Black Belt


- — Doug Cook

America Loses a Taekwondo Pioneer

On November 15, 2017, Richard Chun, one of the principal pioneers of taekwondo in America, passed away. Born on January 30, 1935, he was 82.

Chun began his formal martial arts education under the direction of Ki Whang Kim and Chong Soo Hong at the famed Moo Duk Kwan (“Institute of Martial Virtue”) in Seoul, South .RUHD %\ DJH KH·G UHFHLYHG KLV ÀUVW GHJUHH EODFN EHOW He graduated from Yonsei University in 1957.

Entering the United States in 1962 as a student, Chun OLYHG LQ :DVKLQJWRQ ' & DQG EHJDQ VWXG\LQJ IRU D PDVWHU ·V degree in business and marketing at George Washington University. He eventually earned his MBA at Long Island University and went on to obtain a Ph.D. That enabled him to become a professor of health and physical education at Hunter College in New York City.

Chun was perhaps the most educated of all the American taekwondo pioneers who emigrated from South Korea. He wrote nine books, including some of the earliest works in English, on his art. He was reportedly one of the few authors to admit that taekwondo grew from Japanese and Okinawan roots.

In 1964, with assistance from former World Taekwondo )HGHUDWLRQ 3UHVLGHQW 'U 8Q <RQJ .LP &KXQ RIÀFLDOO\ establishe­d the Richard Chun Taekwondo Center in New York. His school became a mecca for martial artists, with many practition­ers coming from across the United States and abroad. The facility cultivated national champions like Joe Hayes DQG FDWHUHG WR PRYLH VWDUV DQG VSRUWV ÀJXUHV LQFOXGLQJ 5DOSK Macchio (The Karate Kid) and dancer/actor Gregory Hines.

In 1973 Chun was appointed head coach of the USA 7DHNZRQGR WHDP OHDGLQJ WKH JURXS WR D VHFRQG SODFH YLFWRU\ LQ WKH ÀUVW :RUOG 7DHNZRQGR &KDPSLRQVKL­SV LQ 6HRXO +H WUDYHOHG and lectured extensivel­y at martial arts schools around the United States and appeared on popular TV talk shows. He went on to establish the U.S. Taekwondo Associatio­n in 1980.

Before his passing, Chun and his wife Kwang Hae appointed Doug Cook of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy in Warwick, New York, as president and owner of the USTA. “I will never be able WR ÀOO KLV VKRHV HQWLUHO\ μ VDLG &RRN VHYHQWK dan, “but I promised him I would do my best in maintainin­g his teachings with purity and integrity.”

The Passing of a Legend

For Rhin Moon Richard Chun, what began as a means of fending RII UXIÀDQV LQ SRVWZDU .RUHD HYROYHG LQWR D FDUHHU WKDW VSDQQHG half a century. Clearly, he dedicated his life to promoting the art of taekwondo, DQG DV VXFK KH H[HPSOLÀHG WKH WUXH VSLULW RI WKH martial arts. In part, that spirit grew from the many trials and tribulatio­ns he was forced to face in life.

By the time he was 14, Chun had earned his black belt, the result of having excelled in his classes. Then on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded the South, and civil war erupted. To protect KLV IDPLO\ &KXQ·V IDWKHU FORVHG KLV PHGLFDO SUDFWLFH DQG PRYHG

from Seoul to the port city of Incheon. 'uring the bitter-cold winter of 1951, the Chuns and two other families fled south in search of a warmer climate. Three weeks later and still packed into a small wooden boat, they finally reached their destinatio­n: -eju Island.

As life slowly returned to normalI fears of not being able to continue his taekwondo training without his master started to crop up in Chun’s mind. While attending high school at a refugee facilityI he opted to practice alone in the mountains. ln numerous occasions when the locals sought to abuse those taking refuge from the war, his sense of justice and indomitabl­e spirit were tested.

fn 1VR4 Chun returned to peoul and enrolled in vonsei rniversity. thile thereI he continued his martial arts training and served as captain of the taekwondo club. After graduating in 1VRTI he worked for Air France for five years. He then relocated first to tashington­I a.C.I and then to kew vork City — a move that would change the complexion of taekwondo in the rnited ptates.

The 28-year-old Chun began teaching taekwondo at a health club in jidtown janhattan. fn 1VS4I with the establishm­ent of his oichard Chun Taekwondo CenterI he started making a name for himself. At various timesI former kew vork jayor oudolph diuliani and r.p. mresident aonald Trump had their children train at the center. auring the same periodI ChunI with support from Gen. -ames Van Fleet, organized the first Universal Taekwondo lpen Championsh­ips.

Fast-forward to 1988: Chun played a major role in organizing taekwondo as an event in the peoul llympics. ee served as senior internatio­nal referee at subsequent competitio­ns and llympic dames. cor these and his many other efforts to promote the art in the rnited ptatesI Chun received an award from the president of pouth horea. fn the late ’80s, he received his ninth dan from hukkiwon. fn 1VVVI following a training and cultural tour of horea with a number of his senior students in towI he was named special assistant to the president of the torld Taekwondo cederation.

And he didn’t stop there. Chun tirelessly shared his knowledge with the world. Two of his books — Tae Kwon Do: The Korean Martial Art and Advancing in Tae Kwon Do — still serve as reference guides for thousands of practition­ers of the internatio­nal art. Through the decadesI his devotion to it earned him plenty of accolades outside his own sphere of influence. One not insignific­ant example: He was inducted into the Black Belt eall of came in 1VTV.

jy master was a repository of ancient wisdomI a vessel filled to the brim by great martial artists of the past. My colleagues and f are fortunate to be recipients of that knowledge. We regard grandmaste­r Richard Chun’s techniques as a priceless inheritanc­e.

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