Thursday, August 30, 2012

GM Changhee Yoon's World Martial Arts Reunion

Black Belt Reunion spanning 35 yrs


The home of Belleville Judo & World Martial Arts School was the place.  The event was the reunion spanning 35 years of WTF Tae Kwon Do black belts under GM Chang hee Yoon.

Though we were all students of GM Yoon at different times of our lives, we all shared similar experiences of GM Yoon's influence in our lives.  A few of us, Jackie Donohue, Steve Schanuel, Mr. Dien & myself were students of GM Yoon's dating back to the mid to late 1970's.  As "old school" students, our experiences with GM Yoon were of hard style body conditioning from start of class warm ups, contusion impact training & devastating kicking drills to hard core self defense as well as sparring techniques.

As many of us in the '70's were influenced by Sifu Bruce Lee or Mohammad Ali, I must say that watching either of them on TV and in the movies glamorized the combat arts of Gung Fu & boxing.  So much so, that it drove my ambitions to study the martial arts.  My father was an avid boxer in his youth & while in the U.S. Air Force.  His encouragement was to follow the pugilistic system of boxing, however, I sought out the path of eastern martial arts.  Although we had different methods of fighting my father and I shared the direct approach to fighting.

GM Changhee Yoon 


Nothing however, could have prepared me for the hard militaristic style of Moo Du Kwan TKD/Hapkido/Judo which Master Yhoon presented to me in my formative teen years.  Master Yhoon's approach was direct, disciplined & with no excuses.  From Judo push ups, core work with body bridges, leg lifts to impact kicking & striking training, our classes were "tough as nails" to coin a phrase.  Winter classes at times began with running outside in a few inches of snow, summer classes with no air conditioning caused the sweat to begin to run down my face just by changing into my gi.  Those were the days!  Once the class was so hot, after a comment about the heat from one of us, Master Yhoon said, "Oh, it's hot", grabbing a broom handle, "blam" he shattered a window's glass, "Now not so hot", wow those were the days.

 Our school was on a corner, surrounded by an attorney's office on one side, the local newspaper on the other side & the city hall/police station across the street.  Master Yoon's english was not always the best, we all knew, and his understanding of our language was sketchy at best sometimes.  At the reunion we reminisced about a visit the police made to our school, due to the attorney's office complaining about the LOUD sounds coming from our school.  As the conversation began civil, Master Yhoon was not at all intimidated as the discussion became heated with the officers.  As the officers stepped back with hands on their pistols, the situation was finally diffused by one of our school parents.  As you might surmise the parents were also a significant part of our school.

There is so much that can be said about Master Yoon, his influence & the many experiences we had with him.  On a personal level I will give a few instances of my personal experiences with him.

Master Yoon drove me to be the best that I could be, so much so that it became painful in many ways.  When sparring with Master Yoon one evening, I made the "mistake" of scoring several kicks to his body & head.  These transgressions were quickly repaid by multiple kicks to my groin each time I scored the kicks again & again.  To my regret the last impact from Master Yoon ended with a final kick to the groin & a sweep to my supporting leg.  While my mother & father present of course devastated, Master Yoon instructed me, "you must watch for low blow always".  In self defense training I asked him to teach more Hapkido during our training.  Master Yoon obliged me by teaching very serious joint manipulations built into self defense/one step sparring.

(left) Jaeyoung Yoon (son) & (right) GM Chanhee Yoon (father)


After class, Master Yoon often enjoyed a good hamburger, fries & a beer.  My parents and I often joined Master Yoon for a quick bite across the street from the school at a local greasy spoon and pool hall called the "Belleville Cigar Store".  Long gone now, it was one of Master Yoon's little known, most guilty pleasures to stop eat there after class.  There we would discuss sports, family & his job as a security/body guard for the Anheiser/Busch Brewery & the August Busch family.

Over the past decades, I've often missed those days.  Though my training was impacting and life changing, the friendships I''d forged there are lifelong.  I met my two best friends I've ever had & still have to this day.  Both of them I met at Master Yhoon's dojang.  Both of my friends live in other states, Florida & Texas, respectively, we often still reminisce those bygone days.  I'd developed deep friendship with all of my fellow students, some of which at one point or another actually became head instructor of the school.  As a matter of fact one of our "school mothers" is still at the dojang & teaching at the young age of 81.  Yes that's right 81.  Mrs. Donohue continues to influence students positively at the school.  Btw, she was the parent who brought more clarity to Master Yoon's discussion with the local police so many years ago.

I've long since moved on from TKD/Hapkido/Judo to Goju Ryu/Aiki Jitsu & finally the Filipino Martial Art of Serrada Escrima.  I can honestly say that any success that I've had in life had been influenced in no small way by GM Chang hee Yhoon's teaching.  You see, there was no "little dragons", no "leadership" program, we were all ONE class, ONE dojang.  Every class was a "leadership" program for all belts of all ages ... period.  Regardless at this point as well, I'm no longer the 150 lbs of my teen youth, but a 250 lbs at present age, however, I still can take the hard shots I was emboldened with in my youth.  Training will never fail.

I can strive to influence my students to some degree as much as GM Yoon had influenced me & my contemporaries.  As a part of this philosophy, I strive to make all of my students quality teachers in their own right, so that they can preserve the tradition of being a "Good Teacher".

I hope all of you find your GM Yoon, regardless of system or lineage.

May God be with you through any and all of the dark places you may walk....R.I.P.  GM Chang hee Yoon.
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