The Four Loves

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis – “The Four Loves”

First time in utter ignorance
The anticipation of dabble diddle in the forbidden
Love and lust fused in wonderment
Consumes all mind and body
Nothing stands in its path

No Agape, no Philia, only Eros
If God willing
Words keep ringing
No future, no recourse, only Eros

All grown to maturity
Seen and done
Only tattered shirts left to tell tales
Love, last hope, last redeemer
Must be God sent

Fell in love with a C.S. Lewisian
Love only thyself
Hides in selfishness and luxuries
Keeping heart incased in gold casket
Hold lover in witch’s spells

Like Michelangelo’s masterpiece
So exquisite, so refined
Perfect in delusional eyes
To Lover only truth revealed
A loving child scared and scarred

Jealousy, distrust the core of disdain
Anger, money as bodyguards
Lies and cheat, never retreat
Must be right so rich and vein
Invited by all, but few to enter

No Agape, no Philia, only Eros
If God willing
Words keep ringing
No future, no recourse, only Eros

Submission must need
Lover surrenders for love as last hope
Taken captive by the love it enslaves
Nothing lost, only fallen men to gain
Promising love more than all can sustain

No warning no signs
Just as north wind blow waste
Forever entrust in foolish rhetoric and haste
In fear of loss of greed’s promise
In fear of love alone cannot fulfill

Can’t let go not for a moment
Must see and hear every whisper
Every sound and stay
Take aim and blame at what’s most dear
Burn all ships before come near

Heart broken and shattered
Dreams laid desolate with despair
Every worldly thing lost
Detached from the human race
Only reason didn’t jump, to God promise made

Many days and years past
Lost the fragrance of flowers
Lost the taste even for Ambrosia
There’s no sparkle in champagne
And no beauty in Eve

Want to destroy, maim and kill
But love not lost yet still
Everyday thoughts reveal
Can’t forget what was real
In the night, dreams never sit still

Near death, facing God yet no proof
If God willing
Words keep ringing
Surrender, let God take root

No love; Philia, Storge can restore
Only Agape can rebuild
Never knew God’s love
Until Eros shattered all that was
Hated all humankind for what’s in store

Only betrayal and deceit lay rampant
For woman can never be true
All their lives under other’s opinion
Cannot survive when truth be told
For whom can defend when stand alone

So many days and nights alone
Accompanied only by deep thoughts unknown
Reflecting all that once was
Held in company of men looked bright
Whence stood next to God it shone no light

Caution to future lovers of Eros
Like Adam, Ulysses, and Oedipus
Must first possess Agape before all else
For surely if not, one dwells
In the lonesome caverns of all hells

Yet surely when one asks
Have the serpent of love weaved it’s spells
I can say yea without regret or remorse
Yet, never wanting to suffer such harrowing end
For if I can embrace once again

I pray that it is
With the one that’s renewed
With the Holy Spirit
For I wish no other
Than to know the love lost is the Love True

Near death, facing God yet no proof
If God willing
Words keep ringing
Surrender, let God take root

God, I am in your hands. Please have mercy…
Forever vulnerable and humble I remain,

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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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My Days with Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

GML-Giuseppe

From: Giuseppe Catania
July 2016

Hwarang Sir!

I stayed close to you the entire last month, first in Chianni and then in Genoa. It was another very important moment for me and and I feel very lucky to have spent this precious time with you, both during the seminars and during the mentoring on all these days.

I think that for any instructor who has the opportunity to participate in your lessons can be truly inspired… watching you teach a class and see how you gradually “build” the lesson – it’s like seeing a great painter creating his canvas … it was very exciting to watch and as instructors we can just hope, may be one day, to become at least a tenth of what you are as a Teacher and Master.

“watching you teach a class and see how you gradually “build” the lesson – it’s like seeing a great painter creating his canvas”

I am also very grateful for being present during the mentoring sessions… as I said, I think that teaching as you teach is extremely difficult, but even more so, I think that the ability to read and touch the soul of the people as you know how to do is truly impressive, sir.

To know how to truly listen to people and know how to say the right words at the right time; I think that only a great spirit may possess this kind of skill and abilities. All those who participated in the mentoring were very enthusiastic, and I think some of them were even a little shocked by your ability to get inside them and give deep reflections to think about their lives.

Time seemed dilated and the two weeks seemed like months as deep and intense was the time spent together.

In two weeks you have given us so much and uplifted everyone’s spirits … I know, however, that the enthusiasm is like fire… and if you don’t feed it with new challenges and new goals to achieve, the fire will be soon extinguished. And, I know there will be a lot of work we must do and I also know that we will make a lot of mistakes, but I am convicted that this will not stop us… Susuk Sabumnim Marco Mattiucci has always taught us to never give up even when faced with extreme adversities… You know that he is really strong in this belief; and at the same time we are very fortunate because we have the example of Do Joo Nim and you, Sir!

Maintaining a relationship with extraordinary people like you is never easy, but of course, it also really challeges us and gives us powerful inspirations.

As you are aware, last year was very “particular” for me to say the least… when I came back from the United States, spending an intensive week with you; for the first time, I began to think deeply of my whole life. I have come to realize that I did not know anything and what I thought I knew was not the truth. In the beginning I was struggling, as I felt very bad, inappropriate and unsuitable for everything; I felt like I was a bad Hwa Rang Do student as well as a bad Hwa Rang Do instructor, also a bad son, and a bad husband… a bad person.

It was a very painful experience, but it was also an important, necessary process for my growth as a teacher and as a human being. And, I am reminded as you have said many times; “without pain there’s no growth.” During those days, I isolated myself for several months from my Instructor, my Hwa Rang Do brothers/sisters and my family, but I needed that time alone to process a lot of things, seeking truth and to rebuild myself on the foundation of the Truth.

And, I am reminded as you have said many times; “without pain there’s no growth.” During those days, I isolated myself for several months from my Instructor, my Hwa Rang Do brothers/sisters and my family, but I needed that time alone to process a lot of things, seeking truth and to rebuild myself on the foundation of the Truth.

Many people would like to have a better life, to grow and improve as human beings, but few are able to accept the change that this involves. I think that every time you want to “rebuild” something you need to destroy something that was before… and I think that is true for people too. We all want to grow and evolve, but more often than not we want better conditions without having to endure a transformational process because this often requires suffering and pain, and that’s why I think many people are scared of change, even when it’s for the betterment.

As Susuk Sabumnim often told me: everything that is not growing begins to die! In recent months, I have meditated on a lot of things and as I have said to you, I have felt that I needed to change and so now was the best time for that change… it was perfect!

I think, therefore, the best way to honor all your efforts is to improve as individuals and help as many people as possible to do the same as you do through our beloved and beautiful Martial Art, trying to bring our message of Strength, of Light, and of Love as far as possible in this world that is increasingly moving towards the darkness.


I think, therefore, the best way to honor all your efforts is to improve as individuals and help as many people as possible to do the same as you do through our beloved and beautiful Martial Art, trying to bring our message of Strength, of Light, and of Love as far as possible in this world that is increasingly moving towards the darkness.

Thank You for all you do, Sir!
Much Love!
HWARANG FOREVER!

Giuseppe Catania
Sabumnim – Hwa Rang Do® 3rd Dan Black Sash
Owner/Instructor of Hwa Rang Do® Branch in Genoa

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love-KG

Be courageous and open your heart so that love finds you.
And, when it does, prove you’re worthy by giving up everything!
Finally and most important, trust in God and surrender to Love…

Happy Valentine’s. My last words…

“We can fall in love with what we want,
but we can’t fall in love with who we want.
We usually hate what we need,
but we fall in love with who we need.”

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Can you be strong yet not courageous?

CourageousM

Strength and Courage:

It takes strength to be certain,
It takes courage to have doubts.

It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.

It takes strength to share a friend’s pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.

It takes strength to hide your own pain,
It takes courage to show it and deal with it.

It takes strength to stand guard,
It takes courage to let down your guard.

It takes strength to conquer,
It takes courage to surrender.

It takes strength to endure abuses,
It takes courage to stop them.

It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on a friend.

It takes strength to love,
It takes courage to be loved.

It takes strength to survive,
It takes courage to live.
– Sylvia Kelly

I came across this poem so very serendipitously.

I thought I was once strong, now I want to be courageous!

Strength got things done, made me feel invincible, gave sense of importance and value. But, what it lacked was calmness, humility, peace and joy.

After the dust settles and all is said and done, I hope I have gained some wisdom, some clarity. And, hope that I have done some good in the world.

I am left alone and it is here that I must start, and where I will finish – alone, but then we are never truly alone. So much noise, so much distractions, breath… calm…

True peace and happiness lies in courage; in the courage to let go of the pains from the past and the courage to surrender to the joys of tomorrow, by living today fearlessly!

The first step is to make peace with God, then the rest will follow…

But, then again that presupposes that you trust yourself, and that what you chose was correct.

So much noise, so much distractions, breath… calm…

hmmm…

“Conquering others is strong; Conquering oneself is mighty.”
– Lao Tzu

With love and peace,

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Harmony = Grandmother

Grandma&Me

Hello Everyone;

First, Happy New Year of the Sheep! Suppose to be the year of luck & fortune. I wish you all the very best in the new Year.

I have been absent for a while and thought I would restart my blogging by sharing with you my eulogy for my grandmother at her funeral in 2001. She is the mother of the Founder of Hwa Rang Do®, Dr. Joo Bang Lee. I think this is very appropriate to my current state-of-mind, my state-of-being.

“With the passing of our grandmother, I have no more grandparents. I feel extremely sad and a great emptiness overwhelms me like never before. Maybe I am a little older now and understand more deeply the value of what grandparents mean. I know that she is reunited with grandfather and I should not feel this way. However, I cannot help to think about all that she was and all that I should have done.

Har Ma Ni (Korean for grandmother), harmony in English means a pleasing combination of elements in a whole. Harmani was just that. She complimented everyone and everything. I have never met a more selfless, gentle, kind and generous person. It amazed me how she was able to communicate with Americans who probably never heard Korean in their entire life, by speaking Korean to them and with a few gestures they all understood her (now I understand that to be her energy, her intention; words are meaningless). Sometimes I thought she was psychic.

Whenever her grandchildren would visit her, she would give us something from the little that she had. When I was younger, it was sometimes annoying, but as I grew older I appreciated her generosity. To give, whether she was wealthy or poor, hungry or full, happy or sad.

Her greetings hello or goodbye was, “Did you eat?” and with that she would pull something out of her fridge and offer it to us. When I was younger, I use to fight with her and say that it was okay (as most people who know me, I have had a terrible appetite all my life; but it shouldn’t matter) and she would not take no for an answer, but now I will miss her carving the few apples she had left to feed her grandchildren. Even while she was in the hospital, helpless, fighting for her life, nearly comatose, when I came to visit her, she would mumble, “Did you eat?” I do not think that our generation can truly understand why she did that. We can never understand the struggles of her life when she was young fleeing for her and her family’s life from North to South Korea during the war; when food was scarce and every night she would go to bed hungry, and every morning would wake worrying how she would feed her seven children. I am sure she would have offered a piece of her own body to feed her children if she could. But today, we are all spoiled and we take the basic necessities of life for granted.

She was able to see the good in all of us no matter how bad we were. She was always happy to see us and she never complained about her condition and everyone else always came first.

I try to live my life without regrets, but I do regret, very much. In the recent years before she passed away, being her eldest grandson, her greetings to me was, “When are you going to get married?” And I promised her that she will see my wife before she goes to see grandfather, but because of my stubbornness and self-righteousness, I could not. We are all stubborn, self-righteous, and selfish, but she showed us that there is no room for any of that; not within the family and for her, the world. She was a true Christian. (Grandmother, have not married yet so you didn’t miss anything)

I regret not visiting her very much, but in my own mind, I had these great plans of making a lot of money and giving her all the things she ever wanted and more. I was once again self-righteous and full of myself. I should have done more for her. I am very sad today because it took her death to make me realize that I should cherish and love my family today and everyday by showing them how much I love them and not when I am ready to.

I thank my grandmother for raising and educating such outstanding children, my parents, with the traditional values of honor, respect for elders, and selfless devotion to one’s children and family and these noble traditions, I shall try to emulate for the rest of my life, not only to my family, but to all my friends and students.

Lastly, when my grandfather passed away, I felt my uncles, aunts, cousins all drift apart. It is my hope that Harmani’s passing will bring about greater harmony between all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. (Of course this not manifest. How can harmony exist without harmani)

On behalf of all her grandchildren, I pray that God will give good care for my grandmother and we thank all of you for being present today to wish her farewell.”

She is my reference of serenity, calmness and true courage.
I will not promise,
I will not plan,
I will not strive,
I will not try,
I will be…

I miss you grandmother…

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

A Dedication to My Hwa Rang Do Sons & Daughters.

Dedication

Sigh…

Oh how time has flown. It has already been 17 years since I first opened this school and with the help of my loyal pupil converted it from a tattered, left for dead Tae Kwon Do school, to a beautiful majestic space where my students and family can call it their second home. It has also been a long time since I actually had written a speech. However, this year, I feel compelled to write everything down as I don’t want to forget anything. I am definitely not a young pup anymore and sometimes my memory fails me.

There have been literally thousands of students who have passed through those doors and honored me with the opportunity to mold, teach, and yes sometimes, maybe often scold and discipline. There have been also, many parents who I have had the fortunate opportunity, actually some more than others, to meet, advice, and council. I have witnessed children wetting the matt floor to women stomping out of class in an emotional melt down. I have heard excuses ranging from “my dog ate my sash” to “I am an actor and the discipline here is stifling my creativity.” I have parents who have praised me with boundless love and support to parents who have resented me as their children obey me more than them. I have parents who have told me that they will move wherever I go as their child needs me to blaming me for spanking, later to find out that the child injured himself playing on the monkey bars. I have received gifts ranging from a sweatshirt that reads “I yell because I care” to a new oven to fuel my new hobby of cooking. I have enjoyed many triumphs and countless moments of joy and excitement, but most of all I have endured many heartbreaks and disappointments.

Beginning of this year, I was forced to readdress the aching question that has always lingered, ready to reveal itself in grand fashion in the deep recesses of my mind, but suppressed: first, when my bible studies teacher told me to “shut up” for asking too many questions when I was in my early teens; then later in college when I pursued philosophy and realized that it only sparked more questions than answers. So, I decided to live life and stop asking: Stop asking the existence of god, what is truth and what makes it true, what is the purpose of mankind, where did we come from, and if there was a god, then where did god come from, etc, etc…

I have resolved within myself that the only way to know the truth is to live life and experience as much as I can with a vigilant yet open mind, unafraid to be hurt, disappointed or disillusioned. I have traveled and done much throughout my life, gaining as much knowledge as I can soak up about people and their nature. Finally I decided to take root by opening this school in West LA. The last 17 years was challenging to say the least, but we have always found a way to persevere.

During the early part of this year, there were some eye-opening experiences that I am not going to get into for the moment, but lets just say that the desire to know the truth became more immediate than ever and it consumed my entire being. It shook my foundation and made me ask: how come we are in this global financial crisis where the dollar is worth nothing and the disparity of wealth is ever-increasing; how we have all globally agreed in this scam of using monopoly money; how come people are starving all over the world and we are facing a food crisis; why are we facing the shortage of oil with no replacement in sight; why if there have been so much more advances in technology that we could not find solutions to these problems; why with so many more institutions of higher learning, so many more college graduates, and professors that we cannot seem to resolve the core issues that affect the our continued survival; why are there more wars than ever before; and could we all be some lab experiment of a multi-dimensional being?

We are living in the information age and although it has helped us to live seemingly better lives, there are so much misinformation as well and it’s a monumental task to try to decipher what’s fact from fiction, what’s real from fantasy. I was scared for the first time in my life as my perceptions, my beliefs were tested and there was a brief moment where life became overwhelming, became meaningless and I lost my purpose. And, for me purpose is more important than food, without it I cannot continue to live. After many mornings of meditation and sleepless nights of reflection, I rose once more from what felt like was my burial. And once again it was Hwa Rang Do that has empowered me.

All the creed, all of our goals were more relevant and necessary than ever before. All the things that I have been preaching became imminent and I was called to take action. There’s no tomorrow, only today and what we do today dictates our future. I became more motivated and inspired to fulfill our goals of empowering the world one person at a time.

In a world where it seems that the public is consumed with consumption, not to the fault of their own, but all you have to do is look around you. The corporations are becoming multi-national conglomerates with deep pockets in DC with endless resources to make sure that they sustain their greed for money and power. There are so many ways that they can influence and infiltrate into our lives to create dependencies through fear and hedonism.

It’s all about the bottom line, it’s all about feeling good, it’s all about having the most toys before you die. The martial art industry is like all other industries with the same goals. The goal is to make the customers happy so you can increase retention and repeat business. Don’t give negative criticism, constructive or not. Diminish any activity that would give them a negative experience. Dumb everything down so that it’s easy to do and easy to learn. Make everything fun and enjoyable. Don’t get too involved with the student’s personal life. And definitely no knuckle pushups!

And, yes this is where I have failed as a martial arts entrepreneur. My goal has never been to make the students happy, my goal has always been to offer them strength to realize and love their true self by stripping away their ego, which only serves to comfort them with lies of self grandeur for self-preservation. My students were never my customers, they were students who needed to be taught what they lacked and needed. I have always believed in the balance of both positive and negative reinforcement, and as they got stronger and moved from Tae Soo Do to Hwa Rang Do, the negative reinforcement would prevail. The underlying message of only using positive reinforcement is that you can’t do anything; the underlying message of negative reinforcement is that you should know. What are we training them for? What is the real world like? Who needs training to deal with good experiences? We need training to deal with the bad, negative, painful experiences. So, how can our students learn to deal with the hardships and disappointments of life if they were never exposed to it and never had practice dealing with criticism, disappointments, and conflicts, which are predominant in the real world. This can also be seen in our educational system where in elementary schools, they do not even play games life musical chairs by saying “why should 1 kid win and 30 lose.” All we are doing by this is creating more bait for the sharks. And, I have no interest in raising my students as someone’s lunch.

Oh, don’t even get me started on drugging our children. You know how I feel about that.

No, I do not dumb things down by speaking in terms that children understand in gaga googoo language, but I expect them to learn Korean terminologies as their capacity for languages are best when they are young and it helps to stimulate their brain activity. No I do not demean the seriousness of martial training by making everything into a game that kids can play. How can we make martial training a game where one learns to hurt, injure, maim other people? How is that for fun? We must not delude the serious intent of our training, but rather use it to heighten their awareness and have them pay respect and reverence to what they are doing so that they are careful not to error. They must learn also to do things that are not so fun. Maturity is learning to do the things that you do not like, but in order to get ahead, you must do these compulsory tasks of our lives very well. We must first teach them what they need and then give them what they want. And, they must learn the self-discipline to do the things that they do not enjoy but are necessary.

I know all my students personally and by the time they have reached their Tae Soo Do Black Belt, I know them very well in all aspects of their lives. What is the satisfaction to teach a person how to throw a kick, a punch, to hurt another human being? The satisfaction comes from knowing that you have trained them to be self-disciplined to control themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to present themselves in the best light possible to others and to extend themselves selflessly to help those in need. A good teacher tells a student what they should do and fix their mistakes when they occur; a great teacher shows the students what they should do and fixes the source of their mistakes so they never occur again.

In this era of uncertainty, which I thought would not happen in my lifetime, but maybe for the future generation, I too looked towards self-preservation and wanted to survive. I became selfish and tried to find ways to secure a better future. Should I make the curriculum easier; should I lower my expectations; should I not be so strict; should I get rid of the knuckle pushups; should I discipline less; should I, should I. For sure, I would be liked by more people, have more friends, less headaches and invited to more baby showers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I was focused on me and if I saved myself, that’s only one life. Where is the nobility in that? No, I must commit to teaching better, harder, and more to as many people as I can. In that way I may help many to live better. This is what fear does to you. It makes you egocentric, egotistical, selfish, entitled and myopic. Only truly strong and fearless people can be selfless and devote their lives to a higher cause.

This week I attended a high school graduation of one of my Hwa Rang Do Black Sashes, She’s the only teenage female Black Sash that I have taught besides my sisters in the over 33 years I have been teaching. She graduated with honors from Elycee Francais and is accepted to UC Berkeley. As I was walking into the school, I saw some familiar faces and in particular a grandmother of two kids who were formerly my students. I have not seen them in many years as the girl stopped training after receiving her TSD Black Belt, but she is my girl’s best friend and her brother, who also trained when he was 6 or 7 was unrecognizable. He was 6’5”, at only 15 years old and already being recruited by colleges for basketball. I remember him being quite a handful as a little tiger. The grandmother walked over to me and was delighted to see me. She held my hand and said, “Thank you so much for all that you do for the kids.” I have not seen her in 7, 8 years and she left me speechless and as I was fumbling for words like, “ah it was nothing or was it I didn’t do anything.” Before I can say anything, she gave me a big hug and that meant everything to me.

Sitting there in the auditorium as I am trying to see where my girl was in the parade of incoming graduates, I realized that I could not find her. I could not see the cute 4 year old in ponytails. When I finally made her out, she was a beautiful young woman, tall, proud, and with make up and heels. Wow! It’s been 14 years already. And of course we never think of how old we are getting.

As I sat through the speeches from the president and the school faculty, I was reminded that I am not an island, that I am not alone. And you can’t imagine how refreshing that is for me. As the president spoke, what remains in my mind are these two statements; “we do not give compliments easily. They must be earned.” And “we have high standards for our students.” Awesome! I am thinking to myself as I nod in agreement. As she receives her diploma and her awards, I was filled with great joy and satisfaction. And it dawned on me, she was not my girl, not my daughter, but she might as well be. Although she was not my own, it would be the closest I would come to feeling the joy of raising a child.

As I watched her mingle with her friends, taking pictures, and congratulating each other, I was admiring how beautiful she was, how feminine, how delicate, then for a moment I thought to myself, “Oh I should have been easier on her” and that quickly changed to “No, and then, do these people realize that underneath that cover of beauty and femininity, lies a fierce warrior who can seriously kick some ass.” And that thought brought a comforting, satisfied grin across my face. I was genuinely proud of her and I guess I was gloating a little in hoping that my teachings took some part in helping her to be how she is today. However, the true testament of her success lies with the mother, Christina. There were many moments when Andrea, oh did I mention who this girl was, yes it’s Andrea Perez-Bertolotto.

As I was saying, there were many moments when Andrea wanted to quit Hwa Rang Do, especially when all her friends quit. To give you a perspective: in Tae Soo Do they average a belt test every 3 to 4 months, for Hwa Rang Do it takes a year to 1 1/2 and has ten times more the curriculum than Tae Soo Do. So it would take an additional 6 to 10 years to reach Black Sash. These were critical times in their early adolescence with so many distractions, so many new experiences and possibilities. However, Christina did not give her daughter the option of quitting, even after many arguments with her husband, who is in fact a Hwa Rang Do blue sash himself and should have known better, LOL!

And, let me tell you, and all my students know, I was definitely not easy on her even through those awkward years where her body is growing faster than she can handle. We live by the idea of “not looking for exceptions, but to be exceptional!” And that was my aim. I am sure there were many moments she cried herself to sleep and wanted it all to stop. Things did not get easier as she had to prepare for her black sash examination. To review hundreds if not thousands of techniques, moves, forms, fighting, weaponry, then perform them in front of an intimidating board of judges compromised of Dojoonim (our founder) and his high ranking masters, a 15 page minimum dissertation, 2 poems, 2 hour written exam with a mean score of 50 out of 100, power break though concrete slabs, and doing this with a demanding college prep work at school, not to mention that she is the only or one of a very few women in class, having to spar, grapple, and weapon fight 20 to 30 other male adults throughout most of her teen life. To say the least she did excellent and seemed to have breezed through it. I think I was more nervous than she was. I know I was more nervous.

Finally, I saw her prepare for her college entrance exams, interviews and the application process. She could have on any of these occasions asked to take a break, stop training; many have, for far less as breaking of a fingernail. But, she did not. She managed and juggled through all her responsibilities here, her school and family, never complaining, never losing her poise, her character. And neither did her mother.

Usually, by that age, I rarely deal with the parents and it’s even more rare that I receive any credit or compliment from them. I was delighted to have had a chance to chat with the mother, Christina, and I was truly moved that she gives me so much credit to Andrea’s successes. And it moved me even more when she continued to tell me that Andrea measures all her school teachers against me and complains why they are not like Master Lee. I must say this was big surprise! She went on to say that Andrea’s school teachers tell her that Andrea is a very special girl, especially when she’s able to bring a rowdy, loud, unruly class to attention by just standing, turn and give a deadly stare with the intensity partly of Grandmaster Lee and partly Andrea. The entire class comes to a silent attention. Yes, this is why I do what I do, talking to myself. Yes, this is what I must do. It had uplifted my spirits and I have regained my purpose.

There are countless other stories of my student’s successes and how their dedication and commitment inspires me. But, I will leave you with one more.

I have another student who started when he was 12, 13. He received his TSD Black Belt, graduated from Winward High, did his undergraduate work at Harvard, then got accepted into one of the most demanding MBA programs in the country at UC Berkeley, graduating with a second masters in Public Health. He had committed to me that he would change the healthcare system in this country for the better. He got recruited by McKensey & Company, the world’s leading management consulting firm, first working in Brussels and currently he resides and works in New York City. He is now a Hwa Rang Do 1st Dan Black Sash and one of my most loyal pupil, William Wright.

I received a disturbing call couple of weeks ago. It was unexpected and I thought it was about converting our organization to a non-profit, which he is heading. But, it was not. He started to mumble in a feeble voice, which I barely understood. So, I shouted, “What is it? Speak up!” and in my grand self I added “are you man or mouse.” I have never heard him speak this way. He was always so confidant, self-assured, and always positive.
He replied, “How do you do it sir?”

I said, “Do what?”

“How do you do it? How do you day in / day out, stick to your beliefs? How do you…

I stopped him. I did not need to hear more. He was growing up. His innocence is challenged and perceived by others as being naive. He is disillusioned on how his colleagues, supposedly with high intellect from the finest educational institutions in the world, perform their jobs with such inefficiencies, waste and without ethics. And, how his bosses stifle his ability rather than challenging him to outperform. He is lonely, his friendships were not as deep and meaningful; they are superficial at best. It broke my heart to hear him sound defeated.

As I have said many times, “Teaching is Parenting and parenting is teaching.” And that our parenting never stops. At first, it made me sad, that my child, my student was in pain. I wished it was me in his shoes instead, but that was quickly overruled by my desire to offer him strength and empower him.

During Andrea’s graduation they had a keynote speaker who was nice and made some good points, but to tell you the truth, it left me confused. To summarize I think he delivered a message that goes something like this – strive for your dreams and when you can’t achieve them, don’t’ worry because you’re better off for trying and that it’s ok to be a flea as many fleas can do big things.

So this speech is for my Hwa Rang Do daughter as she takes flight for the first time alone, I wanted to send her off with powerful winds under her wings so that she may soar to reach her final destination, however long and treacherous it may be.

I told my beloved Will and now to Andrea: You must find your passion.

It says in the World English dictionary that the definition of passion is:
1. ardent love or affection
2. intense (sexual) love
3. a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object, concept, etc
4. any strongly felt emotion, such as love, hate, envy
5. a state or outburst of extreme anger
6. the object of an intense desire, ardent affection, or enthusiasm
7. an outburst expressing intense emotion
8. philosophy
a. any state of the mind in which it is affected by something external, such as perception, desire, etc, as contrasted with action
b. feelings, desires or emotions, as contrasted with reason
9. the sufferings and death of a Christian martyr

Yes, to all the above except for #9. Yes I have done them all.

You must discover what you are passionate about and create a cause higher than yourself. “No Will, not about healthcare. Are you that passionate about healthcare? Will you sacrifice your life for healthcare? What are you truly meaning?”

“That’s right! Helping others, making the world a better place to live for everyone by instilling what is just, fair and good. You can die for that can’t you?” I asked.

“Yes sir!” He replied.

Healthcare is the means, the focus in which you will improve humanity, but your passion must be the intense love of humanity.

So I say, choose carefully in what your passion is then never relent, never listen to others, never give up! You are being forced or asked, coerced in compromising your principles. And why would you compromise? You want to win their favor, you want to be liked, accepted. You want to belong. This is quite natural, but this is why you are losing yourself as you are starting to sell off piece by piece your foundation and now you are standing and shaky ground.

I went on to say, “Don’t be afraid to lose everything. Don’t worry about losing your job, your girl friend, your friends, disappointing me, your parents, don’t worry! Stand your ground, stand by your principles and your beliefs and those who love you will understand you. Our fear of loss cannot be the basis of our decisions; it must be for only one thing, what is right, what is noble. Do no accept the status quo, be exceptional!”

As I was telling him all this, so too I was saying it to myself. These words are automatic for me. They come out without having to think about it. It is my core, it is my foundation. My students have unknowingly inspired and motivated me. As Randy Pausch has said, “It’s the indirect lessons we learn the most from.”

Well, my students have taught me an indirect lesson to persevere, to fight on!

No matter if there is a god or not. No matter if the world will end or not. No matter live or die. No matter rich or poor. We must persevere! We must fight onward! For we are Hwarang, flowering knights to beautify and empower the world.

So Will, Andrea, we have each other, we have our family. You are not alone! Together we must encourage each other and others to greatness and never shall we accept mediocrity.

Dream and dream big, then be relentless and never compromise in your principles. Don’t be afraid to be alone, for you are supported by 59 generations of warriors.

Hwarang Forever my beloved students – sons and daughters.

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Just got this email today, 5/31/16, and thought we would share:

Grand Master Tae Joon Lee, It is with my most respect and humility that i find myself writing to thank you for undulating the societal covers that have for many years hindered my life’s perception. Reading the above dedication brought tears to my eyes as i was replacing Andrea with my own son and feeling the emotions you described.

My son Michael will be turning 7yrs old this July and because he has been excelling scholastically will be skipping second grade. He is currently an Orange Belt in TaeSooDo in the Norwalk Dojang. My wife is a 3 year Breast Cancer survivor who 4 months ago also enrolled and is also a TSD Orange Belt. I am a 38 year old Mexico born and raised until the age of 8yrs. My father and I were enrolled in Tae Kwon Do during the mid 80’s when it was extremely popular. I don’t remember much about that time, however, i do remember that the training was hard and not made easy just because i was a kid. I remember seeing and practicing based on magazines where Supreme Grand Master Do Joo Nim would appear.

My family migrated to the United States of America and with that transition my martial arts training ended. Been alone and unguided due to my father constantly working to provide for my mother and 3 younger sisters, I felt the need to belong, but where would I go, if I do not know anybody and i’m still a kid. School was the only place I had to socialize, however, without a strong foundation, it is easy for a kid to mold to what is easiest and not always best.

Meeting my wife and having our son has made me mature in a way that I never thought I would. I have stopped bad habits that damaged my body and mind. I was searching for something greater and 5 months ago I found it. It started with the enrollment of my Son, then one month later the enrollment of my wife, and finally, I will be enrolling in TSD this week. I am greatful to have found Hwarangdo yet again, and this time with a strong Foundation and Believes, My Family and I should one day make you proud of been Hwarangs.

You are an Inspiration to me.
Thank you Very Much.
Salvador Tinajero Lugo.