Northeast Taekwondo makes headlines in the sports section of the Adirondack Daily · August 2019
The article below appeared in “The Circle” in 2001
The circle is a concept that has been theorized and quoted time and again. It's an ageless philosophy that starts with a point, commences motion and returns to the same point to create a continuous perfection that never ends. It encompasses the space within itself. My circle was set to motion in 1974 in a small dojang outside of Troy, N.Y. The two partners who ran the school were from down south, Georgia to be exact, because martial arts in this country at that time was direct result of exposure to the arts in the military, and the southern and eastern portions of this country had and still have a greater concentration of military bases. For many reasons, the "East" and its philosophies were not embraced as they are now, and there were very few of us who studied at that time. But my desire was awakened and I spent many afternoons immersed in training. And so, the journey began
Zoom forward twenty-five years and a lifetime of martial arts later. In 1992 I was one of a couple of hundred in this country who could legitimately claim to have tested for and achieved 5th degree Master of Taekwondo rank certified by Kukkiwon College in Seoul, South Korea. In those 25 years between 1974 and 1999 I had been trained by and studied with many of the art's greatest including General Choi Hong Hi, the founder of taekwondo, his direct disciple and my Grandmaster Won Keun Bai whom 1 still consider my father in the martial arts, Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, Bill *Superfoot" Wallace, Master Wayne McCabe and the Lee brothers of the American Taekwondo Association Master John Pelligrini, Master Y.K.Kim and Jiang ye Jiang.
I share a mutual respect and admiration of some of the finest martial artists I've known from my peer group name them solely for my own satisfaction, Master Tom Mazzaferro, Master Frank Noguera, Master Frank Robbins and Master Michelle Smith.
What started as a dream turned into the reality of an 8,000 square foot modern martial arts university. My career has included 3,000+ students, 600+ promotions to black belt and promoting 4 deserving candidates to legitimate 4th degree black belt. I was an instrumental part of the group that brought taekwondo back as a national sport in the United States Amateur Athletic Union. My students fared well as local, state and national champions, and many were successful in achieving even greater personal goals. I was blessed with the opportunity to help several individuals blossom into the true martial artists that they are, one of whom is the reason I'm here now.
I had a complete, satisfying career culminated by induction into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Universal Studio in Orlando, Florida. I was at the top of my game. But something was wrong, something that took a life-changing experience for me to know and understand. And just as I had taught so many, I had to look for the answers inside.
My move to DC is a whole other story. I had been encouraging Lidia to pursue Kung-fu, never knowing that the same reasons would fuel my own pursuit. Of the hundreds and thousands of instructors and practitioners of the martial arts I had met over the years, the day I was introduced to Sifu Abdur–Rahim Muhammad. I knew I was meeting an honorable, noble man. I knew I could respect and entrust this man with helping me to close my circle. In May of 1999, after 25 years of learning and teaching, I would start over at the beginning I would close the circle and create the peace of endlessness.
I've been asked to write about these past two years studying Kung-fu. About the change, about the differences and mostly, why? For 27 years the question I've been asked most often IS "What's the difference between the styles?" I've always responded, “Philosophy and execution. They are all valuable and are based in sound scientific principles. It's a matter of choice." In 27 years I've studied many arts from man origins. I don't consider my dedication to Kungfu a “change" or a "difference." I consider these past two years a continuation of the previous 25, a continuation of the accumulation of knowledge. Just as you can't reinvent the wheel, I've learned that there is nothing new in the martial arts. It's all right there in its many forms and needs only to be embraced in its variations and applications. I am aware of how this may sound to those of you who are new to the martial arts and those who consider themselves as purists. But age and experience breeds understanding, an understanding that whether it's Kung-fu or Taekwondo, Aikido or Tai-chi, Penjak Silat or Muay Thai —it's all knowledge, it's all valuable, it's all good. Though the philosophies and executions may be very different, if you open your mind and broaden your perspective, your circle will encompass greater John enjoying the company of the next generation of master teachers knowledge thereby creating a greater inner self, a greater you. Of course, that's just my opinion, try it and prove me wrong.
I am thankful to Sifu Abdur-Rahim Muhammed for being the martial artist he is. He has helped me to close my circle and become a better martial artist. I'm thankful to Lidia Orellana for leading me to Hung Tao Choy Mei, and for the happiness she has brought me both as a martial artist and personally. I'm thankful to my martial arts brothers and sisters past and present who have shared my journey and are part of my future. And I truly hope that each of you have the opportunity to enjoy the completeness of the circle, as I have.
Yours in the Martial Arts
NORTHEAST TAEKWONDO · traditional martial arts instruction