Testimonials from Genova, Italy Part 2

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

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MARCO REPETTO (Open Seminar)

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

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

Hwarang forever!

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SAMUELE TARDITO (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

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

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

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

Hwarang forever

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SIMONE NEGRO (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim!

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

I thank Grand Master Taejoon Lee for his advices.
Hwarang

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MARCO REPETTO (Mentoring – Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hwarang Forever!

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GIUSEPPA ANTONIA SCICOLONE (Instructor)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Hwarang forever,
Giuseppina

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GOLINELLI ENRICA (Parent – Open Seminar)

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

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NADIA STEGANI (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Kuk Sa Nim,

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

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

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

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

Hwarang forever

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ANDREA COPPOLA (Open Seminar – Instructor)

Hwarang Sir,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hwarang forever!
Andrea
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Testimonials from Genova, Italy Part 1

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

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ARIKA MALARBY (Mentoring – Open Seminar – Instructor)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hwarang forever!
Arika

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SARA GIOVINAZZO (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sa Bum Nim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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STEFANO RAVERA (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and Hwarang forever!

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CLAUDIO LUGARI (Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

Unfortunately, I could only attend the self defense seminar.

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

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

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

Hwarang forever,
Claudio

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SIRIA SAGLIBENE (Open Seminar)

Hwarang Sabumnim!

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

Hwarang forever!

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NIVES PAROSI (Open Seminar)

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

Beggi Family

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FILIPPO BRUZZO (Mentoring)

Hwarang Sabumnim!

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

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

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ALESSIA SCUTO (Mentoring – Mother of Burattini Family)

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

Hwarang forever!

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MAURO BURATTINI (Mentoring – Father of Burattini family)

Hwarang Sabumnim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,

Hwarang forever
Mauro

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ELENIA MALARBY (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

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

Thank you.

Hwarang
Elenia

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MEI & TULLIO MALARBY (Mentoring)

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

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

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

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

Thanks for sharing with us his wisdom.

Hwarang forever!
Mei yi and Tullio

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GIUSEPPINA SCICOLONE (Mentoring)

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

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

Hwarang forever.
Giuseppina

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LYSIA MALARBY (Mentoring – Open Seminar)

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

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

Hwarang Forever,
Lysia Malarby

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ALESSANDRO & GIORGIA BASTIA (Open Seminar)

Hwarang

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

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

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

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

Chiara and Alessandro Bastia

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DAVIDE PIZZO (Open Seminar – Instructor)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hwarang forever!

Davide

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Grazia Gamberale (Parent – Open Seminar)

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

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

Grazia Gamberale.

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Kristina Qose (Open Seminar)

Hwarang,

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

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

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

I finish by saying that my feedback is definitely positive!

Hwarang!!

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Renato Repetto (Open Seminar)

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

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

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Maria Corti (Open Seminar)

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

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

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love-KG

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

Happy Valentine’s. My last words…

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

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Can you be strong yet not courageous?

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Strength and Courage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I came across this poem so very serendipitously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hmmm…

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

With love and peace,

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Year of the Tiger – Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s New Year’s Message

Hope everyone had a nice holiday break, rekindling familial bonds and sharing the joys of love and friendship.

For those of you who followed my 2009, Year of the Ox, New Year’s Message of hard work indicative of the ox, you should now be in good shape to spring into action.  Just working hard at planning and developing does not guarantee success; you must set it in motion, put into action!

2010 is the Year of the Tiger.  It’s the year of being courageous, bold, and taking initiative.  It’s all about implementation and taking risks.  If you have done the right work in the year of the OX, then your risk will be far less.  Nevertheless, there’s always risk and one should not fear it.

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It is this that I would like to address, the fear of taking risks.  This is what dictionary.com says about “risk”.

risk noun
1.    exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance: It’s not worth the risk.

So the fear of taking risk is then the fear of injury or loss.  Life is about decisions and most of our decisions are based on assessing the risk.  This is where as a martial artist or better yet; as a modern warrior we have the advantage or at least we should.  Essentially in our training we address these two most fundamental fears, the fear of injury and the fear of loss.

In sparring or fighting – you cannot expect to strike without being struck, inflict pain without receiving pain, and win without losing.  And even more so for us Hwarangdoists, before a student can apply joint-manipulation techniques on a person, the instructor first applies the techniques on him/her so that they can feel the pain first before they can perform the techniques on anyone else.

As I have said many times before, it’s the imagination that fuels the fear.  So the greater your imagination, the more fantastic your fears become.  The foot soldiers on the frontlines do not need to think as much as take action; too much thinking delays action and intensifies the fears.  The generals/commanders require less physical action, but more strategic planning.  The goal for Hwarangdoists is to always strive for balance and this also applies here.

We must be both educated intellectuals as well as possess heightened physical attributes in all areas.  Thought without action is worthless and action without thought is perilous.

We perform magic or miracles daily.  We create a conception in our minds from nothingness, the invisible and then through our actions we materialize our thoughts into tangible/physical reality.  Of course this does not happen at the waive of a wizard’s magic wand, but in essence that’s what we are doing, creating something from nothing, from thought to reality.  And, action is the bridge from the immaterial to the material.

Hence, whatever we can create in our minds, then we should be able to create in reality.  So, all we have to do is to choose and then commit to the action until it comes to fruition.  All great things in the world came from one person’s mind, who put the thought out into the universe and sparked the imagination of the collective humankind.

So, then why are so many people lost and unhappy?

For me the answer is simple: we are enslaved by our fears, which forces us to focus on the risk rather than the reward.  And, with the added element of “human inertia” which makes us seek for complacency and apathy disguised as comfort, we dwell in thought and become idle in action.  And to make things worse, we are constantly bombarded with distractions by the media & technology, taking away the time for introspection and enhancing the illusion of happiness.

Therefore, the first thing is to take the time to know ‘thyself’:  Who am I?  What do I want and just as important what do I don’t want?  What do I need?  What do I want to do with my life?  Then, the second thing one must do, which for most people is the hardest thing and the reason for abandoning their quest for what they want – taking action!

After investing much time into discovering the ‘self’, now one must put it into action.  Although, it’s clear in our minds, the work, the struggle, and the hardships, which one must endure in order to make something a reality overwhelms and deters any normal persons’ decision to stay committed to their quest.  Therefore, the next vital component is to cultivate courage, the hardest to procure.

Any person can be courageous, but in order to cultivate it, one must fertilize it with strength.  This strength is not of the body or the mind alone, but it must be of mind, body, heart, and spirit.

Strength is not only about what more one has – more muscle, more money, more knowledge; it’s also about tolerance, endurance, patience, compassion, and wisdom.  And all these attributes are gained empirically, so it can be taught and more importantly self-taught.  They are learned by challenging oneself to accomplish difficult tasks: whether it be attending the strictest of schools, doing something no one or only a few have ever done, daring to go places where no one has been, striving for perfection.  And through their struggles, their pains, their sufferings, they emerge stronger and more courageous.  As I always say to my students, “One cannot build a fortress out of marshmallows,” then you cannot build a stronger you without hardship.

Then, as warriors we should not be afraid of the pain, the hardship as we face these in every training session, every class, daily.  We know that the fear imagined is far worse then what is real.  We were all afraid the first time we engaged in sparring, but after we have done it, we scoff at it like it was nothing.  It’s the worrying that kills, not the problem.

We also know that you cannot inflict pain without knowing pain yourself.  Then, we should not be afraid as we also realize that we can be much more tolerant to pain once imagination is out of the equation.

Furthermore, we also know that although we may lose today, that with practice that we can win tomorrow.  We know of personal sacrifice and that you cannot gain if do not give up and that the only true loss or failure is in quitting.

We do not live life to die; we do not engage in competition to lose; we do not fight to get beat up: so, why should one be afraid to choose one’s life path and to live the way one wants.  Don’t fixate on the bills, go out and make more money.  Don’t worry about losing your mate, get up and stay in shape and invest in your betterment.  Don’t be afraid to start your business venture, go out and learn more and educate yourself.  Don’t ask if something is easy to do, get stronger and better at it.  Don’t ask if you can, ask what you’re willing to give up.

In the end we will lose everything anyway!

Let us roar like a Tiger in 2010!

Hwarang Forever with Strength, Honor, & Courage!

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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

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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

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

Let us, then, examine ourselves:

 

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

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

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

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

How many times have we blamed others for our mistakes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hwarang Forever,

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Seeking Truth

 

Seeking Truth

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“Keep the faith and be true to yourself,

never relying on others or chance to determine your life.

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

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

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

Because God made it that way?

Why?

Because he likes blue?

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

Why? And on, and on, again.

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

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

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

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

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

Hwarang Forever,

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Warrior’s Path – Walking with Death

The Warrior’s Path

Walking with Death

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

The Shawshank Redemption

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Grandmaster Taejoon Lee faces off against Jokyo Simon Lee

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

He answered, “I am afraid of falling.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With gratitude to death in making our lives more fulfilling,

Taejoon Lee

Grandmaster/WHRDA VP