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Training in Korea
Part 1 of 5

By Master Todd Huddleston - 8th Dan
Yonsei Martial Arts Academy, New Orleans, LA
 

 

Editor's Note: This article was written and submitted to Tang Soo Do World in July 2008. Sadly,
                     Master Huddleston lost his life in a motorcycle accident on February 5th, 2017.

Introduction

I started training in Tang Soo Do in 1978 under Master Myoung Kuk Park. I was so inspired by him that I decided to walk in his shoes. I visited Korea for the first time in 1990 after my junior year in college and returned to live there in 1992 after I went to graduate school. I went to further my knowledge of the martial arts but I wound up gaining a whole lot more in the seven years I was there, including meeting my wife, becoming fluent in Korean as well as having a better understanding of Korea's long history and its culture. This story is a small glimpse of what I experienced while training there.

Meeting Grandmaster Hwang Kee

Prior to my going to Korea to train, I had never met Grandmaster Hwang Kee, nor did I know very much about him. There were pictures of him at headquarters and "Plaques of Appreciation" from him addressed to my instructor dating from the early 1970's, but my instructor never mentioned him. I only heard about him from another black belt at my school who was doing research on my Master's lineage.

One morning as I was preparing to leave the school after training, I went upstairs to pay respects to the Head Master as is customary. I knocked on the door and waited. Not hearing a reply I opened the door. Scanning the room I didn't see the Head Master but I did see an old, frail-looking man sitting in a chair reading a book. Not knowing who he was, I wasn't sure what to do. Since he was older, I decided to bow no matter who he was. I couldn't go wrong by bowing for even if he was just an old man, it would be the correct thing to do. In Korea, younger people always bowed to elders out of respect. I bowed in the proper manner expecting to get the customary "grunt" in return, but what happened instead surprised me. The gentleman stood up, looked at me and bowed. I closed the door and left not thinking anymore about it. Later, I found out that the man was Grandmaster Hwang Kee.

The next time I saw the Grandmaster I was participating in a black belt testing. It was May 1995. The Grandmaster sat at a table in the front of the room and was wearing a blue suit. The table had a banner stretched across it describing the day's event. Other masters who were grading the test sat to the side of him. The test began and Grandmaster got up and addressed us briefly, mostly talking about the 50th anniversary of Tang Soo Do that we were celebrating that year.

The test then took place with me going up last since I was the highest rank. When my name was called, I got up and preformed the required forms and one step sparring techniques, ending with a jump spinning hook kick over my partner's head. I was then asked, in Korean of course, to compare my Tang Soo Do training in the United States with that in Korea and to give my thoughts on it.

 
   

The test ended with students and masters lining up to bow to the flag and then to the Grandmaster. We then made two lines forming a walkway for the Grandmaster to exit. This was another formality always done out of respect. As the Grandmaster started to leave he headed directly for me, passing up all high-ranking masters, and put his hand out to shake mine. I was shocked and surprised for who was I among all these people? I quickly extended my hand and then bowed, humbled by the experience. The Grandmaster then left the room, with everyone else looking at me in envy. My friend captured the significance of the moment in the photo at right. Considering I didn't even know what Grandmaster Hwang Kee looked like when I came to Korea, he had bowed to me twice, shook my hand once and told me "good job". And I had a picture to prove it.

The last time I had an experience with the Grandmaster was during the 50th anniversary celebration later that year. People from around the world had come to Korea to attend the ceremony. Opening day festivities took place in sort of convention center on the outskirts of Seoul. The ceremony started with various individual and team demonstrations and ended with the introduction of the Grandmaster. I was waiting on the fourth level watching the event from afar, when who then bumps into me as they announced his name? Hwang Kee himself as he was being escorted down to the stage. He bowed to me and shook my hand again before moving on. Wow! Once more I was in the right place at the right time.

Note: It was not proper etiquette to simply walk up to the Grandmaster and say hi and shake his hand. The only way you came into contact with him was if he chose to come into contact with you. I am also very fortunate to have Hwang Kee's "Do jang" stamped in my Tang Soo Do Dae Gam (manual). Koreans only use this personal stamp on important documents, so it is rarer and more sought after than an autograph.

Part 1   -   Part 2   -   Part 3   -   Part 4   -   Part 5

 

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