Kim Soo

Black Belt - - 2018 INSTRUCTOR OF THE YEAR - BY JOHN T. BING­HAM

T o get a bet­ter idea of how long Kim Soo has been ac­tive in the U.S. mar­tial arts com­mu­nity, con­sider the fol­low­ing:

He started writ­ing for Black Belt back in 1964 when it was printed in black and white on the mag­a­zine equiv­a­lent of newsprint. He moved from South Korea to Texas and started teach­ing in 1968, the same year he re­ceived his sev­en­thde­gree black belt from the Kang Duk Won or­ga­ni­za­tion. In those days,

taek­wondo was so new in Amer­ica that in­struc­tors typ­i­cally billed them­selves as teach­ers of “Korean karate” — which ex­plains why, when he set up shop in Hous­ton, he called his fa­cil­ity the Kim Soo Col­lege of Taekwon-Karate.

That’s not to say Kim is a relic from a by­gone era. Far from it! The lessons he con­veys to mar­tial artists now are as life-chang­ing as ever. If they weren’t, he wouldn’t have just cel­e­brated his 50th year of teach­ing in Texas. That, in it­self, is a mile­stone.

Let’s travel back in time a bit fur­ther to get a glimpse of where Kim Soo came from and how he got to where he is now. Born in 1939, he started train­ing in 1951. In Amer­ica, that was the year I Love Lucy de­buted on CBS and the Dis­ney car­toon clas­sic Alice in Won­der­land hit the­aters. On Kim’s side of the world, it was the se­cond year of the Korean War.

In 1952, Kim — still too young to be drafted — joined the Chang Moo Kwan, the mar­tial arts foun­da­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion cre­ated by Yoon Byung In and Lee Nam Suk. Within two years, Kim owned a black belt in

kong soo do, the Korean pro­nun­ci­a­tion of karate-do. In 1962 he re­ceived his fifth de­gree from the Korea Tae Soo Do As­so­ci­a­tion. In 1967 he was awarded his sixth dan by the Korea Tae Kwon Do As­so­ci­a­tion. All that made him the per­fect per­son to act as Black Belt’s cor­re­spon­dent in Korea. He va­cated that po­si­tion only be­cause he re­lo­cated to Hous­ton in 1968.

To bet­ter know the man who wore those ranks, con­sider what Kim Soo said when asked why he se­lected Texas as his new home: “When I was plan­ning to es­tab­lish a school in the United States, I made sure to choose an area where there were no other in­struc­tors. There were sev­eral well-known in­struc­tors al­ready in the United States: Jhoon Rhee was es­tab-

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