Returning to Our Roots – The 1st World Tang Soo Do Seoul Forum – Seoul Korea 2012

I like to travel and when that travel includes meeting and working out with other martial artists, I am ecstatic. This November, 2012 I traveled to Seoul Korea to attend the 1st World Tang Soo Do Seoul Forum put on by the World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation (World Tang Soo Do General Federation: Moo Duk Kwon).

As a journalist, I was honored to be asked to speak at this momentous event along with Tang Soo Do Grandmasters representing countries from around the world. There were practitioners from Korea, The United States, Mexico, Canada, Holland, Ireland, India, Brazil and more. (Read Technology and Transparency in the Martial Arts)

This was my first trip to Korea and it was wonderful. The Korean Grandmasters gave us a beautiful place to stay and meet, the Seoul Palace Hotel. I have never eaten so many incredible meals. I love Korean food and there is always an abundance of new and different dishes to try.

The Korean Grandmasters also went out of their way to show us that we were part of their plans to help build Tang Soo Do in Korea and around the world. Every minute was filled with excitement.

Our Hosts Included:

Hee Seok Choi: 3rd President, World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation
Ki-Hyun Baek: Vice President, World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation
Koe-Woong Chong: Co-founder and Secretary General World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation
Jung-Lee Hwang: Movie Director and Actor
Sang Kyu Lee: 1st President, Tang Soo Do Training Center
Chang Sik Joen: Tang Soo Do Training Center Instructor
Il-Do Chang: Co-founder of World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation and HQ Head Instructor
Nam Dong Cho: Chairman of governing body of Tang Soo Do Training Center
Sung Bae Kim: Tang Soo Do Training Center Instructor
Nam Kook Kim: Tang Soo Do Training Center Instructor
Bok Shik Park: Tang Soo Do Training Center Instructor
Sung Young Kwon: Tang Soo Do Training Center Instructor

Forum Attendees Included:

Grandmaster James A Safford
Grandmaster Pedro J. Vangas
Grandmaster Robert Kovaleski
Master Eric Kovaleski
Grand Master Peter Defosses
Master Sergio Octavio Corral
Grandmaster Eng Sin Tan
Grandmaster Cheng Koon Leow
Master Jose Torres
Master Des Galligan
Master Andrew Ginter
Grandmaster Dominick Giacobbe
Master Aldwin H. Lee
Sensei Dana L. Stamos
Master Guy E. Larke
Master Pablo Vangas

Day One, November 4th – Arrival and Introductions

Day One included an orientation meeting where we elected Grandmaster James Saffold as our Chief of Visitors.

Day Two, November 5th – Forum: The Effects of Oriental Martial Arts on the Western World and the Past, Present and Future of Tang Soo Do.

We started Day Two with an opening ceremony in the morning and then began our speeches which covered many diverse topics.

A few of the speech titles included:

This is Who We Are! Now Where Do We Want to Go?
The Role of the World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation
Looking to the Future Through the Past
Has Tang Soo Do Become Too Sports Oriented?
Bring Back Tradition
The Evolution of Korean Martial Arts
How to Foster a Spirit of Cooperation with the Korean Government
Personal Change After Studying Tang Soo Do
Tang Soo Do in Canada
The view of Society After the Spread of Tang Soo Do
Technology and Transparency in the Martial Arts
The Road Map of the Korean Art of Tang Soo Do

That evening we were welcomed with great ceremony and we enjoyed entertainment and demonstrations, including Hyungs (Forms) demonstrations by Master Eric Kovaleski. We also enjoyed a lavish Korean buffet. All those who attended were honored in many different ways, most especially, receiving awards and plaques given to show appreciation for who they are and what they have done to benefit martial arts, in particular Tang Soo Do.

Day Three, November 6th – Workshop: The Role of Korea as the Birth Place of Tang Soo Do

Day Three included a meeting with lively discussions on how to build the World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation (World Tang Soo Do General Federation: Moo Duk Kwon) to help promote Tang Soo Do throughout the world.

Day Four, November 7th – Seminar and Special Test at World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation Headquarters

We traveled to the research headquarters and dojang for the World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation where we changed into our doboks and enjoyed a seminar which covered some very important aspects of teaching Tang Soo Do.

We started our training by learning unique stretching techniques as warm up and flexibility exercises are very important for Tang Soo Do practitioners. Next, we were shown existing hand defenses and attacks which had been made into a hyung to make practical fighting techniques easier to remember and more enjoyable to practice. We then moved on to Kicking. This included basic kicking as well as sequential, competition and demonstration kicking. The federation recently developed 8 new, stronger and more practical Ki Cho Hyungs (Basic Forms) that took a deeper look into what they had created. This development makes learning the five Pyong Ahn forms much easier because crucial techniques are extracted and dissected which then then can be practiced daily.

A very important part of the seminar was our introduction to unknown forms that were recently revealed by original students of Hwang Kee, Senior Grandmaster Kim Young-Duk (Dan bon 2) and Senior Grandmaster Choi Hee-Suk (Dan bon 3) and others. These include:

A) Rahn-Boh: Senior Grandmaster Young-Duk Kim
B) Seung – Ki: Senior Grandmaster Young-Duk Kim
C) Bi-Jah-Ho: Senior Grandmaster Young-Duk Kim
D) Su-Ja-Hwae-Kwon: Senior Grandmaster Young-Duk Kim
E) Hwa-Sun Hyung II-Bu: Senior Grandmaster Hee-Suk Choi
F) Hwa-Sun Hyung Ee-Bu: Senior Grandmaster Hee-Suk Choi
G) Hwa-Sun Hyung Dae: Senior Grandmaster Hee-Suk Choi
H) Moo-Shin 1: Grandmaster  Ki-Hyun Baek
I) Moo-Shin 2: Grandmaster Ki-Hyun Baek
J) Taeguek 13 Sae: Grandmaster II-Do Chang

We moved on to study Ho-Shin Hyung. This form was created for the instinctive practice of one step sparring and self defense techniques. The World Moo Duck Kwan General Federation is truly a “research” organization and they work very hard to develop teaching and training techniques that will make the study and practice of Tang Soo Do as practical as possible. It showed in this seminar.

Next we worked on sparring for competition and for use in real world defense situations. They had created a pattern for practicing various attacks and defenses which could be varied and used on the street when necessary.

We finished the seminar by joining together and doing Taeguek 13 Sae with its creator, Grandmaster Chang II-Do once again. Its meditation and breath control calm the body and mind allowing us to complete our training for the day in a safe and positive manner.

When the seminar concluded, a group of Grandmasters and Senior Masters had the opportunity to test for their next rank. We extend congratulations to:
Grandmaster Pedro Vangas Jr. – 9th Dan
Grandmaster Robert Kovaleski – 9th Dan
Grandmaster Dominick Giacobbe – 9th Dan
Master Eric Kovaleski – 7th Dan
Master Jose Torres – 7th Dan
Master Sergio Corral – 7th Dan

That evening we were treated to a ferry cruise down the Hangang River. The Hangang River flows through Seoul and it gave us the opportunity to view some very beautiful scenery, including the surrounding islands, Jeoldusan Park, the 63 City Building, N Seoul Tower, Jamsil’s Multi Sports Complex, and other famous tourist spots. The ferry was filled with school children and we enjoyed their company, and had fun taking photos together.

Day Five, November 8th – Tour of the World Martial Arts Park and Museum in Chung-Ju City

This day stated with breakfast and birthday cakes for two of the Grandmaster’s attending the event. Master Guy Edward Larke, who put this event together and worked very hard for everyone involved, had two beautiful birthday cakes made to celebrate. Ymmmm.

One of the most exciting outings for me was our trip to the World Martial Arts Park and Museum in Chung-Ju City. The World Martial Arts Park is a truly calm, relaxing park with incredible rock gardens filled with very large, water sculptured rock formations from the Namhan River. This beautiful park includes a huge, wonderfully designed pavilion and different play areas as well as sculptures of martial artists and an incredible world globe. The park is so beautifully laid out and we are hoping to put on a tournament and expo at the park in the near future. Every year the Chung-Ju World Martial Arts Festival takes place at the World Martial Arts Park. The August 2012 festival showcased all of the world’s martial arts forms, as well as Korea’s traditional martial arts. The festival opened with the theme ‘World’s Martial Arts and Culture’, showcasing demonstrations of Taekkyeon, Taekwondo, and Hapkido by Korea’s traditional martial arts groups. Martial artists from 16 nations were invited to the festival, and took part in demonstrations and performances. Visitors had the opportunity to visit the museum which has exhibits of traditional martial arts from countries worldwide. The museum includes different types of media that can be watched sharing the origins of oriental and western martial arts. There is also a display of uniforms, swords, spears, helmets and shields donated by those who participated in the martial arts festivals. It is truly a beautifully designed museum and design itself is worth seeing.

Also located at the Park is the World Martial Arts Union or WoMAU. The union is made up of different martial arts organizations. WoMAU’s goal is to promote the exchange of personnel and information between member organizations with a view to helping develop martial art skills and techniques, while encouraging the world martial arts community to contribute positively to world peace. They also collect, exchange and disseminate information and materials. WoMAU organizes study and research activities, such as seminars and conferences. The Union also organizes or sponsors demonstrations or exhibition events. They render cooperation to the Chung-Ju World Martial Arts Festival and provide administrative and technical assistances to the member organizations with a view to facilitating their participation in the Festival and other events. The underlying purpose of these events is, among other things, to promote mutual understanding and friendship between martial arts practitioners of the world and renew their commitments to peace.

I love martial arts, and to think that a country loves and respects their arts enough to build a martial arts park and museum and to create an organization to facilitate friendships with other martial arts organization and martial artists everywhere in the world warms my heart.

The Korean’s dedication to bringing martial artists together from every part of the world was evident in everything we did that day. After our visit to the park and museum we had a wonderful lunch hosted by the Mayor of Chung-Ju City. This lunch included many of the people who support WoMAU and the World Martial Arts Park and Museum in Chung-Ju City.

Our trip from Seoul to Chung-Ju City and back was taken on a really luxurious bus and we had a wonderful tour guide who shared with us the history of Korea and information about Seoul and about the people of Korea. Jenny, our tour guide, even included information about the design of Korean money and why there is a difference in the shapes of chopsticks used in different Asian countries. I gained a new respect for this wonderful country and its hard working people, who always strive to be the best at all they do.

Back in Seoul we were treated to another wonderful dinner. I loved the fact that we were able to sit at one long table. Everyone talked and shared about the day and we made plans to return as soon as we could. I sat across from the Korean Senior Grandmasters who each tried to help me use my metal chopsticks correctly. We had a wonderful ginseng chicken soup, which included an entire chicken, bones and all, in the soup. It took real talent to gracefully remove the meat from the bones with your chops sticks. I, however, was not very graceful, and we all laughed together at my exploits. I will be practicing at home!!!

After dinner we returned to the hotel blessed to have had such a wonderful time together. Many of us stayed up and talked late into the night as we would not be together much longer.

Day Six, November 9th – Homeward Bound

This was a difficult day. We gathered for our typical, fantastic breakfast at the hotel and exchanged hugs and business cards and promised to stay in touch. (Facebook is helping us to do this. Thank you, Facebook!) It was difficult, as one by one, we caught shuttles to the airport. I was able to travel with Master Sergio Corral from Mexico who made the trip much easier for me.

All of the Masters, Grandmasters and attendees want to send a special thank you to all the Grandmasters from Seoul for putting together such an amazing event and to Master Guy Edward Larke for his dedication and hard work. Kam sa ham ni da!

1st Tang Soo Do Seoul Forum: Technology and Transparency in the Martial Arts