The Passing of GrandMaster Son

I realized that really none of you would know Grandmaster Son, as we broke away from the World Tae Kwon Do Association (WTA) about the time that I came to Colorado. But, even then Grandmaster Son has had an impact on all of our training as he was a strong force in our lineage. He was the second headmaster of the Chung Do Kwan in Korea and our Grandmaster D.H. Kim was under him in the WTA in the U.S. (Grandmaster Kim received his 8th degree in the WTA from Grandmaster Son). My first and second degree black belts are from the WTA and have Grandmaster Son's stamp as well as Master D.H. Kim's. The first five one-steps that I teach beginners I call "Master Son's Famous Five" are adapted from the set that Grandmaster Son taught. The general pattern for class comes from Grandmaster Son: bow-in, warmup, basics, forms, sparring, warm-down, and bow-out. I met and/or saw Grandmaster Son at any seminars, black-belt testing, or tournaments I went to that Grandmaster Kim put on.

When I was a yellow-belt Grandmaster Son published his book "Black Belt Korean Karate" he promoted the book when I was at the 1984 West Coast Tournament in Tucson and could have bought a copy and had Grandmaster Son sign it. But, I wasn't sure if "I was going to stick with this Tae Kwon Do thing" so about 20 years later I bought a used copy online and paid several hundred bucks for what I could've got new (and signed) for thirty bucks "back in the day". Oh well. It was and is a good book and helped me figure out what the black belt means along with other aspects of Tae Kwon Do. I like the beginning of the book "This books is for ... [those who] have reached that great day when they pass their Black Belt examinations and proudly wrap the Black Belts around their midsections for the first time. The students are done with the preliminaries; they are now ready to learn Tae Kwon Do. It is sad that many, perhaps most of the students who achieve the Black Belt think that distinction is the end of their learning process. Actually it is only the beginning: they are now knowledgeable enough to absorb the real martial art of Tae Kwon Do. They have earned a license to learn."

One of my favorite demonstrations that Grandmaster Son did was to talk about vulnerable target areas. He would say "bad man can have big muscles here (pointing to the arms and biceps) and big muscles here (pointing to the legs and thighs), but here no muscle (pointing to the groin)". :-) I also remember him demonstration breaking out of a straight grip and offering the person holding him "Ten thousand dollars if you can hold on". Which of course they were unable to do.

Grandmaster Son had several training values that I appreciated and still follow: participation of the instructor, strong-prescence, strength, no-contact, tradition, and good-workout. the instructor was always part of the process, and Grandmaster Son lead and taught classes and seminars himself. He had an taught with a strong-prescence. It's an important quality to lead a martial arts class, but it's also a critical part of self-defense as well. He had an emphasis on developing power in technique and always having strong movements. Power will win a fight on the street in seconds -- it's a good strategy. He always emphasized no-contact sparring which he called "no touch", so no one got hurt. He always gave good workouts and hard classes. He held onto tradition and emphasized basics, forms, and one-steps as well as sparring. And in his books he makes fun of those who want to just talk about Tae Kwon Do -- but not practice.

He also had an analysis of movement that I have always used: Power, Speed, Focus, Balance and Accuracy. It's a nice analysis of technique and a way to improve your Tae Kwon Do. If you can improve each of those qualities -- you are doing well.

When Master D.H. Kim broke away from the WTA in 1996 -- he had this to say about Grandmaster Son "I have looked at Master Son as a father figure for most of the 42 years I have studied Tae Kwon Do. Like all children, however, there comes a day when the child must move out of the fold and become his own person." Even after breaking away from Grandmaster Son, Master Kim continued to have the utmost respect for Grandmaster Son. There were points of disagreement (after all he did break away from Grandmaster Son's organization) but he always respected Grandmaster Son's strength of spirit and strength in his martial arts practice, and Grandmaster Kim has always continued to emulate that same character in his classes.

Here's the obituary from the Newport Daily news...

(this is the link to it -- I've cut and pasted the article below)

Duk Sung Son
NEWPORT - Grand Master Duk Sung Son, 

88, of Thames Street, Newport, RI, died Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at Newport Hospital,
Newport, RI.
He was the husband of the late Young Jin (Kim) Son.
He was born in Seoul, Korea, on June 17, 1922.
Grand Master Son was a founding father of the Korean Martial Art Tae Kwon Do, and was the
founder and first president of the World Tae Kwon Do Association. Grand Master Son was
the original chief instructor to the Republic of South Korea Army and taught the United
States 8th Army that was stationed in Korea after the Korean conflict ended. He
immigrated to the United States in 1963 where he taught at the Military Academy at West
Point, New York University, Princeton, Brown, Fordham and many other Universities in the
tri-state area. He was the author of two textbooks on the subject, "Korean Karate - The
Art of Tae Kwon Do" and "Black Belt, Korean Karate". He taught his martial art form all
over the world, and was respected by millions.
He is survived by his daughter Yehjong Son and her husband Steven G. Cundy and his
granddaughter Lahna Son-Cundy all of Newport, RI.
Calling hours will be held on Sunday, April 3, 2011 from 2-7 p.m. in the Hambly Funeral
Home, “Brick House”, 30 Red Cross Avenue, Newport, RI.
His funeral will be held on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 11 a.m. in the funeral home. Burial
will be in Newport Memorial Park in Middletown.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Alzheimer's Association,
245 Waterman Street, Suite 306, Providence, RI 02906.
Condolences, information and directions are available at

Grandmaster Son was a powerful force in the martial arts. He will be missed. May each of us develop some of that strength of will and spirit that he had. Grandmaster Son -- rest in peace -- you did well in this life...

Erik Kluzek, Mar/31/2011

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