Testimonials from Genova, Italy Part 2

Letters from Students and Instructors of Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s European Tour of Seminars, Instructions, and Mentoring in 2016.

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MARCO REPETTO (Open Seminar)

It’s not easy at all to understand all of Kuk Sa Nim’s messages, I think there is a lot more behind what he tells us. Being there at the seminars in Genoa and staying close to Kuk Sa Nim all day made me feel things I never felt before. The first thing that amazed me was Kuk Sa Nim’s immense humility in what he does, especially when he relates with the audience. I tried to pay most attention to how he built the self defence lesson: piece by piece he has put together a great lesson with a lot of techniques; he was able to keep everyone’s attention and he made all of them have fun.

Based on what I’ve seen I think it’s possible to improve a lot but it’s really necessary to change something in my mind (I’m talking about the self defence and Tae Soo Do courses).

Hwarang forever!

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SAMUELE TARDITO (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

It was intense, at least for me, because he almost right away made me face myself, and after that he shared his perception.

I was expecting something different, a lot more step by step and even more philosophical; also without this formality, I’ve had many Mentorings in my life and with the Grand Master was very different, not worse or better, but very practical. You can feel and perceive that he’s a person who has had thousands of experiences, so he will surely have the answer you need. This is a reply directly from my heart; I’ve written it straight away with the words that came to my mind.

I thank him infinitely! This almost intimate contact was one tile, one more brick for my internal growth. Thanks to you too for giving us this opportunity.

Hwarang forever

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SIMONE NEGRO (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim!

I apologize for the delay. Incredibly right. It’s extraordinary the simplicity that he used to show me that the simplest solution is often the best one. I mean, that the cause of the problem and the reason why I can’t solve it is how I SEE the problem or how I think about it. As in “The last samurai”: “No mind”. I really should have gotten it before. I’ll have a lot to work on.

I thank Grand Master Taejoon Lee for his advices.
Hwarang

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MARCO REPETTO (Mentoring – Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

In the following text I’ll try to explain the thoughts I’ve reached these days.

Starting with the mentoring with the Grand Master, I could notice how beautiful it is to spend sometime with the Grand Master in a cheerful way without too many worries (he said it many times, at least on the Lake Maggiore, that is good to let down your guard to better understand and to go deeper into things, which also I always find it difficult to do, at least with him). What he says really goes deep inside the people; it’s hard not to agree with him, all of his speeches really make sense and he is able to effectively transmit what he senses and what he feels.

The hard part is to be able to catch everything that he wants to give us: eventhough he was usually very clear, I’m sure I’ve lost something that was “between the lines”. Concerning the time spent with him, it was great; I both had fun, and understood how much I’ve always been pushing on the wrong directions, until now.

Speaking with the Grand Master on the Lake Maggiore and in the journey to get there, I had the chance to ask him about some things, and he made me realize that many solutions for my problems were right under my nose and I couldn’t’ see them because I never wanted to see them. He told me many times that I’m isolating myself and he is so right about that… He is completely right!

…and he made me realize that many solutions for my problems were right under my nose and I couldn’t’ see them because I never wanted to see them.

I had the possibility to put myself on the line and try to test my attention and precision in the things I do without having a direct experience on what should have been done (taking care of Kuk Sa Nim, trying to translate English/Italian and vice versa, trying to ask things and speaking to him developing a conversation etc.). Surely, on the lake, as he himself said before, he wanted to completely relax, but I’ve tried to stay always aware and concentrated to do my best.

I’m thinking a lot about what Kuk Sa Nim has told me of my way of teaching, and here too… how can you argue with that? As he said “I’m at an age when I have to run a lot, strong and fast, without thinking too much about balance” but for certain my way of spreading Hwa Rang Do will change a lot.

I’m very honoured and happy to have spent some time close to Kuk Sa Nim, and I’m very sorry I couldn’t do more.

Hwarang Forever!

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GIUSEPPA ANTONIA SCICOLONE (Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

The time spent with Grand Master Taejoon Lee was useful to clarify many things about the practice; I appreciated his ability and availability to give clear information on how to move and how to teach.

I was pleasantly surprised when he proposed a suitable procedure for those who want practice, to move forward efficiently without spending much time, and to link the techniques so that they make sense, in respect to the student to motivate him/her to proceed.

I like the idea of a “school” that he proposed, but I see many obstacles to make it in a non-american culture. Bronze/gold certificates are now taking over in the educational path, even in Universities and in Italy, so the proposal of educational packets might be a successful challenge on a business plan. I don’t dare thinking of the financial implications, I’ll let the accountant speak on that.

In the last few days I could verify how our cognitive process is different, the Grandmaster asks for the individual thought, here it would be unpleasant to speak without specifying the cultural context we are referring to, and also it would be incorrect to mix together Philosophy and Religion because they have different instruments and research fields, but beyond the ocean the empirical thought dominates and I think Grandmaster Taejoon Lee has one of his own, which is a work in progress to the truth.

Of course to apply all the suggested changes will need a great effort, at least for me, and if I was a Tae Soo Do student I would be happy to understand and act with a clear goal, but as part of the instructor group I must work as a mirror and this causes me problems because it requires, other than remembering the techniques, also to do it overturned. We’ll see if I’ll be able to over take also this obstacle with practice.


We’ll see how it’s possible to treasure what happened these days. Surely, the Grandmaster’s passage brings everything into question and he wants to remove what is useless;

We’ll see how it’s possible to treasure what happened these days. Surely, the Grandmaster’s passage brings everything into question and he wants to remove what is useless; please allow me one quote, according to the logical principle of Occam’s razor, the only courses and instructors that will be able to stay active are the ones that can go straight.

I think that the biggest teaching I’ve received is to go straight to the goal.

Hwarang forever,
Giuseppina

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GOLINELLI ENRICA (Parent – Open Seminar)

Hwarang Giuseppe, we thank you for the email, Federico had a lot of fun, it was a wonderful experience and we thank you for this opportunity and for your teaching.

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NADIA STEGANI (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Kuk Sa Nim,

As I already personally told you I’m very sorry I didn’t fully take part of the two weeks when you were here. However, those times when I participated were of great inspiration, and what surprised me many times is the completeness with which we discussed of the “easiest” topics, that in spite of their simplicity they were really enlightening.

I would really like to thank you for what you’ve told me in the mentoring: I probably already knew that I have to learn to trust myself more and to be more sure of what I do, but listening to you saying “believe in yourself” was very significant, and it gave me new energy to keep on going in everything I do.

…but listening to you saying “believe in yourself” was very significant, and it gave me new energy to keep on going in everything I do.

I really hope to see you again soon, and I thank you for everything!

Hwarang forever

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ANDREA COPPOLA (Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Sir,

Thank you for your time and for your immense energy, to be with you was an extraordinary experience. I remember when I first started that I was looking at the pictures and I thought: maybe one day Kuk Sa Nim will come to the Dojang.

I was terrified by this idea… there, it has happened, it seems incredible, such a strange training, it feels like time has flown away. I sensed the tension around even if you said to stay calm, well… it’s not easy, at the end it has been almost two weeks, I can only imagine how tiring it must be such a task, thank you.

I found remarkable the lessons on how to manage the prospects and how to develop their growth. What stroke me the most is that you gave us extremely simple advices, but with great results, we must learn to think in a different way.

To teach is really a great thing, but it needs solid foundations, honesty, strength, understanding, attention, I felt like a prospect myself in some moments. Now I can’t wait to start the new year of study for my class and I want to increase the number of students following your directives and suggestions.

Thank you for helping me in my private life, I’m reflecting, I’m thinking hard about what you said, putting into practice some of your advices, little by little, always going straight on and I see in front of me excellent opportunities.

Thank you for helping me in my private life, I’m reflecting, I’m thinking hard about what you said, putting into practice some of your advices, little by little, always going straight on and I see in front of me excellent opportunities. It’s hard, but deep down a warrior does not have an easy way.

I wish you a good continuation for your European journey, good health and happiness.

Hwarang forever!
Andrea
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Testimonials from Genova, Italy Part 1

Letters from Students and Instructors of Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s European Tour of Seminars, Instructions, and Mentoring in 2016.

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ARIKA MALARBY (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

It’s incredible how many things can be taught by a person like Kuk Sa Nim, only in two weeks.
It’s not easy at all to express in a few words the experience we lived in these days. He “planted” many “seeds” in our minds, and now we have to nurture them, water them, so that they can grow luxuriant, letting them change our way of seeing and feeling things, and finally open our eyes to find our truth and our purpose in life.

In the seminars I’ve attended in Chianni, I could appreciate Kuk Sa Nim’s technical and philosophical teachings. I didn’t know what to expect before those two days, and my mind was busy with university and exams, which are now part of my life for the last five years and they’ve taken almost full control of my mind. Those two days have been a turning point, they gave me energy, and I found God’s warmth again, which I had left out recently.

Those two days have been a turning point, they gave me energy, and I found God’s warmth again, which I had left out recently.

The philosophical seminar made me understand how big is Kuk Sa Nim’s knowledge, and how much he has suffered in his life. I couldn’t hold back tears with all the emotions he shared with us, and for the depth of his thoughts and his reflections, on the past and on the Hwarang warriors’ stories, which inspire our Martial Art.

It was a whole different thing to listen to the Grand Master’s words closely, for almost two weeks, to see him everyday and being overwhelmed by his knowledge and experience. The more I listened, the more I wanted to hear, his voice and his teachings. A fair balance between reprimand and encouragement, as we will have to learn to do, in our turn, with the students we are going to teach.

He has the ability to bring out extremely deep concepts, practical and vital, from one single technique, aware of every single word he speaks. One of the problems that are deeply rooted in me is the capability to express with words, to “translate” my thoughts so that others can understand, without continuously filtering my mind, and without rethinking each word I say. This is something I’ve been carrying for a long time, and it often caused me frustration with myself. It was even worse before I left for my volunteering journey to India. I’ve tried to get better, also because it created many problems in university exams, having bigger difficulties when I’m speaking to someone who makes me feel uneasy, such as professors, and also when there is an audience.

Kuk Sa Nim helped me to realize what were the mistakes and the causes that aroused this phenomenon and tried to help me fix them with some interesting hints, which I was never able to catch before. I’ll have much work to do to integrate these corrections in my personality.

“Don’t second guess yourself” it’s something he often said to me and that I will keep on repeating to myself, so that I don’t forget all the teachings he shared with me to change and improve this aspect of myself.

Another essential point of his teachings was Love. As a Christian I’ve always heard about Love, I’ve read it in the Bible, and I’ve always tried to follow it. His testimony of faith inspired me; it renewed and warmed my heart amidst the world today, which is trying in many possible ways to shut it in a box, to make it indifferent and fill it with hatred.

I fully agree with the fact that every person needs love whether they admit it or not, and the most important task for a believer is to share with others the Love that God gives us, with which He keeps “our cup full” so that we can always give, without necessarily needing to receive. With no fear of being the one who takes the first step, without being afraid of other’s judgement, because “if we do what is right, what is true to us, than we don’t need anyone else’s support or encouragement”. This is a great life lesson, hard to put into practice for someone who is used to always hiding behind others’ actions, but we must force ourselves to think with our own mind and by first finding our own truth, which will lead to the discovery of the Truth; and after knowing the Truth, we must take action.

With no fear of being the one who takes the first step, without being afraid of other’s judgement, because “if we do what is right, what is true to us, than we don’t need anyone else’s support or encouragement”.

It has been an immensely emotional experience to be so close to the Grand Master and assimilate all these things: I never thought that I would have the honor to sit next to him and help with the translation (including some reproaching for my insecurity). I got almost “addicted” to his words and his voice, and also because of that I’m happy to have joined the Cyber Dojang where I’ll be able to watch the countless videos of his lessons, and so to continue growing and learning.

So I thank Kuk Sa Nim, for his patience and his reflections, for the strength that he owns, to face this journey, despite being in foreign countries, with no fixed home, all this for Hwa Rang Do and for us; to make sure that the principles of this Martial Art spread out in the world and can be helpful for as many people as possible.

I hope he knows that where there is Hwa Rang Do he can always find a family, and that we will be able to show this to him, as he is showing it to us.

Furthermore, I thank Sa Bum Nim Giuseppe, because without him, none of this would have been possible, and thanks to him, I have joined this big family. I have great respect and admiration for him. He has an enormous passion for Hwa Rang Do and he transmits it to all his students.

I also thank Natascia, Sa Bum Nim’s wife, who was the one that introduced me to Hwa Rang Do. At last I thank God, for guiding me on this path and because if it wasn’t for Him I wouldn’t even exist.

Hwarang forever!
Arika

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SARA GIOVINAZZO (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sa Bum Nim,

I’m sorry that I’ve had the operation during the first week of Grandmaster Lee’s visit to Genoa. I would have liked to participate in the training, but because of my health issue, I was inconvenienced of losing a week, gaining only half of the lessons, and also money.

However, since Sunday I had the possibility to see him and listen to his reflections “more closely” even if i wasn’t very lucid. So for me, it’s very hard to give a clear feedback. I wanted to ask more personal questions, but I wasn’t alone so I didn’t feel very comfortable to ask. I would have preferred to inquire about the subject he discussed in Chianni, which made me think and reflect (in a good way).

After the mentoring, I came up with this first conclusion, awareness comes especially from knowledge of things and the World (through studying). With the GM we talked about religion and I simply realized that I never studied and that I knew nothing, that until now, I only drew conclusions and beliefs for my own advantage, not considering the world in a religious perspective, ever.

With the GM we talked about religion and I simply realized that I never studied and that I knew nothing, that until now, I only drew conclusions and beliefs for my own advantage, not considering the world in a religious perspective, ever.

It has been really embarrassing to realize how ignorant I was.

I was impressed by the GM’s ability to get immediately to the “heart” of the matter and to understand the depth of our questions. I believe He’s a great teacher, because of his capability of explaining in a logical and concrete way also the most abstract matter.

I think that just one meeting is not enough for someone of his calibre, but i know that the few things i heard from his mouth, both in Chianni during the seminars and the championships ( including the various practical and technical suggestions) and during the mentoring, were very helpful for me, so much so that he encouraged me to change some aspects of my life and my free time right away.

He surely isn’t a person (if we can call him that) that you can meet and know everyday, and as far as I’m concerned, my daily martial practice, acquire much more value and validity.

I still have many questions, and for that reason, as He suggested, I prefer to find the answers continuing to fully seek, study and live. Now I need to absorb what I heard, and treasure it in my daily life.

Thank you Sa Bum Nim for the opportunity,
HWARANG FOREVER!

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STEFANO RAVERA (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

I already knew that mentoring with Kuk Sa Nim would have been a deep experience, but the ability of the Grandmaster to know where to focus his attention and transmit his words really surprised me.

The knowledge, the depth, the experience of this man is prodigious. The many subjects we encountered in our conversation went from quantum physics to philosophy with absolute simplicity. I only had to bring out the reason of my interior resentment, that is the absence of a relationship with my father, whom was never a father, to obtain from Him a detailed analysis and the direction to overtake rage and fears, and to free myself from my own conditioning.

We have to realize the huge privilege of being a part of the Hwa Rang Do Family: the Grandmaster, such as all of the instructors, are following us closely, personally, and they are interested in making sure that each one of us express the best we have to offer to the world and become a better man, a true warrior. “Bettering the world, one person at a time”…!

The Grandmaster assigned me a hard task, surely the hardest in my life. He wants me to do it quickly, and then he wants to be informed of developments. No chatters, no privolities, I must get busy and act. I’m not saying that I’ll be able to do it tomorrow, but I need to let the Grandmaster’s words and reflections change me inside and break down the thick walls that I felt forced to build during my many past years. However, I’m sure of one thing: I will do it.

He’s right: nothing in the world is more powerful than Love, and if we have even one single hope in one billion to make someone think and maybe change, we can only do it relying on that Love that we all have within us, and allowing them to experience it.

He’s right: nothing in the world is more powerful than Love, and if we have even one single hope in one billion to make someone think and maybe change, we can only do it relying on that Love that we all have within us, and allowing them to experience it.

“In almost fifty years I learnt more than four thousand way to hurt someone, but true greatness is in not using them, and instead exercising Love”. I have no other words, but immense admiration and deep gratitude, to define our Grandmaster. I’ll try to be worthy of His teaching and to transform the great inspiration I received from him into reality.

Thank you and Hwarang forever!

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CLAUDIO LUGARI (Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

Unfortunately, I could only attend the self defense seminar.

More than Kuk Sa Nim’s presence, which I wasn’t able to fully appreciate in the little time I’ve had available, I liked the way that you and we welcomed him, participating, showing warmth and unity, interest, trying to transmit what strikes us about Hwa Rang Do and what keeps us united in the practice. I appreciate Kuk Sa Nim’s humanity and the values that he spreads, in addition to his strictness.

I think that the best summary that He has left us is to underline that this practice is not only about fighting, but it’s a way to improve ourselves through fighting, aiming to become better people, also giving a meaning to the seeking of this improvement.

You are my instructor, so I thank you for your dedication in the organization and for making KSN’s visit possible.

Hwarang forever,
Claudio

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SIRIA SAGLIBENE (Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sabumnim!

It was a wonderful experience which added new techniques and causes for reflection to all the considerations taken from the self defense classes of the past few years. I hope there will be more opportunities like this to increase both the technical and philosophical aspects of our Martial Art.

Hwarang forever!

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NIVES PAROSI (Open Seminar)

We thank Grand Master Taejoon Lee because when Beatrice met him, she started to understand that every human action has to be thoughtful; that it is in ourselves and we must seek the ethics which lead our behavior, that growth means to constantly change to get better and that Hwa Rang Do represents the tool and the way to travel this path. Grand Master Taejon Lee proved to her that nowadays, especially in our violent society, which is always more lacking of values, there are still principles of honor and intellectual honesty that have to be searched for in ourselves before than in someone else’s words.

Beggi Family

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FILIPPO BRUZZO (Mentoring)

Hwarang Sabumnim!

I’ve already tried to explain to my relatives and friends what I felt and what I still feel after spending some time with Kuksanim, but it’s really hard!

There are no words to explain the emotional hodgepodge I’m feeling… I feel different, and I’ve changed the way to see the world and to see myself… I have to immensely thank Kuksanim and Hwa Rang Do for my growth and I have to thank especially you Sabumnim! For the opportunity that you gave me and for the fact that now Hwa Rang Do is a family to me.

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ALESSIA SCUTO (Mentoring – Mother of Burattini Family)

Hwarang Sabumnim, in the days before the meeting, I’ve thought of many questions that I could have asked to the Grand Master, but when the time came I only felt the need to ask for help. I perceived the clear and irrational sensation that I could receive that help. What came out of the talk deeply upset me at first and it caused great anguish within me. It takes courage to look at how you really are and realize how far you are from what you had wanted to be. I want to start from here, with this awareness, to walk and fill this gap.

Hwarang forever!

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MAURO BURATTINI (Mentoring – Father of Burattini family)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

After 3 days, the meeting with the Grand Master knocked me out… his words and his gaze gave me answers that maybe I didn’t want to hear… But the change that is growing in me, is struggling to metabolize the truth.

I realize that all of my fears, are not a fault, but they’re “HUMAN” and only through the will of listening and working hard to a solution can help me to better understand the relationship with my sons. Until a short time ago, I wasn’t good TOWARDS MYSELF AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE ME but since I’ve been practicing Hwa Rang Do, I’m paying the consequences of what I am, with no reductions, but I’m learning to give value to something more than what fits my perception and what has apparently satisfied me.

Until a short time ago, I wasn’t good TOWARDS MYSELF AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE ME but since I’ve been practicing Hwa Rang Do, I’m paying the consequences of what I am, with no reductions, but I’m learning to give value to something more than what fits my perception and what has apparently satisfied me.

I thank you infinitely for the opportunities you’re always giving us, and the motivations that you try to transmit to us. I don’t know how far and where I will go, but I know for sure that I won’t stop in for of anything.

My director in Publirama used to say, “the fish always stinks from the Head”, and at the moment Hwa Rang Do’s Head is bright and clear even if it’s hard to follow.

I’m sorry for the strange words but I hope you’ll understand the meaning.. I want you to know that we now realize that Alessia and I have been protecting our love from everything and everyone, but mainly from ourselves… The Grand Master is an incredible person and I never met in my whole life anyone like him.

Thank you,

Hwarang forever
Mauro

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ELENIA MALARBY (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

The seminar and the mentoring have been very interesting. At the seminar I learned a lot of things and also I had fun with my friends. The mentoring has been truly inspiring: I understand how to behave my self with other people at school, but also outside. Now, I am not afraid of thoughts or opinions, about me, of my friends; and for this I thank Kuk Sa Nim. Indeed I thank him for all these things, for the help he gave to me and to my family.

Thank you.

Hwarang
Elenia

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MEI & TULLIO MALARBY (Mentoring)

It was really a great and deep experience: Grandmaster Taejoon Lee gave us lots of input and encouragement both to us, as parents, and to our daughters.

I’m really thankful because he put into words what I used to think, but never been able to say it in the right way. He also helped me to see things not only in my way but in 360° way.

On behalf of my husband Tullio: he says that he’s always been proud of his daughters and his family, but never more so than in the moment when Grandmaster said to his daughters: “If not you, whatelse could he be proud of?” because that’s exactly how he feels!

I think Grandmaster is a very positive and humble person and he is teaching to the Tae Soo Do and Hwa Rang Do students to be positive, humble, respectful and observant.

Thanks for sharing with us his wisdom.

Hwarang forever!
Mei yi and Tullio

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GIUSEPPINA SCICOLONE (Mentoring)

I learned a lot from mentoring. Thanks for the advice: I understand my goal and how to proceed in practice. These days in class and at lunch I found many answers to my questions and why I appreciated his wisdom having already appreciated his impressive martial arts skills.

Thanks again for everything you did and I pray to God to protect him with the mantle of His love.

Hwarang forever.
Giuseppina

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LYSIA MALARBY (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

I’m really glad I got to attend the mentoring, I thought it was inspiring. I was able to acknowledge how pointless my “shyness/overthinking” issues were and to look at them from another perspective.

It did renew my will to fight for myself as well, in some ways: as it’s been a few months since I trained properly (due to me not managing to keep up with my schedule), perhaps I forgot how it feels to be sparring with someone. Thinking of applying that mental approach to other tasks that I up until now thought as difficult, really triggered something in my way of handling certain situations. I still think, for me, it’s going to take some time to actually become the person I’d like to be, but I reckon I can now try and improve myself in a better and faster way. I also found the discussion relating to the family to be very interesting and I’d like to thank Grandmaster Taejoon Lee for giving us this occasion. I really am happier and more proud than ever before to have Hwa Rang Do become part of my life.

Hwarang Forever,
Lysia Malarby

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ALESSANDRO & GIORGIA BASTIA (Open Seminar)

Hwarang

We have attended the seminar on bullying together with our three daughters and so we had the opportunity to listen and get to know a very capable person: Grandmaster Taejoon Lee.

The best thing for us was to realize that the person of which we had read and heard a lot about, and who seemed so distant, almost unapproachable, really existed and he came to know us and to let us know him!

After the amazing experience we had in Chianni, these seminars were a further unforgettable opportunity to get our family close, Giorgia in particular who is now purple belt, to this fantastic discipline, which by the way, helped very much our daughter to trust herself and try to give the best that she can in everything she does.

A sincere thanks to the instructors and to the Grand Master for his willingness!

Chiara and Alessandro Bastia

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DAVIDE PIZZO (Open Seminar – Instructor)

I knew that the visit of Kuk Sa Nim, Grandmaster Taejoon Lee, to Genova would be an extraordinary experience. I also knew that I would learn a lot, but never thought that it would change my way of thinking so deeply.

The fundamental change refers to the way I now approach to the idea of “change”.

In the past, I have always focused on the problems and difficulties of changing and never on its benefits and how to achieve them. In other words, I always saw the glass half empty. “Disguising laziness with humility” is one of the quotes that Kuk Sa Nim told us when he first arrived in Genova. That quote opened up my mind.

In other words, I always saw the glass half empty. “Disguising laziness with humility” is one of the quotes that Kuk Sa Nim told us when he first arrived in Genova. That quote opened up my mind.

I immediately had the feeling that what Kuk Sa Nim was saying was the truth. I realized that everytime Kuk Sa Nim taught us how to manage something differently than what I was used to, I had to make an extra effort not to argue with useless excuses and justifications.

Then, I decided to change my approach. Kuk Sa Nim came to Genova with the purpose of helping us and would have been stupid on my part if I had missed this opportunity. Eventually, I began to listen and think before I spoke.

Kuk Sa Nim explained in detail how to manage the Tae Soo Do class; how to follow the student from the very beginning of entering the Dojang, inquiring information, until to the black belt exam.

For every procedure and every step, we must always know why and understand the reason thoroughly instead of following them blindly.

Thanks to Kuk Sa Nim I realized that formulating the right questions is fundamental in order to achieve our goals, to know the truth. I also realized that it is much more advantageous trying to understand how to make things work rather than focusing on what would not work.

I am now very enthusiastic and looking forward to September when the classes will start again. There will be much hard work to be done, but Kuk Sa Nim gave us the tools to work in a smarter and more efficient manner in order to reach our goals.

Hwarang forever!

Davide

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Grazia Gamberale (Parent – Open Seminar)

Dear Mr. Catania, I apologize for the late answer, but we had some problems at home. Riccardo found the activity very interesting and instructive. He was happy to meet a person of such a high rank in this Art who has learnt to love. I personally have to say that it was very educational also for us as parents, regardless of the fact that we think all of your events are beautiful.

I thank you again and again for the opportunity you gave. I give you my best regards.

Grazia Gamberale.

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Kristina Qose (Open Seminar)

Hwarang,

On Saturday we had the chance to have an experience that is undoubtedly to be relived.

I finally could have an idea of what is Kuk Sa Nim is like and I must tell he’s just as I expected. He is a personality that really intrigues me. In regards to the seminar, it was very interesting and well organized. I liked it because we tried many exercises we never saw before, but especially because there were a lot of us, and that gave me, as usual, the possibility to confront myself with others and also to see again many familiar faces.

The only other thing I would have liked to do was to go have lunch all together (with the other Tae Soo Do students) just to have a chat and get to know each other better, although Sun Bae Siria was a great company. But, I know that it was up to us to have organized that.

I finish by saying that my feedback is definitely positive!

Hwarang!!

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Renato Repetto (Open Seminar)

It has been very strange and unusual to spend two hours working out with those who are my son’s companions; it was as strange as it was special. Only at the end, when I thought of it in tranquillity, I realized that in those two hours I didn’t think of anything else but what I was doing in that moment, training and it made me feel incredibly good. The Korean Grandmaster seems to be a very special person, even if he’s not my Grand Master (not being a student).

I respect and admire very much his job and his way of life.

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Maria Corti (Open Seminar)

It was a very unusual experience, I had fun and I felt that I was giving myself a challenge.
I realized I was very clumsy in doing the exercises, but I was amazed at how Kuk Sa Nim helped me, being very kind and calm.

Even if I don’t know English at all, It surprised me how he could make people understand going inside of them, teaching in a way that goes beyond simple words.

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Reflections on Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s Lessons – Conference 2013

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Reflections
By Marco Mattiucci
Susuk Sabum – 4th Dan Black Sash
Italian Branch of the WHRDA

World Hwa Rang Do® Association Championships/Conference/Seminars 2013
Hwa Rang Do USA Headquarters
July 27th – August 4th, 2013

Hwarang!

This document is both to organize my notes about the event and to offer some reflections of our beautiful yet powerful annual event.

Before going on, please let me say that I’m very grateful to have received such teachings and that these lessons are very valuable and worth the sacrifices my family and I have had to make to come all the way from Italy to Los Angeles and participate annually. No growth is possible without sacrifices.

Also I extend my gratitude to all the black sashes and students who have supported me in this event, before, during and after. And, of course infinite gratitude to Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee and his father Do Joo Nim Dr. Joo Bang Lee who are the pillars of Hwa Rang Do®.

“Do you know the difference between self esteem, self empowerment and self discipline? We teach self-discipline and self-empowerment, not only self-esteem! We have to explain that to the parents and create the right expectations.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Yes, I agree and believe that when we teach, we have to teach self-empowerment and self-discipline to our students, not only self-esteem. Because, self-esteem is only the love and appreciation for the self, self-empowerment is the courage and power to face problems and self-discipline is the possibility to adhere to a precise set of rules (morals/ethics) and respect them in spite of everything.

I think that self-empowerment is the foundation of our teaching process. The philosophy that Kuk Sa Nim teaches us is fundamentally a philosophy of power: a person is only truly strong when he makes the right decisions. Good and bad are just shadows of our actions. Only the Truth can direct a person towards what is good. I would like to think that when I am teaching my students, I am making them stronger in all aspects: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“What is the difference between trying and doing?” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Many people “try” but few people “do”. When a committed student says that he’s trying to improve or something of that nature it’s a symptom of his predisposition: he’s going to quit. It could be for many reasons; maybe the responsibility he feels is too much, maybe he’s tired, lost his motivation, but nevertheless that is his condition, his illness.

When you’re concentrated in doing (making something happen) you cannot complain, you cannot waste your time, you cannot think about leaving or other negative issues; you’re focused on achieving. That’s because by the act of “doing” it is self-motivating. When you need to “try” to do something it shows a defensive, apathetic, self-defeating approach. Even before starting you already know that your doubts are greater than your motivations and that’s surely the end. Maybe not immediately, but sooner or later that’s the result, failure. So, as teachers, leaders, we have to be aware about this process/symptom and act accordingly, preventing or fixing it (preventing is better).

“Human beings are definitely afraid of change. We have to look for consistent and stable patterns. That’s the reason why the class has to be standardized to an extent.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Being afraid of change is one of the main reasons why many of our old instructors left Hwa Rang Do. It’s a very important issue for all of us leaders. Why are people afraid of change? Because it consumes much energy, critical thinking, and forces you to question yourself and everything you have ever believed in, shaking your foundation to its core. Definitely, we have to understand that there is a unique point in which our lives balance on, the issue of our death. As wise people, we should understand that there is no other points of external balance which can be accepted. Growth is change and change requires pain and sacrifice. It’s easy to say, easy to understand, but very hard to accept.

Normal students are afraid of Hwa Rang Do because they believe it is too much. The standard class is the only stable point in their martial arts journey. They need to be anchored with things that they can expect, giving them sense of stability and confidence. Changing the class too much daily where it’s always unpredictable is a sure way to lose students. It is our responsibility as teachers, instructors, and leaders to offer them in the beginning the sense of security through a stable, consistent program and empower them with the end goal of liberating them from mundane routine, systematic control, ultimately to live dynamically.

From this point of view, I think it’s very important to divide the classes for instructors and the classes for normal students. It has to be clear what the distinctions are and normal student should not be in the high-level instructors classes as there are different degrees of expectations and levels of self-belief.

“You, the Black Sashes, must strive for accuracy, precision and perfection. There are at least 18 levels to become a 1st dan Black Sash so you should be at least 18 times better than the other students.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

What a huge responsibility! Every time I think about it, I’m in fear of being inadequate, but that’s the right direction and I cannot waste my time with negative feelings. I must only focus on training harder and become better than before. My students are always critiquing me, even when they seem to be patient and tolerant with my weaknesses. When they follow me, they should inevitably learn, improve. So, if I am weak, they become weak; if I am bad, they become bad. All leaders must push themselves to be the best, to do their best: that’s the only way to teach how to improve and grow. It doesn’t mean that my best is absolutely the best; it is only doing my best and the process of giving my personal best is what is necessary to be a positive, self-empowering teacher.

“…If you perform the same technique thousands of times, it can be a way to exercise the spirit; but if you perform it in the wrong way, you gain nothing but bad habits. You have to train with accuracy and precision to learn the techniques properly. More doesn’t necessarily mean better!” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

One of the fundamental aspects of my training is repeating thousands of times the same technique. I have also taught my students to do the same. What I didn’t teach them and myself is to be accurate and precise. My way to teach and train has changed much in the last 2 years. The sentence “more doesn’t necessarily mean better!” is always in my mind and I strive to find more effective ways to train, learn and teach. Time is important! Repeating techniques are good for the spirit, but only when you’re getting older, you start to understand that time is very precious and it must be used efficiently.

“Today, people want what is immediate and don’t want to commit to long term goals. The virtues of perseverance, commitment and loyalty are being lost” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

This idea perfectly describes our times of crisis. People don’t want to commit to long-term goals because they are afraid that they might be missing out on something, some opportunities, but that is terribly absurd. When you try to do too many things, trying to have everything, not to lose anything, focusing on nothing, you are surely going to lose everything. The right way to accomplish more is to focus precisely on one thing, and then relax to finish one task at a time. Then, from the completion of one, many more opportunities grow from its solid foundation.

I don’t have solutions for this. I only teach people to be strong, I think it’s the only answer that I can give as a teacher and a leader. Nevertheless, I’m sad about the overall situation, as I feel at times helpless to change the popular trends of the world today.

“The way, the process of learning is changing. The method, the act of learning was a continuous search, involving the individual to take physical action; going to the library, asking the librarian, looking up each book. Now, all we have to do is type a few words into Google, a search engine and the answers appear, requiring no more action than the act of typing. It’s altering the way we think, the way we interact with others, with the external world. It’s a way to create dependencies: intellectually, emotionally, and economically. From culture, arts to even food, everything is about dependency. We must be aware that we are giving up freedom, our privacy, the question of “why & how” in order to gain more convenience. What must we, then preserve? The process of learning; the act of seeking for knowledge, for truth, through Hwa Rang Do! That’s the only way we may preserve both our Martial Art and humanity.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Our journey of learning and seeking knowledge is really Hwa Rang Do in itself for me. If we remove this of idea of epistemology, philosophy, of seeking truth from Hwa Rang Do, then it’s no different than any other martial arts. What I mean is that it’s not only the amount of techniques or the techniques itself that makes Hwa Rang Do special, but the way we teach and learn them. From this perspective, it’s clear that the journey is really much more important than the destination, as the destination might not even exist.

“I am creating ESBD: EaSy But Deadly, a program without commitment base and for those with the inability to seek, for the short-attention span of the modern-mind… I’m just kidding, but it could make some money LOL.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

A program without commitment is really hard to understand for me because I cannot teach non-motivated people. I am relieved to know that Kuk Sa Nim was joking, but there’s some truth in it. Anyway, I want to think about it, as I understand that it’s a good means for business and to give people a good opportunity to be introduced to the world of martial arts. From this point of view, it’s better than pure fitness, dance, or yoga, etc. We have to survive from an economical perspective and it’s not easy in a very competitive world where you can become a karate or Tae Kwon Do black belt in less than 1 year (paying a lot of course…). But, of course only as a gateway, an indoctrination into our core curriculum.

“My goal is to be independent from you and make you independent from me. You have to be able to create on your own. You have to be able to make your decisions independently from me. You must be able to make decisions on your own, embracing the fact that you will have to suffer the consequences of the wrong decisions. You are part of Hwa Rang Do; you must be the drivers and no more remain as passengers, think on your own. Then, you must remain humble and when you have a good idea, you must share it. My goal is to make you instructors, and you have to teach 10 people to create 10 others with 10 people under them who are also able to lead, then soon we can lead thousands of people. I’m the only person besides Dojoonim who knows everything about Hwa Rang Do and if we die, what will happen? The remaining instructors will have to be able to rebuild everything without us!” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Independence or self-reliance is another reason why some old instructors left Hwa Rang Do and a specific reason why some black sashes don’t want to open their own schools. I set a precise rule in Italy: if you want to become a black sash, if you want to test for black sash 1st dan, then you have to open at least one Tae Soo Do Club. It’s very clear and there’s no compromise on this. Furthermore, this is exactly what Kuk Sa Nim has outlined many years ago as he clearly stated that we are not just Black Belts, we become Hwarangs and they are generals, leaders and if they don’t have anyone to lead, then what’s the purpose of becoming a Black Sash? If they don’t want to do it, then they can leave Hwa Rang Do immediately. For me, it’s not possible to learn Hwa Rang Do without taking the responsibility of teaching. Maybe I push my advanced students too hard, but I’m very concerned about the future of Hwa Rang Do and I want to do my best to help Kuk Sa Nim and Do Joo Nim to disseminate the Art and to create a stable set of schools in Italy and Europe that can survive for many years, even after my death.

“Black Belt Magazine representative, during a banquet, told us that all the students of different martial arts organizations usually say: this martial art really changed my life! But when you ask them: in which way? What changed? They are not able to answer. The representative went on to say; however, that’s not the case with your students. When asked the same question, they all knew exactly how and what Hwa Rang Do changed in their lives and the benefits they have received.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Being aware of what the martial art is doing and has done for one’s personality, the body and the spirit should be the primary concern for a good student. We have to motivate our students to better understand what Hwa Rang Do is and what Hwa Rang Do can do for them. Seeking understanding is energy-consuming and I know that a lot of our students don’t want to spend the time and effort necessary in deep self-reflection to truly know themselves and their changes. The fact of the matter is that it’s not possible to study Hwa Rang Do without introspection. Therefore, the process of understanding is inevitable. The goal for us, leaders and teachers, is to guide them in this process and help them when needed.


“…How much you know is not as important; what’s more important is the way you express what you know.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Yes, there are instructors who are not able to do many things due to physical limitations, age, etc., but they can still strive to teach very well the small amount of things they know. And, even if they cannot do it, they still need to know how it’s done. The result is that they will have many followers and those students will become very loyal to them. It’s a very important issue. We have to spend time not only in training, but also in teaching how to train other people. This starts from the basics.

From this point of view, I would like to thank Susuk Sabumnim Dylan Sirny for the enlightening class he gave us about how to teach children. I believe that the methods he explained were fantastic! And, should be standardized for all schools and teachers. I have been reviewing what I’ve learnt from it and I will begin by applying it on a specific experimental set of children (Alice, my daughter, will be part of it). I want to train myself in that direction, improving my skills in depth and then disseminate my knowledge to all the Italian instructors, motivating them to apply the same methodology.

“Kids mainly understand what they feel and not what you explain to them.”– Susuk Sabumnim Dylan Sirny

It’s a very interesting point. I’m glad for this reflection. When I teach kids I deal with them as adults, but I have to remember that for them feeling; what’s pleasant and unpleasant, what feels good and bad are much more important than rational reasoning. It’s a key point to remember when dealing with children.

“You’re teaching the child but you’re enrolling the parents.”– Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Absolutely true!

“Beauty is about esthetics and symmetry” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

I’m fascinated by this definition. I heard it from Kuk Sa Nim some years ago and I have been very happy to hear it again this year. We, as leaders, have to be beautified by the essence of fascinating people. I think it’s something that we can learn because esthetics and symmetry can be studied, understood and applied as concepts: (1) esthetics through the exercise of understanding the perceptions of others about us and the world; (2) symmetry through the study of rules and behaviors that make our lives consistent and balanced with what we think and say. That’s definitely why beauty and beautiful people attract other people even those they don’t necessarily want.

“Do Joo Nim says: that a fight is good! When it’s a comparison of skills to make each other grow.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

I have been practicing the egoless way for several years and I find it very difficult due to my nature, but I’m coming to understand more each day. For the first time, this year, I participated in the championships as a competitor without thinking about the results and that has been a great experience for me. I also matched during the black sash test and in that situation; my main goal was to collaborate with my brother (not opponent) to allow him to demonstrate his abilities. I liked it so much more!

The problem I have here in Italy is that I’m the highest degree in Hwa Rang Do and when I match it’s always a lose-lose situation: if I lose I’m losing against a student of mine, if I win I’m winning against a student of mine… I partially solved this problem by matching only with the highest ranking black sashes in private with explanation and understanding of the unique situation. However, it’s a pity that it’s not too often.


“Promotion comes from imagination!” – Fernando Ceballos

Thanks to Fernando for the valuable business issues he pointed out during the presentations. The sentence “Promotion comes from imagination!” captured my attention. It’s definitely true! The greatest businesses in the world come from small but innovative ideas. The tools are important, mainly Internet based tools, but it’s the imagination, which is the source that fuels new and effective businesses.

“The Black Sash test will be changed and believe me, it will be very hard! In addition to the compulsory test, there will be specific subtests for grappling, weapon fighting, continuous sparring, voluntary service or social service, etc…” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

I completely agree! The pre-test for the Tae Soo Do black belt test, here in Italy, is unbelievably difficult now as it is. I made it harder and harder each year. The hardest test creates the greatest results and the greatest value.

“I cannot change my Father, but when I disagree I do question? Always seeking betterment, to make Hwa Rang Do and the family better you must question when you lack understanding and/or to seek what is best. You have to understand, Do Joo Nim is like Picasso, he is a master artisan. We cannot stifle him into a set scheme or routine due to our inability for understanding and for simplification. Most of life is gray and ambiguous, but if you don’t know black and white how can you understand the different gradations of gray and be complete? Because of this, it’s not up to him, but for me to define the standards of what is black and white for every Hwa Rang Do technique.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Kuk Sa Nim is doing the most incredible job I have ever seen in martial arts, he’s standardizing the entire Hwa Rang Do curriculum with the tools of multimedia and everything will be online. I’m so grateful for this and I follow every indication and detail He teaches online. The standardization is really valuable for Hwa Rang Do, mainly for long distance students like me. On the other hand, Do Joo Nim is the creator of the syllabus and of course he can see and understand all aspects of Hwa Rang Do and to expect him to remain within a set of standards is both an impossibility as well as a waste of his prodigious talents, his genius. Therefore it fits perfectly into our framework of Um and Yang, static and dynamic: Kuk Sa Nim is the standardized reference point, and Do Joo Nim is the infinite variations.

“My goal is to shake! I have to constantly test our beliefs. I constantly question myself; I don’t want to become dogmatic. Dogma is a way to control the masses and the only Dogma to follow is the one of Christ. You should be able to question everything, no other dogma either by man or the church is acceptable.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

When I deal with my students it’s hard for me to always explain the reason or the why of my behavior. Now, I understand that is not completely correct. I want to fix this aspect of my personality. I ask a lot of trust to my students and sometimes, because of that I lose some of them. I will find a new way to create a way of balance in which the students can understand much more the reasoning behind my decisions.

“You’re not human if you have no garbage hidden within you. We must reflect deeply and cleanse our deepest hidden trash. Then, once cleansed, with the renewed heart and soul, we must help others. We matter because we need each other. Although we are not perfect, we can help each other strive perfectly. And, definitely that’s the reason why everything is important, because we are sacred; we are made in the image of God. We exist for each other and with God every life has intrinsic value as we are all his children.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

These words are so beautiful and human that I cannot say anything more.

“We’re not only interested in techniques or the rules created by imperfect beings, we follow the natural laws and the absolute laws of a perfect Being. Only through natural laws and the laws of Truth, can we be complete and fulfilled.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

All of our techniques come from natural laws, so understanding those laws means becoming complete and closer to God. The techniques are only a means to understanding nature, God’s creation. And, to live and walk in that path is becoming Godly.

“Money is only a measure of what we’re willing to let go or sacrifice to get. Our society is money-based, yet forgetting what the value of money really is” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Teaching for free is not a good idea for at least two reasons: (1) if it’s for free, the public doesn’t value and only question why it’s free, so we diminish the value of what we teach; (2) if we are not able to ask at a higher price, then it means that we don’t believe that what we’re teaching is worth any value and this is worse than the first point because we are diminishing ourselves.

“You cannot rely on things that you cannot predict. Therefore, you must exercise greater planning and greater organization. More variables you are able to control and predict, the higher the probability to quickly manage the unpredictable. Because no matter how much you plan, how much you organize, you cannot know and control everything.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Every Hwa Rang Do School should have at least a five-year plan. I have a ten-year plan for the entire Italian branch and for EU, but maybe I’m too presumptuous. Anyway, what I can say for sure is that ideas are the drivers of reality. If you don’t have a specific target or worse if you don’t have a target at all, it’s very hard to hit any mark. The target may change, but it must always exist otherwise every action is a waste of energy.

Having a target, a vision, for the organization means that we must plan accordingly and to plan before every situation before taking action. In this way, whatever structure we create is ready to face many problematic situations and increase the probability to survive the storms through the years.

“Is Hwa Rang Do good to me? Yes, and No, it gives me more headaches and heartaches! But, I made a commitment over 25 year ago. I tried to leave Hwa Rang Do many times, but the Art always pulled me back.” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Hwa Rang Do asks for 100% of all what you can do and all of your potentials. Sometimes, it’s not easy to deal with what Hwa Rang Do requires and then we always have two choices: stay or leave. In spite of that, I believe that a person cannot really choose to stay or leave Hwa Rang Do. Every person is free to choose one way or another. However, I absolutely believe that it is the Art that chooses the person and not vice-versa.

Like a hero that gives his life for an ideal: can he really choose to give his life? Or is he what he is because he cannot avoid his fate?


“Spear fighting, sword and shield fighting and archery dueling will be implemented…” – Kuk Sa Nim Taejoon Lee

Yes, I think it’s possible and exciting. We never cease to progress, to move forward, onward, always moving. Kuksanim teaches us to be first and to not wait for others before we take action. So, at times more than not, to others we seem to be swimming upstream.

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s 8th Dan Speech

Newly promoted, Grandmaster Taejoon Lee delivers his speech at his Hwa Rang Do 8th Dan Ceremony & Banquet.

On May 23rd, 2009 in front of over 100 friends, family and students, Taejoon Lee was promoted to 8th Dan Black Sash Grandmaster and given the title of Kuk Sa Nim.

During his speech, Grandmaster Taejoon Lee revealed the real reason for allowing his students to organize this beautiful and historic event — to honor his father, master and founder of our beautiful art of Hwa Rang Do, Supreme Grandmaster Dr. Joo Bang Lee. In a speech, which was heard from as far as a mile away, Grandmaster Taejoon Lee used the entire time he was at the podium to share on the sacrifices and courage of Dojoonim, as he ventured off into the land of opportunity, the United States of America, from his home country of Korea – to spread Hwa Rang Do and provide his family the best possible life.

As Grandmaster Lee put it, his promotion to 8th Dan Hwa Rang Do Black Sash is not his achievement, but the achievement of his master, father and teacher – Dojoonim. Grandmaster Lee humbly delivered a heartfelt, yet thunderous homage to his father, for having made everything which took place that night possible.

At the end of his speech, Grandmaster Lee called Dojoonim to the podium and to demonstrate his gratitude for all he had done for him, presented Dojoonim with a handcrafted sword, made and imported directly from Japan, with an estimated market value of over $10,000. The construction of the sword included an beautiful handle made of gold, brass and stingray skin. The steel blade was forged completely by hand benefiting from Japan’s centuries of rich tradition, science and art of sword making.

Earlier in the evening, Dojoonim declared and announced to the world that Grandmaster Taejoon Lee in 20 years or at the time of Dojoonim’s passing, would become Supreme Grandmaster Taejoon Lee and 59th generation “owner of the way”, and pass the secret combat skills of the ancient Hwarang Warriors for yet another generation.

All whom were present, were in awe of this magical and powerful declaration, for it ensures the preservation of our ancient traditions, martial art and history. We thank you for sharing this very special night with us. It will never be forgotten!

Visit the official Grandmaster Taejoon Lee 8th Dan Page featuring the documentary, “Inside the 1st Family of Hwa Rang Do & the Life of Grandmaster Taejoon Lee”.

The entire Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s speech in text form:

Thank you Dojoonim.

Good evening  ladies and gentlemen, students, parents, and fellow Hwarang Warriors.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your attendance and your support for making this event possible.

Before I begin, I would like to take this time to recognize the members of the 8th Dan Banquet Committee for their hard work and selfless contributions in making this event a reality.

Tony Diaz for the video presentation, which he has spent countless hours in reviewing over a terabyte of videos and pictures to extrapolate an eloquent yet powerful summation of the Hwa Rang Do family and my journey.

Fernando Ceballos and Raymond Fong for implementing an effective online campaign to organize and raise the funding necessary to make this evening a great success.

Rick Robbins for designing the classic look and feel of our online campaign.

Daniel Gonzalez for designing all the graphic elements that went into the publishing of tonight’s event.

Glenn Mantel for making it possible for me to present to you a small, yet poignant gift in the way of the danbong.

Reynaldo Macias for accepting the daunting task of being tonight’s master of ceremony and for doing a fantastic job.

Antonio Goodwin for connecting us with one of the top DJ’s in the country, Mr. Quick, whom you will witness in a short while.

My Brother-in-law Danny Kim for providing the video projector.

Joey Klein for organizing all the people involved to work together harmoniously in making the planning process as smooth and flawless as possible as their team leader.

And, of course, my sister, Dr. Janet Lee for designing and creating the center pieces as well as coordinating this beautiful setting we are all graced with.  And to my sister Stacie Lee for being the handy helper to both mother and Dr. Lee.

The last couple of months have been quite interesting to say the least.  I was first approached by Dojoonim over a year ago, when he invited me to test for my 8th dan.  At that time, I humbly declined as I thought like a bottle of fine wine, I could wait a couple more years so that I can age properly.

I have never been interested in acquiring higher dans as most other martial artists I have witnessed. The way I see it, rank is something that the master offers his student as a gift when the student is ready to carry the responsibilities of such title and rank.  And, it has always been my philosophy that One Hwarang Should Conquer a Thousand, so no matter the rank, as a Hwarang we must always be prepared to accept whatever the challenge, however great or small. However, this spring marked the 100th Black Sash Examination and I could not pass up such important benchmark in our history.

There is so much I would like to share with you; it would take the breadth of this entire memorial day weekend and then some to fully express all the feelings, thoughts, and reflections I have had in these trying months.  However, I know Mr. Quick is waiting anxiously to get the groove on and I am sure you are as well.  So, I shall attempt to tell you about what is most important, most valuable, “The Ideal of One.”

You are all here tonight thinking that you are honoring me.  Well, if so then my “head fake” worked.  As the late Randy Paush, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, dying of pancreatic cancer says in his last lecture which he gave in front of all his students and colleagues, that the greatest lessons are learned indirectly and he finishes his lecture by telling everyone that the lecture was not for you, but it’s for my children.  So, I say to you, this banquet is not for me, it is for my father, my mentor, my master.

My trials, my accomplishments are nothing.  My hardships, my sufferings, I have none.

All I am and have done dwindles in comparison to my master.  My journey is smooth sailing in flat waters compared to my master’s journey through a tempest.

He was born the fourth son of siblings of 7 children.

He started his training at the young age of 4.

He trained in the mountains of North Korea under the strict guidance of his master Suahm Dosa, a hermit monk.

He escaped the communist regime of the dictator Kim Il Sung during the Korean War.

He survived through impoverished, war-torn conditions during the Korean war.

He left home to work and help support the family at 16 years old.

He systemized the knowledge passed to him by his master into a modern martial art system, introducing it to the public for the first time in 1960 in Seoul, Korea.

He had the first post-war nationally televised martial art expo in the largest and only sports stadium in Korea, Jang Chung Chae Yuk Kwan.

He met with Korea’s former president, Park Jung Hee, and was given the responsibility to create one unified Korean martial art.

He attempted twice to form the all Korean Unified Martial Art System, which was dismantled both times.  In the process, he aided in the development of Kuk Sool Won, and Hapkido.

He bumped heads with the former KCIA director and won his allegiance.

He protected his community in Seoul against the rampant bullying by unruly thugs.

He created the Korean Hwa Rang Do Association and opened 28 schools in Seoul alone.

He single handedly was responsible in bringing over all of the members of his immediate family to the United States which consisted of his parents, 2 sisters, 1 brother-in-law, 3 brothers, 2 sister-in-laws, 3 nieces, 4 nephews, 2 daughters, 2 sons, and his wife.

He has revived the Hwarang Knights and brought their significance to the modern consciousness and to the minds of all martial art practitioners today.

He has authored three books and co-authored three more.

He was instrumental in elevating the hand-to-hand combatives of the Elite US armed Forces through mentoring and cultivating the former head instructor of the Special Forces Green Beret, the late Michael Echanis.

He secured the name Hwa Rang Do and all of its intellectual property by acquiring the first trademark for a martial art and copyrighted all of it’s curriculum for the first time in history.

Without him, the world would have known of the Hwarang, only as a group of flower boys who rode on horseback and shot arrows, diminished as an archaic cultural side note on tour guidebooks of Korea.

I have yet to mention of his physical prowess and accomplishments.

He was the first to rotate 540 degrees in the air, striking a target 10 feet in the air with his foot.

He was the first martial artist to be aired on the ABC’s TV show “That’s Incredible.”

He has had cars and trucks run over his stomach.

He has had thousands of pounds of rock slabs smashed over his body with sledge hammers.

He is the first and last with only me coming close to have successfully completed a 5 directional cut of watermelons held against the naked stomachs of his students, while blind-folded.

He has taken down a bull with one blow.

And in the deep recesses of his mind, training under his master, he has fought against tigers.

There’s a saying in Korea that when you live long enough, you shall endure all of its pain.

As my father has been a witness to my journey, so too I have witnessed, fortunately or not, much of the hardships and heartaches that my master had to endure throughout his teaching career.

If I have taught thousands of students, then he has taught tens of thousands of students.  And, although the reward of seeing a person blossom, transform, and become the potential they all possess is priceless, it takes 1000 disappointments for one moment of satisfaction.

Above all, we as Hwarang cherish and hold in the highest regard, the virtue of loyalty.  If I have faced countless betrayals, then my master has faced too many for words to do justice.

I have seen my father take in students from the streets in their teens and raised them as his own children, with my mother feeding and nurturing them with kindness and love.  To the point where at times, I felt jealous as my father has always been the strictest with me.  Only to have them grow into manhood, acquire a taste for power yet short on wisdom, and claim their superiority.  To the unfathomable extent, where Dojoonim had to witness one of his students, whom he took in without question, once again treating him like his own son, in front of his face say, “With all of my vast knowledge of Korean Martial Arts, I have created Hwa Rang Do and all of it’s curriculum.”  And, this all done after being sworn in under the name of God.

I have known of a Buddhist Monk, who calls himself the Mop.  When I asked him, Why do you call yourself the mop?”  He replied, “Because like a mop I clean all things, yet like a mop I am always dirty.”

Unlike most teachers, we parent.  When teaching your children, just teaching is not enough.  You must make sure they learn the lesson.  And even though you have been scarred, dirtied from past disappointments, you must once again teach with conviction and love, for as children they can feel you more than they can hear you.  And, even when you are at the brink of disillusionment in people, you must believe in them even when they do not believe in themselves.

To be truthful, formal classes with Dojoonim for me, I can count with my fingers.

It’s the lessons I have learned in observing him as a teacher, a father, a husband, a man, which are most profound and have taught me the most.

Most of what I have been witnessed to are heartaches, pain and sorrow.

I have never seen him adorned with great gifts from his students; I cannot remember when was the last time one of his instructors treated him to a fine meal; I have never seen him take a vacation or his masters treat him to one; and I am just as guilty.

Most of what I have seen has been painful.  I have heard student’s complaints and resentments of my master, which only showed me their lack of understanding, compassion, and only revealed their self-entitled nature.

However, even after witnessing all of his trials and hardships, I was inspired to be like him.  He was my mountain, he was the one.

The one person, who have committed his entire life to one thing, to one love, to one passion.

Whenever, I felt it was all too much, all too painful, when my heart lay wasted in pieces; all I needed to do was to think of my father, my master as he lived twice as long, and taught as twice as much, and have endured twice as much; I could not complain, but only admire.

It is this I am an heir to. No raise in salary, no fortune, just more mopping.

The lessons I have learned from him are too many to tell in one sitting. It will take a lifetime.  So, I shall share with you all that I have learned from my master, if you will share your life with mine.

And we shall mop the world together as one, to hopefully instill the power of one; to believe in the self as all great things started from one person, then when all the people are self-empowered, then hopefully we can all live together as one in peace, in harmony.

There are too many people for me to thank. So before I close, I would like to recognize few of the people who are in attendance tonight who have made an impact in my life as well as made great sacrifices to be present.

Sensei Taro Ariga for having an open mind, helping me to realize my vision of a new weapon fighting method.

Master Fariborz Azhakh, whom I have known for over 25 years, for his guidance in keeping my dojang open and for helping me to revamp our organizational management.

Dr. Mark Cheng, whom I have known for 20 years, for being a great brother and for keeping me in the minds of all martial artists.

Jokyo Victor Garcia, whom I’ve known for over 25 years, for never giving up as I have challenged him to start over again, which for him at this point in his life is like climbing Everest for the second time in his 50s.

Susuk Sabum Dylan Sirny for accepting me as his grandfather and for being my proof that we are on the right course.

Susuk Sabum Scott MacKnight, whom I have also known for over 25 years, for his undying loyalty to me when I was a child and now hopefully a man.

Colonel Richard Downie, whom I have also known for over 25 years, for his dedication to his country and never forgetting the Hwarang Spirit.

My sisters, Dr. Janet Lee and Stacie Lee, for their unconditional love and support.

And, mostly, to my mother as she is my teacher of compassion and forgiveness.  I love you too mom.

Also, to all my students for believing in me and always challenging me to be a better teacher.

My father has said, that warriors do not retire, we die!

Although, I am most honored and privileged to be the heir to Hwa Rang Do, I must endure the greatest loss in order to claim it.

I will promise in front of all attending witnesses, that I shall do my best to secure Hwa Rang Do for the next generation, not only preserving my master’s life’s work, but fulfilling his vision.

I will accept once again his challenge which he has set forth for me to be second, but making second remembered as much or more as the first.

… or die trying.

Dae Dan He Kap Sa Hap Ni Da.

Dojoonim, Abonim…

Reprimanding the Soul

Reprimanding the Soul

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One of my favorite spiritual writings comes from the Lebanese poet, philosopher, and artist Kahlil Gibran. In his poem, “Seven Reprimands,” he teaches us of strong human virtues through self examination. This is congruent with our warrior’s path, since a warrior is defined as a strong human being who is unafraid of facing the struggles and the challenges of life, not just in battle. A warrior is not just a person who engages in warlike activities, but a warrior is a person who follows the path of strength, honor, integrity, loyalty and courage.

Let us, then, examine ourselves:

 

How many times have we taken the easy way out and then complimented ourselves by accepting the praise of others?

How many times have we played sick to avoid responsibility or work?

How many times have we opted to pick up the lightest box when helping our friends move?

How many times have we stayed quiet, refraining from the truth to avoid conflict?

How many times have we blamed others for our mistakes?

How many times have we quit when things got tougher and then consoled ourselves by pointing the finger at others?

How many times have we done something we were supposed to do and looked for praise?

How many times have we taken credit for something we did not do?

How many times have we strutted our fortune in front of those who are less fortunate?

How many times have we taken things for granted and deluded ourselves by saying we deserve better?

We have all done these things before and some of us still do. Life is not meant to be easy and most often, things of value require hard work. We often forget that nobody owes us anything and no one can make us do anything. We are the ones who make the decisions, which affect our lives, and we are the only ones who can change ourselves for the better. So, no matter what happens, the good, the bad, the ugly, we must learn to accept, knowing that no man/woman can pass judgment on our soul. And, it is the strength and vitality of our spirit that will determine our immortality.

 

Hwarang Forever,

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Seeking Truth

 

Seeking Truth

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“Keep the faith and be true to yourself,

never relying on others or chance to determine your life.

Choose and once you have decided, then stick to it to the end.

And, when you do – after you have ceased to exist, you will have created “Truth.””

As I was browsing through our Forum, “The Flowering Way,” I happened to come across some student quoting me.  So, I read through it again and it hit a nerve.  TRUTH, from the time we can speak we have always asked the question “Why?”  That is one question that you can ask and ask and ask and it can never be satisfied.  Don’t you remember your three or four year old asking you, why is the sky blue?

Because God made it that way?

Why?

Because he likes blue?

Why? Because, OK to tell you the truth, it is the combination of gaseous material which diffracts light into particular frequencies of electromagnetic radiation that is perceived by our retinas as the color blue?

Why? And on, and on, again.

This is what drives most parents crazy.  But let us think for a moment.  Isn’t that the fundamental question that we need to ask in order to find the truth?  Why do our retinas perceive it to be blue?  Why couldn’t it be something else?  And do all creatures see it as the blue we see or even other people and if they do not, then blue as we know it could not be the Truth.  And if that is so, then how can anything we perceive be the Truth.  Further, what is ‘blue’ anyways?  It is our truth as human beings or truth as it remains convenient, but not the ‘Truth.’

We can continue this epistemological debate and go even further into the philosophy of language and as in Physics, the deeper we go, more the questions we’ll find.  So, after couple of decades of questioning everything, I have come to the point where I know I cannot answer all of them and that I will never know the “Truth,” but only functional truths.  And, I am at peace with that.

I think that this is the most important realization that one can come to and it is not giving up, it is not being pessimistic, it is not compliance, and it most certainly is not ignorance.  It is a realization, a self-actualized knowledge.  Truth as in life is in doing, in living, in seeking, it is in the journey.  Whether we find the Truth or not is not what is important, but that we seek it.  However, somewhere between why is the sky blue and does God exist, if there is a Santa grant me a bike and why has God forsaken me, thinking you are Superman and got to go to graduate school to get a raise, we have lost the sense of wonderment, the fuel which drives our truth-seeking engine, the stuff which makes dreams come true.  We lost the belief in the possibility that the impossible can happen and not only happen, but made to happen.  In my opinion, Truth is what we make of it.  If you say you cannot, then you cannot; if you say you don’t like, you don’t like; if you say you quit, then you quit; if you say I don’t love anymore, then you don’t love anymore; if you say you are done, then you are dead.  And what more truth is greater than knowing that if you live there is life and if you die then it is death.  I choose to live.

Don’t misunderstand me, you cannot get to this point until you journey.  One must be critical. Not just be critical of others and external things, but just as or more so be critical of the ‘self.’  The business of seeking truth is a lonely job, paved with disappoints, disillusionments, heartbreaks, sometimes abandonment (letting go then regretting it by blaming the offender), hopelessness, and many other not so pleasant emotions as one’s foundation starts to shake, crumble and rebuilt.  Yes, rebuilt, many times.  The question is will you rebuild or will you accept it as is?  To me this is a matter of life and death of the soul.  Once your whole world view and the truths that you’ve built your paper empire on falls apart, what will you do?  And, if your foundation, your core has not turned to ash, then it has not been tested, tried, and criticized.  The journey of Truth lies in the rebuilding and this takes all the courage in the world.  Who is better off, the bum who wanders for food and lives moment to moment or the person who goes to work everyday to pay their debts?  For me truth lies in purpose and purpose rises from the rebuilding of Truth.  Each time you rebuild, there will be certain things which will remain and that to me that is Truth and it is up to me to make sure it stays true.

A Hwarang is a truth seeker and a Truth keeper.  And, this means to be unafraid – unafraid of being wrong.

Hwarang Forever,

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Warrior’s Path – Walking with Death

The Warrior’s Path

Walking with Death

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice really – get busy living or get busy dying.”

The Shawshank Redemption

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Grandmaster Taejoon Lee faces off against Jokyo Simon Lee

I had a student come to me and ask for a private lesson to show him how to execute a jump spin kick. Of course I feel that it’s long overdue and he should have asked me many months ago when he was first introduced to it as a Tae Soo Do (TSD) Brown Belt. Nearing his TSD Black Belt graduation where he must complete the final part of his Black Belt Testing Requirements by successfully breaking five boards with kick combinations, finishing with a jump spin/low spin kick break, he felt the need to get some extra help to ensure his success. It’s a good thing he was proactive in trying to control the future outcome by increasing his preparation, but what really motivated him? We’ll come back to this. As we continued his private session, he was having a terrible time fixing his old habits. Finally I blurted, “What are you afraid of, what?!”

He answered, “I am afraid of falling.”

I replied, “You have been here almost three years, learned how to fall properly, you are standing on two inch thick mats, and yet you are still afraid of falling? Well, that’s it then. You must become unafraid and accept the worst outcome before you can move forward or perish (not in so many words).”

Human beings are motivated strongly by fears; mainly fear of injury, pain, hardship, embarrassment, and of the unknown. We try to balance our fears by creating comfort zones of predictable patterns to limit our uncertainty, deluding ourselves to think that we have some grasp on our lives.

We try to balance our fears by creating comfort zones of predictable patterns to limit our uncertainty, deluding ourselves to think that we have some grasp on our lives.

As we are taught in Hwa Rang Do to never retreat in the face of the enemy, we must first clearly define and understand this enemy of ours, essentially that is our fears. Let’s think for a moment what that is. Fear is an anticipation of negative results from a particular event, action, or set of conditions that has been learned from past similar events. The important thing to understand is that fear is not real. It is imaginary. It did not happen, and might never happen; it’s only our imagination, our mind which creates images with emotional and psychological attachments that become so real that we create our lives, our responses, and our choices based on fear – our imagination.

There are two types of fear discussed here: let’s describe them as good fear and bad fear. Good fear causes motivation for action and bad fear creates reasons for inaction. Good fear prompts proactive behavior while bad fear immobilizes our minds, causing either no response or complete abandonment – quitting. The good fear prompted the student to take action to prevent the negative result that he was anticipating with planning and preparation by deciding to take a private lesson. The bad fear prevented him from creating the necessary changes for betterment and advancing. He took refuge (as many do) in the comfort of what’s most familiar. Whether that’s good or bad, negative or positive, self destructive or self enriching has no bearing on the decision. Just as a hermit crab hides in their shell, so do we also hide in what’s most familiar. The student was not willing to give up what’s familiar and clung to it like a safety blanket (however old, filthy, or smelly it may be), fixating only on the potential negative result rather than focusing on the possibility for growth and change for the better.

Once I helped the student think through the worst that can happen to him – a broken leg, perhaps, maybe even death (highly unlikely but let’s give our imagination the benefit of the doubt) the student was willing to move into unknown territory. Where before he kept doing the same wrong movement, once he accepted the worst-case scenario, he began to try different ways. Finally after almost an hour of what was to be a thirty-minute session, he made some progress. However, something very interesting occurred. He made some advancement, but quickly regressed to his old ways when he felt he was losing control, uncomfortable with the new body positioning. I think he even fell once. Well, that confirmed it. His fears were right – he did fall. Fear is not logical, it’s not just mental or emotional, it’s all consuming, and it’s powerful. Fear cannot be underestimated, and the demon that has taken a lifetime to take root and grow cannot be defeated in a single brief encounter.

Fear is not logical, it’s not just mental or emotional, it’s all consuming, and it’s powerful. Fear cannot be underestimated, and the demon that has taken a lifetime to take root and grow cannot be defeated in a single brief encounter.

Furthermore, fear cannot be eliminated and should not be. Everything serves a purpose and so does fear. However, like all things, we must learn to control it, using it as fuel for action and exercising caution in making decisions. Being able to do this requires strength, which in turn increases our self-confidence, and enhances our self-image. These are all necessary weapons when facing the demon of fear.

Primarily, we need the strength to accept the worst-case scenario. If one cannot, then they must quit their task and hide from fear, as many people try to hide from death. The problem is that death will come and we have absolutely no control over when or how. The only thing we have control over is life. Hiding is only a temporary solution. Also, have you noticed that when we quit things, or give up on dreams, that in our minds it’s perfectly justified and we have all the right reasons to do so? Of course we do! How could we live with ourselves if it weren’t the case? This is how our mind works for self-preservation. Letting go of these justifications and delusions by being true and honest to oneself is the first step in battling our fears. As warriors then, by definition, we must train ourselves to be unafraid of confrontation and engage our enemy. We must accept and embrace death as a guest, a friend that walks next to you with life on the other side. Only by embracing death, by truly accepting it, can we begin to appreciate and respect life. Not to abuse our life and live recklessly, which would be disrespecting death, but by honoring life so that our deaths become more meaningful.

As warriors then, by definition, we must train ourselves to be unafraid of confrontation and engage our enemy. We must accept and embrace death as a guest, a friend that walks next to you with life on the other side.

This is the beauty and the power of Hwa Rang Do. We exercise dealing with fear on a daily basis as we take on physical, mental, and emotional challenges set by the art, fellow students, and me (the teacher) in a controlled safe environment. Hence, realizing our limitations, weaknesses, and the truth about ourselves, we can practice taming our personal demons and making them our friends that we may call upon for help – sources of motivation. As the protagonist, Andy, in the acclaimed film, “The Shawshank Redemption,” was forced to make a decision when all hope was lost, so do we – either to get busy living or get busy dying. After losing all hope, when facts were revealed that could prove Andy’s innocence were brutally suppressed by the prison warden, Andy was forced to contemplate the meaning of life. Hopefully, we do not need to be in such extreme conditions to realize that the choice is ours – to live or to die, to be living or to be dying.

Hopefully, we do not need to be in such extreme conditions to realize that the choice is ours – to live or to die, to be living or to be dying.

Death is inevitable and tomorrow may never come. To live life by allowing fear to force our hopes and dreams into hiding, never realizing our full potential, is slavery epitomized. We must look deep within and bring to the surface our innermost fears, confronting them face to face as we do our opponents, sparring until imminent victory. The fear you suppress most that lurks in the dark crevices of your mind is what enslaves you and it’s that enemy that we must overcome in order to truly live life with freedom. I hope to continue gettin’ busy living with all of you for many more years to come.

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With gratitude to death in making our lives more fulfilling,

Taejoon Lee

Grandmaster/WHRDA VP

Giving Thanks

This is the inventory of thanksgiving which I chose for the message I delivered to my students on Thanksgiving of 2008.

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Things I am thankful for – Thanksgiving as an Umyangian:

I thank God for giving me ‘this’ life with all of it’s twists and turns, ebb and flow, joys and sorrows.
I thank my father for giving me the opportunity to carry such a worthy legacy.
I thank my mother for all her unconditional love and support in time of good and especially in times of bad.
I thank my lost brother for giving me the sorrow of losing a brother.
I thank my brother-in-law for loving and caring for my sister.
I thank my nephews for helping me to once again feel the excitement of learning the Hwarang Way.
I thank my Black Sashes for giving me hope that amongst the many quitters that there are a few that feel, cherish, and submit to the strength and power of the Hwarang Spirit.
I thank my spiritual friend for helping me to discover my spirit and inspiring me to follow it.
I thank my friends for helping me to practice our Third Hwarang Code – Kyo Oo e Shin (Trust and Brotherhood Among Friends).
I thank my enemies for always keeping me sharp and on my toes.
I thank the students who’ve quit who’ve taught me the feeling of loss and reaffirm the fact that the Hwarang Way is not for everyone.
I thank my cousins for helping me to realize the price of discipline.
I thank my Korean brothers for helping me to understand the hardships of being a big brother.
I thank all my hardships, sorrows, and sufferings for forging my character and entire being with such strength and conviction.
I thank my ex-fiancé for preventing me from making a life-long mistake and helping me to realize the true value of marriage.
I thank Americans for striving towards racial harmony.
I thank money for helping me to control greed and to realize that it’s only a means of achieving my dreams.
I thank my innocence to combat my corruption to understand the true value of life and for keeping my dreams alive.
I thank my love for always reminding me of the extreme pleasure and extreme pain of love.
And, lastly I thank strife for allowing love to exist and helping me to realize that love is the greatest power of all.

No Excuses!

Please do not disregard.  No matter what, please bear it and read to the end.

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Supreme Grandmaster Dr. Joo Bang Lee delivering a flying spin kick from squatting position over 10ft. in the air (1965 Seoul, Korea)

When I first opened our school in 1994, we gave the choice of choosing Tae Soo Do or Hwa Rang Do to the students.  Of course they all chose, Hwa Rang Do even after they were told that it was more expensive and it was harder. And, most of them never achieved Hwa Rang Do Black Sash.  I think there was only a couple.

Before Tae Soo Do, the 60s through the 80s, a 5 year old student had to start as a Hwa Rang Do white sash and had to learn 8 basics, a long form, 30 three-step sparring techniques, 2 kicking tests, and had to memorize the entire Hwa Rang Do Mengsae which included the Nine Doctrines.  They did all this for their Orange Sash test in 4 to 6 months.  Compared to now, a 5 year old student only learns 4 basics, only one of the Hwa Rang Do Mengsae and it takes them on the average 3 to 4 months.

We now have two programs: Basic Training where one learns only striking techniques with no weaponry and grappling and Warrior’s Path which includes everything – striking, weaponry, grappling.  We have no students in Basic Training.

Before our school, we used to have only two classes – one for juniors and one for adults, 6 days a week. The students came as many days as they can, averaging at least 3 to 4 days per week.  Now, even with a mandatory attendance of 2 days per week, less than 50% of our student body meets the 8 classes per month requirement.

What has changed?  Did people get dumber?  Is global warming frying our brains?  Did people get more lazy?  Did time speed up and so we have less time?

Are there too many distractions? Absolutely…

I have been observing people and their pattern of living for the last 30 years.  What I have learned about human behavior is through my students and the lessons are many.  The countless excuses and explanations of why they can’t do this or do that from literally thousands of students for the last 30 years have made me sort of an expert on the subject.

And this is what I have learned about excuses:

  • Everyone has one and they all stink. (There’s a military version of this.)
  • They all think theirs is original.
  • They all think the other person doesn’t understand.
  • They all say, “I don’t want sympathy, but …”
  • They don’t realize that they are wasting the other person’s time.
  • It’s a waste of time to listen to other people’s excuses because there’s nothing of value.
  • One shouldn’t hang around with people full of excuses, because it’s contagious.
  • There is no such thing as a valid excuse because in the end the validation is not given by the listener, but must be validated by the self, which of course no self in their right mind would validate; hence the need for the listener.
  • Making an excuse to avoid consequences or trying to make yourself out to look good is not the same as explanation.  Explanations are given to inform and to improve in the hopes of changing one’s situation as to not repeat the same offence.
  • Giving an excuse is not an apology.  An apology starts with I am sorry. An excuse starts with, but or because.
  • An excuse does not waive one’s responsibilities.  Because you missed a class does not waive your responsibility to know what was taught in that class.
  • Time does not repeat, so if you missed something, you must make it up in a timely manner.
  • In the end, the people with the most excuses only hurt themselves and have lost the most valuable commodity in the universe, TIME.

Yes this might seem a little harsh, but why think of it any other way.  If at the end of reading the bullet points, if you were able to refute or think that there’s something to refute because surely there are good excuses, then you’re not in the right frame of mind.  Of course there are always exceptions, but why waste time thinking about them, especially when it’s not going help you in a positive light.

Oh and what about medical excuse.  Surely that’s a valid excuse.  If you think this, then your mind is still in high school.  How many times did you make yourself feel sick to convince your mom so that you can stay home, which didn’t help you in the long run?  You are your own judge and you must self-regulate.  You know when you are too sick or too injured to perform and restrain yourself from training because you are so eager to get on the mat, right?  Doctors are not gods.  They are not always right and they have to be concerned about malpractice suits.  Sure, with a broken arm in a cast you can’t do things with your one arm, but you still got one good arm and two legs.  Yes, I have been injured.  I was bed ridden for a week after a 50 foot fall onto my neighbor’s concrete driveway and three weeks later, I made my first film.  There was no way that I was not going to do it.  What I did was nothing; be like Prof. Randy Pausch or Lance Armstrong.

Point being, yes there are medical situations that limits us, but we can always find a way if we really want it.  That’s the key – how much do we want it!  That’s always been the key, the secret, or whatever other fanciful word you want to use.  The key to unlocking life’s treasure chest is first, knowing what you want and more importantly, never relenting in its pursuit.

Please realize that time is finite for us, human beings, as we will all certainly die.  The only question is when and how.  We have no control of ‘when’ without being damned and/or cowardly, so definitely not a choice as a warrior.  However, we can control ‘how’ by focusing on how we will be remembered.

This is my mission, my passion to help others reach their full potential and get the most out of life.

And, even if you disagree with everything thus far (which I don’t see how, but I am sure one can find a way), you must agree that nothing is accomplished by thinking about it.  It’s only through action that anything is achieved.  Not just action, but 100% commitment to the action without reservation.  One foot in and one foot out will get you exactly that, one shoe or a pair of mismatching shoes.

There is so much I want to say and soon I shall, in the way of a book on life as a warrior is the 21st century.  But for now, I want to get back to what I originally wanted to tell you.

Everyone has an ego and that ego always tells them that they can do more, be more, and just more of everything.  So, they come to us to do more, to do everything, to participate in one of the most demanding martial art programs in the world to be comprehensive, all around, balanced, complete.  However, soon after they start training, they realize that its hard work and the romantic superhero created by the mind soon diminish as doubt sets in. Often it’s not even doubt, but one regresses to infancy and just plainly says to the self, “I don’t like it.  I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it.”  How can they even know that they like or dislike when they have nothing to compare it to?  And, wasn’t it trying out something new the motivation for starting in the first place? When doubt sets in, it’s all over.  The mind’s imagination takes over and gives credence to the doubt and sugarcoats the idea of quitting.

“No, it’s not quitting” and with that, the gun fires and excuses start racing to see which excuse appeases the ego most.  Please understand that I know this best from self-reflection.  We are all in it together and together we must support what is true and strong and fight against what is delusional and weak.

This last Saturday’s New Year’s Bootcamp is a perfect example.  Less than 50% of our students participated in what was a mandatory event.  I am sure many who were present were anxious and frightful of what was to come as I and the Instructors have fed their imagination throughout the entire week.

“Oh you’re all gonna die,” I said with a smile.  “Hope you guys can make it through without getting sick.” “I am jump start you for the entire year!” etc., etc.

With that we started the class.  The class of about 50 students went through everything I could muster.  It was reminiscent of my college years when we conducted a week long hell week, which was later renamed T&T week for Trials & Tribulations.

This is what they had to do:

  • 100 punches/shuffling
  • 100 punches/shuffling with 100 climbs in push up position
  • 1000 punches, 200 blocks, 100 punch/block combo all in horse stance
  • Approximately 1000 kicks all together
  • Punching, parrying, trapping 1000 times
  • 20 duck/under pickups on each side
  • 400 sped kicks
  • Partner training: leg presses, multiple one leg kicking, speed knees and jumps, ducking, side falls
  • 20 forward hip movement drill, forward hip slide several time across the mat, rear hip slides
  • And, 100 group sit-ups… (this is all I can remember at the moment)

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We did all this is 2 hours.  Although there were about half dozen people who had to frequent the restroom, everybody made it through.  Come on, when in your wildest dreams did you ever think that you can do all that?  You can absolutely do more, just like your ego says, but instead of just thinking it, I am here to help you achieve it and when you finally do, there will be no need for the ego.

So, this is my challenge to you for the New Year and evermore.  Don’t think you’re strong – be strong, don’t think you’re intelligent – be intelligent, don’t think you’re not lazy – get busy, don’t think you’re doing enough – do more, don’t get humiliated – be humble, think less and do more.  Remember the more you do the more you want to do; the less you do the less you want to do.

We have all the classes you need, to be what you wanted to be when you first started.  So, let’s get busy.

Fighting Fit: Tu & Th 8:15pm ~ 9pm  – This class is open to everyone, juniors and adults, and to the general public.  So, you can drag your spouse, your mom or dad, your friends anytime without joining the full program. This is a great addition to your training to gain greater knowledge in striking full contact, build greater stamina and strength.

Gumtoogi:  Sat 11:30am ~ 1pm – This class is a must for all Hwa Rang Do Students and Tae Soo Do Brown Belts.  However, any student can participate with permission.  Also, this class is open to the general public.  In this class you will learn all sorts of weapon fighting with the foundation of Hwarang sword fencing.  Important Note: I must reiterate that this is mandatory for all HRD students.  If you have not yet done so, start now.  The HRD students who do not participate will force me to take action of negative consequences.

Friday Fight Night – All of you should be practicing at home, but for additional training with supervision you can’t pass up Fight Night.  First of all, it’s a great way to form friendships with your student body as it is an informal setting where everyone is helping out each other.  And, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a private lesson without paying for it as it is supervised by Senior Instructors.

So, if you’re up to the challenge and follow my advice, you will achieve great things in 2009, but most importantly you will be better.

That’s the best gift I can give you.

With love, Hwarang Forever!

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Inside the Black Sash Conference 2009

During our annual Hwa Rang do Black Sash Conference (held this year from July 24 through August 1st, 2009), Black Sashes (1st Dan & Above) from across the globe, gather at the West Coast Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA USA for rigorous training of the mind, body and spirit, led by founder Dr. Joo Bang Lee and his eldest son, Grandmaster Taejoon Lee.

Throughout the conference a great deal of knowledge is passed down to these Hwarang Knights from the more than 4,000 techniques available through Hwa Rang Do. In addition to the physical, a great deal of time is devoted to the personal growth of our Black Sashes and that of their own students, in their respective home states and countries.

The pictures in this slide show were taken during these 10 days of private training with the founder, Dr. Joo Bang Lee and Grandmaster Taejoon Lee. The quotations were quietly recorded in a notebook by one of the Black Sashes attending from Italy, during the conference and later shared with all other Black Sashes, as a philosophical summary of her experience.

We would now like to share these quotes from Dr. Joo Bang Lee and Grandmaster Taejoon Lee with you…