Grandmaster James Saffold
Pin # 14489
young man growing up in Detroit, Michigan in the
1950's and 1960's you had to be tough and ready to
defend yourself. Having three brothers to wrestle
and a reputation in school as being able to stand up
for oneself, as well as working as a farm hand
during the summers, led him to grow up strong.
In 1965 James entered the US Army and went through basic training.
Because he showed a natural aptitude, while still in basic training
himself, he was made an assistant instructor and asked to teach
other trainees how to defend themselves in unarmed (hand to hand)
In 1967 the US Army stationed Lieutenant Saffold in Vietnam. In June
of 1968 he began training in the Korean Martial Arts. Since he was
an Officer and training as a beginner, one of the senior (red belts)
decided to take advantage of the opportunity and was overzealous in
his attacks on the white belt. Not one to complain, he endured this
until the Instructor observed what was going on and arranged for a 5th
Degree Korean Army Captain, Captain Oh, to work one on one with him.
What a great learning experience this turned out to be for the young
Martial Artist. It was at this time that Captain Oh introduced him
to the senior Korean Martial Arts Instructor, Chief Master
Instructor Jae Joon Kim. Training with Master Oh was very intense.
Occasionally they attended workouts that were taught by the Chief
Master Jae Joon Kim.
In 1969 after leaving the military, young
Saffold, desiring to continue his Martial Arts training enrolled at
the newly opened school in Detroit, Michigan. Fortunately for young
James, Grand Master Jae Joon Kim,
Kim had immigrated to the United States and chose Detroit
to open his school. A friendship grew between the two that would
last until Grand Master Jae Joon Kim's untimely death in 2007.
earning his black belt (1971) at Grand Master Kim's
hand, he had the opportunity to meet and train with
many of the senior Korean Masters that were
immigrating to the United States. It was a great
thrill to be able to train and learn from so many of
these exceptional Masters many of whom went on to
become Grand Masters. This included Founder and
Grand Master, Hwang Kee.
Saffold with the late
Grandmaster Jae Joon Kim
Over the years, as a black belt, James was asked by Grand Master Kim
to run several different schools in the Metropolitan Detroit area.
During this time he became a Police Officer with the Detroit Police
Department and spent much of his time working the streets in uniform
and as an undercover Officer.
In 1979 he began an intense training program to prepare for his
Master's testing. The three people who trained every Saturday for
more than a year were Master Stan Bojanowski (who was getting ready
for his 5th Dan test), Mr. William Thompson and Mr. James
Saffold. Grand Master Kim would frequently help with their training
and observe their efforts. They became known as the "Three
Musketeers" and developed a lasting friendship.
In 1980, he was trained by the U.S. Secret Service in Executive
Protection. He used this training and his Martial Arts training to
work as a Dignitary Security Team Leader during the Republican
National Convention, and later as a part time bodyguard for Mr. Lee
Iacocca and other leaders of Chrysler Corporation.
In 1981 the test came and was a combined Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do
test. Grand Master Kim was the President of the Michigan Tae Kwon Do
Association at this time. Grand Masters Park, "Tiger" Chung, and Lee
were on the testing board. All three of the Musketeers performed
well and were promoted.
Martial Arts continued for Master James Saffold,
teaching and training 4 or 5 times per week.
Promotion tests came and went, working ever higher.
Finally in March, 2002 Grand Master Jae Joon Kim
tested him for his Eighth Dan, earning him the rank
of Grand Master.
Grand Master Saffold founded the
American Kwan Tang Soo Do Federation in 2004. He did not launch this organization
as his instructor, Grand Master Jae Joon Kim,
was still alive and was the leader of the World Moo Duk Kwan Tang
Soo Do Federation and was his friend and teacher.
Grand Master James Saffold's desire and the goal of the American
Kwan Tang Soo Do Federation is to continue traditional
Tang Soo Do as taught by Grand Master Hwang Kee and Grand Master
Jae Joon Kim. American Kwan Tang Soo Do Federation, Inc. is a
growing organization with Masters, Dan Members, and Members in
In 2007 with the unexpected death of his friend and teacher, Grand
Master Jae Joon Kim, Grand Master Saffold attended the funeral and
was honored by Grand Masters' wife and family, many who are Grand
Masters and Masters in their own right. Grand Master Saffold was
allowed by the family the honor of being one of the pallbearers of
his longtime friend.
Grand Master Saffold has special respect and fondness for Grand
Master Jae Joon Kim, Grand Master Oh, Grand Master C.I. Kim Grand
Master Nam Kim, Grand Master Greg Boliard and Grand Master Lee
Harper, with whom it was his great pleasure to learn and practice
many sparring techniques first hand over the years. Also, Grand
Master Joseph Sanders who cross trained him to Second Dan in Hap Ki
Do. There are many other Grand Masters, Masters, Instructors and
students (including White Belts) that contributed to his knowledge
As Grand Master Saffold sees it: "It is our
duty as Masters of Tang Soo Do to pass on the Art of Tang Soo Do to
the next generation of Martial Artists.
We need to train hard and practice to be able to pass on as pure a
style as possible."