The following is a copy of an article
from Taekwondo Times Magazine
On Senior Grandmaster Joon P. Choi
by Charles A. Stepan/Taekwondo
The year was 1945, and the armies of the
world were hurtling themselves across continents. The Nazi and Japanese
empires were fighting out their last desperate gasps. World events were moving
fast..much too fast to notice the birth of Joon Pyo Choi in the mountains of
North Korea. Born amidst the howling November winds that streaked down the
north-south mountain ranges and chilled Heung Nam City, the child had to be
rugged to survive the frigid Korean winter. A few years later brother Young
Pyo joined the family and the two youngsters blossomed in the peaceful years
following World War II.
In 1956, a few years after the brutal Korean
War, Joon Pyo, eleven, began martial art training in Tae Kwon Do with his
uncle, a black belt. The family believed this to be a positive step for their
young son because Joon Pyo was small for his age and shy. Fortunately his
smallness and shyness combined to build in him a strong determination and
persistence that stood Joon Pyo in good stead when the family later moved to
Seoul. There the future master entered the Song Moo Kwan school of Martial
Arts under its grandmaster and founder, Byung
Renaissance Man Beginnings
The year was 1963 when Joon Pyo Choi first
became a martial art instructor for the Korean Boy Scouts in the capital city.
It was the beginning of the only profession Joon Pyo Choi longed for even
though he entered Pusan Fisheries National College in 1965 as a business
major. The college had no Tae Kwon Do club; a problem Joon Pyo soon solved. He
became the head instructor of the college's new club. At this time he also
entered the Song Hak Institute of Oriental Medicine to study acupuncture and
acupressure, earning his certification as an acupuncture specialist.
To provide some balance in his life, Joon Pyo
began to study an ancient Korean musical instrument, Ga Ya Geum, Da Geum, and
in 1967 he won second place in the National Collegiate Traditional Musical
Instrument Contest. He was well on his way to becoming the Renaissance man he
During these years he took to the countryside
whenever possible, visiting different martial arts schools and learning about
various religions. He was always fascinated with the comparisons of the
various arts, religions, and philosophies.
Life began to move faster for the young man
after college. He entered the Korean Navy and there began his career as a
martial arts competitor, capturing regional and national championships in 1967
in his weight classification. During this time he became the instructor of the
Korean Navy ROTC, and earned numerous awards for outstanding leadership and
Invitation to America
Then it was 1971 and the martial arts rage
was flourishing in America. Joon Pyo had a big decision to make about his
future. He had received an invitation from a place halfway around the world,
the Martial Arts Academy of Madison, Indiana, USA, where they needed a master
instructor. He decided to accept the offer and to continue his search for his
true self as the complete martial artist in America. So, in that same year, he
landed in America with one suitcase holding two Tae Kwon Do uniforms, $25 in
cash, and his beloved Korean instrument. The job went well, but when his
contract expired he decided to move on and see more of this huge country. His
next stop was Gallatin, Tennessee, where he opened his first school, The
Oriental Martial Arts College. One year later, still searching, he moved
northward to bustling Columbus, Ohio, where he opened the Oriental Martial
Arts College. After a time, he decided to put down new roots.
In the years that followed it was always
onward and upward as the school flourished and Master Choi's personal
recognition soared. It was his outstanding demonstrations that brought him the
admiration of his fellow martial artists and the applause of the general
public. There are few martial arts events in the United States that have not
seen one of his famous demonstrations. It is rare for him not to receive a
standing ovation. He has been the recipient of countless "Best Demonstration"
awards from such prestigious events as the Canadian Open, the All American
Open at Madison Square Garden, as well as from the venerable Smithsonian
Besides becoming a master of Tae Kwon Do,
Joon Pyo Choi has mastered Karate, Kung-fu, and weaponry. Young Pyo Choi, his
brother who has his own Martial Arts College in Indianapolis, Indiana, is also
a recognized Kung-fu and weapons expert. In their joint demonstrations, Young
Pyo demonstrates his Kung-fu and knowledge of weapons, such as the bo staff,
and Chinese broad sword.
Grandmaster Choi's credentials as a teacher
are not only impressive, they are mind boggling. Somehow, some way, this
diminutive master has found the secret to turning out national and
International champions. He has produced more of them than any other master
instructor in the United States. In one year alone, 1988, five of his students
qualified for the Olympic Team Trials in Colorado Springs. That same year,
three of them won gold medals at the USTU National Championships. Master Choi
has served as the head coach for five international games for the United
States Tae Kwon Do team. In the Third World Championships held in Chicago, he
coached the U.S. team to a third place finish from among the 62 nations
entered. In 1978 he was appointed National Chairman of the AAU Tae Kwon Do
tournament Committee and Chairman of the Ohio AAU Tae Kwon Do Association. In
1979 he was selected as Coach of the Year by the AAU. That same year he
founded the United Martial Arts Federation and became its first president. In
Columbus, Ohio, his tournament, The Battle of Columbus, has grown to the
largest in Ohio as well as one of the largest in the Eastern United States.
What's his magic? I believe it's a hands on,
on the floor teaching technique.
In talking to Master Choi and watching him
operate, it is apparent that the martial arts are his whole life and that he
has given much study to the perfection of his own life through the arts.
Besides the masters in his own Oriental Martial Arts College, this man is able
to bring to Columbus other masters from across the country; people such as
Master Moo Yong Kang of San Diego, Ho Boum Kim of Chicago, and Hyung Chul Kim
of Toronto, Canada, who continue to train with Grandmaster Choi even though
they are masters within their own schools.
Two things stood out in my observation of
Grandmaster Choi: First, he has a frank openness to other styles which he
believes has widened his horizons, his understanding of himself and of our
universe. He feels this has opened his thinking and he firmly believes that
all martial arts must recognize the worth and virtue of other styles and
abandon the pretense that theirs is "the only way". Furthermore, he has
knowledge and proficiency in so many various aspects of different arts,
martial and otherwise. He is a true Renaissance Man.
As a martial arts writer, I do have one major
complaint with this master--he moves too fast. He covers so much ground it's
impossible to keep up with him. His philosophy in the making of a "Master"
would in itself fill a magazine. He has traveled world-wide, walked the Great
Wall of China, visited the Shaolin Temple, demonstrated there and dedicated a
memorial at the temple site. All his life he has dissected his beloved art of
Song Moo Kwan, studied, pieced together, took apart again and examined,
experimented and tried to find new and better ways. Always placing loyalty and
reliability first, he has developed a method of teaching that he has gleaned
and refined from all of the martial arts that he calls Moo Gong. Moo Gong,
also, would require another whole magazine, or perhaps a book, to present.
Pursuit of Excellence
As to the personal philosophy of this great
martial artist, let me quote his own words: "In my life, in the process of
training to become a good martial artist, I have made lots of mistakes. At
times I may have hurt others without intention. I apologize to all of them
with all my humbleness and sincerity. I am doing my best to reach the last
stage of the martial arts and I wish to build a good system that provides an
opportunity for others to grow in the martial arts. I want to provide a
training place where students can discipline their minds and bodies to find
truth in the martial arts and their personal lives. My training place or
temple is a place where they can rest their souls and bodies and die with the
dignity of a master of the martial arts as well as a contented human being."
What more can one say?