”

Tradition versus Innovation

Hwa Chong, World Kangdukwon Kwan Jang Nimand President addresses senior WKF officers

[Ann Arbor, Michigan, 14 August 2021] After nearly seventy years of training and teaching Taekwondo, Hwa Chong, the Kwan Jang Nim of Kangdukwon Taekwondo, continues to urge Taekwondo students of all ages and levels to grow and evolve both as martial artists and as human beings. Taekwondo training and principles, he says, should be understood and applied at all levels and all periods of our lives, otherwise we fail to live up to our full potential as human beings.“We must evolve as individuals and as a federation also. Who can show the way for going forwards?”, he asked a small gathering of senior students from Kangdukwon’s first decades in America.

“We must break out of our shells and evolve” —Hwa Chong

"We must break out of our shells and evolve," says Kangdukwon Grand Master Hwa Chong
“We must break out of our shells and evolve,” Kangdukwon Grand Master Hwa Chong tells us.

Grand Master Hwa Chong was attending a gathering of his senior students in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Among the chief topics of discussion was the future of the World Kangdukwon Federation with the full retirement of Grand Master Chong.

“I am now 82. So I am not sure how much longer I can carry on. You need to make these decisions for yourselves. I am now like the figurehead on a ship, there only for show,” he said to a gathering of senior Taekwondo students and officers from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. 

Addressing the issue of WKF leadership succession indirectly, he praised Chung Ju Yung, who rose from poverty to build Hyundai, one of Korea’s and the world’s most successful business empires. He urged Kangdukwon students and teachers to study the book Made in Korea: Chung Ju Jung and the Rise of Hyundai.

Made in Korea: Chung Ju Jung and the Rise of Hyundai

“In the future, Kangdukwon leaders should be like Chung Ju Yung,” who, he said, embodied all the qualities valued in Kangdukwon: discipline, determination, courage and a willingness to accept risks in the service of his corporate family and the Korean nation.

Taekwondo, he said, was born in the crucible of the Korean War (1950-53), when Communist forces pushed free South Koreans until they had their backs to the sea. They could have accepted the inevitable and fled, but they fought back tenaciously under extremely tough circumstances and saved the nation. That is what is called the Spiritus Invictus, the unconquerable spirit of Korea and Taekwondo, he said.

Korea’s per capita income was only US$67 in 1953. Today it is over $34,000. Because of the spirit and hard work of Chung Ju Yung and other hard-working Koreans like him, today Korea is among the world’s most developed economies. 

“In the future, we should develop and master not martial skills, but business skills. We should work together to conquer markets instead of territories.”

“Don’t forget the North Star!Now I have given you a compass. So use it! Otherwise, without a compass you will get lost and come to a bad end.”

“If you follow honeybees, they will lead you straight to nectar. Follow flies and they will lead you into a pile of dung,” he reminded his students.

It is like that with martial arts also. Authentic Kangdukwon Taekwondo can lead one to the greatest heights of whatever you wish it to be. But follow the wrong dojang or teacher, and in the end one meets with bitter disappointment.

“We must not become tied to traditions. We must keep changing and evolving. That is the spirit of Taekwondo.” –Hwa Chong

“As I have always taught you, avoid attacking an opponent’s strengths. Attack his weaknesses instead.”

Audacity

Hwa Chong recalled General George Patton, the American general whose ‘three keys to military victory’ were “Audacity, audacity, audacity!” He had learned his lesson from Napoleon Bonaparte, whose motto was “Audace! Toujours l’audace!”

That audacity, that willingness to undertake bold risks or surprising innovations, is what in Taekwondo we simply call spirit.

Grand Master Chong’s concluded by saying, “We must not become locked into traditions. We must keep changing and evolving. Otherwise one gets left behind.” That is true for the individual, true for one’s nation and true for Kangdukwon Taekwondo as well.”