On April 30, 2018 the world lost a visionary. I never had the opportunity to meet him. But he impacted my life in ways I am just now beginning to realize. He was the Father of American Tae Kwon Do. His work will last for generations to come. In his family, students, his friends and those like me who follow him. Some of the people I have the most respect for and call my friends, such as Dr. Ted Gambordella, were at his funeral a few days ago. One thing that I saw was he did 1,000 push-ups a day.
Grandmaster Rhee, Father of American Tae Kwon Do. But so much more! He was a visionary. Something I see in the most successful leaders I know. He knew at a young age living in Korea that he wanted to live in America, he knew he wanted to open martial arts schools. He wanted to develop character in youth. He taught that martial arts isn’t just about kicking and punching. It’s about an underlying philosophy and discipline. Some of the things he accomplished are these:
- Invented safety equipment that keeps competitors safe in tournaments
- Wrote a five-volume series of books on Tae Kwon Do
- Stared in the 1973 movie “When Taekwondo Strikes”
- He was named “Martial Arts Man of the Century” in 1976
- Developed martial arts ballet, which is now in Europe & Russia. One of the songs used in this is Star Spangled Banner.
- Was instrumental in having taekwondo being in the Olympics. I found this in Black Belt Magazine about Ambassador’s children being taught tae kwon do:
“After a few years, they saw the results. As the various ambassadors’ tenure expired, they had to return to their homelands. Many asked me to share my instructors and teach them in their countries. I didn’t have enough instructors to go around, so I introduced them to my classmates from the 1940s, several of whom traveled to their countries to teach. These instructors would then introduce taekwondo to neighboring countries. The training of ambassadors’ family members would happen again and again as they came and went from Washington.” The result: More than 179 countries now have access to taekwondo instruction, which is why it was accepted into the Olympics.”
Grandmaster Rhee spoke on April 10, 2007 to the United Nations on Mending Our Troubled World with Martial Arts Philosophy of Action. In that speech, he talked about needing a vision. He also spoke about education. One thing that stands out is something that I see in all the martial arts leaders I know and respect: lead by example and never fail to correct students’ mistakes with a smile-not until they learn but until they develop a habit or skill.
Finally, his 7 qualities of a champion that he said applied to business and personal life both:
- And good posture.
Unlike most of my blog posts, which I speak from personal knowledge on or else speak from something I learned recently from school or a recent lesson and then repost it here, this one I wrote and researched simultaneously on. Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee was an amazing visionary. Without a doubt, if he had not done the work that he did, our world would be dramatically different. He will always have my complete respect. Oss, Sir. May your memory and qualities you held most dear always be remembered by your family, friends, students, and fans.