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.

A Hwarang’s Reflections on his Journey Toward Happiness

This might be hard to stomach for some people:

“Nobody needs you. Seriously, you’re not that important.”

Often we are stressed and burdened heavily with the idea that without us, our family, our loved ones, our business will collapse. The truth of the matter is all things and all people are replaceable. When you’re gone your family, your children, your spouse, your business, they will all continue on; maybe not the way you intended on, but they will all go on without you. So, be blessed with today while you are here and do your best to be happy, help others, and not worry about what people will do without you. This is also one of the hardest things because we must destroy the ego. We build our self worth and value, defining ourselves by how many people depend and need us. But, once again the truth is nobody needs us, they’d rather we’d hang around, but whether they live or die, be happy or sad does not depend on us – it depends on the individual’s self-determination.

The magnitude of one’s suffering and pain created from their guilt and burden to perpetuate the family was evident and clear to me when one of my students broke down in tears in utter helplessness when he said, “I hate my parents. I want to die, but I can’t because I have to take care of my parents.” These sentiments, maybe not so harsh, yet just as real are felt by many first born sons, especially Asian. This got me thinking deeply about my own personal state of being. I never want my burden to family become the source of my pain and misery. However, recently I have discovered that at the core of my being, I am the same with misery and sadness, knowing that I will never satisfy my parents’ expectations.

Many opt to blaming their parents for this and become miserable adults with suicidal tendencies. I choose not to follow that path. it is not the parents fault for wanting their child to do their best and have a better life. So, I do not blame my parents and have accepted them and love them as they are. I wouldn’t expect anything less from them than to want what’s best for me. However, I can change how I perceive my duty to family.

Rather saying that I must take care of my family, I have to go to work, I have to care for my children, say I choose to do so. Changing it from something that you must, presupposing that you rather not do it, to a choice gives you back your power as well as changing it from something negative to something that’s positive. Being positive also takes practice and remember negative attracts more negative and positive attracts more positive. Life is not a magnet, life is life!

Let me make it clear. This is not to say do not care and help others, just to make yourself happy. That is definitely not the path to happiness. There’s nothing more noble or gratifying than to help others selflessly. What I am talking about here is rid oneself of guilt and inner pain for not being able to fulfill their duty or burden. First the individual has to be happy with himself/herself and be at their optimal in order to better serve their family and loved ones. Just don’t beat yourself up worrying about what they will do without you and just get busy and do your best, because in the end the worrying is not going to solve anything, but only through action.

This is hardest for me to stomach as I have to accept that Hwa Rang Do will exist with or without me. So, I choose to accept my legacy and do my best so that it will thrive even more so without me.

P.S.: When I was younger my need to carry my burden and fulfill my expectations fueled and motivated me to always strive. However, in my mid-life that same thing, which has been the source of my motivation has become the sinking Titanic that’s pulling me under to the depths with it. So, now I realize the source of my unhappiness and I choose to cut myself off from the sinking Titanic and liberate myself. Although it has not been easy, I am in the process of building another ship, one made from hope, reconciliation, and acceptance.

With love, peace, honor, and humility,

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

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…

The Hwa Rang Do Angola Experiment – In Angola’s “City of Trash”

If you were to do a Google search for “Lixeira, Luanda” you won’t find much. The only helpful search result is a picture on TravelPod.com.  This picture shows a child, sifting through a garbage dump, which in reality, tells you everything you need to know – this is Lixeira.

angola1

Lixeira is a city within the province of Luanda in the African nation of Angola, which is built entirely on top of a garbage dump.  The poorest of the poor in the world live here with the trash surrounding them being the source for supplies, tools, food and regrettably, even water.

“My first striking impact with this place was the sight of thousands of slums where some 500,000 people lived surrounded by tons of rubbish scattered all over the place. Many of these inhabitants lived in a condition of malnutrition and sickness”.
– Davide Pizzo
(TSD Brown Belt)

“The conditions of the place for the mission are disastrous, no kind of hygiene, rubbish everywhere, rust, open air sewer, streams of dirt and piles of garbage that people burned, which released a thick smell so bad that, for the 21 days there, I couldn’t see clearly the sun or the moon.”
Emanuele Veluti
(TSD Half Black Belt)

Lixeira and the surrounding regions along with being one of the most impoverished places in the world, is also one of the most dangerous, where only missionaries (with approval from the government) are allowed to stay and work.  Even then, with no assurances for their safety, several missionaries have recently been murdered while performing their humanitarian works.

angola2

It is here that 4 brave men and women from the Hwa Rang Do Italian branch have traveled to teach the children of Lixeira, the ancient korean martial art of Hwa Rang Do – with the goals of the mission being to teach the life skills of unity, motivation, strength, and self-awareness through the practice of Hwa Rang Do and otherwise provide the experience of a lifetime to children in a part of the world which is forgotten and void of any future worth looking forward to.

“I think it’s vitally important to teach these children a behavior based on moral values. The alternative to their current condition is to get involved with other youngsters addicted to sniffing petrol or starch, or burglary.

“The primary purpose of our mission is to give these children a chance to choose their own future; to grow and improve their lives, in spite of the fact that they were born in Lixeria. Otherwise, they have no other prospective but end up in one of the local criminal bands.”
Davide Pizzo
(TSD Brown Belt)

Chief Instructor Marco Matiucci, head of the Italian Hwa Rang Do branch, had the difficult tasks of selecting 4 of his students to take part in this mission (they had many more volunteers for the mission than they could send).  Instr. Matiucci had to grapple with the very serious possibility that the students he selected could be robbed, assaulted, kidnapped or even killed.  With that in mind, the criterion used to select the students was for lack of better wording, “who would be missed the least?” – meaning:

Are they an only child? Do they have kids? How big is their family? Does their family depend on the person financially?  Are they married? Do they have a girlfriend/boyfriend?

… the unthinkable questions had to be asked in order to make the selection for the mission.

The brave volunteers chosen were Laura Della Mora (TSD Yellow Belt), Emanuele Veluti (TSD Brown Belt), Maria Luisa Medelin (HRD Blue Sash & HRD Team Leader), and Davide Pizzo (TSD Brown Belt), while being led by General Italo Governatori (General of the Italian Military Police Force, close friend of Instr. Matiucci and President of “Lumbe Lumbe).

angola3

Lumbe Lumbe is a non-profit organization based out of Italy, devoted to helping the poorest people in Brazil, Mozambique and Angola create businesses, and schools for children in the most impoverished areas of these countries.  In Angola, they work directly with Salessiani, an international Catholic organization for African missions.

“I was deeply impressed with the work done by the Salessiani missionaries; over the course of 30 years, they succeeded to create 18 youth centers in the district of Lixeria that take care of 50,000 children. These children are taught the rudiments of the alphabet, practice sport and are prepared professionally. They have a future ahead and it’s all due to the hard daily work and sacrifices of the missionaries. The friars never show signs of tiredness and they possess a strong spiritual force within them. Their reward, they say, is donating themselves to others.”
Davide Pizzo
(TSD Brown Belt)

Lumbe Lumbe prepares 2 to 3 Italian teams per year to go to Angola to help the Salesiani teach children and help their families become more independent.  Initially, Lumbe Lumbe was hesitant about the possibility of teaching Hwa Rang Do and Tae Soo Do (Sport version of HRD) in Angola, but after witnessing the professionalism, dedication and self-discipline of Italy’s Hwa Rang Do instructors, they saw the incredible value they could bring to the people of Lixeira.

“People can be poor, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have rich thinking!”
Laura Della Moral
(TSD Yellow Belt)

All members of the Hwa Rang Do team paid for all travel expenses themselves, including $1500 for each individual plane ticket with Ethiopia Airlines.  They also each had to purchase insurance, in the event of injury or death. Lumbe Lumbe aided with the slew of vaccinations, organization of the trip and over 4 weeks of emergency courses to psychologically prepare the team in the areas of terrorism, psychological resistance to extreme situations, and how to move and act within Angola.

The responsibilities for the team were as follows:

  • The team-leader (Maria Luisa) will manage the Hwa Rang Do & Tae Soo Do lessons and the relationships with the local people (formal, legal and practical).
  • The rest of the team will help the team leader in everything she needs, from lessons to their ultimate safe return to Italy.
  • The mission is a personal engagement for all participants with the people of Lixeira, not just through the HRD/TSD activity. (Participants are aware of the serious problems they will face in doing so.)

angola4

The general plan for the “Angolan Experiment” was:

  • Arrive in Luanda and contact the Salesiani (missionaries)
  • Official contact with the Italian Diplomatic Corp in Angola.
  • Official contact with the religious leaders in Angola
  • Official contact with other voluntary organizations in Angola, including a local Capoeira organization.
  • Make contact with the local people, local leaders and access any potential issues or problems

Proceed with Hwa Rang Do/Tae Soo Do activities and instruction:

  • The team leader will work together with the Salesiani to find a location for lessons, to schedule the lessons and recruit/encourage local children to attend.
  • Organize meetings and joint activities with the local Capoeira organization and discuss other possibilities for the future.
  • Each HRD/TSD lesson is expected to be 50 – 100 students, with multiple lessons throughout the day to serve as many children as possible.
  • Towards the end of the 3 weeks, organize a party and martial arts demonstration for the town.
  • Safely return to Italy

The team travelled to Angola for 3 weeks for their mission, which began on August 1st, 2009 …

“Before departing I had inquired about Angola, on its history, on Luanda and on the specific district where we would spend the three weeks, but to imagine is however far from what one lives, for sure all this has prepared me, but the initial impact was strong and I believe that I would not have been able to avoid it. The traffic, the confusion, the crowd of people that floods the roads, the smog, the garbage, the intrusive odors, the dust, the being submitted to the looks of all for the color of your skin, the danger, the fear, the smiles, the handshakes, the embraces, the heat, the joy, the poverty, the wealth. All comes out together.”
Maria Luisa Medelin
(Team Leader – HRD Blue Sash)

During this time, there was limited communication being sent via email, including pictures to Lumbe Lumbe, Hwa Rang Do Italy and Chief Instr. Marco Matiucci.

angola5

As you can imagine, with limited communication, the Hwa Rang Do leadership worried and hoped that as every step in the plan was implemented, it was done with safety & security being the #1 priority.

As their mission moved forward during the 2nd week, we received this email from Chief Instr. Marco Matiucci:

“I have to admit that in these days I’m a little bit worried for the Angola team because they just told me that they have started the activity outside of the protected area (that is, outside of the area managed by the Catholic missionaries). There are a lot of people who are armed around them and a lot of “children-hunters” (local people that kill or kidnap children to use them for experiments or other evil intentions).

“As part of their mission to engage the local residents, our team is playing with the children, inviting them to wash and clean, cut their hair (Emanuele is a professional hairdresser), but most importantly, motivate them and teach them self-respect and self-awareness according to HRD/TSD teaching (principles and techniques). Children-hunters are often justified for their nasty work by authorities and corrupt government officials because the children are dirty and uncontrolled. So these kidnappings are allowed as a way to remove a “problem” for the society…

“Because of that, the activity of our Angola team creates a real problem for both for these corrupt officials and for the children-hunters.

“This makes me worry.

“I told them to be carefully in motivating too much, everything has to be done carefully otherwise we may have political/criminal problems or worse.

“As a result of this communication, the World Hwa Rang Do Association refrained from publishing this article or attracting any publicity to the self-less efforts of the Hwa Rang Do & Lumbe Lumbe Angola team, until they had safely returned to Italy.”

“In Angola all, big and small, they intensely live every instant, as if that moment were the last, as if tomorrow didn’t exist.

“The situation of the women is almost disastrous, they are not considered, they are used, they have 4-5 children and they are alone; husbands go away, so women are forced to maintain the family by themselves, working the whole day, but yet they sing and continually smile. Children play for road barefoot, among mountains of garbage, with balls deflated or made of cloths, or on abandoned and rusted cars, risking every time to hurt themselves, to become infected, if not worse to die…

“But yet they always smile too.”
Maria Luisa Medelin
(Team Leader – HRD Blue Sash)

On August 24th, at 6am all 4 HRD team members and General Italo Governatori flew into Italy and were greeted by a group of Hwa Rang Do students from the various Italian schools & clubs to welcome them with smiles, hugs and kisses.

Everyone, including Hwa Rang Do Italy, Lumbe Lumbe and the humanitarian organizations in Angola are grateful for the successful completion of the mission and for the safe return of everyone involved.

It is with great pride that we salute our Hwa Rang Do & Tae Soo Do brothers and sisters for their selfless dedication to humanity and in helping the weakest, poorest and most desperate of our kind in the absolute worst conditions, when even their own country is not willing to care for them…

“Three weeks have been full of new difficulties, challenges of management; as team leader I felt the responsibility for my companions, my “brothers”, and I could not think only about myself, even if I was in a new and different environment; I had to check everything, every move, perceive all the states of mind…

“One day they brought us in visit for the city, and I discovered that Luanda has rich districts, skyscrapers, plasma screens, commercial centers, places and villas with swimming pools… but these areas are usually only frequented by the few rich Angolan people and by the many foreigners that work there.

“Many questions flashed in my head. How is it possible that this happens?!…

“I saw that next to these places (almost exclusively frequented by white people) around many corners there is someone who dies on the road or some orphan boy who survives by washing cars. Boys with long hair, unable to afford a haircut, are persecuted by police because of their appearance.

“My mind raced with many thoughs… “why?… why?…” and the anger was the emotion  that invaded me.

“I have told in the beginning, “confusion and contradiction”: these are the memories of my trip, because I can’t understand how all is possible. I would want to change this all, I would want to help, to do the best I can, but I feel impotent. I came with the idea to help in every way I can, prepared to work as physiotherapist, if there had been the opportunity and to teach Tae Soo Do everyday, all day.

“The experience of the teaching has been exciting: at the beginning I felt some fear, I didn’t know the language well, how to explain and what to say, but in the end it has been simple… it was enough to DO!
Maria Luisa Medelin
(Team Leader – HRD Blue Sash)

This mission marks the beginning of a broader mission by the World Hwa Rang Do Association to bring the gift of self-empowerment to all, as it has done for so many of Hwa Rang Do & Tae Soo Do students worldwide.

As the rest of the industry focuses on providing entertainment via pay-per-view spectacles, Hwa Rang Do has remained steadfast in its commitment – to empower humanity via the principles, teaching and practice of its martial discipline.  This trip and the incredible experiences, which you are reading excerpts from, are the epitome of what Hwa Rang Do as an organization is striving to do…

“One evening I went out with Father Roberto, a 75 years old “Hwarang” (to whom I gave the official Hwa Rang Do T-shirt) who walked his path without looking back, straight to his purpose with a strength, an empathy and a sensibility that spoke to me many times (I immediately had an admiration to him – I like people who speak few and do a lot). With him I went, in the night, through a big market called “roche” (large about 10 km).

“I admit that my attention to dangers was very high (obviously, for the influence of the practice of Hwa Rang Do, which pushes me in paying attention to the details of the places where I go): there where fires everywhere, people running, loud music, children screaming.

“After a long walk we reached the destination, that was a “caisa de rua”, a house dedicated to hosting the “crianca de rua” (homeless children). In that place children can find water to clean themselves and a roof under which they can stay and, if they do good actions, they earn credits they can use (at the end of the year at the Don Bosco party) to get clothes or other useful things to survive.

“Father Roberto asked me, knowing my profession, if I wanted to cut the hair of the kids.

“Obviously my task was easy to be done, I’ve done it for many years, it’s what I’ve seen since I was very young and it’s what represent me. So I said to him “no problem” and I started working.

“One, two, three… I started cutting hair one after another; everybody smiled to me, they introduced themselves, they were happy, we laughed together about the styles of cutting: they have impressive eyes, true warrior eyes.

“I started being hungry, I was hungry, hungry to cut as much as possible because I wanted to make them all happy, give them my best. This motivated me, so I kept on without stopping, without fear, I could accomplish it, I could make all of them happy!

“After some time the tools I was using (with battery) ended the charge and stopped supporting me, it didn’t have any more energy for me. I started sweating, being afraid, “what can I say to the others?”, but I had to do it, I could do it, “let’s go! Find a solution!”  Electricity is what we needed, but in vain I looked for a cable to get the energy, we were in the dark with some portable lights only. My instruments were abandoning me.

“Then I thought I had a shaving blade with me, “good!” So I kept on doing my job… problem solved.  One, two, three… but then the blade became dull, it didn’t cut anymore, again another problem; I looked madly in my bag for another one, but nothing more to use in there… “but, it has to be here, I remember I brought it, where is it?… I can’t find it…”, I couldn’t go on… I didn’t have any more tools to continue, I ran out of ideas, I felt hopeless…

“Through the desperation of the moments passing by, the stream of painful emotions ripped through me, many thoughts about what I did wrong and I could do, about having to accept the loss, I started to cry thinking I couldn’t finish what I began, I had failed, I couldn’t help everybody with the few I knew.

“So father Roberto got close to me and, understanding my state, put his hand on my shoulder, as my father does, as Kyo Sa Nim does, and said to me: “Don’t worry, come on! Be strong!”.

“It’s a simple action of love that only people like him give me that way. A love that rarely is given to me, an action that represent so much for me.

“Then we came back home and obviously the journey back, always between fires an screams of the roche (market), created a suggestive atmosphere; it seemed like we were coming up from hell…

“So, the day after I went to an oratory, the same oratory full of kids running, pushing each other, screaming, jumping on you, kids who eat you alive to get you attentions.

“But it was a different day, there were A LOT of kids and the entertainment of the oratory for them didn’t start yet. On one side there was some sand and some children playing on it, I couldn’t sit down, I love grappling: so I got nearer and I started wrestling with them and as they knew of me, they all came to me and wrestle all together! I started throwing them one after the other, soft as the hand on my shoulder that gave me relief days before.

“During that play, casually I called a kid “cicciottello” (= “fat”, said in a nice and funny way) and he immediately repeated it in perfect Italian language; of course I was astonished of that and so I thought: “come on, try and give them what you adore..” and so I said to them “Tae Soo Do!” and they repeated it perfectly… “Hwa Rang Do!” and they all did, perfectly again and it’s easy to understand my feeling in that moment, because I know people who still can’t pronounce it.

“So I gave a punch and they copied perfectly… “ok, the moment has come, I can try…”

“I told to all the children to follow me on the line of the soccer field and with those 20 kids, avoiding any possible formation (because to wanted to stay close to me), I started walking from one side to the other yelling “Tae Soo Do – Hwa Rang Do”, giving punches (like in the warm up), and since they were 20, they became 30, 40, then 50!! We were so many and all yelling that we covered almost all the soccer field and at every scream I had shivers through my back-spine, my voice was one with the childrens’ voice and my heart was exploding.

I was feeling again the sensation of “giving myself”.

I looked to my friend Davide (adventure fellow) and he was almost crying; later he told me that he felt moved by me and all the children and I answered that he couldn’t even imagine what was flowing in my blood in that moment and that I wished for him to feel the same.

Emanuele Veluti (TSD Half Black Belt)

angola6

There are many wonderful humanitarian groups who bring much needed aid in the form of food, medical care, clothing, schools and other forms of relief to places like Angola.

In an effort to build on top of the essentials for life provided by people like Father Roberto and other humanitarian organizations, Hwa Rang Do’s mission is to bring transformation to these regions and other areas of the world, beginning with the development of the self, by first instilling confidence, awareness and development of the individual. This in turn empowers families, groups, organization, entire countries and ultimately, the world.

angola8

As Grandmaster Taejoon Lee stated during his speech at his 8th Dan ceremony:

“The lessons I have learned from him [Dojoonim] 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.”

Warrior’s Path – Unafraid of Change

Unafraid of Change

K TOWN Batman01_Postcard

As many of you are aware, we have made some changes to our programs and curriculum here at the West Coast Hwa Rang Do Academy. For over 10 years, we have maintained the same programs, curriculums, pricing and methods of instruction.  It has worked well for us, but I felt that it was time for change. There is an interesting phenomenon that takes place in human behavior. By our nature, we seek out comfort and when we find it, we want to dig a large hole and immerse ourselves in that state of comfort forever. This is surely death.

Why? What is comfort? It is the sense of security and a peace of mind we gain knowing with certainty what we are going to do tomorrow. By limiting the uncertainties of our daily lives, we reduce the stress and anxiety derived from the unknown. This fear of the unknown is an incredible force that shapes and molds our decisions on a daily basis. So comfort is a good thing, but “too much comfort” is not so good. If it is such a good thing, then comfort should make us better, happier, and more productive, but it does none of these. Being too comfortable makes us complacent, lazy, careless, unhealthy, and the happiness we gain from comfort is only temporary at best. As warriors, this is unacceptable. We must always strive for betterment in all areas of our lives and constantly push our boundaries and limitations. A warrior must work constantly to maintain sharpness and focus, to always be prepared for the worst. When you get comfortable with your abilities, you become overconfident and careless, resulting in defeat. This is why we constantly drive home the idea, “Never underestimate your opponent.” This is not limited to your sparring partner, but applies to any task in life. Whether we have done something a thousand times, if we do it the thousandth-first time without being mindful, it will result in a mistake or failure. For a warrior that could mean death. It is this “warrior’s spirit,” that we are trying to teach and preserve – to always strive for excellence, to be unafraid of challenges in our lives, to persist when other’s have lost hope, to always seek for betterment, and to always do what is “right,” not for reward sake, but purely because it is the right thing to do.

This “Warrior’s Path” is eloquently portrayed in the recent movie “Batman Begins” when the father of the young Bruce Wayne asks his son, “Why do we fall Bruce?”

And Bruce replies, “So, we can get up.”

With Love

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Reprimanding the Soul

Reprimanding the Soul

ReprimandColor

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

MLKumdoKneel

“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

WarriorsPath_w

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.

K TOWN Batman02_Postcard

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.

UmYangThanksgiving_w

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.

DJNjumpspin-Blog
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)

IMG_2303

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